I love watching those little two-year-olds on talk shows that can name every country in Africa or every president since the birth of our country. I love how adorable they sound when they say, “Dord Wassinton,” and how they swing their legs that can’t touch the ground. As cute as they are, part of me always thinks, “That seems like a lot of work for a party trick!” If you have one of those amazing little toddlers, I’m not trying to knock you or their talents. I’m just trying to say that rote memorization doesn’t equal quality learning. Geography is an area full of rote memorization that could, and should, be a lot more enjoyable.
Charlotte Mason wrote about ways to teach geography to ages 6 and up, but I started thinking about how that would work for younger children. Since times have changed, more resources are available that still fit in with Charlotte Mason’s “playing is learning” approach to early learning. With young children, the goal is to have fun and spark interest. In this post, I describe what Charlotte Mason said about teaching geography from 6 years and up, and also what I think we can do to inspire a love of geography for younger children.
Geography from 0-6
Books Set in Faraway Places
Charlotte Mason says that living books with unfamiliar settings spark children’s imaginations. I love Paris, so we have some great books set in Paris that Miss H enjoys. She loves to look at the pictures and always has a lot of questions about the different buildings and traditions we read about.
Charlotte Mason said that children should learn how to describe what they see outdoors. This is a great way to start getting them to think about what’s around them. It’s also fun for them!
Signs and Environmental Print
When I take my kids to a zoo or museum, I’m always surprised by how few people actually read the placards near the animals or exhibits. At the zoo, there are some beautiful descriptions of natural habitats. Charlotte Mason would probably say to skip the dry facts. This is helpful since there’s a lot of information!
6-9 Years Old
I love Charlotte Mason’s idea of reading travel books to children. She said that the entire book doesn’t have to be read aloud, but to read the inspirational ideas and descriptions. She suggests that about six of these be read to children from the time they are 6-9 years old.
Hearing of Foreign Lands
Mason said that mothers should tell her children of lands that she has seen in great detail. Today, we have even more descriptions available through documentaries and other forms of media.
When Charlotte Mason discusses maps, she mentions that they should have maps sketched out of familiar places. Children should also be presented with proper maps, so they can begin to understand lines of latitude and longitude.
Through reading books, children in this age group should begin to understand that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. They should also understand how continents, like Antarctica, are eternally cold, while the continent of Africa is generally hot.
Older children should learn the ins and outs of a map- how to identify different landforms, understand lines of latitude and longitude, and recognize the cardinal directions. Here’s a great resource for teaching map skills.
Drawing a Map
Forming their own map of familiar places, like their home town or even their bedroom, gives children an engaging opportunity to understand and practice map skills like scale.
I’m not saying that children shouldn’t know states and capitals, countries of the world, etc. These things should be learned in the context of understanding exciting lands. I can’t wait to teach Miss H about the beautiful world around us.