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Past Empires of the Americas: Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas Review by Jennifer Harrison

In The Hands of a Child
3271 Kerlikowske Road
Coloma, MI 49038

I took the plunge and did something completely wild and crazy. I let my son do a lapbook entirely on his own. I even let him choose the lapbook himself from In the Hands of a Child. He chose Past Empires of the Americas: Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas. I nearly changed my mind. The control freak in me nearly . . . well, freaked. We are studying history chronologically, and according to my plan book, the Civil War just ended. We can't go back in time! I managed to let go of my plan book long enough to get the book he wanted. We continued with the Industrial Revolution as a family while my 12-year-old son pursued Past Empires as an extra class.

I was very impressed with how well he did. The Project Pack kept him interested from beginning to end, and I never had to encourage him to work on it more. My fear was that he would be overwhelmed or would lose interest and drag his feet. Instead, he began requesting books from the library. The Project Pack comes with a list of Recommended Reading to help with this. My son's enthusiasm was contagious. He spent an hour with his 9-year-old brother poring over a book about the Mayans. Fascinating to me was the fact that he had never expressed any interest in the subject before choosing this book!

The entire lapbook took him approximately a month to complete. He worked completely independently and is now so proud of what he accomplished. I am glad I stepped back and let him do it.

The finished lapbook is filled with 34 different activities. This is preceded by a Resource Guide for reading about these civilizations. The guide discusses languages, clothing, arts and crafts, food, government, religion, agriculture, geography, and accomplishments. The emphasis is on the cultural aspects rather than detailed history. A Timeline of events is given, and the collapse of these civilizations is discussed, but details of the events listed on the timelines are not shared. For a complete historical study, more resources would be needed. This Project Pack simply provides an exciting side-trip into these ancient cultures.

It would not necessarily need to take a month to complete. With mom helping with cutting and pasting, the student could finish much faster. Also, In the Hands of a Child now has a "Type It In" feature for only $2.00 more than the regular ebook. This let's the student type answers directly onto the mini-books before printing. This is handy for slow writers and for those wanting extra typing practice.

This Project Pack has been a great addition to our studies. I highly recommend it. If you choose to go wild and crazy and let your student work independently, I recommend the ebook version rather than the printed version. This removes the pressure on the student to do it perfectly because any messed up pages can simply be reprinted.

Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2010