Sunday, August 4, 2013

Homeschool Review Crew: Brainfood Learning, Fascinating World of Mammals

Like so many other brick-and-mortar raised schoolchildren, I have fond memories of entering the classroom to see the old movie projector set up, to get to sit back in my seat in a dark classroom and hear the soft whir of tape moving through the big metal machine as the screen lit up in front of me... Movie days in class were special - and changed as I got older, of course - by high school, we watched the increasingly rare images move across a television screen instead of one that pulled down; the whirring tape was replaced by the clicks and hums of a VCR machine. The experience remained an enjoyable one. 

When I saw that I could provide a similar experience for my homeschooled kids, I had no thought of turning it down! Our first video was provided by Brainfood Learning, and was the title The Fascinating World of Mammals, which retails for $14.99. 

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Kids being kids, they settled in eagerly for some screen time (not as rare in our house lately as it should be perhaps, but they are eager even when it's educational at least), and requested pop corn or a snack to go with it. (Hmmm... I don't recall popcorn being part of my own childhood movie day experiences... but I digress.) The Fascinating World of Mammals is not a full-on documentary, but is a series of ten shorter clips. The video was split into ten animals: beaver, kangaroo, moose, dolphin, lion, giraffe, elephant, bat, chimpanzee, and bear. 
The video clips were simple and short enough to keep 4-year-old Buttercup engaged and help her learn something new about each animal, yet included more difficult concepts, and unusual tidbits to keep 8-year-old Bruiser and 11-year-old Chef interested. Maestro, now 13, watched as well, but his interest was understandably more limited, though he did learn some new things as well. Chef's favorite part was the explanation - and live images - of how a giraffe has to work its legs to get a drink of water from a pond/pool/etc. The videos each included intermittent mini-quizes as well, to reinforce new vocabulary or key concepts.

This has not become a go-to movie as something like Star Wars might - the speech and videos are not quite that captivating and action-packed, but they were informative, and entertaining in their own way. We did not learn about new animals, but learned how bats make their way through the air, giraffes get a drink, beavers make their homes, and other fun little facts. So when we saw a bat fly overhead at Busch Gardens Friday night, perhaps Buttercup didn't remember the term "Echolocation" but she remembered that the bat needed to use a high-pitched sound that we can't hear to make its way blindly through the air. 

My middle children might easily use this video along with a lap book for some fun, hands-on experience with each animal.

For my oldest children, I think this video series is good to use for "teaser" videos, then followed by the lap book idea, as well as more extensive documentary, other YouTube videos, or research about each individual animal. 

Bottom line: this is a video that is good for a multitude of ages, though older and more advanced levels may need a little more. If you're dealing with a wide range of ages this is a good start at a reasonable price. 

Brainfood Learning also provided videos about birds and insects for review - click the banner-link below to see what other reviewers thought!

I had to come back and amend my review - I totally forgot that I received an e-mail from the president of Brainfood Learning that said they have recently installed free, downloadable worksheets on their site to use with the video. It incorporates Reading, writing, and science:


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