Monday, May 6, 2013

Hands on History Activity-Pak: Composers - A Homeschool in the Woods Product Review!

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Having a child on the autism spectrum is not always fun on several levels. Homeschooling is just one of them. However, once you find something that clicks with an autistic child, things become a lot easier. One of the things that we found a long time ago that clicked with Joshua was lapbooks. We don't always do them, and there are times that we start them and it takes forever to get them done (if we ever do), but they are still fun for him and we try to do them as often as we can. When I found out that we would be reviewing a Hands on History Activitiy-Pak: Composers from Home School in the Woods I was excited. Not only does it contain a lapbook but it also contains many more things that Joshua has enjoyed and is still enjoying. The fact that it focused on music and on composers made it even more exciting. Our kids love music! Unfortunately, I had never been able to find a good method of teaching Joshua any music appreciation type things. A lapbook that taught music appreciation and taught about composers sounded like something that would be right up his alley, and I was not mistaken.

Okay, it is true that I said that this is a lapbook. Remember, though, that the official title of this product from Home School in the Woods is Hands on History Activitiy-Pak: Composers. This is much more than a lapbook. This is truly an "Activity-Pak". My previous experience with lapbooks is little sections called matchbooks or fans (or some other type name) that you complete and place in a specific spot in your lapbook. When it is all done you have a dozen or so small projects that each teach you a little about a specific study. Since this is the first Home School in the Woods lapbook that we have ever worked with, I can't attest for all of their materials, but this lap-book is much different than anything else that we have worked with.

This lapbook has only six main sections but each section is huge and takes up a large portion of the file folders. And, speaking of file folders, you don't just use one little file folder to complete this project. You can see from the pictures below that several pages and flaps are added to the lapbook and each main project takes up at least one flap and often more than one. Let me tell you about each of the projects first, then, in keeping with the musical theme, I'll tell you our "Bravos", or what we really liked about Hands on History Activitiy-Pak: Composers.

As I mentioned before, there are six main projects that you complete for this Home School in the Woods Activity-Pak:

  • Activity One: Periods of Music - Have you ever wondered how music evolved throughout the ages? I've always thought it was humorous when I hear parents say something like, "Ugh! The music of today is terrible. I just don't understand it." What they fail to remember is that their parents said the exact same things about the music that they listened to. But, I digress! Anyway, the periods of music covered here are much broader. You won't find how 20th century music got from swing to rock, but you will find how music evolved from the middle ages to the 20th century.
  • Activity Two: Keyboard Vocabulary - Little known fact about the Tinkel family #1 (you will probably learn several while reading this review) - Three out of the five members of our family have taken some type of keyboard lessons. Both Sarah and John Allen have taken a couple years of piano lessons and enjoy tinkering around on the piano. I (Tim) took several years of piano and organ lessons and have toyed around on the accordion. Can I play any of them! Anyway, this section won't teach you how to play any keyboard instrument, but will tell you what a lot of musical terms mean. Have you ever wondered what a "Gregorian Chant" was, or what the difference was between a "March" and any other type of music? Or, have you ever wanted to know what musical terms such as "pitch" or "forte" meant. Well, even if you have never thought about those things, you'll learn them here.
  • Activity Three: Collection of Composers and Activity Four: Composers Timeline - I'm going to put these two sections together because they both talk about Composers (and I also realize tat this review is getting lengthy and I want to do this product justice and not scare you off with a lengthy review). Anyway, I have always loved different types of music and have always been interested in composers. Unfortunately, I could never learn when a specific composer lived or what he wrote, and therefore could never place a particular style of music where it should go in a time period. These activities will help your child do both of those things. You'll learn about the composer, what he wrote, and make a neat timeline that tells when he lived.
  • Activity Five: Pieces With a Purpose - Have you ever wondered why a specific piece of music was written. Maybe you haven't wondered "why" at first, but once you learned the history behind a hymn or other piece of music then you appreciated it much more. That is what this section does. It takes six reasons why a composer might write a piece of music and gives different examples of music written for each purpose. It really is fascinating.
  • Activity Six: Music Appreciation - Little known Tinkel fact number 2 - Music has been a big part of the Tinkel family for years. My father, mother and sister had (and have) wonderful voices. My father, brother and I all played trumpet. In fact, I had the privilege of playing in some wonderful concert bands and even toured Europe with one of them. I've played and  learned about a lot of different types of music and compositions. Unfortunately I've not necessarily passed my appreciation for different types of music down to my children. This section does just that. Remember, I said that this was much more than a lapbook? Well, it is. Included in the materials are over 90 minutes of recordings of different music by different composers who lived in different eras. You'll learn about them all (or as many as you choose) in this section.
  • Bonus Activities: And I said there were only six! Well, it is true that there are only six, but there are a couple of other activities that, in order to make your lapbook look complete, you need to...well...complete. One is about different types of music down through the centuries and how new instruments were invented to play the different types of music. Because of that, orchestras have evolved and changed to include (or in some cases do away with) different types of instruments. I had never thought about that before but it is really interesting.You'll also learn in this activity how an orchestra is set up. After completing this activity your child will be able to tell where each instrument is placed when they watch an orchestra on TV or perhaps even live. The other bonus activity has to do with composers again. In this activity you can make composer cards. In this activity you'll learn what pieces different composers wrote. There are a couple of different ways that you can make the cards. You can either make them with the compositions placed on the back of the composer to be used as flashcards, or you can print the compositions separate from the composer cards in order to use as a matching game.

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Now for the Tinkel family Bravos (well really just Joshua's and my Bravos).
Bravo One: The Hands on History Activitiy-Pak: Composers is extremely well done! It is complete from the directions on how to put together the lapbook to how to do the lapbook. It may seem like a monumental task to put the lapbook pictured above together, but they make it extremely easy. There is nothing left to chance. Everything is specific but easy to follow. We have had no problem completing this lapbook and neither should you.
Bravo Two: It is also well done when it comes to the different activities. At least for us. Let me explain. We have done lapbooks where the child has to read about something and then briefly write down what he has learned about and Indian tribe (for example) on a tepee, or what he learned about a tropical island on a fold out of a bowl of fruit. Because Joshua has small motor problems and can only write so much without his hand getting tired and his writing even more sloppy than it already is, I would usually have to write for him. Although there is some writing involved with this Home School in the Woods Activity-Pak, most of the activities involved are typed out for you so all you have to do is learn, color, cut and paste, and put together the lapbook! This really helped.
Bravo Three: We extremely enjoyed the extras. Just last night Joshua fell asleep as he and I were listening and discussing some of the different styles of music and composers. We were describing how each piece of music made us feel inside and thinking about why the composer might have written that type of music. It is this type of thing that really places Hands on History Activitiy-Pak: Composers over the top when it comes to other lapbooks or unit studies that we have done. It is these special times that we have had while working with this study that have really sold me on Home School in the Woods. This is one company that I am going to keep going back to! 
You might think that all of these things wrapped up in one "Activity-Pak" would be quite expensive. However, if you did, you'd be wrong! All of the above mentioned things are just $18.95 for the download version or $19.95 for the CD version. Just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above to get to the Home School in the Woods website.
As always, other TOS Review Crew members reviewed this and other items from Home School in the Woods and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling and Happy Listening!

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