Did you realize that Africa is made up of fifty-four countries, including sovereign states and dependent territories? Fifty-four! I had no idea and never actually would have guessed anywhere near correctly--that is, BEFORE we received Discover Africa, a notebooking packet that provides an in-depth study of the whole continent of Africa.
Jessica, at www.balancingeverything.com, decided to put this program together shortly after her son signed up to teach a co-op class on Geography and Africa. Feeling that this would be a relatively easy thing to get information or some kind of curriculum on, Jessica and her son were unpleasantly surprised to realize that, although there were many curriculums out there on Africa, there were none that focused on the entire continent, including all fifty-four countries! So, Jessica set out to create one of her own.
I can’t imagine the ordeal she went through to create this! It contains a wealth of information, and is well-organized, easy to use, and user-friendly. Discover Africa comes as a downloaded zip file, containing over 200 pages of ready-to-use learning tools. The first thing to go through is the nineteen-page Resource and Introductory Guide. Here there is a brief overview of the program, a list of office-type supplies that are needed to implement the program (three ring binder, access to a printer, hole punch, scissors, glue or a glue stick, colored pencils, and a pen or pencil), and a great resource list of books and / or websites that can be used to continue the learning.
Getting into the meat of the program, there are first two outline maps of Africa, waiting to be filled out. The first is a good one to use in discovering geographical and differing terrain features, while the second outlines each country specifically. There are also six pages of beautifully colored photographs (modestly done), organized by country, and seven pages of country flags, in full color.
Each country is then addressed individually with a two-page notebook spread. The format is identical for all fifty-four countries. One page has a blank outline map of the specific country, where rivers, deserts, capital cities, etc, can be added, and the next page asks for the demographics of that country. Included in the demographic information is: surrounding countries, a flag to color in, a conversational phrase to learn in the country’s main language (with an answer key to this!), interesting facts about the country, cultural clothing, population, capital city, terrain, government, currency, religion, industry, agriculture, landmarks, and whether the country is at war or in peacetime. There is room on the page to add some of those beautiful photographs, or additional items such as postcards, money, or magazine clippings.
One of the most wonderful things about this packet is that Jessica thought ahead to the families that may be using the program with different-aged learners. While she made notebooking pages that the child uses to fill in all of the information, she also made pages that are “mostly filled in”, so that there is much less writing that needs to be done--for younger children or for those that are “writing-challenged” (like my own!) This was a blessing for us, because had my fourth-grade daughter gotten a look at one of the blank pages before we started using this curriculum, she never would have gotten herself confident enough to even start it. When I handed her a page that only asked her to do a small amount of research and writing, it was much more realistic, and even, dare I say, fun?!
From reading through the Resource and Introductory Guide, Jessica really seems to recommend using this program over a period of one to two years, focusing on one country / week. I feel that this is a reasonable amount of time to spend on each country. In our home, we worked on our notebooking pages about three times / week, doing the map one day and learning the facts on the “fact page” over the next two days. We would also try to utilize the resources Jessica listed, doing internet research or reading books about the country we were visiting throughout the week.
I used this mostly with my fourth-grade daughter, although my younger son (K) sat in for many of the lessons. My daughter was always engaged in completing the pages, and was especially interested in the photographs and the flags. She really enjoyed seeing the similarities and differences in the culture of the different countries, and was always very specific about getting her flag colored in “exactly right”. Even my son became much more aware of Africa as a continent, and would bring up some random things he had heard us talk about throughout the day. When a Kindergartner can pinpoint Africa on a map and can retain some very good (although basic) information about specific areas of the region, that is a definite thumbs-up from me!
Jessica promises that she will continue to keep this packet updated, and that if there are changes in borders, flags, or government situations, she will make sure they are updated in the curriculum.
All in all, I feel that Discover Africa is an amazing tool for your homeschool. It is a wonderfully-full study of the continent of Africa that I’m not sure you could find anywhere else. It is made to be interesting and to engage both younger and older children at their own levels. When complete, I envision it as a tremendous and worthwhile notebook that will be treasured for many years in your homes!
Disclaimer: I received Discover Africa, at no charge to me, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.