• Taking A Stand For Real Learning

    3 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    Just like the chill that sets in during winter, there is a concern that can set in on homeschoolers at this time of year. After the holidays are over and it’s time to go back to school, homeschoolers can start feeling jittery. Looking at the students who may not be thrilled about getting back into the routine and thinking about all you need to cover before the end of the year can produce a sort of panic... one that is easy to fall in to, but hard to get out of! It is the kind of panic that can cause you to throw away the methodology you love (and you know works) in favor of something more traditional, more productive looking, something with more paperwork. In your heart you know it isn’t the best way to learn, but what else can you do to address the rising sense of fear that you won’t get everything done?

    The best way to back down this lurking fear beast is to speak educational truth to it.  What do we know about the way children learn, and really anyone for that matter? We know that a variety of types of activities are most effective. If you have ever sat through a college class of three hours of lecture, you know that there is a limit to what you absorb. Some lecture, or instruction is good. Too much can be numbing! So, like a good meal, set a nice educational plate of variety. Incorporate discussion, reading, writing, and activity into your school day.

    How do children best remember what they learn? By attaching meaning to it! Learning by rote is best left to doing household chores, your address and the birthdays of your family members. When something that is learned is paired with activity and application it is much more likely to be remembered. The fact or piece of information is now attached to an experience and not just the ability to memorize. That’s why linking literature to content areas like history, science, and geography make so much sense. A memorable character or story connect concepts with content in a way that can seem effortless.

    Next, remember where you came from. Perspective is so important in learning. Without seeing the progress you have made since the beginning of the school year, you can forget what has been accomplished. Start your lessons after any extended break with plenty of review before you go forward. It will make everyone feel more successful! Once you have reviewed, your students are up to speed and ready to build on the foundation of learning that has already taken place. Now that you see all that has been accomplished, you can rest knowing that more learning will take place.

    Lastly, share the positives you see with your children. It is in your face that they see a reflection of how they are doing. While we know as teaching parents that we must adjust and correct our children, how you do that is of great influence in determining how far you will get! Your children are your blessings, not your educational burdens, so try to remind them of that fact daily. Build an atmosphere of encouragement.

    Real learning is a result of these simple keys. Our goal is not just a passing test score, but an equipped, interested learner. Incorporate these easy to apply principles and watch the chill of fear fade, replaced by the confidence  that what you do with your children will produce lasting learning and and students who can use the skills they have been taught. And remember to put this article somewhere you can find it next February...

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  • Teaching World Geography Can be Loads of Fun!

    1 comment / Posted by Geography Matters

    There are many ways to teach geography. You can use a textbook, curriculum guide, combine with history studies or integrate it with your other subjects. Whatever your choice, be sure to include activities. Most kids love creating their own maps from blank outline maps using an atlas. Geography is a good place to develop or refine memorization skills. It is also perfect for teaching basic research and use of reference materials.  Be sure to teach geographical terms and key facts about each place, too. So where do you begin? Many people ask me which should they teach first U.S. or world? There are vigorous advocates on both sides with compelling reasons to support their opinions.  I think it’s best to incorporate geography every year with literature, history, cultural studies, Bible, and science. However when you’re ready to focus on a study of geography it makes more sense to teach world geography the same time you cover world history and U.S. geography during U.S. history.


    To understand world geography, start with the basics. Introduce the 7 continents and 5 oceans. [Note: Most people don’t realize that in 2000 the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) demarcated and named the 5th ocean. It starts at 60 degrees south latitude, extends to the coast of Antarctica, and covers over 12 million square miles. ] Teach basic map reading skills with an understanding of latitude and longitude. Go over the legend and meaning of symbols and color. Most atlases provide an overview in the beginning of the book.


    Encourage students to memorize common facts about our world. Facts such as world extremes, countries and capitals, and more can be memorized through use of flashcards, crossword puzzles, and daily drills. You can find facts in an almanac, encyclopedia, Internet, or in some atlases. The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide has a handy set of cards you can print from the disk to use while memorizing world facts. Flashcards - Students can make flash cards for each continent listing the highest point, lowest point, area, numbers of countries, largest and smallest country, major rivers and bodies of water, deserts, and more. Use these flash cards to memorize facts about each continent.  Add another card for facts about the world. Include longest river, highest and lowest point, largest country by area and by population, largest lakes, waterfalls, ocean areas, distance around the equator, distance to the moon and sun, driest and wettest place on earth, and more.  Play games with these facts or create your own geography bee challenge monthly, as students learn about the world. Crossword Puzzles – Instruct students to make their own crosswords using the country as a clue and its capital as the answer. Any of the other data obtained, such as those listed above, can be used in a crossword puzzle as well. When students create their own crossword they’ll remember the facts better. To self-test or for geography drill, students answer their own puzzle or swap with others.


