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SonlightHands-on History: World Cultures Review by Michelle Gibson

Sonlight Curriculum
8032 South Grant Way
Littleton, CO 80122-2705

InquisiKids™ "Hands-on History: World Cultures" is a new hands-on history project kit by Sonlight. Created to encourage your little learner to build and play while they learn about world cultures, this hands-on kit is ideal for tactile learning as the name suggests. Children love acquiring new knowledge and skills by doing, and this kit is perfect to help students remember what they are learning in history by building projects that tie into the time period they are studying.

"Hands-on History: World Cultures" includes supplies for nine history-based hands-on projects, a full-color 117-page instruction booklet with step-by-step instructions and illustrations, and a schedule to use with Sonlight Level A or All-Subjects Package A, which is designed for ages 5-7 or grades K-2. To complete the projects, you will need a few items you can easily find around the house such as scissors, crayons or colored pencils, markers, etc. A detailed supply list includes materials provided in the kit plus materials you provide — very similar to how Sonlight science kits work.

The projects your child will build with this kit include:

Ancient Egypt: Obelisk

Vikings: Straw Weaving

Medieval Times: Catapult

Explorers: Sailing Ship

American West: Log Cabin

Inventions: Telegraph

Inventions: Car

Mountains: Volcano

Deserts: Lap Book

The instruction book opens with a table of contents, a welcome note, and tips to make each project a success.  While the kit is open-and-go, you will want to review the instructions the night before a project day to make sure you are prepared and know how the project relates to what you are studying. Parental involvement is required, but even non-craftsy parents will enjoy doing these projects with their child. Some projects require more parental involvement than others; however, a scale is provided for each project that tells the level of difficulty and the amount of time it will take to complete. I had my 11-year-old daughter help my 7-year-old son with some of the projects and even she needed some help with the more difficult projects. Depending on the child, these projects can be completed in an hour or less or spread out over several days.

While "Hands-on History: World Cultures" is designed to complement Sonlight's Level A program, the history project kit can be used with your child independently or as a supplement to any program for hands-on enrichment.

If you are using Sonlight A with more than one child, or want to use the kit with more than one student, please consider that each individual package in the kit comes with enough supplies for exactly one project. Depending on your family dynamics, you may have your children share or you may want each child to have their own kit. My kids were happy to share one kit, but the kit was geared towards my youngest, so I had the older kids fulfill the parent role while working with my younger son, so they felt included.

When I first opened the bright, colorful box, I was impressed with the quality of the supplies and excited to offer these to my 7-year-old son, Bo, who just completed Sonlight Level A this school year. I didn't have the kit while going through the program, so we used it as a review before heading into Sonlight's Introduction to World History program. 

Since we used this as a review of Sonlight Level A, I let Bo pick which project he wanted to do first, and he picked the "Mountains: Volcano" project. I love that the introduction starts with a "did you know?" question to spark interest. "Did you know that there are mountains that blow fire and smoke into the sky?" I read with excitement about how the earth is formed and how moving rock will break open the crust to release trapped magma. It took me about 45 seconds to read, and no time at all to engage his interest. This is an easier project with the lowest difficulty and least parental time required, so he was eager to get started.

We actually did our first project on the first day in our new house. With boxes stacked up throughout the kitchen and dining room, I was grateful that the only things I needed were things I had on hand and unpacked: an empty soup can, baking soda, white vinegar, scissors, butter knife, baking sheet, and a rolling pin. Assorted colors of modeling dough, aluminum foil, and dry red tempera paint are provided in the kit.

