Thursday, December 1, 2011

Geography Matters

Geography is like the ABC’s of the social sciences.  It is hard to get a full understanding of social studies, history, political science, international relations, or even just understand the news if you do not know what is where on our little sphere called Earth.  Unfortunately geography is often overlooked or taught very poorly, putting children to sleep, and resulting in an uneducated public.   For this reasons we don’t teach geography, we PLAY geography as part of our homeschooling curriculum.

I would like to give you a brief description of what we do, in hopes that you may benefit from the ideas. The first step was to explain what is planet Earth, and that it is where we live.  After that we move onto specific studies of regions of the Earth as follows.

1.       Continents

2.       Oceans

3.       Countries (one continent at a time)

4.       Landscapes

5.       Individual country studies in depth

To teach the continents and oceans we used both flash cards and the Find it on the Map game listed below.  Once our son was comfortable at recognizing each of the continents and oceans we moved on to the study of each continent by countries (step 3). We’re currently studying Central American countries.  In general we have four activities for each country that we study.  

1.       Flash cards.  I made my own flash cards (shown below).  On one side a map of the world or region with the specific country highlighted, along with the flag of that country.  The other side has the name of the country in large print.  We play a game where my son tries to guess the name of each country as we show him the map side of the card.  We typically do two to three at a time.

2.       Find it on the map.   We bought a political map of the world and taped it to the wall.  We call out the name of anything we’ve studied, and our son runs up to the map and points to its location. 

3.       Virtual Tours.  Because we cannot afford to travel to each country we take virtual tours via YouTube videos.   We typically will look for a tourism commercial, or a country bio, in order to let him see what the country actually looks like in terms of physical landscape, the people, animals, weather, and its architecture.   You should screen all of the videos before viewing with your child, as some need to be edited for content or muted due to music. 

4.       Color it in.   We have a lot of map printouts that are either continent or region specific.  We have our son color in the maps with each country receiving a different color.  This helps him to get a better grasp of the borders of each section while reinforcing its geographical location.

As we go through this process and accumulate more countries we continue to review them collectively through the flash cards and Find it on the Map game.  Our son loves it and always asks to “play” geography.   If you want to keep up with our progress, check out our geography widget on the side to see all the places we have “travelled” to.  If you’re interested in using our flashcards, map printouts, or a list of video’s we’ve used just send me a message to or on Facebook.