To workbook or not to workbook? That is the question many homeschoolers ask themselves every summer when purchasing curriculum. Truth is, workbooks are faster - faster for the kids and faster for the teacher. And they are cheap. Unless you are multiplying the cost of said workbook by four or more students and twice as many subjects. We had to seriously consider the wisdom of investing in consumable curriculum when we have so many students in our one-room school. Not only did it seem like a poor use of money that could be spent on music lessons and riding gear, but we also wondered how much of all that quickly gained information was staying in their heads. After all, how memorable were the workbooks from your childhood?
All that consideration landed us with no geography workbooks this year. That was fine but it didn't leave me with any more free time or brain cells to devise a 'bells and whistles' geography program either. Nor do I have a great track record with non-consumable programs that have phone book sized manuals. Enter Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, and notebooking. These have been the mainstay of our homeschool program for many years and I thought I would share how we have been handling geography.
Some things go without saying. For instance, whenever we read a book, watch a compelling movie, Dad goes on a trip, etc. we check the map and compare here to there. They draw maps of the places they study in history. We occasionally do full country unit studies, complete with costumed dinners and related art projects. Occasionally. <g> Some of those end up being lapbooked. (see photo albums)
For the more bits and pieces, everyday type of work we are adding pages to their notebooks of landforms and geographical vocabulary from the resources pictured. Maria Montessori is famous for her emphasis on nomenclature, a large word which essentially means naming a thing completely. Geographical nomenclature in Montessori schools begins with landforms. The children use cards such as the ones you can download from http://montessorimaterials.org/geo.htm#lan They also make models of the landforms like these: http://www.montessoritraining.net/preschool_kindergarten/courses/culture_science/sample_lessons.htm
One of my favorite books to introduce the landforms is Geography From A to Z. (I will upload it to the sidebar so you can ck it out) Each page has full color illustrations that are easily reproduced by children armed with markers or colored pencils. They read the entry and then fill out a portfolio page I set up in Word. Download portfolio_text_box_9.doc I am uploading it here if it saves anyone time. They write the name of the form on the top, draw their version of the book entry in the large center box, and then a short definition in the lower box. Done!
We use the Montessori cards to drill the vocabulary for retention. You can modify the cards by using sandpaper for the landform itself. The landforms models can be made a few ways. One easy option is to buy the new disposable Ziplock plastic storage containers. They are sold near the baggies. A low wide size is best and you will want all the forms to be made from the same type of container. They can use modeling clay (not Playdough) to press a form into the bottom of the container and then can fill it with blue colored water. You can outline the form in permanent marker on the bottom of the container if you like. To make a permanent form you can use the self drying clay or plaster or the like. We haven't gotten around to that honestly.
For cultural studies we usually get a library book every month on a different country. Something simple like the Postcards From... series or whatever happens to be at the bookmobile. A favorite book of mine is Material World. Sixteen photojournalists travelled the world and chose one family to represent each nation. The families are pictured with all their earthly possessions in front of their homes. This makes a striking impression, particularly when you contrast a third world family with their pots, blankets, and baskets with a Western family who must be photographed from a distance so that all their belongings can fit into the screen of the camera.
For older children who have exhausted these resources I like Scholastic's All the Geography Homework You Will Ever Need. I remember reading years ago that instead of investing in repetitious curricula for each grade level it was wiser to buy a composite type reference book and use it year after year. This would be that type of book. You can make notebook pages from the entries in here such as the three types of maps (political, physical, cultural) or cover things like biomes, migration patterns, or the atmosphere. It is an AWESOME resource for lapbooks also. Library books will flesh out the topics.
Better scoot here because my family will be home from their movie shortly!