TOS Review Crew: Box of IDEAS--World War II

This past spring, Matthew and I studied the World Wars, so this review product was just right up our alley. Matthew is my typical boy, very interested in all the ins and outs of battle, so I thought this would be a good fit. He also enjoys learning in depth, which is great because so often we settle for learning something in breadth only. I believe that kids should have something they are an "expert" in or something they really know a lot about. It teaches them to not just settle for surface answers, but to look into the "why" as well. That is why we looked forward to this study. We got the breadth study in the spring; it was time for the depth.

Company Information: Box of IDEAS is an easily portable unit study curriculum divided into modules filled with activities that are designed to "get kids off the computer and around the table." At this time, there are units focused on Quilting (history as well as how to make a quilt), Laundry (lots of science behind laundry!), Salt, and even the number Eleven! Future units are in the works.

Product Reviewed: We reviewed the World War II--Pearl Harbor unit. There are ten modules that cover Pearl Harbor's history from before becoming a base to the impact it has today. The product comes in two formats, a PDF file (which is what I reviewed) or an actual physical product with all materials included if you can't or don't want to print everything out.

Each module is divided into several basic sections:

  • an introduction
  • several extensions to research and explore
  • weblinks with photos, video footage, and other interactive activities
  • an activity page to include in your child's portfolio, with some including photos of original documents, newspaper headlines.
  • a card game activity
The modules are divided into time segments, such as before becoming a base, beginning of a naval presence, a week before the attack, to six months after the attack, a year after the attack, four years after the attack, and decades after the attack. Each module has a topical focus that relates to this time segment, such as studying about pearls and oysters in the first module, learning GI jargon and military divisions in module 5, and acrobatic maneuvers in module 10.
If you'd like your students to take a test to evaluate their understanding, one is also provided in the unit.

Price: $49 for the PDF version, $79 for the physical product (pictured at right).

Age Range: 9-16 years old

Parental Preparation: As I used the PDF product, there was a good amount of parental preparation required. I first downloaded the files onto my iPad. For me, this is much easier to read from than sitting at the desk behind the computer. It also made things a lot more portable, which was handy as we were traveling during the time of this review.

I also spent some time previewing the websites, to make sure they were suitable for reading. With the pdf files, all I had to do was click on the links and I was taken directly to the site. I also had to print out the pages for his portfolio as well as print and cut out the cards for the card game activities. To minimize on ink usage, I only printed out the worksheets and cards. Everything else I read straight from the iPad.

How We Used It: For the purpose of this review, we decided to sample some of every kind of activity. We read through the introductions of each of the modules. I then let Matthew choose the projects that interested him the most so he could try the different kinds of activities. Then, we tackled them one by one. If you are doing this as the core of your unit study, you will definitely do more than I did.

As Matthew had started a study on precious stones a couple years ago, we started right off with Module 1, learning about pearls and harvesting. Matthew is big on making charts so we really enjoyed doing research on different kinds of oysters and pearls. We also enjoyed looking at the websites that were included as extensions. We go rather slowly as Matthew likes to go in depth, so it took us a few days to finish one module. We did a little reading each day, exploring as we went, and we wrote down notes of interest. As he already has a World War II notebook, we will be adding these pages into that existing notebook instead of starting a new one.

The portfolio pages offered some challenge and thinking. The one on bathymetry required us to use our math skills and the ABC's of the military required us to do some research on the internet on GI Speak. And what boy wouldn't enjoy learning about fighter planes and a pilot's acrobatic maneuvers?

At first glance, I thought the games all looked the same, but they were actually different. We especially enjoyed "Power in the Pacific" which was a Yahtzee-like game and "Race into V-Formation". They were a fun way to digest a lot of facts and information. Many were illustrated with actual photographs.

What We Liked:

  • Each module was very focused and allowed us to learn in depth about the topic. I wondered how much you could do with such a specific study as Pearl Harbor but I was pleasantly surprised by the topics that were covered.
  • While there was consistency in the format, there was also a lot of variety in the activities.
  • The website links were great for photos. Some of it was over Matthew's head, but we read what interested him and what was appropriate for him.
  • The extension activities gave us some challenges to research. We particularly enjoyed the study on pearls in the beginning of the unit.
  • The unit study was very portable when I put it on my iPad! I liked not having to mess with a lot of paper.

What We Didn't Like:

  • The only downside to having the pdf files is that if you want to play games, you'll need to have blank (I used white) cardstock and ink. I found cutting the cards out a lot easier with a paper trimmer.
  • This may seem a bit pricey for a PDF book, but it breaks down to almost $5 per module. With the amount of information in it, however, I think it is worth the price.
  • We did spend a lot of time doing research on the computer. Maybe we didn't really get "off the computer" as the homepage says, but the games did help us to spend some time interacting together.
  • If you're looking for creative craft projects, you'll need to do a lot of it on your own as materials (or even resources) are not supplied. There was a great idea for building a WW2 airplane, but you'd have to find and buy a model kit.

Overall Summary:

This was a wonderful extension to our study of World War II. With the amount of material in the study, it could easily be an entire unit in itself. If you have a child who really enjoys digging into details like I do, this is a great study to do. It sounds like more studies are in the works, so I know I'll be checking back for more in the future!

Disclaimer: I received a PDF copy of Box of Ideas WW2 Pearl Harbor study at no charge in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own. If you'd like to read more reviews, click the banner below!  Photobucket