SCOPE + SEQUENCE
HOW TO TEACH
“Geography is, to my mind, a subject of high educational value; though not because it affords the means of scientific training. Geography does present its problems, and these of the most interesting, and does afford materials for classification; but it is physical geography only which falls within the definition of a science, and even that is rather a compendium of the results of several sciences than a science itself. But the peculiar value of geography lies in its fitness to nourish the mind with ideas, and to furnish the imagination with pictures. Herein lies the educational value of geography.” (Home Education, p. 271-72)
Geography is a fascinating subject that bleeds into other subjects, like history and nature study. Children should be familiar with physical geography before beginning formal lessons by going on nature hikes and walking around their neighborhood and town. Geography hikes, or ‘trots’ are the foundation of geography study and the whole family can go on monthly hikes together. Visit local streams, hills, canyons, and lakes to help them understand bigger landmarks like rivers, oceans, and mountains.
Geography comes alive once you combine nature study with your state’s geography. Start by searching for the geographical regions of your state (search for “ecoregions,” “geographical regions”). Pick one of these regions to study for the year. Research hikes or landmarks to visit in that area, usually just one per term (keep it simple!). Combine nature study with geography by learning about the 1) geology, 2) flora and fauna, and 3) industry and culture. As an example, I live in Washington state, so this year my family learned about the Pacific forest region of the state. We visited Mt Saint Helens, collected rocks, took pictures of sword ferns, Douglas firs, and other plants native to the area. We read a book about the explosion in the 1980’s and that led to learning about volcanoes and the ‘ring of fire.’
Children will understand maps much better once they have a solid foundation of natural geography and by making simple maps of their home, neighborhood and town. Only once they have made a concrete map of their own should they start studying maps for lessons.
Years 1-3 are dedicated to engaging the child’s heart by introducing them to interesting geographical landmarks and culture around the world, starting with their own country. Children learn how to make maps so they understand how to read them. They start by making maps of their home, neighborhood, and town. They also make geographical landmarks in sand and water to better understand topography and the water cycle.
During years 4-6 children learn about the geographical regions of their country and how those affected the industry and culture of that region. Now that the child understands how maps are made, they are given map questions before each lesson. Outdoor geography lessons are now given to deepen their understanding of the connection between geography and nature.
Years 7-12 children focus on world geography, current events, and physical and outdoor geography. Students will go more in-depth by learning about topography, cartography, and how to apply knowledge in scouting.
Using the Simple Lesson Formula in Geography
BOOKS + THINGS: Children are first introduced to geography through nature/geography hikes and making geographical landmarks with sand/water. The countries they cannot physically visit, children read about through living books written by people who have visited those countries. Mason recommended tour guidebooks to introduce older students to the culture and most notable landmarks to visit in that country. Bill Bryson is an excellent writer of countries and culture. A good wall map, globe and/or atlases are essential for this subject. Students look at maps and answer questions posed by the teacher. Once they have used the map for a few lessons, the teacher asks the student the same (or similar) questions without looking at the map. Finally, the student creates the map of the country from memory.
NARRATION: As always, children narrate once they have finished a lesson. Telling about what they have learned, using the map to point out areas they have learned about or connections they have made.
QUESTIONS: Map questions take up a large portion of geography lessons. Unlike other subjects, most lessons start with map questions and move on to reading the book afterwards. While the child looks at the map, the parent asks questions to direct their attention to certain landmarks. For example, “Which large body of water lies to the east of the United States?” “Which mountain range runs from Canada to the Southwestern United States?” Children can also use maps as a ‘question focus’ to brainstorm their own questions.
APPLICATION: Making maps is a major part of geography. Try making 3D maps out of salt dough for an engaging activity (see resources). In high school, students eventually learn surveying, cartography, and surveying. Writing, or narrating, about how geography affects the culture, industry, and nature of that state or country is also encouraged.
For more specific instructions on geography instruction and booklists, download the Curriculum Guides.