Category Archives: Geography

How We Do…Geography

Kid Uno’s first word was “map”. Which was not surprising, since when she was a tiny baby, DH had salvaged a world map as big as I am, and brought it home on the metro. With lots of comments like “You’ve got the whole world in your hands! Ha ha ha.” It was our main living room art for a long time.

DH is a geography whiz. I, on the other hand, was in my late teens when my friends discovered I thought Hawaii was in the Gulf of Mexico. In my defense, it WAS…on every map I’d ever seen. Which is precisely why one of my main goals was to get our kids a globe, which shows everything where it really is, or at least within a degree or two, depending on how well the paper is pasted. So last month, we got the Replogle Pioneer Globe (to replace our tiny Elenco 5″ Political Globe, which was far cheaper but just wasn’t cutting it). It’s awesome, and is easy to access because it sits on top of our piano, which we also acquired several weeks ago. A piano and a globe make me feel like a totally mature and very settled parent, maybe even a little middle-aged. Anyway…

We also have a huge US world map that I found on clearance at Target–it’s as big as our rug. Kid Uno likes to pull it out sometimes and trace the journey of the Ingalls family (Little House books), or find where she was born, where we live, where all our relatives live, etc. We do a lot of globe checking or map checking as we read through school books, whether they are biographies, history, Bible, science, or whatever. When a friend from a foreign country came for dinner, DH showed the kids the country and told them a bit about it before our friend arrived. We have a road atlas in the car, and on our last roadtrip, I printed some simple outline maps for the kids so they could follow our trip as we drove. The Miquon math books actually include some map reading/drawing and a basic understanding of scale. Pretty cool for a math workbook!  And then there are the Ambleside books which are scheduled for geography (mostly Holling C. Holling books so far), which we have enjoyed. On our weekly schedule, I included an empty box titled Map Readings, so that I remember to look at maps and globes as we read. Simple, but it reminds me to actually do it! So that’s the book/map/globe way we do geography.

And then there’s the local geography…we are still working on directions when we walk or drive somewhere. For some reason, it’s taking a long time for the kids to remember where the sun rises and sets. But they enjoy trying to guess “if that way is west, then that way is___”. Sometimes I let them direct me to the next turns, and we talk about how far this place is in relation to that place, and so on. We’ve been able to travel a lot, and I think that gives them an idea of what places are like. The coast where one set of grandparents live is far different from the mountains where the others live. And Kid Tres remembers Las Vegas as “the city that’s really really bright at night” because we arrived there after dark. I think travel is by far the most effective and memorable way to learn geography, though maybe the most time consuming and expensive. And the most fun!

I have lots of ideas for incorporating more geography, but haven’t actually incorporated them yet. There are lots of neat state, US, continental, and world map puzzles which the kids would enjoy. Kid Dos has been asking for a compass, and we could show the kids how to use topo maps when we camp and hike. Geocaching and letterboxing sound like very fun activities…but when I’m in the middle of first trimester pregnancy exhaustion, it’s too overwhelming to start something new. Maybe later 🙂 At some point in late elementary, I may spend a whole year on world geography (instead of history), possibly organizing it by continents. Or oceans. It would be interesting to do something not land centered. Still thinking about that one. Beautiful Feet Books has a lot of history/geography ideas; if Kid Dos continues her horse interest over the next few years, I might do something like their History of Horse, which would actually be a great geography study. Lots of time to think about that one, too. 😉

For anyone who is following Ambleside Online, or some other Charlotte Mason or vintage curriculum, I wanted to mention that “geography” used to be a subject which was much broader and more important than it is now. From what I gather, it included what we now consider earth science and weather and agriculture and a lot of practical stuff for which I don’t have a neat mental category (maybe technology?). At least that is my understanding after looking through vintage geography books like Long’s and the Eclectic Home Geography and some others. It’s an interesting lense for viewing the different subjects, and I kind of like it!

This post is dedicated to my sister, who I know will deeply appreciate that I spent the evening writing instead of mopping our dirty sticky splattered floor.