Monday, May 16, 2011

WonderMaps - Product Review

We don't use a particular geography program, and I'm not a geography buff, so when I had the opportunity to review the first release of  Bright Ideas Press WonderMaps, I was excited about the possibilities of expanding my own knowledge of geography, as well as that of my children. I have received no compensation for this review beyond the opportunity to use the program for free in exchange for expressing my opinions about it here. 

Wondermaps Logo

Bright Ideas Press is a family owned and operated business that offers a variety of history, geography, and science resources. These people are seasoned homeschoolers who offer their wisdom and expertise to their clientele not only through their products, but through their blog and helpful articles. BIP is a business aimed, of course, at financial success -- but it is also a vibrant member of the homeschooling community. This was most clearly driven home when I received a notice from them informing their clientele of another family's dire need for help. Desiring to inspire as much support as possible for the Laurie family, a homeschooling family of seven, six of whom have a fatal illness called Mitochondrial Disease, BIP outlined the family's needs with explicit instructions on how to help in an easy but concrete way. To me, that speaks volumes about the heart of this business: BIP has a heart of compassion and service.

Bright Ideas Press Logo

This screen shot gives an indication of the variety of products Bright Ideas Press offers, many of which support a biblical worldview, and some of which supplement the use of other popular curricula, such as Mystery of History and All American History:

WonderMaps 1.0, the product used for this review, is a downloadable software collection of more than 350 customizable maps which enable the user to manipulate layers of information, including colour, town/city locations and/or names, rivers and river names, island names, country names, terrain text, graticules (lines of latitude and longitude), and graticule labels.

WonderMaps are organized into four main categories: 1) World Continents, Regions, Nations; 2) United States of America; 3) Historical (Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation and Growth of a Nation,  Revolutions to Rising Times) and 4) Thematic (American History, Explorers, Native Americans, World Wars, Biblical, 20th Century Treaties, Chinese Dynasties). It may interest you to watch this video clip that explains how these maps work:

Because we don't use a geography program or spend a lot of time referring to maps, WonderMaps is not a program that our family uses on a regular basis. However, we have enjoyed using it on a number of occasions to supplement our readings, as well as to do research about areas of interest. For example, we have been reading a book about people who have revolutionized their world through acts of faith, and it has been helpful to consult WonderMaps to visualize their travels and activities in various parts of the world. In my personal readings through the gospels, I have found it helpful to consult the biblical maps, such as this one that outlines Jesus' ministry travels:

We have also used WonderMaps to get our bearings around places of interest to us, such as El Salvador. The options were more limited here (we could only see El Salvador on a map of Central America; we could not get a close-up map of the country itself -- and this is true of several countries) -- but that does not negate the value of WonderMaps as a useful tool.

One of the features I appreciate most about WonderMaps is its Teacher's Guide:

As you can see, it offers a number of additional resources, one of my favourites being the ideas lists, such as this one for map related activities and projects:

Each project title is linked to a detailed outline of potential activities related to the title. I appreciate the way BIP suggests ways to make our learning fun, challenging and creative. BIP and WonderMaps are about a whole lot more than just maps! It's definitely a program we will continue to enjoy :) Thank you, BIP and TOS for the opportunity to use this product :)

Price: $49.95 ** See the WonderMaps ad in your spring issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for a 20% Discount Code!
This software requires Adobe Reader v. 9.1 or higher. It’s a free download from
Available from: Bright Ideas Press and other international sources.

If you would like to see what other TOS Crew members have to say about WonderMaps, click here.

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