What exactly is it about geography that makes it
a subject that many home educators have become loathe to teach? Is it
because we ourselves feel so inadequate in our own knowledge of the
subject? Is it because we cannot find a curriculum that lays out a
systematic and incremental course of study, and is fun to boot? Or is
it because we have finally realized that the world is really not so
small after all, as the song of the same name implied and the
accessibility of the world by way of the Internet has led us to
believe? Is it not true that the more you learn about a country or a
region of the world, the more you realize the vast amount of terrain
there is still yet to know?
Sadly, when it comes
to geography, Americans just are not measuring up. In a National
Geographic survey, it was found that 49% of Americans between the ages
of 18 and 24 could not locate the state of New York on a United States
map. 88% of these respondents could not find Afghanistan on a map of
Asia. And, perhaps most shocking,
is that 11% of these Americans could not locate their own country on a
in general, have a very limited understanding of world and even U.S.
geography in comparison with their counterparts from around the world.
European students, for example, have a much better handle not only of
their own surrounding geography but of the entire world as well. It is
the same with students from Asia and many other parts of the globe.
Perhaps you are
thinking that I am only referring to public school students. But in
reality, homeschooled students often suffer from this same lack of
knowledge in geography as well.
The two subjects most neglected in the homeschooling arena are
writing and geography. I am not entirely certain why this is so, but I
can speculate… Skill areas, such as math, grammar and spelling are
easier to measure than the artful skill of writing and so it gets
pushed aside. Similarly, history and science require such large
portions of time that geography is often left in the cold.
truth about geography is that it is not a difficult subject to teach!
The teacher does not have to master the topic before challenging
his/her students to increase their knowledge and skill in this
neglected area. There are many wonderful resources out there that
will help you teach your students world geography and most of them are
inexpensive or even free.
Are you ready dive
in and discuss some fun and effortless ways to teach geography? Well,
hold on for just a moment more… first let’s take a minute to discuss
why learning geography is even a necessary component to one’s
education. I mean, honestly, why would anyone need to know where
Timbuktu is located? (By the way, in case you do not know, it is a
city situated smack dab in the center of Mali, a country in western
Africa, just south of the Sahara Desert.)
First, we need a
working definition of geography. According to Noah Webster,
geography is the study of the earth, or the terrestrial globe,
particularly of the divisions of its surface, whether natural or
artificial, and of the position of countries, kingdoms, states and
cities. In essence, geography is the spatial aspect of earth
study and is integrally related to its sister subjects of history,
ecology and the economy.
perspective… All wars that have been fought throughout history have
been over geography, which, of course, ultimately boils down to
greed. The source of tension between lords and tenants, neighboring
kingdoms, settlers and natives comes down to this one particular thing
– who owns the land currently and who has enough power to take it and
the landscape of our earth has changed little over the course of time
(with the exception of the Great Flood and its aftermath), but the
historical events that have transpired over even just a portion of
this ground has had and continues to have tremendous impact on that
locale as well as the world as a whole.
We must take
an interest in and even study geography because it is an aspect of
studying mankind and his development and movement over the face of the
globe. We should not only concern ourselves over the name or even the
course of a given river, but we would do even better to make an
attempt at understanding the societies that have grown up and then
departed from that river, the trade that was conducted up and down
that river, the connections that that river makes to other waterways
and its overall significance to the local and worldwide economy. Many
people do not realize that geography is more than just naming
countries, cities and landforms. It is the study of the land as it
relates to people, their history and their resources.
If we truly want to
understand another culture, to reach out in missions, to bring aid to
hurting people and share the love of Christ beyond our local borders,
we must study geography. Cultures are defined by traditions, shared
values, available resources and geographical limitations and
whereabouts. If we truly want to believe once again that this is a
small world after all, we must take an active interest in our world’s
geography and the people groups who are scattered around the globe.
Stock up on games!
So let’s get
started. How can we study geography with our students in such a way
that it does not become dry and boring? Meaningless repetition and
memorization can lead to drudgery for anyone. What's more, how can we
teach it without being knowledgeable ourselves? Well, there is a
reason why geography bees (and spelling bees for that matter) have
cropped up all around this country and even around the world. Why not
take a subject that has the tendency to become tedious and make it a
game! Geography is the ideal subject for game playing and
competition. (You may prefer to downplay competition in your school
or home, but there are many games that do not require competition.)
