Thursday, October 4, 2012

Box of IDEAs (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

I have a confession to make. We're not a unit-study type of homeschool family. As much as I'd love to focus on one particular interesting topic, my kids and I never have really gotten invested in a study like that. When I saw the information about Box of IDEAs activities, I wondered if we would change our mind about unit studies.

What is Box of IDEAs:
Each Box of IDEAs includes ten (or more) exciting activities based around a single topic. These activities can be used as a supplement to your current curriculum, summertime learning, or for group activities. The box comes with each activity individually packaged so that your 9 to 16 year olds could grab a packet and start working, either at home or on-the-go. Each box also includes portfolio pages to complete and collections of website links for further exploration.

The Salt Box of IDEAs is "a comprehensive look at salt and how it has helped to shape history, nourish our bodies and even build and destroy empires." The activities cover history, geography, science, language, and more.

How it worked at our house:
The Salt Box of IDEAs is available as either an actual box that comes in the mail or as a pdf download. Because we've been in a bit of transition this summer, I opted for the pdf version so that I wouldn't have to worry about it getting lost between mailing addresses. Unfortunately, I underestimated the work that it would take to print the activities myself. Many of the activities needed to be printed on cardstock with colored ink. It became a bit tedious trying to make sure that I printed each page correctly, especially when it came to the double sided pieces for many of the game activities.

Several of the modules in the involved matching facts on cards or putting them in order. Brennan thought the History of Salt timeline game was a bit unfair because I have a better working knowledge of history than he does. We reached a compromise, and I tried to get 15 historical facts in order before he arranged 10.

One of our favorite activities was dealing with the science of salt and involved a simple experiment. Brennan froze three containers of water and then tested to see how much water melted over a period of time. He compared the control solution (plain water), one with 1/4 cup of salt added, and one with 1/4 cup of kosher salt added. I'm sure the experiment would be better if we could've used Ice Melt, but I couldn't find any Ice Melt in Arizona in the summertime.

My recommendation:
I think these activities would work well with kids that enjoy exploring new topics. It wasn't ever able to convince Brennan that these were fun activities; he just saw it as more schoolwork. Perhaps he would've done better if I had chosen a topic that he was already interested in and built on that enthusiasm instead of trying to create interest in a new topic.

I would recommend getting the physical box instead of the pdf. I think we would've been more successful with the activities if I wasn't slowed down by trying to get everything printed correctly and all of the supplies gathered before we started working. (Of course, organized homeschoolers would prepare everything ahead of time. That's not me.)

The details:
Box of IDEAs has project boxes for Salt, Pearl Harbor, Pigs, Eleven, Quilting, and Laundry. Physical boxes for each topic cost $79 each, and a pdf version can be downloaded for $49.

Disclaimer: I received a pdf version of Salt Box of I.D.E.As. as a member of the 2012 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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