    You may want to teach geography by focusing on one continent at a time. A good schedule could be something like this:

    • North America (includes Central America) 4 weeks
    • South America 2 weeks
    • Europe 5 weeks
    • Africa 5 weeks
    • Asia 5-6 weeks
    • Oceania 2 weeks
    • Antarctica 1 week
    • Literature 6-9 weeks (Read and map Around the World in Eighty Days or some other novel that covers the world.)
    Help students learn as much as they can about each continent.  Create a geography notebook with a section for each continent. Topics to include in your continent studies are limitless. Here are a few to get you started:
    • Climate and weather patterns, hottest, driest, coldest, wettest places
    • Countries and capitals
    • Physical features
    • Gems and minerals
    • Popular landmarks
    • Animals
    • Flora and fauna
    • Natural disasters
    • Food specialties
    • Principle crops
    • Major buildings
    • Active volcanoes
    • Population densities
    • Languages
    • Current events

    Schedule some time for review so you never feel like you’re behind. Sometimes your children may want to spend more time in an area because you have piqued their interest. By all means adapt your schedule to indulge those teaching moments.

    Geographical Terms

    While studying each continent students should learn about the physical features. This is a good time to focus on geography terms. If students learn 2 terms a week they will know over 70 terms in a typical school year. Make flash cards with the term on one side and the definition on the reverse. Or have students create an illustrated geography dictionary with the definition and a drawing or photography depicting each physical feature.


    Study 3-5 or more countries for each continent. Learn about the culture, language, principle crops, bodies of water, economy, language, currency, form of government, and major religion(s). Identify famous people from science, arts, athletics, exploration and more from each country. Make sure they also know what countries and bodies of water surround each country of focus. Select from any of the following or adapt these suggestions to suit your own ideas:

    • Cook a popular meal or a dish from the country.
    • Use travel videos from the library to see the country, people, clothing, etc. Make a travel brochure highlighting the popular tourist areas of the country.
    • Collect stamps or coins.
    • Get a pen pal.
    • Make a scrapbook of pictures, newspaper clippings and more.


    With a simple set of outline maps, colored pencils, and a student atlas, kids can create their own personal set of maps that accurately depict your history and geography studies. Make a list of what you want on the map. Each continent map should be labeled with the following:

    • Country names
    • Capitals
    • Major landforms – shaded with various colors
    • Use brown triangle for mountain peaks
    • Shades of green, yellow and orange can depict rising elevations
    • Label mountain ranges, plains, deserts and more across the land
    • Rivers, lakes and other bodies of water- draw and label in blue

    Additional mapping ideas

    Use separate outline maps and shade accordingly– take information from the thematic maps provided in the student atlas.

    • Climate
    • Land usage
    • Population density
    • Natural hazards
    • Natural resources


    Literature? Sure! It’s fun to integrate geography and literature. If you add a novel set in the region you’ll find the study of geography come alive. Be sure students create a map of the places as the story unfolds. Watch for geography terms, and add new terms you have not yet taught.


    These are some ideas and a framework for teaching World Geography. Start a geography co-op or join with another family once a week or monthly for students to share what they’ve learned. Prepare an international potluck meal and dress the part. Keep a geography notebook and show the notebook a lot. Your kids will never forget what a great time they spent learning geography. You’ll forgive me if I exaggerate a bit– we can always hope, huh!   Cindy

    This article uses concepts and ideas from Trail Guide to World Geography and The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide. Copyrighted material. It is unlawful to copy the contents of this page and put on your blog, computer or for any other use, without permission and due credit for the work. For permission contact Cindy through Geography Matters by emailing info@geomatters.com.

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  • Overwhelmed Homeschool Moms

    0 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    Let your survival and recovery be a group victory. Be quick to give God the glory for His sustaining grace, and don't forget to give your posse their due.

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  • Homeschooling the Difficult Child

    0 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    What a gift homeschooling is. Over my years as a educational consultant, I have had the privilege of seeing many students who struggle. I have also had the privilege of seeing many homeschool parents who are grateful for the opportunity to homeschool and willing to do what it takes to help their children. Gifted children, challenged children, perfectionists, and those who are disabled—all can find success with homeschooling.

    The heart of their parents has been inspirational. They will read, learn, listen, discuss, and pray for wisdom. Often the world's counsel has been discouraging, so they often come with a hope, but not much in the way of tangible encouragement. My pleasure is to help them customize their homeschooling program to meet their child's particular needs. That is one of the wonders of homeschooling. There is no limit to the innovation and adaptation that can take place, fitting curricula to needs, teachers to students, schedules to stamina, interests to motivation.

