Have you ever wanted to learn all there is to know about bugs?
How's that for an opener? For most of us, the answer--at first glance--is no way! I'm going to ask you to reconsider that answer, and I'm going to suggest a really fun way to learn enough information about those creepy crawlers to fully satisfy your 8 year-old son for weeks and weeks!
Enter Memoria Press, and The Book of Insects.
What Is Memoria Press?
Memoria Press is a family-run company that provides Classical Christian Education for all ages. If you're anything like me, you've passed through their displays at homeschool conventions several times, being drawn to their large selection over and over again, but maybe shying away because of their large "workbook" feel.
Having gotten my hands on some of their materials, though, I don't think I'll be shying away anymore. Memoria Press uses three main pillars in their materials: simplicity, quality, and affordability. I can appreciate those characteristics as a homeschool Momma, and I'll show you how they are applied in the product we reviewed.
So What Did We Get?
We received The Book Of Insects set. That included The Book of Insects text ($14.95), The Book of Insects Teacher Guide ($16.95), The Book of Insects Student Book ($14.95), and The Book of Insects Lesson Plans ($5.00). You can also purchase the set, which will include the textbook, the Student Book, the Teacher Guide, and the Peterson First Guide: Insects for $48. (affordability)
The Book of Insects textbook is a 183-page soft-cover book that covers everything from orders of insects to types of dragonflies to how to catch night moths. It offers the information in a story-type narrative that is easy to read and to listen to, yet full of very specific and scientific detail. (quality)
The Book of Insects Teacher Guide is also soft-cover and 154 pages. It offers goals for the learner over the course of the study, a model lesson plan, and then serves as the answer key to all of the Student Book activities. It also contains insect flashcards to copy and place on cardstock and blank quizzes and tests with answer keys to those as well.
The Book of Insects Student Book contains 81 pages, also beginning with the goals and model lesson plan. There is then a two-page workbook activity for each lesson, that follows a predictable pattern. Each lesson has the main facts listed at the beginning of the activity, designed to be used for memorization or for review. There are then several questions from the reading, followed by an "Observation and Sketching" activity. At the end of the lesson are suggested activities to extend the learning. There are 32 lessons, including unit and final reviews. (simplicity)
The Book of Insects Lesson Plans is a small, spiral-bound plan that breaks up the 32 lessons into a 34-week course.
How Did We Use The Book of Insects?
We were thrilled to receive The Book of Insects, and dove right in when our package arrived. Although the suggested age is Grades 4+, I used it with my daughter in sixth grade, as well as my son in 2nd grade. We started with the textbook reading, with me reading one clearly marked section at a time. After the reading, we would go over the facts listed in the Student Workbook, working to learn to pronounce them and to memorize them. We would follow this with a "group effort" to answer the questions. That part usually took us about 30-45 minutes, and would be our lesson for the day.
The next time we sat down with The Book of Insects, we would again review the facts, and then turn to the Observation and Sketching activity. This section would either have the student label different parts of an insect or draw their own version of a specific insect. We would follow this up with some of the suggested activities listed at the end of the lesson: anything from reciting memory facts, reading additional pages of the textbook, or searching for certain insects outside. Depending upon the activity we chose, this lesson could take from 20 minutes up to an hour or so. On some weeks I would follow up with the lesson quiz, on others I wouldn't worry about it.
We typically used The Book of Insects twice a week, completing one lesson a week.
What Did I Think?
I loved this program! Now, I will admit, insects are not my particular favorite subject to study. However, I do have an 8 year-old boy, which I think qualifies us as an insect-loving family--or at least an insect-tolerating one. So we did go into this study looking forward to the subject material (at least one of us, lol!) But us girls were quickly drawn in as well.
The textbook was a wonderful, easy read, even through some of the difficult material. It is full of selections from Arabella Buckley and Julia McNair Wright, written in the late 1800s. And it is beautifully written. It reads like a quaint story that we were all enchanted by. However, it doesn't skimp on the scientific names or information or water it down at all. I was surprised by both how interested my kiddos were in the reading, and then again by how much they retained of the reading and the science afterward. There are very few photographs or drawings throughout the book, and those that are included are in black and white, but the pictures that the authors draw for us in our minds are so thorough that it doesn't seem to matter. I typically did all of the reading, but both my son and my daughter could read it as well--although my son is a good reader for his grade. I would agree with the 4th grade recommendation for independent reading.
Also surprisingly to me, my kiddos didn't balk at completing the workbook--and I focused mainly on using it with my son, who is writing-phobic. Turns out, both of my children enjoy the challenge of memorizing insect facts (huh!), and once we figured out how we wanted to pronounce the more difficult order names, they worked hard on learning those too. The space left to write in answers to the questions was usually too small for my boy; however, again he is a new writer, a boy, and in second grade. Typically, I would simply write his dictated answers in the space provided. He would do the identification and / or sketching sections himself, and he always really liked to do that. His favorite activities were the ones that began "go into your yard and find...". Mine, not so much!
The Teacher Guide was a valuable resource for me in helping to make sure that the kids were retaining the correct information. (Just as a back-up, you understand, as I was of course retaining the correct information myself! Uh-huh.) The section of blank quizzes and unit tests wasn't the most popular section for us, but I can definitely see the value in it when this is used with older students and grading is needed or involved. The Lesson Plans we used the first week, and then we just got into our own rhythm with the program and didn't need to use them again. It is a pretty self-explanatory, open and go curriculum, so you may not need them in the long run.
Although we used this all together as a family, I can see it being used as an independent learning activity as well, especially for higher elementary grades. Most kiddos would be able to read the selections and complete the workbook pages independently, and the Teacher Guide is thorough in helping Mom to grade the work.
Would I recommend The Book of Insects to other homeschoolers? Absolutely! I liked the price, the ease of use, the wealth of information, and the "fun level". All of our family enjoyed learning about insects, and no one ever grumbled when it was time to pull these books out. That hardly ever happens around here!
Will we continue with The Book of Insects? Another resounding yes. We can't stop now! Mrs. Fly and Mr. Cicada are waiting for us!
What Did My Kiddos Think?
"I liked it a lot. I mostly liked how it told you to tell the difference between insects and arthropods and other things. I liked the workbook--that was fun! I liked identifying things in the workbook." Bug (appropriately named), age 8
"I really liked the story. It was fun to listen to the stories, and I actually liked learning about bugs!" (Firefly, age 12)
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