How important is geography, and how can I teach it to my young children without it being dry and dull, especially when my own knowledge of geography is limited?
You are not alone in your lack of geographical knowledge! In fact, American students’ geographical comprehension ranks below that of students in most other industrialized countries, and test scores among high school seniors have been on the decline for at least two decades. There are many children (and adults) who can’t read maps, or locate major cities, states, and/or countries. I think it is high time to break this cycle!
What is geography?
Geography is more than just knowing where places are. It is coming to understand how all the places on Earth and the people that inhabit them interact with each other. So much more than memorizing rote lists of cities and states, it is learning about various cultures, which are defined by traditions, values, religions, resources, cuisine, languages, economic systems, and geographical limitations. Pretty exciting, if you ask me!
Why is it important to include geography in our homeschool curriculum?
Geography gives students practical skills, such as reading and interpreting maps, and also teaches them to think critically about the various issues and cultures in the world around them. It is also important, as the world becomes smaller, to increase knowledge about international markets and economies, including natural resources, industrialization, technology, transportation systems, and trade patterns. Most importantly, we can better share the love of Christ and pray for people around the world if we better understand their cultures and spiritual needs.
What tools should I use to teach it?
Your homeschool should be equipped with up-to-date globes, atlases, and wall maps of the North America and of the world. Blank maps can also be printed out for free at sites such as World Atlas. Map floor puzzles are fun too.
Computer geography games can be a real asset. You can download Seterra, a free comprehensive geography program with more than 50 map exercises and 13 quizzes to learn about countries, capitals, flags, mountains and cities all over the world! Or you can download one of the many free geography game apps at Amazon, or purchase the pc games series Carmen Sandiego.
Some other games you and your children may enjoy are:
A few well rounded, general geography books are good to have on hand.
Children Just Like Me by Anabel and Barnabas Kindersley is a captivating book about children all around the world including photographs and quotes about what they eat, wear, play and live in. Geared for 1st through 5th grades, it is interesting for all ages.
Eat Your Way Around the World by Jamie Aramini with recipes from all the continents, is fun for all ages.
Geography Through Art, taking you on an artistic journey through 25 countries, also good for all ages.
Where do I start?
While geography can naturally be extended from social studies, literature, and science, you can also become geo-savvy by studying it for its own merits, building unit studies around the continents. It is also easy to teach various grade levels together, providing age appropriate resources. Visit Homeschool Share’s Geography Connections page to see the hundreds of FREE geography resources that are available to you!
The study of geography often begins with the child’s home, town, county, and then state. You can then extend the studies to other states that have meaning to your child – where grandma lives or a favorite author was born, or where a movie he saw took place. There is no need to cover every single state, but try to cover at least one state in each region. Utilize the handy USA Connections page at Homeschool Share to find FREE Unit Studies, Lapbooks, and book lists to satisfy your child’s curiosities.
Then branch out into North America, and then visit the other continents too.
Here are Around the World Lesson Plan sheets to help you organize your unit studies.
As you pick and choose which countries from each continent you’d like to learn more about, be ready and willing to take rabbit trails. There is so much to discover and enjoy in each country, from the political, economic, and cultural systems, to its prevalent religions, to its flora, fauna and natural resources. You can graph statistics and measure distances, delve into native artists and composers, and especially fun, cook regional foods, play regional games, and/or dress in regional clothes.
Let’s break that cycle of geographic ignorance! Have fun!
(Disclosure: Clicking on the books and games and buying them through Homeschool Share’s affiliate links will help us to continue to provide FREE Unit Studies and Lapbooks to the homeschool community!)