    While all children need a program that fits them particularly, there are those children who desperately need this chance for success. Ruth Beechick has often reminded us not to be afraid to blaze your own trail and make the most of what works. Don't worry about what your homeschooling friends do or use. Remember, you are God's perfect provision for your child. Don't be apologetic, be proactive. Don't hold back, go forward in confidence. Your calling to homeschool your precious children will carry you.

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  • How the Lord Drew Me to Homeschooling

    0 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    My plans were set. My son was five and my daughter was two. I had stayed home since his birth, but now he was school age, and it was time to go back to work. I enjoyed teaching, and my husband (also a teacher) and I never doubted our callings. God made us teachers and it was time for me to get on with my life's work and second income. Our neighbor homeschooled, and though I thought it had great educational merit, I never really considered it for us until I started imagining our active first-born in a classroom. He loved to learn and I realized we would lose the inquisitive, tenderhearted little boy. As doubt about my plan crept in, I wondered—could this be God's leading?
    During a quiet moment, I shared my growing concern with my husband. He listened closely and we talked a bit more. After a few days of prayer, he spoke words that changed our lives: "I believe we are supposed to homeschool." It didn't take long for me to discover that homeschooling was my true calling and that God's plan was perfect for us.

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  • Using Entertainment in Your Homeschool

    1 comment / Posted by Geography Matters

    Seen any good movies lately?

    Our family enjoys movies. We chose new releases that we wanted to see together, looking forward to the experience. The exchange of opinions and understandings after the film gave everyone a chance to share and hear the reactions of others. Since my children grew up listening to a daily read-aloud, there was a natural transition to movies from the group sharing of an ongoing story. My husband's dramatic reading of The Chronicles of Narnia was always a favorite of our children, plus it built an active approach to listening. You never knew when Daddy might change the story to see who was paying attention! Watching the movie later also gave them a real appreciation for the richness of literature and the impossibility of truly conveying the depths of a great story in a couple of hours.

    Not only were movies a source of enjoyment, they were also a great part of school. We read the wonderful classic Swiss Family Robinson aloud, then had Swiss Family Robinson Night where we watched the movie and ate an island dinner of finger food on the floor in the living room. Our meal was complete with candles and coconut! This experience remained a favorite of our family for many years. Connecting literature to this multi-sensory experience made it memorable—and fun!

    We continued to incorporate movies into our literary instruction as our children got older. During high school there was not enough time to read all the great books so often we would watch a film to get a taste of a book we didn't have time to read. As with all tools, make movies your servant. Teach your children to select and watch with discernment, following your example. If your family chooses to watch movies, make use of this rich source of ideas for discussion and evaluation, building comprehension as you go. When you do, you may shed a tear, give a shout of victory, become inspired, or travel the world, all from the comfort of your living room. Sounds like homeschooling, doesn't it?

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  • Homeschooling Through High School

    0 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    My children's high school years of homeschooling were truly a delight. I was grateful to be such an involved part of their lives, and honored to be considered such good friend material! We charted a path, with Ruth Beechick's help, that allowed us to stay the course of using the unit study approach that had always been so successful for us. We integrated language arts into everything, decreasing the time spent working on isolated subjects, and became skilled observers and recorders of all that we did.While many around us felt they had no recourse but to use textbooks, or prepared courses, we took steps that were truly bold for us. We used the course outlines from our state's educational website, which we kept in a notebook. I would mark off objectives as they were covered, writing the date next to the goal. I kept a folder for each course we claimed credit for, which included lists of materials used, reports, projects, and perhaps photos of field trips or related activities and a summary of what was completed.

    Once the course objectives were broken down like this, we were free to use the library or other resources we already had, and to deal with the topics from our family's viewpoint. People became valuable resources as we learned from those who had expertise or experience in the topic area, equipping the children with the ability to come up with a plan to learn just about anything. It also allowed us to customize to fit their particular bends.

    When young people become confident learners, where they learn won't matter. They will be successful. Don't be too quick to send your children to learn from others, even in the high school years. There will be plenty of time for that. Cherish the relationships and blessings that come from your time together.

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  • Choosing Homeschool Curriculum

    1 comment / Posted by Geography Matters

    Let your curriculum choices flow from your own relationship with your children and with God. There is a wealth of information on the Internet or at your local curriculum fair that helps you figure out what’s available. Here are some practical ideas that we hope will help.

