Connecting With the Dots of Geography


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

The simplest way is to use blank maps and color them and add details. A resource like Knowledge Quest’s Map Trek is perfect for this, and has lesson suggestions for different grade levels accompanying the maps. Older kids can trace or draw their own maps. The books of the “Visits to…” series from Simply Charlotte Mason promote this. Try putting together map puzzles – from simple wooden board puzzles to more complex and detailed world map puzzles or 3D globe puzzles, there is something for every age and ability! How about 3D maps made from clay?

Get to know the area

Find information on the animals and plants in the area, and what the cities and countrysides and landscapes look like. Look at photos in books and on the web. For example, when studying a country, read the books that tell about the country and its people, but also consider travel guides and DVDs.

Get to know the people

Find out what their homes are like, what they eat, what language they speak, what school and work and religion and leisure time are like for them. Books like Material World and Hungry Planet are excellent for this, giving a glimpse into the everyday lives and kitchens of people around the world. Learn the stories. Read some of the legends or folk stories from the area. These stories often give insight into what the surroundings were like, and the landscape and geographical features of a region give clues for understanding the stories and context for understanding figurative language. For example, our understanding of the Bible is enhanced when we know about the landscapes and places that are mentioned.

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.

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