Monday, May 16, 2011

TOS Review: WonderMaps

Wondermaps Logo

When I started homeschooling, I chose a curriculum, opened the materials to the first page, and followed the directions pretty much as they were written. Over the years, I've branched out a lot. In the process, I became more flexible in some ways and more demanding in others. I no longer restrict myself to one set way of teaching a subject, and I feel a bit more freedom to do it my own way. On the other hand, I now want to do it my way, exactly as I envision it.

A new program from Bright Ideas Press allows me to do geography "my way." When we're studying a particular period in history, I sometimes have a map already prepared for me in our materials or sometimes I can find what I'm looking for with a quick internet search. Other times, though, I find something that will work, but it isn't quite right.

If WonderMaps was just a collection of maps, it would be quite impressive -- US maps, world maps, historical maps, and even biblical maps. It's much, much more than just a collection, though. The WonderMaps program allows you to customize each one of the maps by adding or subtracting elements until you tweak it to fit your own needs. In other words, I can do it "my way."

Perhaps it's best if I show you an example. In the map of the Aztec empire below, I can remove the rivers or add in a modern overlay. I could remove the line marking the route Cortez took and then ask my students to draw it in themselves. I can even remove the title of the map and ask which civilization is shown in green.

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As I look through the extensive collection maps, I can see countless ideas for how these maps will work for my homeschool needs:

* I can print the map of the Civil War and leave off the color coding so that the student has to identify which ones are Union states and which ones are Confederates.

* The modern map of the European Union can have the countries still selected (colored in), but I can leave off the country names for the student to fill in.

* I can use the regional maps of the US States as a teaching tool for students on all different levels. Brennan could fill in the names of the states and their capitals. I can leave the largest cities in each state marked on the maps and challenge Addison to fill in the names of each. I can print the same map in color with just the states labeled when I start to teach Lauren the names and locations of all the states.

* I can print four different maps to show Paul's Missionary Journeys -- one for each journey and one that shows them all at the same time.

WonderMaps currently sells for $49.95 (available as either a CD or to download). If you are interested in purchasing it, you may want to look in the newest issue of The Old Schoolhouse magazine for the coupon code I noticed a few days ago. As always, you can visit the Crew blog here to find other parents talking about how this product worked (or didn't work) for them.

I received a free WonderMaps collection as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


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