• Focus on Giving

    0 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    When I was young, my grandmother made my sister and I a special calendar to hang on the wall during the month of December. It was a large rectangle of red and white felt, and there were 25 candy canes tied to it. Each day we removed one candy cane until it was Christmas. I still remember that calendar fondly, but my total focus as a child was what happened when all the candy canes were gone: Opening all those presents under the tree! My sister and I always counted each present we were going to get—and made sure we had the same number of gifts. We would shake the boxes trying to figure out what they were, and one year we even carefully unwrapped two of our matching gifts to sneak a peek, and then rewrapped them so our parents wouldn’t know. (I can tell you all this now that we finally “‘fessed up” to our mom a few years ago!)

    Obviously, there is nothing wrong with children looking forward to presents, but do we really want that to be the main focus of this Christmas season? How can we help our children keep it all in perspective—to enjoy and be thankful for any gifts received, as well as being excited about giving to others?  It begins with us setting the example! As we make our Christmas list of family and friends, take time to really think about what would benefit or be an encouragement to each of them. Ask your kids for their ideas, too. We can also go out of our way to be gracious and patient with those who are working in restaurants and retail stores during this busy season. Our kids are watching us, and they are learning.

    Be creative with your time and talents. Brainstorm ideas about how you can give to others as a family and individually. And remember giving to others doesn’t always mean buying a gift. It can be gifts of service, thoughtfulness, and encouragement, too. Hopefully the following list will help you think of fun ways to focus on others during this wonderful season! And please, share your ideas with us on our blog!

    10 Ways to Focus on Others

    1. Make cookies, candy, or bread for neighbors.
    2. Choose a family you know who could use some anonymous  gift certificates left on their doorstep.
    3. Offer to babysit for a young mother so she can do some Christmas shopping.
    4. Have an old-fashioned caroling party. Get some  family and friends together and go around the neighborhood singing carols and handing out Christmas cards.
    5. Many charities need extra help during the holidays! Choose one to  donate some time. For example,  volunteer to serve with  Meals-on-Wheels or  at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen.
    6. Plan a scavenger hunt for your children and their friends  seeking food items from willing neighbors. When they are finished collecting the items on their list, take them to deliver the food to a food bank.
    7. Make home-made Christmas cards to give out at a nursing home in your area. Sing some Christmas carols for the residents, or play games and visit with them. We found a nursing home in our downtown area that few, if any groups, visit during the holiday season. You might want to check and see if there is one like that in your town, too.
    8. Invite some neighbors, who you’ve been wanting to get to know, to your home to host a “Hot Chocolate Party.” Play games and enjoy getting to know one another.
    9. Take small gifts, cookies, or cards to those who serve your kids or your family—their teachers at church, the mailman, the family doctor, etc.
    10. Have kids write specific thank you notes to those who have given to them. Instead of a quick “Thank you for giving me ________,” they can tell the giver how much they appreciate the gift, how it will be helpful to them, and something encouraging to the person who gave the gift.

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  • Paths of Education

    1 comment / Posted by Geography Matters

    When my husband and I decided to homeschool, I began reading every book on it that I could find. One particular method struck me as “the way” to teach children. So we began our journey using the classical method. It was described as how the great thinkers were educated, and it was rigorous. Rigorous—the word that makes the new homeschooling mother’s heart sing. I mean, who doesn’t want to give their five-year-old a rigorous education? Rigorous means thorough, demanding, and therefore better, right? May I say my five-year-old son wasn’t nearly as excited about a rigorous education as I was.

    So I kept reading and researching. And as I learned more, my ideas about education changed. I started asking questions like:

    • What is education, anyway?
    • How can I help my sons develop a love for learning?
    • What should they be learning about at the different stages of their education?
    • Is learning how to learn as important as what is being learned?
    • How would God want me to teach the ones he had entrusted to my care?

    As I continued my research, I was drawn to the ideas of Charlotte Mason. We incorporated short lessons and found my son’s attention span increased. We read, and read, and read. I started using copywork and we took nature walks. I “chilled-out” a bit and my son started enjoying it more.

    Then my oldest son began his 3rd grade year, and I read Dr. Beechick’s You Can Teach Your Child Successfully.  It was then that I had that “aha” moment. What she wrote just made sense. Slowly I began to incorporate more and more of Dr. Beechick’s methods into my teaching, especially in the area of language arts. A few years later, I wrote a literature based unit for a small co-op that included reading, language lessons, art projects, and notebooking. I had a friend encourage me to write a language arts curriculum at that point, but I didn’t think too much more about it.

    However, in 2009 my husband was laid off from a job he had worked at since before I had even met him. We found ourselves in a very different place financially and I began to try to think of ways that I could help out while continuing to homeschool. I had discovered Trail Guide to Learning: Paths of Exploration the year before, and knew it was an answer to prayer for my youngest son. I loved Dr. Beechick’s methods, and here was a complete curriculum based on those methods by women who truly understood them. It was a perfect match.

    As I watched my youngest son’s growth that year, I realized I wanted my oldest son to join us the next year for Paths of Settlement. I wanted us to be learning together, but he was older than the target age groups. That is when I had this crazy idea to e-mail Geography Matters about writing a middle school supplement. Several months later, they responded that yes, they would be interested. All I had to do was send them a prototype—which I did—which they complimented in any way they could, but it was not what they were looking for. Cindy Wiggers called me and graciously set up a meeting between her, Debbie Strayer, and myself to explain what they did want. After talking for an hour, they asked me to try again—which I did—which leads us to this blog. I’m Kay Chance, co-author of the middle school supplements and high school extensions for the Trail Guide to Learning Series. And now I’m excited to begin working with Geography Matters newsletter production and writing their blog.

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  • 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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