Geography is one of those subjects that we touched on in kindergarten and then have covered sporadically since then. I still remember the kindergarten geography lesson. I printed out a series of pages – one with a picture of the solar system, one with just Earth, one with North America and then the United States, then our state, our county, our city and our neighborhood. We reviewed it a bunch of times until I was sure that my son understood our place in this big wide world. And of course we sang The Continent Song. Then that was that.
Sure we covered geography in bits and pieces since then. I remember one time, after we read The Wizard of Oz together, my six-year-old son actually sat down and drew a map of Oz from his memory of the story. I was dumb-struck because it was his idea and he followed through on it! So I took that opportunity to talk to him about the parts of a map, such as the legend (or key), the compass rose and scale.
We also participate in a monthly culture club where we meet with a group of homeschool families and study a different country each month. And each month, I pull out the globe and we find that country on the map. We check out tons of books on that country and talk about its geography. And we study a paper version of a close-up map of that country. A great resource for this is the book Maps (affiliate link). It contains maps of individual countries with colorful pictures and fun facts.
Recently, we picked up our geography studies again when I found the book, Maps and Geograpy, a Junior Genius Guide (affiliate link), by (Jeopardy champion) Ken Jennings. This was the perfect book for my nine-year-old because it was full of both useful and obscure facts about maps and geography. It was written in a silly, conversational way that was really engaging for elementary-aged kids. And it concludes with a fun final “exam.” I will definitely be checking out some of his other books.
My father-in-law also came up with a cool idea to start sending my son coins from different parts of the world. My son’s job is to identify where the coins come from (using Google of course) and then place a pin in a world map for that country. Now I just have to get a wall map – I’m thinking about this one (affiliate link).
And we love geocaching, which is a high tech way to become familiar with maps. If you aren’t familiar with geocaching, it is a worldwide treasure hunt with millions of treasures (caches) hidden around the globe. You use a GPS device (we use the app on my iPhone) to locate caches hidden anywhere from parks to shopping centers. Usually the cache just contains a log book but sometimes it has little toys for kids.
So geography is yet another one of those subjects where we don’t follow a curriculum and it gets worked in from time to time, but that seems to work for us.