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.

Introducing a love for poetry (to boys and other skeptics)

introducing a love for poetry (to boys and other skeptics)

I know that not everyone loves poetry the way I do. I totally understood why my college students weren’t as excited about our poetry unit in Creative Writing as I was. But that’s never stopped me from loving the challenge of introducing poetry to a skeptic and surprising them with the reality that they could love it, too. Now as a homeschool mom, I still love that challenge. I love introducing a love for poetry to my kids. And often, that love surprises them.

Especially if you have active learners, introducing a love for poetry can be tough. But here are a few ideas to give you a head-start in the right direction.

Introducing a love for poetry

Choose the best books.

I love Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry, especially for boys. If anyone can pull off a surprise love for poetry, Shel Silverstein can. My kids have literally laughed out loud through his books. Falling Up is such a favorite at our house that we now own it (because someone left the library book outside overnight and it got a little too damp to return).

But a new favorite of mine is the book Guyku, haiku for boys (or any kid who loves to play outdoors). Even my daughter with dyslexia couldn’t help but pick this one up.

introducing a love for poetry | haiku
Guyku by Bob Raczka and Peter H. Reynolds

Haiku is probably one of my favorite poetry forms, and these authors do a fantastic job writing kid-friendly haiku. Their website also includes some great teaching resources and free printables.

Create a memorable moment.

  1. Have a picnic, lay out on a blanket, hunt for cloud shapes, and read a couple of fun poems. (Just a couple, don’t over do it.)
  2. Use poetry to introduce something fun you are about to do. Read a poem about the beach and let them guess where you are going. Read haiku about nature and then go on a nature walk to find ideas for your own poem. 
  3. Have a poetry scavenger hunt and have them find poems about particular topics you’ve listed. (Choose a fun book and quirky topics.)

Whatever you do, let the poetry be a part of an already fun experience. The positive vibes from the event will spill over into the poetry part of that memory. Your goal is to have a fun, positive memory associated with poetry, rather than the memory of sitting at a desk discussing rhyming patterns.

Provide a fun snack.

Adding food never hurts, especially if you’ve got boys. Food is definitely part of that positive association. I can pull off just about anything with my kids if there is food involved. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Have one particular treat that only comes out during poetry time. Or surprise them with a favorite treat, and a new favorite poem.

I’ve read a lot of the blogs that do the “poetry teas” as a way of introducing a love for poetry to children. It’s a great idea, and when my kids were little, I could get by with that. But my soon-to-be sixth grade son is not keen on “tea parties.” These ideas still work for him, though. And with the right book, I can still surprise him with a love for poetry he didn’t know he had.

Homeschool Theme Days: Teddy Bear Picnic

teddy bear picnic | homeschool theme day ideas | hands-on homeschooling for ADHD and active learners

Sometimes, the weather doesn’t always cooperate with our homeschool theme days. If your spring picnic gets rained out, indoor picnics can be just as much fun. There are lots of possibilities for theme ideas. Recently, I had a dear friend in church, a retired teacher, suggest a homeschool theme day “Teddy Bear picnic” with my kids. She and my kids put it together, and I got a lunch date with my hubby! (I am so blessed!!) My daughter was in charge of decorating. My youngest gathered teddy bear guests. My oldest prepared a report with facts about bears. I helped gather our bear-themed books, and my friend brought a teddy bear craft. My kids had so much fun, they were bummed when I came back home! Lol! So here are a few ideas for your own teddy bear picnic.

Homeschool Theme Days: Teddy Bear picnic

Decorate with a blanket, teddy bears, and some homemade bear prints. My daughter drew her own bear prints, cut them out, and created a trail of bear prints to our picnic. We kept it simple, but the kids had so much fun taking this on themselves, gathering teddy bears and donating blankets to the cause.

Gather bear books and activities. Winnie the Pooh, The Ice Cream Bear, Going on a Bear Hunt, Paddington—there are so many fun bear classics that could make the list. We didn’t get to all of them and will probably soon have a Winnie the Pooh picnic at our favorite nature spot as soon as the weather cooperates. My friend brought a very cute teddy bear craft and found a fun teddy bear picnic song on Youtube

Include older kids with bear facts. My oldest is a writer and took this project very seriously, searching our home library for a variety of bear resources. He chose to write and read his two page report, but there are plenty of other ideas as well. Have your older child make a display board, write their own teddy bear story, or present bear encounter “survival tips.” 

I love adding these fun spontaneous days to our learning, but the key is always to keep it simple and flexible. Pick your favorite book (or books), spread a blanket, and have some fun! 

Want more homeschool theme day ideas? Check out these posts:

Star Wars ideas for every subject

Spring and Nature activity ideas

St. Patrick’s Day ideas

Dr. Seuss theme ideas