Geography can seem abstract and difficult for kids, but it’s an important subject to teach because of its relevance to history and science. How big was the Roman Empire at its peak? What factors played a role in the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg? Why do southern Italy and northern China have such different landscapes and climates even though they are on the same latitude? A knowledge of geography can help to answer all of these questions. Geography also influences the development of cultures and folk arts. This can be pretty obvious when studying the literature or legends of earlier times and other cultures. Artists tend to depict the surroundings they are familiar with, so you would expect to see giraffes or zebras in traditional African folk art, and wolves or reindeer in the the traditional folk arts of the people of the sub-Arctic.
There are many ways to include Geography in your homeschool. Geography can be your primary subject for Social Studies, or it can be included as a part of a History study. The study of geography might inspire you to delve deeper into history or science or literature, or it can work the other way around, with a historical event or a book leading you to explore geography.
Here are some suggestions for Connecting With the Dots of Geography:
Create your own maps
Get to know the area
Get to know the people
Engage the senses
Now that you know what kinds of food are associated with the area, consider trying them in your own kitchen. Visit the website Global Table Adventure to find a menu for every country in the world. You might also try visiting a restaurant that features the cuisine of the area you’re studying. Listen to music from the region. Check if there are related exhibits at a museum that you can visit.
Often the foods associated with different countries are related in some way to a celebration or holiday unique to the area. Try having your own celebration – decorate for the occasion and serve a couple of the traditional dishes. This can be a fun wrap-up project for a unit on a country too.
Spark imagination and creativity
Look at art and folk art from the area, and try some art projects of your own. When we study ancient Egypt, we usually think to do some kind of art project involving hieroglyphs, and maybe we’ll sketch the pyramids. We can use the same thinking when studying other cultures or settings in history. Try your hand at Chinese calligraphy or Japanese origami. Sketch the Leaning Tower of Pisa or Big Ben. Recreate Stonehenge using rice crisp bars. Try dot painting in the style of Australian Aborigines. Do a small scale “chainsaw carving” using a bar of soap instead of a log from the Ozarks. Try smaller scale and simplified textile arts that imitate the Central American folk arts of Mola or Huipil weaving. All of these projects and many more can be found in one of my favorite geography resources, Geography Through Art.
Kym is in the middle of her 17th year of homeschooling her four kids, two of whom have graduated. Kym loves coffee, history, and homeschooling, and you can join her for coffee break at her blog, Homeschool Coffee Break.