Don't get me wrong, I love Montessori for Everyone. I have purchased from them in the past and will purchase from them again in the future. However, after looking at the list of what was included (printable pictures of the following: maps, flags, animals, plants, people and places, facts, map-labeling arrows, and three-part cards for much of the things mentioned) I realized I would be spending around $120 to fill my boxes with little pieces of paper. More specifically, little pieces of paper that I would have to print, cut, laminate, and cut myself. This was right on the heels of spending something like five hours making my own geometry and botany cabinet cards myself and afterwards realize my DIY cost-per-card was the same as if I had purchased the blasted things. I thought that certainly for about the same amount of money I could fill my box with actual things.
So, this is what I did.
The Continent Swap!
I was fortunate enough to participate in the continent swap hosted by Jo over at A Bit of This and a Bit of That. We
exchanged currency, postcards, stamps, recipes, and photos, "day in the life" photo stories, average daily menus, "photo stories" of a festival, photos and information regarding religion and dwellings as well as souvenirs and surprises. It occurs to me that I have no less than six posts to write
so I can show you what we received.
It is difficult to give a "cost" for this part of my project. Because I was doing Africa (finding Montessori homeschoolers in Africa is tricky) I was able to make the items for my swap using free internet resources and by sharing some African items I had already collected. I sent out six packages and shipping was about $8 per package. It is certainly possible to do this project without doing an exchange. However, I spent 15-20 hours putting Africa together and I am glad I didn't have to do that for six more continents. It also was a really neat way to make the boxes "personal."
I knew I still needed more for my boxes so I hit up my blogroll, message boards, and Montessori-N-Such for inspiration and this is what I came up with:
I plan to rotate books from the library in and out of these boxes on a regular basis. However, I noticed that MNS carried a set of books, one for each continent, that would take care of a lot of the "all about Africa" type of information. My boys really enjoy books, so I thought it would be nice to have these as in there as something of a standby. MNS sells the set for $57 plus shipping. Ouch. However, I found the same books for sale on Amazon for $7.99 each. Now I realize seven continents multiplied by 47.99 is $56, but these books are part of the "4-for-3" promotion so I received two for free, also my shipping was free because my order was over $25, and I had a $14 gift certificate hanging around. As a result I was in business only $26 later. In hindsight, these are probably the most expensive and most dispensable part of my collection.
Rather than photographs of animals, I filled the boxes with miniature animals using the Toob animal collections. I will be able to use these toobs for future biome and habitat work and many of the objects are useful in my phonics miniatures collections. I found the following tubes useful:
If you wanted, the Wild Toob would provide a lot of African animals, but we have a decent Scheich collection of African animals already. I'm not sure how to account for the cost of this, because we had the forest and desert toobs already for their assistance with phonics objects. We also have the "coral reef" toob and "in the water" toob and ocean toob which may or may not prove useful. Again, at $10 each on Amazon these could be expensive. However, Michaels carries them for $6.99. I like to poke around there frequently anyway and picked up the toobs I needed with 50% off coupons leading up to Halloween (found and printed online) so they were only $3.50. The cost of the ones I bought specifically for this project were $14 total.
For $13 (the price has gone higher since) I bought a random set of 50 Uncirculated Foreign Coins and 25 Different Uncirculated World Banknotes. It took a whole afternoon to identify what I had but it represented all of the continents. Oddly, it was most heavy on Asia and even there most heavy on currency from the former USSR. This was a struggle for me because most of those countries didn't have names when I studied geography. I also had a hard time "Googling" words off of the currency to identify it that are in Russian (or in any case have letters that look, to me, backwards). I don't know how to type that type of thing on a standard English keyboard.
There were no representative coins or bills from the "usual suspects." Nothing from China, England, Germany, Spain, France, Mexico, Japan. Even the "Australian" coins were from "Cooks Island" not Australia proper. That is probably fine, because those are the countries that are easy to turn up coins from. Also, I was able to receive more representative currency in my Continent Swap.
Cost: $17 with shipping
I obtained these through our continent swap. There are inexpensive collections of stamps for sale on Ebay all of the time.
Free! I belong to the Yahoo group Montessori by Hand. There is downloadable music available in the "links" section.
I realized I already own these. I bought this world map, flags and stand set from I-Fit a year ago when I was buying something else and saw it sitting on clearance for about $20. I'll borrow the flags from this for a while.
Cost: $0 (borrowed from another work)
World Landmark Cards:
A small collection of world landmark cards can be downloaded for free from Beautiful Sun Montessori. However, I bought the Rand McNally Schoolhouse World Facts & Landmarks Flashcards And Games. I paid less than $3.95 for these. Shipping was not only free, but they are also part of Amazons 4-for-3 promotion.
Cost: Less than $4
I have not done this yet, but can photocopy parts of my control maps for my map cabinet or print out many types found online. I am waiting on this because I'm not sure how necessary their inclusion is.
I would love to have a real doll dressed in real fabric representing traditional dress from a country from each continent. However, I have fulfilled this need adequately through the "flat stanley" type dolls we all included in the continent exchange. Another way to do this is through Dover or Amazon. Dover makes many books of paper dolls, such as African Girl and Boy Paper Dolls. They are available through Dover or through Amazon. On Amazon they are part of their 4-for-3 promotion and the prices on some are as low as $1.50. You could get a book for each continent, or you could get one of the bigger books for $10 that covers all of them.
I didn't include the paper, copying, and laminating cost for anything that I printed because if I had purchased the Montessori for Everyone set I would also have additional paper, copying, and laminating costs.
So there you have it! I personally spent about $70, excluding the continent swap items. The continent swap adds another $50. This is precisely the amount of money I almost spent on downloadable files. However, instead of a box of paper I have books, currency, stamps, dolls, miniature animals, music CD's, plastic flags, souvenirs, etc.,
Continent Boxes: South America