    Use your own sense of what is best and don’t rely too much on the advice of others. I know moms who relied on others and later regretted it. I  have done this too. For guidance on general expectations, you can use information in Dr. Ruth Beechick’s books for a “spine,” as some people like to call it. But do not follow this, or any spine, slavishly. Choose what you think is best, and make changes when they seem needed. God will guide you.

    Good curriculum offers flexibility, so you can use it the way that best fits your children. Keep it as your servant, not your master. If the curriculum demands total adherence for success, you can ignore that demand. Or even choose another curriculum if that seems easier.

    A curriculum may come to you highly recommended¸ but you must have God’s peace in using it. If you feel stressed when you use a curriculum, it is easy to transfer the stress to your children. God has a perfect plan for your family. Seek that plan rather than just follow the path of those around you. When you strive too hard to keep up with schoolwork, or constantly pressure children to finish their work, you may want to rethink your choices.

    You want both good fruit and peace when using curriculum. So begin by choosing the best you can, but remember that you can make changes at any time.

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  • Homeschool Organization

    0 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    Are you organized?

    This is one of those questions that can bring an otherwise confident homeschool parent to their knees. I must start this article with a confession. I have never been as organized as I wanted to be. (You can read it aloud and consider it your confession as well!) I have also never been as organized as the people who write or speak about organization. Some of their ideas have helped me, but it was difficult to put into practice those helpful nuggets if I was busy trying to revamp my life and the personality that God gave me into someone more organized! Then there was also trying to bypass the guilt that inevitably followed a conversation with an organized person...

    Here's the good news. My children grew up anyway. They finished high school, received scholarships, and got jobs. My lack of organization did not permanently impair them, largely due, I believe, to the mercy of God, which I must gratefully point out is new every morning. So, from that lengthy disclaimer, let me tell you what I think is my best organizational tip—do whatever works for you!

    Here's one thing that helped us. The children each had a crate where they kept all their school stuff. About once a month, or every other month if life was crazy, we would clean out the crates, putting finished papers we wanted to keep in an accordian file with a slot for each month. This helped us when we ended our school year, and provided a dandy review of learning. I knew enough about myself to know that I needed their help to do this organizing, so we included these days as part of our schoolwork, rather than it being a mom-only activity.

    Find what works for you. Don't come under the idea that you have to become someone else to organize successfully. Find ways for the children to help you. Tell them what you need and then ask them how they would do it. Take school time to accomplish this task, letting your children know that everyone can help do what is needed. You may be pleasantly surprised. There just may be a budding engineer or event coordinator in the house, who can't wait to help you organize! That may just be part of His mercy to you as well.

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  • Blessings, Not Educational Burdens...

    0 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    Homeschoolers are a hard-working group. You get up early, stay up late, read, reread, pray and think, all to find the best curriculum, co-op or class for our children. Nothing can keep you from the pursuit of giving your best effort to train and educate your children. Sometimes the intense focus on these tasks can change your perspective, often without even realizing it.

    Scripture is clear. Children are blessings from God. While you may know that in your heads, sometimes the responsibilities you feel to do your job well can turn your blessings into your educational burdens - your problems to solve, your children to fix, your people to make adequate, or even superior. Looking at your child as a task rather than a person with a plan from God can cause you to miss the blessings intended for you through your relationship.

    It's an easy mistake to make, and just as easy a mistake to fix. Like hitting a reset button, determine to see things in a new way. Remember:

    1) Children are a gift from the Lord. Don't become so focused on the responsibilities of homeschooling that you forget to receive the gift God has given you in your child. Make sure you are enjoying your time together (and it will be fleeting!) and that you are building that life-long friendship as well as functioning as  a diligent parent.

    2) God has a plan for your child's life. It is not your job to come up with a plan for your child. It is your job to get in synch with the plan already in place, made by your child's loving Creator. Spend time seeking to know the gifts and talents placed in your child and considering how to encourage those gifts.

    3) Don't make conformity with the world your goal. More and more I am concerned that we as homeschoolers have made worldly success our driving concern. More important than what your neighbors do or think is following what is best for your child - how they learn best, building their character and building an enjoyment of learning that is lifelong.

    God did not call you to homeschool just so you could impress the world. He has a much bigger plan than that. Encourage your children to follow God's plan for their lives, no matter where it takes them. Model that truth for them now by putting your trust in God's plan, not in your ability to create the most impressive credentials possible.

    Rest assured that God will faithfully guide you as you lead your children. When He calls you to do something, He also promises to bring that thing to pass Himself (I Thess. 5:24). Rest in the calling God has given you to homeschool. He is the author of all wisdom and knowledge and He knows where your children are going and how to get them there. Meanwhile, enjoy the blessings He has given you.

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