Have you seen the picture book explorers series by Branch Out World over on Currclick? I was fortunate enough to be offered one of their files to explore and review with my crew by creator Helen - a home-educating mama herself. I liked the idea so much I chose another file and paid for it.
The two files that I chose were Greyfriars Bobby and Stone Girl, Bone Girl.
Greyfriars Bobby is a factual based story about the love of a Skye terrier dog called Bobby for his master 'Auld Jock'. Based in nineteenth-century Edinburgh, the story relays how Bobby and his master are inseparable, and how for fourteen years after Auld Jock's death, Bobby resides near the old man's grave and makes his home in the cemetery in Greyfriars Kirkyard. The local people were so touched by the bond between the dog and his master, that Bobby was took to their hearts and was loved and cared for throughout his time at the graveside. Today a life-size statue of Bobby still stands in Edinburgh, with people remembering the loyalty and devotion of the dog and commemorating the bond forever more.
Stone Girl, Bone Girl is a story based upon Mary Anning - probably the world's most famous fossil-hunter. As a young girl, Mary found a fossilised sea 'monster' as she explored along the Dorset coast. It was the most important prehistoric discover of its time.
Branch Out World offers immediate to download after payment files through the Currclick website. They come in PDF form so are in an easy to read and print format. Upon reading through the first few pages of one of the files I noted that it is suggested that the book is read and digested every day over 5 days and daily themed activities are undertaken. I liked that idea. Offer easy bite sized chunks and small study time slots, and it doesn't feel like 'work' to my lot.
Details in each file are given as to what additional extras that may or will be needed, such as other books that compliment the book well and supplies for baking or art, and ways of recording work are suggested.
The PDF files are very easy to understand and work through. Each day is clearly highlighted and you can see at a glance what is expected to be done. The files are cross-curricular, covering a range of subjects. For example, on Day 1 of Greyfriars Bobby we looked at the Geographical location of Edinburgh. We found Scotland on the map and talked about it's capital. We coloured in the Scottish flag (supplied in the file) and discussed terrain and what Scotland is famous for, including their famous festivals. We researched famous people, dead and alive, who stemmed from Scotland and talked about historic events, using the internet to find further information. We then went on to create a poster to publicise Scotland from a touristy point of view and the older ones created a brochure.
Each day follows a different theme, making the study interesting and well-rounded. Each file covers everything from the artwork in the book through to fictionalising a true story, from mathematical work through to science. I found it really took all of the effort out of ensuring all topics were covered, I like lazy and this is lazy. The work has already been done for the user and although it could be argued that you could spend the time to put your own study together, personally I think paying a couple of pounds for a file that I can just print out and use as preferable, my days are already filled to hectic as it is - anything to lighten the load.
The suggested age to use the files is stated as 5 through to 10 but personally I used the files outside of that age range. My three year old enjoyed the mapwork, learning about volcanoes in the Greyfriar study, trying the art techniques suggested in the Stone Girl file, and making the Skye Terrier Cake and Dorset Apple Cake! My 16 year old son wants to have a go at making the curiosities box out of wood instead of the easier option given of cardboard, and enjoyed creating the tourist brochures and researching the Ichthyosaurus. My 12 year old daughter enjoyed pretty much all of the activities and certainly didn't feel as if they were aimed at younger ones. Basically I believe the 'work' can be adapted for a wide range of ages and can be simplified or increased in difficulty to suit age and ability. The only thing that I could see as being a problem for the older ones, particularly those without younger siblings is if they deemed the book itself as 'babyish' and simple.
I will definitely be purchasing more of Helen's files in the future and look forward to seeing what titles are added in the future.
Branch Out World can be found on Facebook here and there is a group to support and encourage those users of the Picture Book series that can be found here.
**This review was meant to include a few pictures but Blogger isn't playing nicely in the upload department at the moment**