Learning Geography with Atlases

Blog, She Wrote: Learning Geography with Atlases

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I love a good map, don’t you? Ever since I was young, I have always loved to pour over a map- whether they are local or world maps. It’s fun to think about place and people. Even better than just one map is a whole book full of maps! Or many books full of maps of all kinds! Today’s post is all about Learning Geography with Atlases.

Learning Geography with Atlases

As with most things, you can direct learning with an atlas in a formal or informal way. I think it depends on your purpose and the goals you have for teaching geography. We use both approaches in our homeschool. Here are a few examples of resources requiring an atlas.

  • NorthStar Geography- A middle and high school geography course for high school credit. Written by Tyler Hogan at Bright Ideas Press, this curriculum offers specific strategies for using atlases and being a student of geography.
  • Geography Quests- Featured here at Blog, She Wrote, the Geography Quest is a mix of formal and informal as we set on adventures incorporating seasonal and news based geography.
  • Google Earth Lessons- A place where you can find lessons on geography of all kinds using Google Earth.

Our Favorite United States Atlases

Blog, She Wrote: Learning Geography with Atlases

No post on atlases would be complete without a run down of our best loved editions. First up are the United States atlases. Although you can find the U.S. in a World Atlas, you’ll find better detail in an atlas devoted entirely to the United States.

World Atlases for Learning Geography

Blog, She Wrote: Learning Geography with Atlases

World atlases are a great tool for gazing through a window to the world! Here are a few we have on hand for our world travel in the homeschool room.

Electronic Atlases

For those of us who like to take advantage of technology, there are some nice electronic atlas options.

  • WonderMaps- This is map making software from Bright Ideas Press that allows you to customize and print maps. Not only can you print maps for school any way you’d like, but it is a great reference atlas as well and very easy to use on any computer.
  • Google Earth- I *heart* Google Earth! It’s a virtual globe with gobs of detail which lets you visit any place in the world. You can even use the ground view and see pictures people have uploaded from that area. What a fun feature if you’ve never been. Families can learn so much from spending time with Google Earth.
  • Atlas Apps- Check your favorite app store for low cost atlas apps. I know Kindle has a few available for purchase. While not super detailed, these are fun for quick reference on the go. How many of us school in the car?

The great thing about electronic atlases is they are always up to date! You can update an electronic file much easier than making a new printed edition. This is one of my favorite features of WonderMaps.

Specialty Atlases

Blog, She Wrote: Learning Geography with Atlases

Of course, United States and World Atlases are not the only types of atlases out there. You can find historical atlases, literature atlases, and atlases of plants and animals. Here are the ones we have:

In finding links for some of these atlases, I noticed that some are older versions and many are still available used. If you want to know what to look for in an atlas, take a look at Tyler Hogan’s post on Choosing the Right Atlas.

All About Atlases

Recently, I took part in a G+ Hangout with Bright Ideas Press All about Atlases! Tyler Hogan from Bright Ideas Press and fellow Finishing Strong Co-Host, Kyle McVay joined me for a fun conversation about atlases. It’s hard to miss the enthusiasm. Take the time to watch!

Black Friday Sale at Bright Ideas Press

Great news! It’s that time of year and Bright Ideas Press is offering 20% off your entire purchase during Thanksgiving Weekend. This is a fantastic time to pick up WonderMaps or NorthStar Geography. Bright Ideas Press has other geography resources as well. Take a moment to browse the shop!

2014 Black Friday Sale BIP


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Teaching Geography with Earth Science

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

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Not only will our high schoolers earn a high school credit in geography, but they will also have their earth science high school credit. We can get a lot of mileage out of the content and videos in the earth science text when we are doing physical geography, but there are also beginning concepts which compliment one other. Here’s a look at How We Teach Geography with Earth Science.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

High School Earth Science Topics which Go along with NorthStar Geography

There is some amount of overlap between geography and earth science. Physical geography includes discussions on earth science. While physical geography teaches the various features of the earth, earth science will not only name them and describe them, but will tell us how they were formed. In looking at both resources, I made a list of the shared concepts.

  • Maps & Direction- Types of maps and how to use them. For example, topographical maps (including contour maps), geologic maps, bathymetric maps.
  • Navigation- Subtopic of maps & direction. Lines of longitude and latitude, tropics zones, prime meridian, etc.
  • Structure of the Earth- Plates & continents. Earth Science will talk about composition of the earth while geography will touch on the people and their boundaries.
  • Topography- Bodies of water, man-made features, the lay of the land so to speak
  • Lithosphere- Mountains, volcanoes, and earthquakes.
  • Hydrosphere- Oceanography, freshwater systems
  • Atmosphere- Climate, weather, weather maps and interpreting weather data

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

How We Use Ck-12 Earth Science for High School with NorthStar Geography

CK-12 is an open source text book out of California which offers courses in science and math for free. The open source nature of the site means you can enjoy lots of content folks share including quizzes, tests, labs & activities. This particular course (Earth Science) has quite a lot of front matter, so we skipped it having met those topics in our science courses many times. We began with the Earth Science content.

