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Friday, October 7

Adventures in My Mailbox!!!


Shhhh!  Secret surprises at the bottom!

We may not be able to travel overseas, but teaching world cultures and geography is high on our list of 'important things to teach.'  Short of globe-trekking, we can now experience the people, geography, languages, and culture of eight countries with this creative curriculum called "The Adventurous Mailbox."  This program is unlike any other educational product we have tried, and there have been quite a few!  

Adventurous Mailbox is most closely related to Little Passports, but is more like an extension of that program.  Little Passports is designed for children as young as three (up to about ten), and gets them excited about world geography.  Once the boys had outgrown Little Passports, I floundered through several programs, trying to re-create the excitement that they had with that program.  FINALLY, I found it with Adventurous Mailbox.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon their website, and was so intrigued that I contacted them and asked for a complimentary review copy to share with my readers.  Although the company is based in Taiwan, the owner is a mid-westerner with a passion for spreading the news about multicultural learning, so he promptly sent the boys the “Adventurer” package.  We are only reviewing Series One, but Series Two through Five are in various stages of production, and we have every intention of purchasing them as they are released.  It may seem like a chunk of change, but here’s why…..

In the Beginning
First off, the kids receive mail addressed to them.  I don’t know about your house, but it’s kind of a big deal around here….  They each had a letter addressed to them, with an introduction and challenges inside.

Second, The books are written at a 4th-5th grade level , and are humorous enough to remind you of Big NateDork Diaries, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or any of the other realistic novels that pre-teens are loving these days.  They don’t even realize they’re learning world geography as they read through them. 

The print is small in the books, which made it difficult for my youngest to read, but the oldest read through them all very quickly.  (Read them in order!)  Being cliffhangers, you’ll find yourself forcing the kids to turn out the lights if you decide to go with the ‘independent reading’ route.  I let him read alone, but we also did these as out-loud reading time (he just had to be quiet and not spoil anything!).

Third, the Teacher’s Lounge and Crameye’s World bring this program to a whole new level.  More on that below…

Finally, put it all together and you have the makings of a fantastic semester (or year, if you want to stretch it) for a cross-curricular unit study.  Language arts and geography are covered, and you can easily toss in history.  Coupled with the “mystery” aspect, it’s like a Where is Carmen Sandiego curriculum!  (And my kids love that show, too……………can’t find the computer game anymore though…..if you know where to get it or Oregon Trail these days, PLEASE drop me a line!!!)

Just the Facts, Ma’am
The AdventurousMailbox comes in three options: Trekker ($59), Adventurer ($89), and Explorer ($99).  Every level includes eight books (you may select physical copies or save a little green with e-book copies) :
  • Finland
  • Taiwan
  • Brazil
  • Thailand
  • Greece
  • Tanzania
  • Peru
  • Peru, Too

At the end of each book are Crameye’s notes about the featured country, including :
  • geographical location + size
  • population + ethnicity
  • flag
  • language
  • politics
  • history
  • religion
  • culture
  • food
  • animals
  • …and lots of other interesting facts like architecture, mythology, and natural wonders.

Teacher's Lounge (Language Arts)
The premium membership level includes lifetime access to the Teacher's Lounge, where you'll find tons of downloadable homeschool lessons (contextual vocab that coordinates with the books, for example, writing prompts, and research projects).  While we've all seen some cases where the upgrade was a bust, this is ENTIRELY worth the extra money to have access to all of these fantastic materials for this program.

Workbooks are available in both Word and PDF format, and include teacher guides and answer keys (Peru, Too is the only set missing, and the publisher says that they will be up within a matter of weeks...it's the last book in the series).  These books are written in Crameye's voice, making them just as humorous and engaging as the books themselves.  There are four workbooks for each country, and they cover :
  • Vocabulary– For the first book alone the vocabulary section is 36 pages and covers 30 words. Exercises include word usage skills such as finding definitions and examples, filling in the blanks, best word choice, various vocabulary nuances and usage, choosing responses, rewriting sentences using vocabulary, synonyms and antonyms, crosswords and more.
  • Reading Comprehension– multiple choice questions, identifying true and false statements and then finding supportive evidence to back up the answer, using contextual information to understand meaning, answering questions in own words, and verbalizing summaries, and explaining events and ideas from text.
  • Writing Exercises– Offers step by step writing guidance for three to four types of essay style writing including opinion (persuasive), informative, narrative, and creative. 
  • Critical Thinking– Exercises for verbal discussion, foreign language connections, various web research activities, and tons more!
  • Extra Activities- Cooking, crafts, foreign language, virtual tours, and more for each country!

Crameye's World  (Online Games)
If you order the Adventurer or Explorer package, you'll also get access to "Crameye's World," a fun online community where your kids will learn even more from each character's blog, hear common greetings in foreign languages, play games, chat with other kids in the forums (moderated by a talking pig), learn silly jokes, and watch cultural videos.

In addition to everything that's already available, Crameye's World will soon be expanding!  They have just added e-books for download, and will soon be adding new quizzes and games, cultural content, and a more active and roust forum.  Now, kids can take on a writing mission and have their work published across the characters' blogs.

Get Social
Follow the Adventurous Mailbox on FacebookTwitterG+Pinterest, and on Instagram.

Coupon Codes
Both publishers have generously granted a coupon code for readers interested in trying them out.  

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