The various sets of impressionistic charts are iconic Montessori elementary materials. You started to see some of them in use during the first Great Lesson. The charts are best if they are somewhat large, usually about 12x18 or so...but not too large. In a homeschool you are not showing these charts to a whole classroom at once. The larger they are the more unwieldy to use and more difficult to store they become.
I made my own charts for fractions (I photographed them and will post them soon!) and am working on my own geometry charts. I chose to buy the botany charts and the two sets of geography charts. Now that we have all of these resources, two questions remained: "where do we put these?" and "how do we protect these?"
I ordered what are called "large impressionistic charts" from Alison's. They are available laminated or unlaminated. However, they charge $50 per set for lamination. I didn't want to pay $150 in lamination costs. I did still think the charts themselves were reasonable because I have seen one of the sets available as a digital download for almost the same price. It was attractive to be able to buy them already printed on high-quality paper of this size. The charts are NOT as large as the Alison's site claims (16 x20). The geography charts are 12 x 16 and the botany charts 13x17.
I knew I wanted some kind of portfolio to store this in. I was really happy when I happened across the Profolio collection by Itoya. They have photo-album-style and binder-style portfolios in lots of different sizes. The 14 x 17 size album style portfolio was perfect.
The very week I discovered them, our local craft store put them on sale for 50% off. This meant that I was able to protect and store about 125 14x17 charts in inexpensive portfolios rather than pay Alison's $150 to laminate their charts plus probably another $100 to laminate my own and still have to come up with storage.
I don't know if this will be their permanent home, but for now they fit nicely on top of the bookcases.
The spines are equipped with a sleeve that can house a label that wraps around to both the front and back of the album. I whipped up some labels that provided a word for the spine and pictures along the front and back.
This method of storage seems to be plenty accessible and tempting. Kal-El pulled down the first Geography portfolio, unprompted, and really enjoyed kicking back on the couch where he used them as intended...to jog his memory and make him think about and talk about the stories he listened to when he saw the charts the first time.
The next burning questions is, "Do I LIKE the ETC press charts?" I don't particularly like them. I'm hoping they grow on me. I feel that the Albanesi impressionistic charts are much easier for a child Kal-El's age to understand.
When I look at the Albanesi charts myself I instantly understand them. When I look at the ETC press charts I find myself thinking "what is this supposed to be?" an awful lot.
Examples of Albanesi geography charts.
Unfortunately the Albanesi charts range from $230 to $280 PER SET. Ouch. Montessori guides make their own charts like these during training. You can see from the level of detail and artistry why I, even as a competent artist, was interested in purchasing these instead of making so many of them.
I own two sets of albums that assume that you are using the Albanesi-style charts. The ETC charts correspond but not directly. For example, right away I had to make my own layers of the Earth chart to match my presentation because the ETC chart was not only harder to view, but included more layers than the presentation did. You can buy the ETC charts with or without a set of materials that provides the explanations and experiments. My albums already have those, so I bought only the chart. However, they sure would be helpful!
I found this YouTube video that is a slideshow of all of the ETC botany charts that I purchased:
I think I like the botany charts well enough. It's the geography charts that have me confounded. There are, in particular, some pictures of infants left in usual places (a meadow? a mountaintop?) that refer to radiation dispersing heat that I have NO idea how to explain.
There is extra room in the portfolios. Hopefully I won't have to make as many of my own charts as I think. When I do, I can nestle it in to the portfolio side by side with the purchased chart. I did so with my layers of the Earth chart and Kal-El really enjoyed looking at them both.