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Time Travelers: New World Explorers

By Amy Pak
Home School in the Woods

3997 Roosevelt Highway
Holley, NY 14470

What do you get when you cross a graphic artist and a homeschool mom with a need to teach history in an engaging, hands-on way? You get Time Travelers: New World Explorers, which is a five-week unit study of the time period when the Europeans were sailing over to the Americas to explore the New World. It is a CD full of some text and a lot of projects--not just the ideas or even ideas and instructions, but all of the full-size patterns and templates to execute the projects. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader, a printer, plus printer paper and cardstock, and then you are set. Some household supplies and equipment are necessary for the projects. Those are all listed in the teacher helps so that you can get them ready ahead of time. The 25 lessons correspond to approximately 25 days, but there is lots of flexibility here. You can make it fit your family and your needs.

Each lesson begins with two to three pages of introductory text, written from a Christian viewpoint. Plenty of background and detail information is given without being at all dry or verbose. I do wish there had been pronunciation help with some of the names and terms. Next come the projects, and boy, do we mean projects! You name it, it's here. There is a timeline plus figures, maps and flags, penmanship practice, creative writing prompts, recipes, file-folder games, fact file cards (vocabulary flashcards used in games or on their own), and several three-dimensional crafts. Five extra project days have been built into the included lesson plan schedule to allow additional time for all those projects. There are plenty of teacher tips and helps to ensure good preparation and the most success. The project directions are easy to follow. Additional resources in the way of books and videos are given. There is even a photo gallery of finished projects.

Amy Pak starts the unit out by describing what an explorer is and what it was like to be one. Then she profiles 24 different explorers--some well-known ones like Columbus, Balboa, and Magellan as well as some lesser-known ones. At the end of the unit, three days are devoted to pirates.

The unit study culminates with an "Exploration Celebration" and plenty of ideas for your party. Children who complete the projects as directed will end up with a notebook to commemorate and showcase their learning as well as a lapbook full of ten projects.

It doesn't say what ages or grades this unit study is designed for, but I would say you could use it with a wide range of children from elementary through junior high, depending on the individual child. My 12-year-old son, who is not into crafts, was practically drooling over the lapbook projects. Obviously, kinesthetic learners would benefit from this program, but I believe most of us learn better by doing. The more senses we involve in the learning process, the better. Also, young children in general seem to gravitate toward hands-on stuff. One very nice addition to some of the projects requiring copywork and writing is that you can print out the master with or without text. This helps if you have a young child who is frustrated by writing but still wants to do the project. The fact file cards are an example of this. You can have your child write out the definitions on the cards, or you can print out the cards with the definitions already on them.

The CD is incredibly easy to use. Project masters are found in the individual lessons and at the end all in one place. And it has very attractive graphics. The printouts are excellent and professional looking: clear, organized, and aesthetically pleasing. Amy Pak is an artist, and it shows.

Would I recommend this to other homeschoolers? Yes! It is fun, fun, fun and a big help. I continually scan homeschool catalogs and library shelves looking for hands-on projects to complement our history studies only to be disappointed by what I find. Either the projects are too juvenile, are just busy-work with not enough application, are too difficult to execute, or do not produce a satisfying result. All of these pitfalls have been eliminated by Amy Pak. Your children (and you!) will have loads of fun and loads of success with Time Travelers: New World Explorers.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, June 2007

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