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Our school year is starting to wind down, and I can’t believe we have less than 2 months left! This year we have been studying different countries all around the world. Learning about their cultures, history, geography, biomes, animals, food, famous landmarks, and more. Although this year isn’t over yet, we have completed 13 different countries, and have a pretty good rhythm for finishing out the year. We are wrapping up our year in Europe and are completing those countries just like we have the others. Many of you, including myself, are starting to plan and purchase for the new year, so I wanted to get a head start on this review for you.
This year we started using Around the World with Picture Books from Beautiful Feet Books as our spine. Very quickly after we started, I also added in Traveling the World from The Waldock Way. You don’t need to have both to complete country studies. Today I’m going to share with you a review on both, their similarities and differences, what I liked/didn’t like, and what I would recommend. You can check out all the extra reference books we used HERE, but towards the end of this post I’ll be sharing the ones that we used every single week and are definitely worth purchasing.
What is the curriculum & what does it offer?
Around the World with Picture Books is a literature-based curriculum that helps you introduce countries around the world through great picture books. It is geared for grades K-3rd and broken into 2 parts. Part I covers 11 different countries in Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antartica. Part II covers 11 different countries in South America and Europe. We used both books in one year, but we did not do all the countries in each book. I generally choose to learn about 2-3 countries per continent, and Australia and Antartica. We typically studied each country for 2 weeks.
Around the World with Picture Books can be purchased as a bundle, providing you with the main picture books you need for each country, or just the teachers guide alone. I purchased just the teacher guides on their own and was able to find all the books at my library, or as a read aloud on YouTube.
The teacher guide is broken into lessons for each country, telling you what books to read, offer discussion questions, and provides elements to cut out, such as the flag, country map, and animals, to paint or color, and place in a notebook. This course includes nature study, folktales, music, art, poetry, and recipes. There are also some video suggestions and additional book lists for history and biographies, if you wish to expand your learning.
Traveling the World by The Waldock Way is a unit-study based curriculum that uses great books, as well as hands on activities, and a student notebook for learning. This digital curriculum offers 30 different countries to learn about, on 6 continents, and is good for ALL ages. Included in this curriculum is a teacher guide that includes a book list, game list, activities, recipes, and link/QR code to a YouTube Playlist. The student notebook includes flag, country, and animal profile pages, as well as mapping and coloring pages. The animal profile pages share facts and more for each animal. A fun game pack is included with games such as memory, bingo, Top Trumps, and matching. Landmark building cards and report templates are provided for extended learning also.
Just from reading the descriptions of both above, you can easily see some big differences. Traveling the World offers a lot more in its guide, is a digital product, and covers 30 countries in one. Around the World in Picture Books is a physical guide and is separated into 2 guides covering different countries. Both curriculums are literature-based, using great picture books and geography books to teach your children. If you were to look into them both more closely, they often times suggested the same picture books for each country, but Traveling the World suggested many more additional ones than Beautiful Feet. Some books suggested in Beautiful Feet my kids did not enjoy because they were a little outdated or lengthy.
The teacher guide for Around the World with Picture Books is very visual offering pictures of the books you’ll be reading and, for most countries, photos and artwork. The teacher guide for Traveling the World is a list/outline form, but is a digital PDF, so that makes it easier and more cost effective to print.
They both are unit-study/literature based, where they cover many different subjects for each country. They each offer folktales, music, art, videos, and recipes for each country. They both offer coloring pages, maps, and flags. The animal descriptions in Around the World were very short, and I would have to look up more. The animal profile pages in Traveling the World are full pages of information on each animal.
They both also offer lesson by lesson plans to help you complete the curriculum. Each of their lessons are broken down to be very short and simple. You could even combine multiple lessons in one day to complete more. In Around the World with Picture Books, you just open and go lesson by lesson, however it fits into your schedule. The same can be done for Traveling the World, but there is additional day-by-day checklists to help you spread the lessons throughout your week if you need more help.
What I Liked/Didn’t Like
Around the World with Picture Books is a very well put together curriculum, and very beautiful. However, I found it very simple and I was always craving more. In terms of adding any hands-on learning, other than a recipe, there was nothing in the teacher guide. I had to find crafts, projects, experiments, and other activities elsewhere that helped bring our learning to life and make it more enjoyable. I do enjoy finding those extra things myself, so I did like using it just as a simple guide and didn’t follow it lesson by lesson. For the most part, I only used it for the book suggestions and coloring pages for our notebooks. We didn’t use most of the recipes, the video suggestions were all for lengthy BBC shows, and I didn’t use the discussion questions. We liked reading most of the books suggested, but we would chat about it ourselves without guidance.
In using it just as a simple guide, it is more costly than Traveling the World. The entire Around the World packs are $200- $300. If you purchase just the teacher guide, it is around $30. However, to cover all the countries we wanted, I had to purchase both Part I and Part II teacher guides, equal to $60. Traveling the World covers 30 countries in one, includes a teacher guide and student notebook, plus games and more all for $40.