Here are a few ways we have found to work these two courses together so far this year:

  • Read the chapters in both the NorthStar Geography text & the Earth Science text- the matching concept chapters compliment one another and come at a topic from a different perspective.
  • Watch the embedded video from the Earth Science text- For example, after doing the chapter on maps, we watched a video on latitude.
  • Activities & labs from Earth Science work well with geography and vice versa. We did the mapping activities with NorthStar Geography as our work for Earth Science.
  • NorthStar Geography Activities- Can add hands on fun to the Earth Science sections which are the same.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

Flexible Technology Allows us to Use Both NorthStar Geography & High School Earth Science

Part of working with both of these resource tools together is to make use of technology when we can.

  • We use the ebook & print version of NorthStar Geography- The student reader is available in either the print version or the digital version. If you purchase the printed version, it comes with a CD which includes the digital edition.
  • The earth science text and NorthStar Geography were put onto my students’ kindles- They can watch embedded videos right from the text and read anywhere without sharing the resources with each other. The earth science text is offered in a mobi file for Kindles and the geography was loaded as a pdf.
  • If they want to compare resources they can read off the computer while viewing their NorthStar ebook or text book. With two kids taking the courses at the same time that’s handy. They will be busy with assignment and not necessarily work at the same rate or in the same way, so having options with no extra expense is a bonus.
  • Using a Kindle in Your Homeschool- Do you use a Kindle in your homeshcooling? Our student Kindles have been invaluable to our studies as our children have gotten older. Reading, research, and organization tools are used every day by our students. Amazon has a new Kindle- the Kindle Fire HD6 is $99 and offers the same excellent features as the one we use (with the bonus of a camera) with a slightly smaller screen. That’s a cost effective way to enter the world of tablets!

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

Benefits of Choosing NorthStar Geography for High School Credit

So far, the course has been enjoyable. We love geography at our house and even our high school junior, who considers himself a geography buff, could stand to brush up on his knowledge- especially in the area of human geography. What makes this one credit course right for us?

  • It’s easy to follow and very thorough- I think it’s especially easy when you have WonderMaps because the directions tell you what features to choose in the map before you print it.
  • There are several schedules you can use depending on how often you want to study geography in a particular year.
  • Hands on activities for every chapter- There are activity directions for each chapter which are easy to access and print for your students.
  • Build your own student atlas using WonderMaps printables or the ones included in the resource disc.
  • Hands off kids can work on memorizing the maps- They can choose to make an atlas or concentrate on memorizing only. There are a variety of ways for students to approach the course by choosing options along the way.
  • Customize to your needs and abilities- With so many components and the clear directions not to use them all, you can easily customize the course to your student’s strengths and your goal with the geography course.
  • Purchase alone or as a bundle with WonderMaps- If you already own WonderMaps you can go right for NorthStar. If not, you can purchase them together. The maps you need are included with NorthStar, but I love to make custom maps for our work and for any other of our map needs!

My plan is flawless except for the Lyme Disease which my high school junior is fighting. Whenever you are working with multiple ages and coordinating curriculum, something is bound to go wrong- in case you might think the world is perfectly aligned with such a great plan! So, our high school freshman must work ahead at this point. Ethan will have to catch up later or they will continue separately or mixed and matched with labs and activities. It’s important to remain flexible and keep forging ahead with circumstances as best you can. The plan is still there to keep on us track and let us know where we are headed!

We are delighted that earth science and NorthStar Geography are part of the plan this year!

North Star Geography & WonderMaps Combo

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Engaging Multiple Ages in Your Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Engaging Multiple Ages in Your Homeschool
This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

When we think of working with multi-ages, many of us think of the unit study type arrangement where we work with the kids all together at different levels. Certainly, when all of our children were younger (though still multi-aged, of course), the unit study approach was the foundation of our homeschool. There comes a time when that approach doesn’t work easily anymore. At a certain point, what my older kids wanted to drive and learn became more important than my desire and convenience to keep everyone together. So, we have looked for other ways to come together as a family with our homeschooling.

Today’s post- Engaging Multiple Ages in Your Homeschool.

Blog, She Wrote: Engaging Multiple Ages in Your HomeschoolUsing Collaboration to Bring Together Multi-Ages in Your Homeschool

Collaboration includes any activity where our students share ideas and receive feedback. I enjoy seeing my kids collaborate with their siblings to solve problems, gather input, and share accomplishments. Here are a few examples:

  • My 11th grader might get feedback on his latest novel character from his siblings.
  • An older sibling agrees to film a tutorial my 4th grader wanted to try making on making paper boxes.
  • Our high school junior mentors our FLL team which includes his two younger brothers. He helped the 4th grader reach out to experts in a particular field last week by coaching him on phone etiquette and helping him to form interview questions. He was ready as a scribe while our 9yo made the phone call and could concentrate on the talking while Ethan would get the notes down.
  • Our high school freshman will often give sewing tips and the use of her machine to a sibling who wants to make a costume- most recently a Union sash for a Civil War uniform.
  • Our kids are great at lending a listening ear to a piece of writing.
  • Any of the kids are eager to jump up to our slate chalkboard and have a go at an explanation- the receiver is always appreciative.

