Review: Home School in the Woods

I signed up to review the Benjamin Franklin Lap-Pak, one of many Lap-Paks offered by Home School in the Woods because I wanted to see if I should recommend it to families in our American history co-op next year.

I received a download version of this Lap-Pak–you can purchase it as a CD, if you prefer. The file downloads as a ZIP file, and once extracted, I found the folders contained enough files to be a little confusing. After opening several files at random, I finally noticed the Start file in the main folder–this file took me to an HTM page with directions on how to use the Lap-Pak.

Once I found this, I decided it would be easiest to print everything I wanted up front–the lap book directions, the project directions, and the project masters. The only bummer for me was having to open and print the project masters individually. I would have preferred to open one file and print the whole kit and caboodle at once, but it really wasn’t that hard to do them separately.

I also followed the directions to print the booklet about Benjamin Franklin, like a little reader/pamphlet–I had anticipated needing to purchase or check out a biography of Ben Franklin in addition to the Lap-Pak materials, so I was pleased to see that Home School in the Woods included a printable biography in the Benjamin Franklin Lap-Pak.

The activities included are very straightforward. I found it helpful to have in hand the project directions as we worked, and I’ve been storing our mini-books together in large baggy–we haven’t complete a full lap book yet, and I don’t want to begin attaching the pieces to the folders until we do.

My ongoing concern about lap books is that it is possible for them to become busy work if you’re not careful–I think that is the case with these, as much as with any lap book, but now that I have actually used one, I am see that the process of reading and cutting and gluing and creating while discussing history with a parent provides a hands-on connection for the child who is learning the history. I do not think that I would hand this to a child and ask them to complete it independently–I fear many children would be tempted to cut, glue and create without interacting with the history.

In this case–partially because Bubba isn’t competent with scissors on his own yet–I sat next to him every time we worked on this. We discussed Benjamin Franklin every time we sat and cut. I read the text to him as he colored, and I asked him to narrate to me what he learned. The activities themselves are cute and full of information.

Sometimes he was more interested in using his glue stick lid as a monocle…but today, weeks after we learned about Ben and his kite, I overheard an older cousin asking Bubba if he would ever consider flying a kite with a key during a storm. Would it kill him, or would he live?–the cousin asked. I loved hearing Bubba’s reasoning: it might hurt him, but he would live, since Ben Franklin lived when he attracted electricity. I wasn’t even sure Bubba would remember the name of Benjamin Franklin, so I was impressed! (And as a sidenote–I must have that story a little wrong, right? Ben Franklin himself wasn’t actually struck by lightning, was he? Off to review the biography booklet…)

These Lap-Paks could be used slowly, an activity or so a week, or much more quickly. Home School in the Woods also offers Activity Paks for older kids (3rd-8th grade or so) and a Notebook Timeline and Timeline figures that look really cool. I love having this company in my back pocket to recommend when parents are looking for more history-based hands-on activities to do!

(Bonus! Home School in the Woods has *just* come out with a la carte activities. You can check them out on their A La Carte Page and in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal, they’re offering the Erie Canal Activity for free from that page if you use code alacarte at checkout.)

If you’re interested in reading more reviews, check out the Homeschool Review Crew. This time, we got to review a variety of different hands-on history products, so consider poking around to read about a few different items!

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