Thursday, August 12, 2010

Our Plan for the Year: Geography

The benefit of collaborating with like-minded educators is refining my understanding of Charlotte Mason's ideas. Their explanations pointed out areas in Pamela's program that needed tweaking. Implementing a Mason approach doesn't happen over night. It's a lot like being a Christian: it's a journey, a process, a relationship. Nobody can ever be perfect, and nobody can ever turn out a perfect kid. However, we can become more mindful, more curious, more joyful about learning, more humble and understanding as we grapple with big ideas. If you think I'm a slacker, Carroll Smith's blog post on relaxed alertness will help you understand why I'm sleeping peacefully at night, even though I have missed the mark. He wrote, "When expectations are too high or when the expectations are for the adults to show how perfect their school is, children have the same feeling of being threatened. When this happens, learning gets shut down and the children do not respond well or perform well."

We have done many things well for many years: reading living books that are wide and varied, looking up locations and settings in the atlas, studying our routes on maps, checking out interesting sites when we travel, etc. In fact, one of Pamela's favorite web pasttimes is "driving" around old neighborhoods in Google Earth! Mason wrote,
Perhaps no knowledge is more delightful than such an intimacy with the earth's surface, region by region, as should enable the map of any region to unfold a panorama of delight, disclosing not only mountains, rivers, frontiers, the great features we know as 'Geography,' but associations, occupations, some parts of the past and much of the present, of every part of this beautiful earth. Great attention is paid to map work; that is, before reading a lesson children have found the places mentioned in that lesson on a map and know where they are, relatively to other places, to given parallels, meridians (Page 225).

Two things I could have done better: do more hands-on, concrete work in understanding geographic features and concepts and draw our own maps.

Hands-on, Concrete Work
Children easily simulate knowledge, and at this point the teacher will have to be careful that nothing which the child receives is mere verbiage, but that every generalisation is worked out somewhat in this way:––The child observes a fact, as, for example, a wide stretch of flat ground; the teacher amplifies. He reads in his book about Pampas, the flat countries of the north-west of Europe, the Holland of our own eastern coast, and, by degrees, he is prepared to receive the idea of a plain, and to show it on his tray of sand. (Page 277)

Drawing Maps
He must learn to draw a plan of his schoolroom, etc., according to scale, go on to the plan of a field, consider how to make the plan of his town, and be carried gradually from the idea of a plan to that of a map; always beginning with the notion of an explorer who finds the land and measures it, and by means of sun and stars, is able to record just where it is on the earth's surface, east or west, north or south (Page 279).

To gear up for the first day of school this week, Pamela and I spent a small portion of our day drawing the maps we will need in the next few months. To heighten her interest, I called them map scrolls, which made her eyes sparkle. Because of her love of everything B. C. (we are hopelessly old-fashioned here and stubbornly cling to "Before Christ" because He is our Lord and Savior), she made all kinds of scrolls last year so she could read just like Julius Caesar. On the biggest paper we could find at Wal-Mart, we drew maps of the Middle East in the time of Genesis and the time of Jesus, South Carolina, the eastern end of Massachusetts (i.e., Boston), the United Kingdom and Ireland, Europe and northern Africa, the Thirteen Colonies, and southern Canada and the United States. We stored them in the brown paper from a roll of gift wrap, solving the problem of ugly creases.

While I could list nearly every book we are reading because of a remote connection to geoglogy, I will only include the more comprehensive books. We are reading a geographyr book geared toward younger children to solidify a foundation in geography. We are also reading about the Lewis and Clark expedition, a book set in Asia, and another set in South America.


Bonnie said...


Thank you for sharing your plans and those wonderful books. I ordered one and the others are in the library.
Great year for Pamela. You are overflowing into other homeschools.
The Lord bless you!

Phyllis said...

Very nice post on how to do geography the CM way. We loved Long's book, too.

The Glasers said...

We are having a blast with the Long book!