Geography Quest: Mountain Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Mountain Edition

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Is it warm yet where you live? We are still camped out in the 40s and 50s most days, but the milder weather is inevitable even in upstate NY. Time to get out and explore, hike, and enjoy the outdoors. How about some motivation? This week our focus is on the mountain ranges of the world in Geography Quest: Mountain Edition.

Identify the World’s Mountain Ranges

Can you name all the mountain ranges in the world? We can start big and go small.

  • List the mountain ranges you can think of by continent- go back and see if you missed any.
  • Name countries which have major mountain ranges.
  • Name the mountain ranges- can you make a list before you look them up?
  • List the mountains you’ve visited.
  • Tell which mountains you have hiked and/or summitted.

Map the World’s Mountain Ranges

You can choose the map you’d like for this activity. I might choose several map so you can see the results well.

  • Use a world map to show where mountains ranges are located.
  • Using your continent list, print a map of each continent and label the mountains with a triangle symbol.
  • Label the mountains on country maps using your list of countries as a resource. (after you check accuracy- of course!)
  • Look at where the mountain ranges are located. Is there relationship between where you find mountains and the earth’s geology? Can you explain it?

Fast Facts on Mountains

Now it’s time to see if you can locate these mountain facts. Ready?

  • Identify the tallest mountain range in the world. Any guesses?
  • What is the longest range of mountains?
  • What is the mountain/range with the lowest elevation?
  • Which mountains are the shortest- as in the size of the mountain “chain”?
  • Identify famous “through hikes” of mountain ranges. The east coast of the US has one. Are there others?
  • How are mountains made?
  • What is the ring of fire? Are there mountains nearby?
  • Which mountain is the most active volcano?
  • Find the mountains that separate Spain and France.
  • Can you find any mountains in the news right now?

What else would like to find out about mountains? Try making your own fast fact questions to ask your family.

Topographical Maps

Blog, She Wrote: Mountain Edition

Does your family enjoy hiking? Have you ever used a topographic map? Now is a great time to try one out. You can find one of your local area through the USGS website.

  • Locate a topographical map (topo map) of your area using the USGS site.
  • Interpret the symbols on the map. What do the concentric lines mean?
  • What does it mean when the lines are close together? Further apart?
  • Take a walk with your topo map- this might reveal what the lines mean as well!
  • Make your own topo map of your yard. If your yard doesn’t offer much variety in elevation, then try a nearby park or another familiar spot.
  • Use the topo map to mark places on your trail. We have a map of a few local trails which we use to make waypoints for navigating our way.

Mountains provide much beauty and reveal the fierceness our planet can experience both in form and function (ie the weather!). Take on this week’s Geography Quest and enjoy a mountain adventure!

Homeschooling Middle & High School History

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School History

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It’s day 4 of iHomeschool Network’s Winter Hopscotch and today’s focus is on homeschooling middle & high school history. I’ll be sharing strategies and curriculum.

Strategies for Homeschooling Middle & High School History

As you might imagine after yesterday’s science post, we do a lot of unit study work for history. Here a few of the ways we’ve incorporated history into our homeschool at the middle and high school level.

  • Unit Studies- On a specific time period in history. Currently, my middle schoolers have started a unit on the Middle Ages. My 8th grader is just finishing a unit on Jules Verne and Steampunk.
  • Project Based Homeschooling- My students have engaged in many projects over the years which have been thought up and finished by them as the student with me as a mentor in the process. My 6th grader is an expert on all things flight and rocketry.
  • Biographies- Whenever we are studying an era in history, my kids will be reading biographies. This is a non-negotiable. It’s gold.
  • Audios- From Little House books to Jim Weisse audios, there is a lot out there in the way of stories and history to listen to as part of a history study.
  • Projects- These work best when my kids choose what they will work on and the drive the project. When my 10th grader was in 8th grade, he made a wonderful game about the Early Church which is one of his favorite time periods. It’s called Conversion and took a blue at the NY State Fair!
  • Custom Coursework- I will often put together my own curriculum for my kids not just a unit study but an entire course. For 9th grade, my oldest had a course I named Foundations of American Democracy for his US Government class. This year he is taking Ancient Studies (with our own scope and sequence based on resources we own) and his project is a blog which is the whole package- content relating to his studies along with appearance and site design. He’s just getting it going, but today he posted an interview he conducted with a graduate student in archeology.

