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Children Around the World Review by Dena Wood

(802) 372-9200

Children Around the World by WinterPromise is an in-depth, multifaceted unit study offering a wide variety of learning approaches and hands-on activities. It focuses on culture and geography as students meet children from 30 different countries and learn about their traditions, cultures, history, and celebrations. While this study is intended for second through sixth grades, the program guide offers suggestions for involving your junior high student as well.

The heart of this study is the program guide. Along with the suggested weekly schedule, this guide offers a wide variety of tips, suggestions, and helpful resources. The scheduling pages of the guide are set out in a 4 + 1 day schedule (four days of regular study and one day of lighter study with more hands-on activities). However, the guide offers suggestions for adapting the program to your style and schedule. The publishers also comment that the guide includes more activities than most families would ever want to do, allowing you to choose those that seem most enjoyable or productive to you. It is not required, or even suggested, that you do them all.

You will find detailed suggestions for assembling your guidebook as well as tips for utilizing the many additional resources in the study. Something I particularly appreciate is that each activity is rated on a "supplies" and "skills" scale. An activity labeled "easy" involves little or no preparation; "light prep" involves slight preparation; and "ltd. supplies" indicates that there may be a few supplies you will need to hunt down. Additionally, activities are labeled "moderate," "skilled," "plan it," and "difficult," depending on the level of involvement required. This allows you to quickly determine if an activity is doable in the time you have.

Children Around the World is a literature-based program, utilizing a wide variety of good books. In addition to books on geography and culture, you'll read well known "Adventure Reading" books such as George Mueller: Father to the Fatherless, Mandy, Star of Light, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and many others. However, several of the resources are exclusive to WinterPromise. As a literature-based curriculum, the program incorporates regular narrations. The guidebook includes a nifty two-page chart listing a variety of suggestions for your child to create or describe. This is a big help to me, as I sometimes struggle with knowing specifically what to ask my children to narrate. Though there are no quizzes or tests included, you'll be able to tell that your children are learning through the many games, activities, narrations, notebooking activities, and discussions you'll share.

In the Children Around the World study, your students will plan and prepare a weekly Cultural Gathering Activity. This is a major element of the program, and the guide offers scores of suggestions for it. It is recommended that, prior to each activity, you view travel DVDs from your local library in order to become more familiar with the area you're studying. Occasionally, a specific DVD title may be suggested. You will also find a list of craft and household supplies you'll need as you prepare for these gatherings throughout the year.

A Cultural Gathering Planning Chart suggests activities and menu plans for each week's event. For example, Week Four is an Irish Festival. Activities include the following: research and present the history of the poem "The Wearing of the Green," play Hot Potato, watch an Irish Step Dancing DVD, and listen to Irish or Celtic music. Menu Suggestions include Irish stew, Irish potato cakes, soda bread, and Irish cinnamon apple cake. Weeks 14 to 16 do not include Cultural Gatherings, as the time is left free for Christmas crafts and events.

The 36 weeks are broken down as follows:

  • Week 1: Hello, World!
  • Weeks 2-13: Let's Discover Europe! Center of Western Culture
  • Weeks 14-16: Celebrating Christmas! Traditions Around the World
  • Week 17-22: Walk Across the Americas! A New World in the West
  • Weeks 23-27: An African Safari! Land of Colorful Traditions
  • Weeks 28-33: Journey to Asia! The Exotic East
  • Weeks 35-36: Vacation in the Pacific! Easy-Going Life

For each week, there is a Teacher's Guide page divided into these sections: Country Study, Cultural Study, Geography Study, Reading Together, and Preparations for the Weekly Cultural Gathering. Reading schedules and discussion and activities for each specific resource are listed by day. Notes at the bottom of the Teacher's page offer suggestions for discussion, review, and additional resources.

There is also a weekly Working on My Own page for your student. Designed to facilitate independent study, this page is divided into sections on Country Study, Geography Study, Bible, and Math. (While this curriculum doesn't include math, the student guide leaves a spot for you to fill in your own program assignments.) Students in third grade and up will write a weekly country report. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? a fun, educational software program, is also part of your student's weekly assignments. Following the weekly planning pages, you will find a variety of helps--ideas for oral quizzing, map scavenger hunt instructions, country card masters, statistics charts, outline maps, and more.

Finally, the weekly Cultural Gathering Planning Sheets offer detailed instructions and suggestions for games, activities, cultural information, music, recipes, websites, and entertainment for each week's gathering. While the Teacher's Guide weekly pages provide an overview of how to plan your gathering, these planning sheets give you the specifics you need to prepare a memorable event.

As part of the study, the student creates a World Travels Diary notebook. It will include maps colored by the student, a chart of the year's travel plans, a passport created by the student, a family tree, flags for each of the European countries studied, and a template page with basic information filled in for each country as it is visited. There is also a stamp the student can cut out and place in the passport or travel diary as each country is "visited." There are several other suggestions of items to add to the notebook, such as stories, drawings, and news items. This diary can be simple or elaborate, depending on the age and ability of your child.

The "Travel with Me" World Map and Figures set includes six 13" x 9" continent maps and a variety of watercolor figures dressed in cultural attire. The student adds the figures to the maps each week. Students also label the maps with famous landmarks, their own drawings, and notable country facts.

Draw Your World! is intended for students in third grade and up and includes step-by-step instructions to help them draw the continents. With this workbook students will color and label a continent map according to both natural landforms and political boundaries. They will learn key defining points about the continent to help them draw the map at the correct latitude and longitude. They will practice drawing several key regions and, finally, produce a continent map from memory. The activities in this book are intended to help students meet the 18 National Geography Standards. Though it covers relatively advanced information, this resource is fun and easily understandable.

Fun & Traditions in Many Lands provides you with a wide variety of activities for learning about different cultures. You'll make people paper chains, design a name chop, make English "crackers," create Stonehenge, develop your own family plaid, and more as you work through this guide.

The Prayer & Personal Involvement Journal is a unique and meaningful resource for older students. Children are encouraged to reflect on their lives and possessions and compare them to those of children in other countries. As they create a personal journal, students learn about waste, want, and basic needs. From there, students are introduced to a variety of service opportunities and are encouraged to work with their families to make a difference in the world through both prayer and service.

Country Flashcards help your student learn and remember key facts about each country.

This curriculum does an amazing job of pulling information from a variety of resources. You'll use books, coloring books, computer software, websites, cookbooks, videos, music CDs, and more. Your students will read, narrate, draw, create notebooks, and pray as they learn about different countries and cultures. Best yet, you will enjoy sharing what you've learned with friends and family through the weekly Cultural Gathering Activities. I am very impressed with this program and find it inspiring, challenging, and fun all at the same time. I am delighted with how well the curriculum can be modified and used with a wide variety of ages. It really becomes a whole family project rather than "school." Having used and enjoyed both Sonlight and Konos, I would describe this study as taking the best of both with a good deal of Charlotte Mason thrown in!

My one concern is that the program is "spendy" (please see the website for current pricing.) But I feel the price is justified because the program is so inclusive, utilizes such a variety of resources (largely non-consumable), and allows me to teach all my children at once--a huge timesaver. If you've been considering a literature-based program but fear your children may become bored without hands-on activities, WinterPromise may be just the answer. Alternatively, if you've been doing hands-on work but would like to incorporate a more classical approach, this program shows you how to add those aspects while still having fun. Children Around the World is truly a well-rounded, enjoyable, and highly informative curriculum.

[NOTE: WinterPromise has let TOS know that, as of 2013, their pricing for a Children Around the World themed package begins at $259.00.]

Product review by Dena Wood, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2008