Here are some great
games that you might consider playing with your children:
(traditional and computerized)
(traditional or online)
It certainly does
not hurt to stock up on some physical games to put on your shelf to
pull down when the kids get bored, but there are also many free and
interesting geography games available on the Internet. For a
compilation of fun and challenging online games, download our brand
new ebook entitled Globalmania: Master World Geography in Just 7
Months. It is located here -
www.kqpublishing.org/globalmania.htm - and it is free of
charge. Included within the ebook are several labeled and unlabeled
maps of the continents and globe to aid your students’ learning.
Integrate it seamlessly!
Geography is a
natural extension of history, literature and science. It just makes
sense to learn it along with these other subjects. Yes, teaching
geography can be painless and your children may even develop an
“obsession” with finding locations on the map! Here are some ways to
incorporate geography into your daily studies.
Fasten a large world
map to the wall – the bigger the better. This map can be either
labeled or unlabeled. If you choose an unlabeled map, have a globe on
hand for looking up locations. On this wall map, have your students
mark locations when they run across them in their studies, whether it
be the name of a country they just read about in their literature
reading, the name of a city where an inventor was born, or the
location of a famous battle. Marking locations on a map can be done a
few different ways. Straight pins can be outfitted with a labeled
“flag” which identifies the place. Simply fold a rectangular piece of
paper around the pin, glue it to itself and label the specific place
name with a fine point marker on the “flag”. These place-marker pins
can be stuck into a map that has been adhered to a foam backing (spray
adhesive works best for adhering paper maps to foam board). Or, if
the map is not laminated, and if this activity meets with your
approval, the children can mark the location with a dot using a marker
and then write the place name directly on the map itself. This
usually works better with a blank unlabeled wall map.
that incorporates geography into their other studies is for your
children to label and color notebook sized maps which correspond with
the topics they are studying in history or learning about in their
assigned reading. Again, this activity is best used in conjunction
with a globe so they can see where the area is located in relation to
the rest of the world and to gain the distance perspective that only a
globe can give because it is not distorted as a flat map is.
Keep it colorful and appealing!
Geography should be
fascinating. Maybe it is not to you, but spend a little time with
someone who loves geography and history and that enthusiasm will begin
to rub off. The materials that we keep around our home should be
eye-catching if we want our children to take notice of them and flip
through them. Place some big, bright children’s atlases on the coffee
table. Fill your bookshelves with books that are interesting and
colorful and are asking to be noticed.
At Knowledge Quest,
Inc., we are publishing a brand new book that teaches your children
U.S. geography. It is called the Star-Spangled
State Book and it is loaded with colorful pictures, interesting
facts and challenging quizzes that will draw your children into its
pages and keep them there. You can download a
free sample from the book here. These are the kind of books
that you want around your home. Your children will be in danger of
learning their geography without having to be prodded by you. Keep
your eyes open for these types of resources when shopping with your
favorite educational suppliers and browsing your local library.
It is not so much
difficult as it is just a new mindset to keep, that geography really
isn’t so scary or hard, but can be learned through many fun and
enjoyable avenues. Give your children delightful resources and a
challenge they cannot resist and watch them take off!
Knowledge Quest, Inc.
www.kqpublishing.org - try our maps free!
www.kqpublishing.org - we are looking for authors for our new book
www.homeschoolblogger.com/knowledgequest - see what we're up to.
www.kqbusiness.com - our business helping your business to
Johnson and her husband Todd operate
Knowledge Quest, Inc.,
a company which specializes in the publishing of maps, timelines and
historical biographies. Their mission for the company is to help make
the subjects of history and geography enjoyable for both teacher and
students. They have created and published over 20 history and
geography resources. Terri’s Blackline Maps of World History
have been widely recommended in the homeschool community and beyond.
Knowledge Quest, Inc. won the “Excellence in Education” award granted
by The Old Schoolhouse magazine for best geography company two years
in a row. Terri resides in San Antonio, TX with her husband Todd and
their five children whom she teaches at home.