Geography was the subject that I was loathe to include in my homeschool.
I remember learning very little about geography in school. My parents, however, love to travel. They put a very high priority on cultural exposure and world travel. When I was in second grade, I missed the end of my school year because my parents took us on a two-week tour of Western Europe and the British Isles. When I was in eighth grade we went to Ireland. On that trip, I persuaded my parents to enroll me in Kylemore Abbey for my freshman year of high school. The summer between my junior and senior years in high school, we visited Dutch friends in Holland. During Christmas break of my freshman year in college, we went to Costa Rica for the first of many trips. After 9/11, my mom and I went to the Czech Republic. Clearly, we were a family who learned geography by going places and seeing it in person.
When I started making choices about our homeschool priorities, geography was never a consideration. I always assumed that we would learn geography as part of our history studies. While I believe that that could work well, everything changed for me when I realized that I had a daughter who was obsessed with maps. We chose to homeschool because we wanted to be able to give each of our kids that which would feed their moral imagination, help to form their character, develop their sense of wonder and awe, and put a high priority on equipping them for whatever vocation God has called them to. When I saw my daughter’s fascination with maps and things related to geography, I realized that I needed to make a midcourse correction.
When I started researching geography options, my loathing returned. Why was everything so focused on separating the facts from the story? Why were the options so dry, dull, and lifeless?
I said above that I remember learning very little about geography in school. The little I did learn, I learned in sixth grade. My teacher must have had a real passion for world cultures and geography. I vaguely recall her bemoaning inadequate time to devote to this subject that she seemed to really love. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I remember loving this monthly lesson more than anything else we did that year.
When I was looking for a geography curriculum, I wanted something that would excite my children the way my sixth grade experience excited me. My teacher had us convert paper grocery bags into “travel” backpacks with felt straps. Next she had us make “passports” out of blue cardstock and white paper (you can find a ready made option here). Before she began our world expedition, she taught a lesson on all of the things we would need to make the personal information on our mock passports reasonably accurate. Then, as we would visit each country, we would get a passport stamp for entry. In order to get our exit stamp, we would have to record certain local information in our passport books, like population, currency, government model, etc. Finally, before leaving the country, we would spend some time studying the country’s flag. While she displayed photos of the country and its culture on the overhead projector, we would color and cut out the flag (approximately index card size) and then glue it on our backpacks as a “momento” of our trip. By the end of the year we had full passports and beautiful backpacks!
This experience was so meaningful to me that when I was backpacking through Europe between terms while I was studying at Oxford, I religiously collected patches from each country to sew onto my travel pack.
Why couldn’t I find something like that for my kids?
Huh. Maybe I did. Maybe I could do just that.
But then, I discovered Simply Charlotte Mason’s geography series. While that curriculum is different than what I am suggesting, it is a wonderful resource to support the adventure that I am planning for homeschool. And so, with no loathing and much excitement, I am planning to kick off our geography adventure later this month. As time allows, and I have something meaningful to say, I will write posts about what we do. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the resources that I am using in case they inspire you to do something fun with geography in your home this year!
I will be using the Europe unit from Simply Charlotte Mason’s “Visits to Geography Series.” At her recommendation, I did purchase Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (not to be confused with the shortened version called What the World Eats) as well as Material World: A Global Family Portrait. I have not pre-read them yet, but they are gorgeous and they seem like they will be invaluable resources. That said, I have heard from several friends that pre-reading is highly recommended as they are written from a “population control” perspective and they have certain biases which are in opposition to my values related to the dignity of life.
Drawing on my sixth grade experience, I purchased Play Passports and I made immigration stickers for each country mentioned in the SCM Europe curriculum. I chose not to make “entrance” and “exit” stamp stickers for two reasons: I wanted to conserve space in the passport books and I didn’t want to use so much label paper since I have 3 students to prep for. I also made a template for the front inside cover where the students can enter their personal information. That template is included in the sticker PDF since I had extra space and wanted to make things as simple as possible to print and cut.
I plan to use Avery full sheet label paper for the passport stamps. If you wanted to save money, you could just print them on plain paper and have your student glue them into their passport.
I also made a passport application form. I wanted my children to practice getting all of their personal information correct before filling out their actual passport.
Resources I Plan To Use
Europe unit from Simply Charlotte Mason
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
Material World: A Global Family Portrait
Passport Application Form
Avery Full Sheet Label Paper