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We have been slowly ditching regular textbooks in favor of a more “living books as a spine” type of approach. Our 8 year old picked up reading in Kindergarten and has already consumed many classics. This year we are using Sassafrass Science, which is a living book science curriculum and I was researching something similar for geography.
I have been attracted to the Legends & Leagues series from Veritas Press for a few years now. Each time their catalog arrived I would feel that tug to check it out. Well, this is the year I am taking the plunge! Veritas Press sent me the entire series in exchange for an honest review and I am excited to share it with you.
My daughter is 8 years old and in 3rd grade. We did some basic geography last year, so she already knows some general terms and has map skills, so we just read through the Primer for fun. The story is quite entertaining and also has good information in it, but the workbook definitely expands what you learn and helps solidify and explain it in a way that a first grader can grasp it effectively. The Primer is where you should start if your young learner has no basic foundation in Geography and it is geared to first grade.
The Primer: Legends & Leagues – or, Mr. Tardy Goes from Here to There
This book is super-high quality and full color with glossy pages and fun graphics. It’s not a chapter book and you will read it through in one sitting, but interesting enough that you may want to have your student re-read it later in the year as well.
Children will learn quite a bit of map skills in the accompanying workbook:
- Different types of maps
- Map symbols
- How to use a compass (with a really neat activity)
- Latitude & longitude
- Continents & hemispheres
- Geography terms
- Time zones
- and more!
It also includes a glossary, final exam, and song sheets for a geography memory song. You can purchase the physical book for just $12.00 or the ebook for $10.00. I would definitely recommend the physical copy as it is only a couple bucks more and it is such a nice book. The workbook is only $10.00 (physical copy) but I would highly recommend just getting the ebook instead (for this volume only) and it’s only $8.00. The pages in the other 4 volumes are perforated (I almost squealed with delight; I love perforated pages!) but not in this one and you really need to be able to make copies easily as some of the pages involve cutting and are 2-sided.
The activities in the workbook for the Primer are fun! Although we just read through the book and skipped the workbook in favor of starting with the next volume in the series, we cut out the Mr. Longitude and Mr. Latitude paper doll figures and followed the directions to make them into “characters” so my daughter could play with them an re-create the stories she was reading about.
Here are some of the activities in the workbook that will reinforce the geography concepts your child will learn about:
- Making a strip map
- Making a compass
- Coloring the continents
- Matching games
- Treasure hunts
- Making maps
- Learning about animals from each continent
- and more!
I think this is a PERFECT curriculum to use in first grade as a way to introduce basic geography terms and maps. I wish I would have had it to use 2 years ago. You can purchase the set for just $18.70 here.
The next 4 volumes are quite a bit different than the Primer. The books are not picture books like the Primer, but short chapter books. The first thing I noticed is the beautiful, easy-to-read font that is used. It is a tad larger than a typical chapter book, in my opinion, but makes it so much easier for my daughter to read. These too are high quality books and although not picture books, have 1 full color illustration per chapter. The chapters are pretty short, about 2.5 pages each. A second grader should have no problem reading them, and although there are some “strange” names used, there is a pronunciation guide in the front of each book.
The chapters in the book are fun, but do not contain the amount of geography facts I was expecting. I wound not consider them living books, but at the same time I am not ready to call them pure twaddle. They introduce the “adventure” you will be going on and then the workbook reinforces everything you will be learning.
I have read from others that you can use them in any order, but they suggest reading them in this order: South, East, North, and then West.
- Legends & Leagues South: Peter & The Story Box – covers continents and oceans, Africa and the Middle East.
- Legends & Leagues East: Dreams, Dragons & The Peach Girl – covers continents and oceans, Asia, Oceania, and Australia.
- Legends & Leagues North: Kings & Queens & Alice – covers continents and oceans, the British Isles, Europe, Scandinavia, the former U.S.S.R., and the North Pole.
- Legends & Leagues West: The Tall Tales of Mr. Bunyan – covers continents and oceans, North, South, and Central America, as well as the Caribbean and Canada and Greenland.
I will be honest, that really kinda messes with my OCD. I think I would prefer to read them in North, South, East and West. But I will take their suggestion and go in the order they recommend, assuming they know what’s most effective, plus what we are studying in Science and History match up with this region of the world.
What REALLY makes these volumes awesome are the workbooks. In case you missed my excitement above, the pages are PERFORATED! When I see that in a workbook it really makes my day! Normally I take my workbooks to the UPS Store and they chop the binding for me and three hole punch it. It just makes organizing a portfolio so much easier to be able to neatly rip out each page.
Each volume can be used over an entire year, or condensed into 1 semester. I originally planned to spread out Legends & Leagues South: Peter & The Story Box over the entire school year, but now that we have gotten a few weeks into it, I think we will finish it up before the year ends. Basically, you can use it however it suits your family best. They offer suggestions in the front of the workbook how you can schedule it out. However you choose to spread it out, you will basically read 1 chapter and then do the worksheets that accompany it. I say “worksheets” but it is definitely not busywork. I hate worksheets with crosswords and twaddle and I did not find any of that here.
We have been reading our chapter on Tuesday and doing 2 of the worksheets the same day and the other 2 worksheets on Thursday. I am not so sure I will ever stretch out 1 chapter in 2 weeks, unless we choose to dive into some living books to compliment what we are learning. Speaking of living books, a suggested reading list would be great to have, but I have not been able to find one.
Each of the books have 16 chapters. I suppose if you did 1 chapter a week, you could make it through 2 volumes in 1 year, or just opt to take one volume slow and steady and stretch it out like we will be doing.
Each corresponding chapter in the workbook includes vocabulary, map activities, fun facts about cultures, comprehension questions, and neat activities, such as creating Ethiopian icons and making sunglasses. The workbook has a plethora of information and you may find it necessary to skip some of it, depending on your child’s ability to comprehend the information and complete the activities. I do like the fact that they have 2 sections of comprehension questions, one for younger students and an additional section for older students (who are instructed to complete both sections.) I can already tell that some of the pages in the workbook are quite advanced for my 3rd grader and we will likely do them together orally, but at the same time, she has been answering the second set of questions that is geared to older students without any problems so far.
The workbooks for the 4 volumes that are geared to 2nd-5th graders are very high quality, just like the actual books in this series. They are printed on heavy paper and have full color graphics and an attractive glossy cover. You will find an appendix in the back that contains a glossary, answer keys, tests and quizzes. The perforated pages make it super easy for you to remove the answers, tests, and quizzes if you choose to store them elsewhere. Can I just say how glad I am for ANSWER KEYS!!
The price of each chapter book is $12.00 and the printed workbooks are $24.95. While I mentioned above I would recommend the ebook for the Primer workbook, I would most definitely suggest you purchase the printed book for these 4 volumes. The ebook only saves you $4 and my guess is it will cost more than $24.95 to print it out!
While Veritas Press is unashamedly Christian, I haven’t found this series to be overly Christian at all. It seems pretty non-biased in that aspect so I suspect it will work for a secular homeschooler just as well as a Christian one.
Overall I am pleased with this multi-sensory, storybook approach to geography and and cannot wait to make it through each of the books! I do wish it was more of a living book type of curriculum, but my 3rd grader is enjoying it and learning quite a bit.
Students will definitely learn a lot of geographical information through these courses. I really like this combination of storybooks and workbooks, and even the mixture of fact and legend, and I suspect that most children will too. – Cathy Duffy Read – her full review here.