I love to watch our kids work together to help make each other perform better. It isn’t always in the form of the older kids teaching the younger ones. It goes much deeper than that! They offer feedback to help each other reach a goal in simple and not so simple ways.

Collaboration brings out some of our kids’ best qualities. Or the worst! It takes time to build the sort of homeschool relationships that foster this behavior. Sometimes you have to work with the stronger personalities to help them as they work through it. But, when you get collaboration in your homeschool right, it is GOLD and worth every moment to get there. It’s authentic and builds this life skill in a very real way.

Blog, She Wrote: Engaging Multiple Ages in Your HomeschoolUsing Project Time to Team up Multiple Ages

No homeschool day is complete at our house without project time. Each of our students has a Project Workspace where they can leave out their work and spend a lot of time working and researching. Project time doesn’t always mean being completely independent. Sometimes our kids will choose to draw on each other to complete a task. Project time might include things like:

  • Following a tutorial
  • Learning a new computer programming language by reading and testing it
  • Designing a new model rocket or custom mini-fig
  • Pinning a new insect
  • Drafting a fashion design
  • Reading & Researching on a topic
  • Building a machine like a catapult
  • Testing a hypothesis
  • Writing to add to stories and novels
  • Attending seminars and workshops related to an area of study
  • Collaborating with each other on progress of their work

All of these are born out of their interest in a topic & represent the amount of time we’ve poured into these interests. Much of our homeschool day is wrapped up in project time. Not only is this the time when I get to be a mentor and consultant and listen and encourage their efforts, but it’s a time for our kids to team up to solve a problem.

Blog, She Wrote: Engaging Multiple Ages in Your HomeschoolTaking Field Trips as a Family Engages Multi-Ages Together

My rule of thumb when it comes to field trips is to arrange them and take them as a family. Unless we don’t have the opportunity to do so otherwise, I avoid taking field trips with a group. What are the advantages of striking out on your own?

  • Arrange a trip when it is most convenient to your family and with what you’re studying.
  • Taking spontaneous field trips means enjoying the best weather!
  • Smaller groups get more attention from curators and garner the most available to you from a venue.
  • Many places will accommodate my family without having to be part of a group- I once called about a local public event and when I could not make it, I was invited to see the exhibit on off hours and the curator happily pulled out artifacts we’d see at the public time- and more of them! It was a golden opportunity!
  • My students pay attention to the venue when they aren’t excited to be with their peers. It’s true. I often tell my kids that they can enjoy a playdate another time when it’s fun to play and you aren’t just sneaking it in while you are supposed to be paying attention to something else. For field trips to yield the most, go alone and make a playdate for another time!
  • Allows me to help my kids focus on what we came to see through the lens of our personal studies without the distractions of their peers!

Blog, She Wrote: Engaging Multiple Ages in Your HomeschoolLearning Together During Our Homeschool Day

Of course, being a unit study family for many years and still today, we love to learn together with all ages. We come together on a few things whenever we can:

  • Fred Math- With all of our students immersed in Fred’s world, there is always something to discuss about Fred at the dinner table. We can engage about Fred any time, but often he comes up at dinner where our kids share what they’ve been working on.
  • Geography- We are using NorthStar Geography this year and while our two high schoolers will earn a credit, our younger boys will join in when they can.
  • Read Aloud Time- We love to hear stories together. Often times I have my teens read to us and my 11th grader loves to read to me! Reading aloud is a great way to begin your homeschool day and to get started and focused again after lunch. The benefits of building this time into your schedule are numerous.
  • Earth Science- This year we’ll be tackling earth science as a family. The younger boys (4th & 7th grades) will be studying earth science with their Adventures in the Sea & Sky curriculum while the high schoolers will be following the course set by CK12 Earth Science for High School. You might like to read more about our curriculum choices for 2014-2015 if you missed it in August.
  • Current Events- We often discuss what’s happening in the world around our dinner table or whenever it comes up as our day moves along.

Blog, She Wrote: How to Use Current Events in Your HomeschoolIf you’d like to see more about how we implement our homeschool day, click in to How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day.

Bright Ideas G+ Hangout on Homeschooling Multi-Ages at Once

Join us today, October 14, 2014 at 3pm EDT for a Bright Ideas Press Hangout on Homeschooling Multi-Ages at Once. You watch it live here or you can return later to watch it at a better time.

All of these tips & techniques come together to make our typical homeschool day. You’ll find many of our moments working together in Ten Things That Make a Great Homschool Day.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Things That Make a Great Homeschool Day

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