Each step has detailed instructions with illustrations. To make the volcano, he followed four detailed steps. Step one is to prepare the base. He used a baking sheet with an edge as suggested and placed a soup can in the middle. Step two is to create the shape of the volcano. Malachi, who is 13, was my "parent helper" for this project, so after Bo wrapped aluminum foil around the soup can and folded it over the top, Malachi helped him open the dough and decide how he wanted his volcano to look. Step three is to cover the volcano. With help, Bo rolled out the dough to flatten it, then cut a hole out of the center and covered the foil with the modeling dough. A tip box warned us to place it gently to keep the volcano from caving in, so we were especially gentle. Step four is to make it erupt! Bo measured the baking soda and poured it in. Then he measured the white vinegar, colored it with the dry red tempera paint, and poured it into his homemade volcano to watch it quickly erupt.

I was warned that "kids may want to do this over and over" and my son did. He spent a good half hour playing with his volcano before he ran out of vinegar.

By this time, the kids were all casting lots for the rest of the projects.

Bo loved the volcano and was just as eager to build the "Inventions: Car" project. In fact, he built most of it by himself. He needed help tracing the windshield template onto the Dura-lar, a type of stiff but flexible plastic material. The difficulty level and time on this project was medium. Bo says, "It was fun to build. It makes me feel like an engineer."

Eliana, 11, made the "American West: Log Cabin" and the "Explorers: Sailing Ship" projects. She said they were fun to build and came out nice. The log cabin is made with interlocking craft sticks. The only material she needed from around the house was a pair of heavy duty scissors or kitchen shears for cutting the sticks. She uses the log cabin as a playhouse for her dolls but says you have to be gentle with it.

The Sailing Ship is made with a nice clear plastic bottle, bamboo skewers, craft foam, wood spools, a craft stick, and glue dots. She has the boat displayed on her windowsill. While she thought the projects were cool, she was thrilled to be introduced to glue dots. She thought they were nifty and fun to craft with.

Several of the projects include a template which is found in the Template Packet in the box. The templates for "Medieval Times: Catapult", "Explorers: Sailing Ship", "Inventions: Car," and "Deserts: Lap Book" are included.

Since these projects are scheduled out over the year, we saved a couple of projects to enjoy with Sonlight's Introduction to World History levels, such as the "Medieval Times: Catapult". He can't wait to build it so he can launch all the pompoms. I'm happy he's looking forward to it and think it will be a wonderful addition to our homeschool, without the hassle of finding supplies or quality projects worth building.

What I like about the "Hands-on History: World Cultures" project kit:

  • Prep is easy, fast, and doesn't require a trip to the hobby store.  
  • Each project is individually packaged in its own bag.
  • Project introductions are written to the student, interesting, and engaging.
  • Instructions are written to both the child and the parent.
  • Brightly colored illustrations, diagrams, notes, tips, and clear step-by-step instructions are kid-friendly and make the instruction book easy to read and use.
  • The instruction book includes real photos of the projects to bring them to life.
  • Projects are relevant, tie-in to what we are learning, and fun.
  • It's made for homeschoolers, especially Sonlighters, but anyone can use it.

While I can't think of anything I don't like, we haven't done the lap book yet. The difficulty is medium, but by the looks of it, it will require the most parental time of any of the projects. Because of the parental work involved, I'm not a big fan of lap books; however, the "Deserts: Lap Book" project looks engaging, so I think it will be worth the extra effort.

I love that hands-on learning is a natural form of learning, and these projects have the potential to bring history to life, especially when coupled with Sonlight Level A. Each activity is meaningful and practically tied into the program. I wish I had this while we were using the World Cultures program this past year. My son would have loved these projects then as much as he does now, but it would have been more relevant. However, true to the nature of kids, it was still very relevant to him, and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to review "Hands-on History: World Cultures" with my son and look forward to the finishing the remaining projects this school year.

"Hands-on History: World Cultures" is $39.99 for nine ready-to-go, individually packaged crafts. I think that's a wonderful deal! If you have SonlightCares™perks or are an Heirloom Sonlighter, your price is even lower at $35.99. I couldn't put together a more affordable kit for what you get, so I certainly recommend it.

-Product review by Michelle Gibson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September, 2018