Update 5/7/2022: We were just informed that this will not be printed as a physical book again, and is now available only as a digital download from Master Books. The publisher recommends their Passport to the World as a replacement item, but we don't think that works as well for slightly older kids.
In an age when homeschool programs often seem drab or outdated, a geography course that is both up-to-date (for the most part) and engaging is rare. Cindy Horton's Expedition Earth: My Passport to the World succeeds on those levels, and on many more, presenting the 195 independent countries of the world with detail and flair.
Hands-on learning is often crucial for getting kids interested, but facts and solid content are essential for actually teaching them: Horton's course combines hands-on and fact-based elements for a truly well-rounded world geography course. Expedition Earth takes kids on a tour of the globe, complete with presenting the sights, sounds, cultures, and history of its regions and peoples.
How Does This Work?
There's a single hardcover text that comes packaged with a supplementary CD-ROM, and that's all you need. The entire print text is contained on the CD-ROM in ebook form, as are print-out maps, quizzes, flashcards, lesson plans, and more. It's possible to use the book by itself, but the CD-ROM content adds several layers of usability and information.
Each of the 195 countries covered is covered by one page in the text, with a list of facts, picture of the country's flag and place on the map, a "Did you know....?" section, and information about regional history and physical geography. Six sections cover the world's six habitable continents, with extensive in-text quizzes at the back of each section.
The book itself is high-quality, with heavy glossed pages, lots of full-color photographs and illustrations, and sturdy binding, making this a perfect choice to use with multiple children. There are spaces to write in the book itself (for the end-of-section quizzes), but since an ebook version is included we recommend you simply print off the pertinent pages.
Scattered throughout the text are ethnic recipes for kids to make, hands-on activities, suggestions for further reading, ideas for research beyond the text, etc., all designed to give kids the impression of travel. They even record what they've completed in a passport printed from the disc.
Without the lesson plans this is a good course; with them, it's fantastic. There are a lot more quizzes, supplemental information for teachers, more activities and exercises (including written ones), and ideas for further research and study in the lesson plans, which you can use on the disc or printed out.
If you choose to use them on the disc itself, you'll be able to visit a lot of websites via the links provided in the lesson plans (sites include the BBC, fotopedia, and many others). Because there's so much information available on the Internet, we strongly urge you to make use of these links if you plan on using this book.
Unlike most programs that make similar claims, you really can use Expedition Earth with any age level. Younger students will obviously need more guidance, while older students will want to do more research, but the content is perfectly suited for pretty much any situation. For high school students, Horton reminds parents that 1 credit is equivalent to 120 hours working with the material; mapping out a course is easy with the lesson plans.
Not only will older students likely need more research to make this worthwhile (unless they've had very little geography), they'll also be able to complete more of the work on their own. For younger students, parents will want to spend more time tailoring the content and preparing the activities beforehand.
Our Honest Opinion:
This is probably the best single-volume geography course we've seen. It works as an introductory course, and with supplementation it can also be mid- to upper-level. It works with any grade level (probably best to start around 2nd or 3rd grade and no earlier), and it's as comprehensive as such a program can be.
Expedition Earth: My Passport to the World isn't explicitly Christian, but there's nothing to offend here. All the content is factual and all-ages appropriate, and written in such a way young readers can understand it while older kids won't be offended by dumbed-down language.
Because it deals directly with countries, this would make an excellent supplement to Brenda Runkle's World Physical Geography course, which deals more with landforms, phenomena, etc. In our increasingly connected world, it's essential that we understand its political and geographic structure, and Expedition Earth is fantastic starting point for that endeavor.
Bonus CD-ROM includes:
- Lesson plans
- Country flash cards
- Continent maps
- Time zone map
- Passport booklet
- And more. . .
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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