How we homeschool--history/geography : LUSENET : Country Families : One Thread

I put these two together, because it makes sense to me to learn the geography of a place at the same time that you learn its history. The problem comes in just what is the best way to teach it?

I like to keep a well-written history text on hand, mostly for reference. I like A Beka's history texts, but I am not real big on all the tests and quizzes. My preferred method of teaching history and geography is through reading biographies and well-researched and well-written historical fiction. This way, you can take several approaches to organizing your material. You can use a world timeline and research world events in order; you can choose a continent, country, state or province to study (and make your own timeline as part of the course); or you can choose a particular event (such as a world war or the discovery of the Americas) and study it from the viewpoint of many different countries or ideologies. Look at World War II through the eyes of children--an American whose dad/brother is a soldier, a Jew either escaping Hitler's clutches or in a concentration camp, a Nazi wannabe in Hitler's youth movement, a Dutch child whose family has a secret hiding place (used to hide young boys wanted for the German army, important papers, a secret radio, communication equipment, and other contraband, as well as Jews and their forged papers and ration cards).

Geography can also be learned while reading literature books. For instance, if a child is reading "Heidi", he/she can draw/trace maps of Switzerland, showing all the countries that surround it. It is helpful to have separate maps for separate topics--one shows rivers, lakes, and landforms; one shows roads, railways, and shipping routes; one shows agriculture and factory production for each area; etc.

I am a BIG fan of biographies and historical fiction. Make a timeline and fill it in with the titles of books read individually and collectively as a family. Issue "passports" for each child; they earn a "stamp" for each country they "visit" through books. Instead of tests, have them write reports on the countries they visit. The reports should include a write-up with sources listed, maps, timelines, etc. They can also include cut-out pictures from old magazines, particularly National Geographic.

The reports should tell something of the history, climate, customs, ethnic groups, etc., of the country. Ask for highlights, not a whole book! Give categories to touch on, but have the child decide what and how much to say. Give a minimum requirement (such as, "Write at least two paragraphs describing a typical day on the Oregon Trail.") and let the child take it from there. Divide the BIG project up into several smaller ones, so the child is not overwhelmed ("This week, let's concentrate on maps that show how immigrants traveled into Upper Canada from the Gulf of St. Lawrence; next week we'll do maps showing the settlement of the Red River Valley.")

Supposing a work of fiction has a tiny flaw? Let the bright child who discovered it write a letter to the author (if he/she is still alive). For instance, in "Rilla of Ingleside" (the last of the Anne of Green Gable series; set during World War I), the family goes for a spin in Dr. Blythe's new automobile. The fact is, that during WWI, automobile travel was banned on Prince Edward Island to conserve gasoline. L.M. Montgomery is no longer alive, but the error could be pointed out in the child's report.

I would like to get my hands on a copy of an organized list of books set up time-line style for use in studying world history. This would also be useful in studying the history of a particular country. Canada does not have a very good supply of good history material (at least, I haven't found one). For Canadian study, I can only recommend The Home Works (Vince & Paula Marquis, 1760 Groves Rd., PO Box 340, Russell, ON K4R 1E1 613-445-3142), a catalog company catering to Canadian homeschoolers. For any other study, particularly US and world history, I strongly recommend my favourite Christian Book Distributors ( click on homeschool). PLEASE don't let the name turn you off if you are not Christian!!! They have stuff anybody would like. If you are Christian, you will appreciate the notations they make if an item contains evolutionary concepts.

-- Cathy N. (, January 27, 2002

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