5 hands-on ways to homeschool Geography

homeschool geography | hands-on ideas for busy learners

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.)

Eating Egypt | teaching geography in homeschool | hands-on geography

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.

homeschool first day | hands-on geography

 

homeschool geography to hands-on learners

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.

hands-on geography

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.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | customizing Tapestry of Grace

We’ve used Tapestry of Grace as our core curriculum for going on 6 years. I love it, primarily because it is designed to be customizable. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Tapestry presents a buffet of choices and ideas for reading, crafts and art, literature study, history discussion, and more. It’s perfect for customizing a learning plan that fits our unique ADHD/dyslexia struggles. But for the first time this year (as a solution to the enormous loose-paper crisis we experienced), I’m also customizing our own Tapestry of Grace student notebooks.

While the option is available to purchase these in printed bundles, ready to assemble, I prefer to print my own, allowing my kids to be in-between levels. Also, I wanted to separate the projects into separate notebooks—history and literature—rather than combine these, since we tend to work on them at separate times during our homeschool week. I’m loving the result and am looking forward to a lot less mess this next year.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks for History

Lower Grammar/Upper Grammar Notebook

My daughter will be officially fourth grade this year. While she faces some stiff learning challenges from her dyslexia, she’s made tremendous progress. Technically, she should probably be entirely Upper Grammar this year, but I’m still allowing her to be in-between. Especially for history, where information is more technical and less story-driven, she needs the lower grammar level. Her notebook includes the following items.

Weekly Overview. This page includes major theme and project ideas, famous people we will be covering, and the vocabulary words that she will be encountering in her reading. Each week, she looks over this sheet with me and looks up any words that she isn’t familiar with in the provided glossary. Because of her dyslexia, I do not make her write or copy any of this information, she just reads over it.

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | weekly overview

Glossary. Last year, I kept one copy of the Year 1 Glossary in my Teacher Notebook, and the kids shared it. However, sharing the notebook didn’t always work out well. To streamline things, I went ahead and printed off a glossary for each child and included it in their own notebook. While this exercise builds my daughter’s vocabulary and prepares her for any difficult words she may encounter in her reading, it also gives me the opportunity to work with her on dictionary skills without an overwhelming amount of information for her to navigate.

Binder Pockets. We’ve used these binder pockets for years to organize different resources in our Case-it Binders. This year, I’ve included one in her history notebook to help my daughter organize lapbooking projects that she is working on. Once these are completed, I will oversee that they make it to their final destination (the portfolio) without taking an indefinite detour to her bedroom floor.

customizing Tapestry of Grace student notebooks

Upper Grammar/Dialectic Notebook

At the end of last year, we tip-toed into the Dialectic stage. This year, we’ll be delving more deeply into this level of thinking with history discussions and accountability questions. Because there is more involved at this level, there is also more included in my son’s history notebook. 

History Topic Summary. Each week, there is a brief overview provided for the student to read that provides the basic summary of what we will be covering and a Biblical point of view on that topic. While the content is a little technical and difficult for my daughter to understand, my son will be ready for it this year, and it will provide the groundwork for our discussions each week.

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | dialectic history

Accountability and Thinking Questions. As part of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum for the dialectic level (grades 6-8), each week there are accountability questions that come from the reading and thinking questions that provoke the student to form some opinions and comparisons about what he is learning. (Yes, the answers are provided in the teacher material, so I’m not on my own on this.) This will be our first time to use this consistently, and I’m expecting to do quite a bit of hand-holding as my son gets used to thinking critically in this way. I have provided these questions in his notebook so that he can read over them and know what we will be discussing as he does his reading. This is not pop-quiz. It’s just a step to help him understand how to read for information.

Weekly Overview. This is the same sheet that my daughter has in her notebook, but my son will be using the upper grammar vocabulary while she uses lower grammar. It is the same exercise, looking up the words in the glossary; however, my son is required to write the definitions of words he doesn’t know. The Weekly Overview also includes dates for my son to enter into his timeline. Typically, we do not include all the dates. At this stage, I require a few but allow my son to choose those dates that are significant to him because of his reading and the connections that he is making. 

