Tuesday, December 20, 2016

High School Geography--The FUN Way!

This year my girls are earning high school credit for their geography studies. As I was contemplating how to fulfill their credit requirement, I knew that I didn't want to overwhelm them--I mean there are so many countries to study and places to learn about! The world it huge! How can we do it all? Well, the truth is, we can't do it all. There is not enough time to study and learn about every single country in the world plus all the other information that needs to be addressed in a high school geography curriculum. We also knew that we didn't want to just memorize facts and then forget them after the test. We wanted something fun and engaging but still manageable to complete without taking up our entire day OR encroaching into the other activities and subjects that we have.

There are many excellent geography programs to choose from. Trust me when I say that I feel like I researched them all. At times I was really overwhelmed. There really are so many good ones. But which one to choose? Which one would suit my kids and their learning styles? I finally settled on North Star Geography (affiliate) as a spine for our geography studies. This book is a true treasure in disguise. At first glance the text looks deceptively simple. BUT once you really start investigating all of the extras included on the CD located in the book, you will realize that this has the potential to be a full curriculum. Of course I quickly realized that we wouldn't be able to complete every activity. And that's OK! I sat down with the girls and we chose which activities we wanted to complete for each chapter. We spend about 2 weeks on each chapter in the book. On the first day or two of the week they read the chapter. On subsequent days of the week they complete the chosen activities: note taking pages, maps, country fact files, hands on projects, and outside reading. This curriculum (affiliate) has wonderful suggestions for hands on projects, but we have chosen not to complete any of the hands on activity suggestions.
Geography Bundle
In place of the hands-on activity suggestions, my girls are making their own travel jouranl. Each girl chooses a city that they would like to learn more about. Occasionally they choose a city that corresponds with the current continent we are learning about in North Star Geography, but more often than not, they just choose a city that sounds interesting. They research the city and learn all kinds of interesting facts about it--things to see when visiting, food to eat, something to do while there, traditional dress, and much more--then they record what they have learned in their Travel Dreams Journal (affiliate). This journal has many pages just waiting to be filled and decorated with the tidbits that the girls find while researching that city. I have purposefully not given them any guidelines to follow regarding their travel journal. They are welcome to fill the journal with as much or as little information as they wish. I really thought ok they might fill out a page or two, but I have been pleasantly surprised. At first they struggled with the idea of not knowing what I was expecting, but they have honestly exceeded my expectations! It is amazing how much they have learned about all these different cities around the world. I am also very impressed with the level of work that they have put into researching and learning. It seems like once the hard and fast rules were lifted, rules like you have to complete so many pages per day, or you have to write a certain number of paragraphs, they were free. And that freedom has allowed them to learn and grow independently. They have exceeded any expectations that I would have put on them. AND they have learned so much more than if I had sat and dictated what they needed to do.
Every time we study a new country, I choose a read aloud to read to the entire family based in that country. Most of these are missionary type novels that have us riveted to our seats begging to read just one more chapter. In fact I'll admit to being tempted to cancel all other subjects that day just to read and find out more about the lives of these people we are reading about! The majority of each of these read aloud novels are from the International Adventures series from YWAM publishing. Each girl is also keeping a prayer journal. They read about a country in the 10/40 window and make notes on what to pray for during their personal quiet time with God. This alone has opened their eyes to the plight of children around the world.

One more really neat and fun addition to our studies is the art lessons from ArtAchieve. There are several levels of art lessons available. We started out with level 2 because we had previously finished a series of art projects that gave my girls some wonderful art skills and knowledge. Also we were interested to learn more about the countries that are in the level 2 lessons. Each art lesson is based on art works from various foreign countries and come with links to learn more about the history and geography of each country as well as read literature and learn about the art styles from that country. You can read my complete review that I wrote last year if you would like to learn more. 

At the end of the year, these girls are going to each have an amazing notebook, personalized with their own learning adventure from the year. It sounds so simple, yet this method is certainly so powerful. Already we have had fabulous discussions about how other people survive in other countries. And I have heard the comment more than once that they wish they could actually go to the cities they are learning about in their Travel Dreams Journal (affiliate). Who knows? Someday we may actually be able to visit those places. But for now, visiting them virtually is the next best thing!

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  1. Thanks for the great article! We love our fun-schooling journals from Thinking Tree and the ArtAchieve looks amazing too!!! I am downloading the NorthStar sample right now.

    1. Wonderful! Glad you are able to glean some helpful info from my article.


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