Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review: TOS Download N Go series, Expedition Australia

For my first review, I was able to try out one of the titles from This Old Schoolhouse's Download N Go series. Lately I've been a bit concerned about Brennan's lack of geography knowledge, and I was excited to see that we were going to use something with a geography focus -- Expedition Australia.

The Download N Go series is a collection of unit studies that can be instantly downloaded. This particular study was over 100 pages long. The materials were divided into five days of activities, each with several learning objectives. When I looked over the learning objectives listed for Expedition Australia, I was pleased to see animal studies (science), mapwork (geography), and a bit of history. When I further looked through the study, I found vocabulary activities, math skills (graphing temperatures, clock times, etc), and music (Australian national anthem). All of these activities can be printed out and then fastened to a lapbook.

The downloaded materials also gave a day-by-day listing of recommended books. I found several of the books at our library. It was particularly useful to find some fiction books that related to Australia. Some of Brennan's favorite books series had individual books set in Australia, and I was able to pull those out for him to read this week.

The units state that they are geared for Kindergarten through 4th graders. There were several activities that could've been used for younger children. If Lauren had been interested in doing schoolwork this week, I could've printed out some of the simpler activities for her to complete. As it was, she was not at all interested in matching the orange joey with his mother the orange kangaroo.

I think the materials would be perfect for 2nd through 4th graders. Brennan and I worked together doing a few days worth of activities. It was a great introduction to researching subjects on the computer. The daily activities are hyper-linked to an appropriate research site, for instance, a weather site to find out the current temperature, a map of Australia to find a particular city, a wikipedia article about an animal, and so on.

As Brennan and I worked through the unit, I found a few drawbacks. The biggest one for me is that I made a bad assumption based on the title "Download and Go." I'm one of the many homeschool moms that rarely stay at home. My kids often grab a backpack of materials so that they can work in the car or while waiting at a doctor's appointment. Most of these activities required internet research. Even if I printed the activity pages and lapbook materials off ahead of time, Brennan would still need to be working at a computer to find the answers.

The second major drawback is that completing these activities required a bit more parental assistance than I had originally thought. Brennan's still new at computer research, other than searching through product reviews on Amazon or REI. He needed quite a bit of my help to navigate through the sites, but I think he would be able to do future units a bit more independently.

The Expedition series also has units about Ireland, China, and Mexico. There are also series for the seasons; so far, they have released Spring Surprises, Winter Wonders, and Autumn Treasures. I'd be most interested in trying one of the biography units: Amelia Earhart, George Washington, Ben Franklin, or Davy Crockett.

In fact, I think that one of the biography units would be a good beginning research project to use for Addison (6th grade). It might be a bit on the easy side in terms of activities, but I think she could learn a lot about using the computer to research a topic and then presenting that research in an organized manner.

Individual units costs $7.95 to download from This Old Schoolhouse. There are monthly bundled units consisting of four selected units for $30. I also saw a pick-your-own option that would allow you to choose any four units for the $30 cost. If you fall in love with this series, you can purchase a semester's worth (19 units) for $114 or an entire year's worth (38 studies) for $190.


  1. Cristi-- this is excellent :) I'm giving real serious consideration to taking a week off of our obsession with Ancient Rome after Connor's Latin convention is over and having all of them do the Amelia Earheart one. Glad to know you think it could be good for Addison.

  2. I think Addison could (maybe should) do something more difficult, but I liked the variety of web research involved in this study. It seemed like each part of the assignment linked to a different web site to find the information. It wasn't just wikipedia articles and I think you could use the activities with an older child with only a bit of beefing up. If it is a bit easy for Connor, the boys could do the research together.



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