Review: TOS August Planner Module: Adventures in Reading

I've been a blogger for the Old School House Magazine's Homeschool Nations for Guam for over 3 years now. As a past coordinator for the Guam Homeschool Association I have also been a recipient of this magazine for well over 6 years. I love the magazine for its variety and all the free e-books and items it gives away with subscriptions. I'm sure many of you have seen the "19-Free gift" advertisements for your TOS subscription. And their newest advertisement is the Homeschool Planner, which is a "must have" according to so many homeschoolbloggers. Along with the TOS Homeschool Planner you can sign up for a monthly subscription of modules that promise you tons of lapbooking and notebooking goodies. So out of curiosity I decided to splurge the $7.95 to purchase their August Module for their 2009 School planner. The title: Adventures in Reading.

After some struggle to get the PDF file to download (last night the link wouldn't work for me at all, but this morning it suddenly worked fine), I was finally able to open and peruse the e-book. Sadly to say I'm a tad bit disappointed. There is nothing in this e-book that I couldn't have created myself. Someone has just gone to the trouble to put it together in one place and gotten credit for that.

It starts with the large full color cover, that will quickly eat up your ink on your color printer if you chose to print out the bright purple cover. I'd opt out of printing that page. After the "third party" content disclaimer, you'll find the two page table of contents, followed by a page on "tips for reading to children". All of these tips are common sense that I don't need someone to tell me when it comes to reading aloud. Things like "read with feeling" and "find a comfortable place to cuddle with your child". I suppose there are those out there who do need to be told this sort of thing, but most likely they are not the kind of person who would download this in the first place. I think it is natural for most moms and dads to understand how to read a book to a child.

The first story covered is "If you give a Mouse a Cookie" and begins with a full color page of a mouse holding a cookie and a brief intro to the story. This is followed by a fill in the blank question page on the story, a short answer question page, a blank page with lines for writing your own story, a word search, copy work page (of words found in the story) and a recipe for Chocolate chip cookies. The same format follows for several more children books. Interspersed in the intro for the books are links to outside websites that you can explore.

Following the Little House on the Prairie unit, are 5 coloring pages with quotes on reading, 10 pages of printed copy work (again using quotes about reading), followed by 10 more pages of cursive copy work pages using the same quotes. Finally you come to the section on High School Expansion (which is touted as a plus in purchasing this E-book). Two books are discussed: Robinson Crusoe and Silas Mariner. Links for reading these books online are provided along with summaries from cliff notes and other summary type sites. Essay questions are given for each book and a word search as well.

Finally the E-Book concludes with an answer key. The essay question answers that are given for the high school content consist mostly of quotes from the books. If I were to have my high schooler answer the question they would be required to re-write these quotes in their own words and perhaps reference the pages where the quotes are found. I found the essay answers to be of poor quality. The final page is a list of resources, which turns out to be more E-Books all sold through the Old Schoolhouse Magazine Store.

I guess my final analysis is that this e-book is not worth the $7.95 price tag. If it were a printed book on a bookstore shelf I would be hard pressed to pay $5 for it.

More and more I'm finding myself disappointed in the homeschool e-book industry. It seems that anyone with a good publishing program can pump out pages of "copy work", cute .gifs, quotes and word searches and call that a "unit study". My advice to homeschoolers looking for book studies - You should just read books with your child, pick out your favorite passage to copy or discuss, make up your own comprehension questions, or just discuss the book with your child and your child will get more out of that book than 10 pages of "busy work".