It’s sometimes hard to engage our busy learners in the study of facts. So many of the traditional methods of teaching a subject are just not a good fit for our movers and shakers. Thankfully, geography is one of those subject areas that lends itself to a lot of variety and hands-on fun. There are so many ways to teach geography in your homeschool, but here are five of my favorite ways to teach geography to my busy learners.
5 hands-on ways to homeschool geography
Create Clay, Salt Dough, or Cookie maps. We homeschool geography in a variety of ways, but getting our hands dirty with clay or dough is always a sure winner for my active, creative ADHD kiddos. When we studied Egypt, we took sugar cookie dough and sculpted the country of Egypt, complete with a frosted Nile and colored sugar sprinkle dessert. (This was pre-ADHD diet, but something that could be easily modified for food sensitivities.)
Six years later, we still love to create maps this way. This year, we began our geography by sculpting imaginary lands and geographic features in clay. I handed them my Geography from A to Z picture glossary, let them choose their favorites and include them in a map of an imaginary world, and then create that world out of clay.
Read Living Books. Reading about places around the world and connecting a story to a place is a powerful way to homeschool geography. Read about children, animals, or fairy tales from around the world. For instance, for one unit study early on in our adventure, we read the children’s adapted version of Around the World in 80 Days and followed our read-aloud on our map. How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World is another fun book that teaches geography with ingredients and a recipe!
Another of our favorites are the Legends and Leagues series. I usually start my kids in the original series in first grade, when they are old enough to read fairly well independently. The other Legends and Leagues books (North, South, East, and West) I usually assign a couple each year. These geography living books are silly, funny, and engaging. If your child likes Life of Fred math, he will enjoy Legends and Leagues.
Sharpen Map Skills by Drawing. Instead of the facts of where a country is located, have your child learn the skills of map reading and map making by drawing his own— of his bedroom, of your neighborhood, of a trip to the park. Depending on your child’s age and ability, have him complete the activity with map keys, compass rose, or grid locations.
Get hands-on with maps (literally). Rather than a map on the wall, I’ve opted for some more hands-on map variations through the years. One year, I printed an enlarged map that we’d been studying and glued it to a poster board, allowing my son to both color the map and then enact the story of Hannibal with his toy soldiers on our enlarged map.
We’ve done the beach-ball globe for quite awhile, which my kids have loved to toss around as well as look up countries we are reading about. And just last year, we added our new favorite, the scrunch map. This map is such an unusual texture. The kids love to spread it out on the floor, laying all over it to find what they are looking for. And equally as much fun is wadding the map back up and scrunching it back into it’s little bag. My kids are literally all over a map, and this close up sensory exploration fuels their love for learning geography.
Pray around the World. A simple way to homeschool geography is through praying for the world. Unreached people groups, current events, persecuted Christians—there are so many opportunities for our children to learn about the world around them through prayer. One of my favorite activities with my kids is to get out our scrunch map and have them pray for a country with their fingers on the location. Adding that little bit of extra sensory input really helps to engage my busy kiddos. We read about the country, about the people, about their struggles, and then all together touch the country on our map and pray for it.
Geography is a fantastic way for your hands-on learner to explore all of their world with all of their senses. Let them read, imagine, and create. Let them use their imagination to better understand the real world, every feature of it. And as they gain a love and appreciation for their world, they will also be fueled by a desire to discover more about that world.