I did love the idea of the notebook (purchased separately) to go with Around the World with Picture Books, and we used ours to add in everything we learned. We glued in the coloring pages offered, maps, any art projects we completed, and more. Traveling the World offers its own student notebook you could put together, or you could do the same notebook idea for both. In using Traveling the World, you would just cut out the maps on the country profile page and animals from their profile pages to glue into a notebook.
THESE are the notebooks we used.
I didn’t use Traveling the World as a whole because I had already committed to Around the World with Picture Books, but we did use a lot of it. We loved using the flag and animal profile pages, YouTube playlists, additional book suggestions, and games. The games were a great addition as a review throughout the year of the countries we had learned about.
What I Recommend
I think both curriculums are great on their own, and although we used them together, you don’t have to do both to have a wonderful year learning about countries around the world. Choosing either curriculum depends on your homeschool and the way you like to plan, have guidance, or how your kids learn best.
If you strictly like learning through literature and want something super simple, Around the World with Picture Books is for you. It tells you lesson by lesson what to do and what questions to ask. It also provides you with the book suggestions for extra lessons, but does not guide you on how to implement them. You can always add and take away anything from the lessons, but you have to do the research and find any extra activities yourself.
If you like more unit style based where you have many elements in one- reading, hands-on activities, and notebooking, all outlined for you, then Traveling the World would be best for you. If you need a little more guidance on what to do each day, this would also be helpful. When printing the student notebook, I suggest 3 hole punching it and putting it in a small binder. That way you can add more blank pages in between to add any drawings, photos, or artwork. We cut out the flags from the flag profile pages and hung them in our schoolroom.
Both are great choices, but if I had to choose one or the other and complete them again, I would probably have chosen Traveling the World, because that is more my style. There is nothing wrong with Around the World with Picture Books, I just wanted more. I love learning through literature, but I also like to bring that literature to life with more projects and hands-on learning. I really liked the teacher guide in Traveling the World; simple and all on one page. This was really helpful to add into my planner for book lists, YouTube playlists, recipe, etc. My kids loved the flag profile, coloring pages, and of course the games.
Lucky for you though, whichever curriculum you choose to go with, I’ve been putting together a blog post for every country we have completed! **If you have been following my country blog posts this year, the crafts and projects I added are NOT in either curriculum. However, there is art and STEAM activities suggested for you in Traveling the World.
My blog posts are full of the books we liked the best, read alouds we added, any project/craft ideas with links or tutorials, how we scheduled lessons within our week (since I didn’t use the lesson-by-lesson plans,) and more! Check them out by starting HERE.
Resource Books I Recommend
I purchased a lot of different books as we started this school year because I knew we would use them all throughout the year. You can see everything I purchased HERE, but I wanted to share the ones I recommend the most. These are the books that we used every single week, for every single country, and are so great to have on your homeschool shelves.
Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska is a must have! We used this to look up each country and label our maps. It is also full of fun visuals for the kids to look at and explore.
DK Countries of the World was another we used as we started a new country. It has maps, real photographs, and short snippets of information for each country. It also has ALL the countries available to look at.
Children Just Like Me is one of our favorite books! This book was so much fun to find a child who lived in the country we were learning about, to read how they lived, what their hobbies were, and more.
When learning about the different animals in each country we would pull out The Animal Atlas. It is a great pictoral guide to lots of different animals for each continent.
If we were learning more about a particular animal, we always pulled out the DK Encyclopedia of Animals. This is an amazing visual encyclopedia that offers great information. We use it daily!
Atlas of Animal Adventures was another great book we used often, sharing amazing animal events in different countries. For example, wildebeest in Kenya, peacocks in India, penguins in Antarctica, and kangaroos in Australia, just to name a few.
If you are wanting to learn about some important landmarks throughout the world the Atlas of Adventures was great to have! My kids enjoy looking at these books even when we aren’t using them for our studies.
Amazing Rivers isn’t super necessary to have, but we did use it a lot to learn about some of the larger rivers like the Nile and Amazon.
These 4 Draw, Write, Now books (Books 6, 7, and 8, plus the Polar regions book I’m missing) are the best to have when learning about the animals around the world. These books offer drawing tutorials for so many different animals and simple copywork to go with them. We used them in our notebooks often.
Instead of using a separate science curriculum this year, we just learned about the animals, habitats, and biomes for each continent. These 2 books are what we used all year to help us learn about those topics. My Very First Our World Book and The Usborne Living World Encyclopedia You can see all the biomes we completed, and activities, books, dioramas we enjoyed HERE.
This is all my own personal opinion; what works best for our family, and how we enjoy learning together. We have had the best year learning about different countries around the world. I’m thankful we have a few more left to complete before the year is over.
If you are interested in doing this for your school year, grab one of these curriculums, some great books, and use my blog for any additional help. My Instagram (@littleschoolofsmiths) is also full of planning highlights (“ATW Planning”) and highlights sharing our studies (“ATW.”) This blog post was not easy for me to write, wanting to give credit to both curriculums, but I hope it was helpful to you!!
Wishing you a great week!