Glossary. This is the exact same glossary in my daughter’s notebook, and will be used for both dictionary skills practice and vocabulary.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks for Literature

 

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | literature

Our literature ties in directly to our history studies. These selections are either historical fiction novels that demonstrate the history and culture we are studying, or they are classical selections that were written during this time-period. Our curriculum includes literature study activities for these selections. Activities for sequencing, cause and effect, character analysis, plot study, narration and summary writing, and more are included in their Tapestry of Grace student notebooks for literature.

My daughter has a good blend of lower grammar and upper grammar activities depending on the skill involved. Because of her dyslexia, she will be doing many of these activities orally while I scribe or write down her answers. Though she is capable of making the connections, she needs some coaching with communicating her thoughts.

For my son, there are a few skills he still needs to work on that are covered more thoroughly in the upper grammar materials (cause and effect, character analysis, etc.) The other three-fourths of his notebook include the dialectic level worksheets, with more in-depth studies of plot, characters, and genres. 

I love the fact that I can create these custom Tapestry of Grace student notebooks for my kids that meet their specific needs and still challenge them appropriately. And hopefully, we will not have quite as much paper on the floor throughout the house this year.

Classically Homeschooling with Funschooling Journals

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling ADHD & dyslexia | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I’ve been a fan of Thinking Tree curriculum, particularly Dyslexia Games, for awhile. The thinking skills, right-brained approach, and creativity of the curriculum and dyslexia therapy has made a world of difference for my daughter. So when I was looking for a way to help my daughter connect to our classical, literature-rich style of learning, I went back to the company that really seemed to understand her best, and I took a good long look at the funschooling journals.

There are so many funschooling journals, all with slight variations, that choosing one took me a long time. In the end, it was the bright pink cover with the kitty that ultimately sold us on the Homeschooling Journal for Creative Girls (though the YouTube reviews were also very helpful). The books are intended to be used with unschooling or delight-directed homeschoolers. The children are supposed to select up to 8 books that they want to learn from and work through 5-8 pages a day in the workbook. The pages cycle through similar activities that include drawing and narrating from the reading, copywork, nature study, some art and creative pages, recipe pages (to write a recipe), listening pages for audiobooks and DVD material, nature study pages, and more. There’s plenty of space for coloring, doodling, drawing, and other creative expression.

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

We obviously are putting our own unique spin on the funschooling journals. Because we use Tapestry of Grace as our main curriculum, I already had a shelf of books that I wanted her to read. But rather than assign particular books for each week as I had been doing, I gave her the new funschooling journal and allowed her to work through the books on the shelf at her own pace. Instead of 5-8 pages a day, she was assigned 5-8 pages for the week to work through at her leisure. 

The result: what would have taken her weeks to read (with tons of nagging and frustration on my part) took her a little over one week. She flew through her reading and loved journaling in her book about the parts of her reading that she loved best. She loved drawing the pictures, copying her own selections, filling out the listening sheet for her audiobook and science DVD, and the other various activities. She’s done much less coloring than I expected, but I could care less. I’m just counting my blessings that she loves this so much! 

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I absolutely intend to use these next year as well and have a couple more in mind to get (although I think she’d be perfectly happy to continue with another of the exact same journal). My intention is to continue using it as a means to supplement and motivate her to engage with our classical curriculum. While I do have books from our Tapestry of Grace that I want to be on her reading list, I also allow her freedom to add a few titles of her own. It’s a perfect blend of classically creative curriculum for my active, right-brained non-traditional learner.

And, of course, because these are such a hit with sister, my creative fifth grader thinks he really needs one, too. I may just relent. After all, this Minecraft Funschooling Journal looks way too cool. (Perhaps I’ll use it as a subtle way to add some summer learning.)