Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review of Sacagawea e-book from Knowledge Quest

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Knowledge Quest has created so many great products for homeschoolers that it would take a long time to list all of them.  In fact, if I scanned my hard drive, I would probably see most of them.

Sacagawea (Brave Explorers Every Child Should Know) Complete PDF e-book (for kids 10+) is a downloadable pdf that was originally written as four installments, but is now available as one complete e-book for $4.97. The book is different from the typical presentation of the Lewis and Clark/Sacagawea story in how it is told.  Rather than being presented as a narrative in real time, author Karla Atkins has Sacagawea tell the Lewis and Clark story to her son, Pompey.  Previously, any time my children and I have read about Sacagawea, Pompey has been little more than a footnote, albeit a fascinating one.  Here, Pompey becomes one of the main characters - indeed, he becomes the focus of the story.  Like us, he listens, fascinated, to a story that we know well, but not quite from this vantage point.

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The point-of-view from which this story is told is not the only thing unique about it.  Due to its electronic nature, the author has been able to include hundreds of hyperlinks throughout the text.  The number of links make this book complete enough to be an entire unit study.  For instance, some links are merely to pictures (very helpful when your 8 year-old wants to know what Sacagawea's basket would have looked like - this is the child who wants a container for everything!), but many links are to websites with reams of information of their own.  If you've always heard the term "Corps of Discovery" but never wanted to admit that you just weren't sure what it meant, you will know everything after reading this book and using the links.  Alternatively, of course, you can read this book just like a story.  It works perfectly on that level, too.  In this flexibility, Sacagawea bears the hallmark of my number one priority for good homeschool material: adaptability.  You really can take this 100 page e-book and make it your own.  For the price, it's a great deal no matter how you choose to use it.  Whether you have studied Sacagawea before, as we have, or not, reading this book feels like spending time with an old friend.

How We Used Sacagawea

Because we studied this part of American history intensively last year, I did not use this e-book as a unit study, although I don't rule out the possibility of returning to it in the future. Instead, over the course of two days, I read it to all four of my children (11, 9, 8, and 8) as a non-school read aloud (just as pleasure reading).  When we came to something we needed to clarify, we clicked on the link to see the picture, definition, or further explanation.  I am very used to using the Internet to clarify something we are reading, but it was a new and wonderful experience to have the link right there waiting for me! I really think this is the future of all books, particularly academic ones.

What We Thought

Knowledge Quest is responsible for some of the best living books that we have read in the past, so it was no surprise to find that this one ranked right up there with them.  There is so much material in this book that just doesn't seem academic -- but it is! This really is learning the way it should be.  After spending time with this book, your children will be able to see, hear, and feel this time period and the people who inhabited it.                                                                                                        

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