Friday, September 21, 2007

Curriculum Review: Top Secret Adventure and Which Way USA

September 21, 2007

My friend Tammy, who is a curriculum junkie, introduced me to Highlight's world geography club, Top Secret Adventures. Having joined Book of the Month Club many times in my life with disastrous results, I am always skeptical of mail-order book clubs; however, I was intrigued by Top Secret Adventures. The idea is that your child is a secret agent in the Country-of-the-Month (Japan begins the series), and s/he has to solve the crime/mystery by traveling around the country, finding clues. "Travel" around the country is provided through puzzles of all sorts, map work, and searching the guidebook. The guidebook and puzzle book contain loads of information about the particular country. Laurel was 9 when we began this series, and she was just old enough to enjoy it. She was excited each time one would come in the mail. We didn't get to all of the kits and have moved on from World History for now, so I have stored the unopened countries and canceled our subscription for now.

This year we are studying American History, so I've ordered the Which Way U.S.A instead series instead. Much like the Top Secret program, Which Way USA provides a nice state map and a puzzle book with each state (two come per month). My only gripe so far is that the New York puzzle book spent about 98% of the book on New York City and 2% on the rest of the state, which is disappointingly typical.

The books are colorful (but not too busy) and filled with facts and tidbits of information about people and places. The information is presented in a way that is appealing to my 5th grader--short snippets and not terribly overbearing. (She's my "bells and whistles" girl.) My 1st-grader is not terribly interested, and my 9th-grader would rather just find the capital and a few major cities, as well as famous people from the state, and be done with it. We use these Highlights' clubs in conjunction with Geography Matters' Trail Guides and Mark-it Maps to round out our geography program.

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