Within their unit studies and projects, I love for my students to study people. Biographies are such a great way to learn about a time and place. It touches all disciplines.

 “Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.” – Charlotte Mason

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School History

Our Favorite Middle & High School Homeschool History Curriculum

We have a wonderful collection of resources and curriculum we have used for history. I also put together our own studies because I rarely like all of any curriculum.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School History

  • Beyond Five in a Row- Literature based unit studies with choices from various periods in history. Betsy Ross, Marie Curie, and Thomas Edison are among our favorite studies.
  • Above & Beyond Five in a Row- Just one unit in this series and it’s written to the student to study Hitty The First Hundred Years
  • WinterPromise- We have only done The Quest for the Middle Ages, but this a great transition between all unit studies and more traditional teaching patterns.
  • Mystery of History- I love the Biblical history intertwined with the secular history. Puts all our Bible stories into a context with the other pieces of history we’ve learned. MOH is a great resource for history studies even for older students.
  • Story of the World- I really love the activity books as a starting place for projects for older kids.
  • Time Travelers Series- from Homeschool in the Woods. If you like to do projects with your kids these are a fun tool to have on hand. Our sixth grader especially loves them.
  • Amanda Bennett Unit Studies- Something for everyone here, but we have enjoyed her four week studies in middle and high school.
  • Unit Studies Made Easy- I love this book to talk about what elements are necessary for a unit study and how to keep them simple. Ms. Bendt encourages you in how to go about making a study for all ages and abilities.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School History

Join other bloggers from the iHN as they write about how they teach history in their homeschools.


Geography Quest: November Treasure Hunt Edition

Blog, She Wrote: November Treasure Hunt Edition

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Time for another treasure hunt version of the Geography Quest- this week’s quest will take us on a continental journey. Here we go!

Continental Treasure Hunt Clues

  1. Begin on the continent with the world’s longest river. Can you name the river & the name of the country?
  2. Next stop is the continent with the world’s largest single rock. Hint: this continent also has the world’s largest coral reef. What is the name of the rock? (It’s had two.)
  3. This continent has the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. Name the mountain and where it is located.
  4. Next name the continent with the world’s deepest fresh water lake. Can you name the lake? How deep is it?
  5. The next clue is the continent with fierce wind patterns called katabatic winds- with wind speeds up to 200mph.
  6. Find the continent which includes the world’s largest island. Hint: This continent is also home to the world’s largest fresh water lake. What is the name of the island and the lake?
  7. Our final destination- the continent with the city set on seven hills. Can you name the city?

This continent is also home to an island nation which will be the starting place for next week’s Geography Quest. Name our starting point.

Black Friday Sale at Bright Ideas Press

What would the day after Thanksgiving be without good sales on products you’ve been waiting to buy?  If you’ve been waiting for WonderMaps to go on sale, now is the time! The sale begins at 12:01 EST on Black Friday and ends at 11:59pm EST on Cyber Monday. The sale is on everything but bundles at BIP. Pretty exciting, right?

We’ve been embarking on Geography Quests at least once a week since August 1, 2013. I would love for you all to have a chance at WonderMaps on sale!

Enjoy the treasure hunt edition and stay tuned for a Thanksgiving themed Quest for next week!

WonderMaps Sale 20% off

Geography Quest: World Travel Treasure Hunt

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest

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We’ve been Questing for a whole month already! Time for a new Geography Quest Treasure Hunt. This month we’ll be traveling the world again. Good luck!

World Travel Treasure Hunt

  • Start in “The Land Down Under”.
  • Travel by boat to meet some “Kiwis”.
  • Journey through the Pacific to the location of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
  • Fly to an island known for its natural springs and pools. Hint: This island had a volcanic eruption not too long ago which diverted a lot of air traffic.
  • Make your last stop in the country which is home to Victoria Falls.

You have arrived in our destination continent. What is it?

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest

WonderMaps Allows You to Customize Your Maps

It used to frustrate me to look for free maps only to have them be too small or too cluttered. I’ve also got a lot of outline maps from other sources. Last spring I finally invested in WonderMaps and it’s all I use now. What pushed me over the edge to purchase WonderMaps? The customizing features.

Each map has a menu like the one above which allows you to simply click or unclick any of the listed features.

  • longitude and latitude lines
  • color or black and white
  • rivers
  • river names
  • borders
  • country names
  • city and town locations
  • city and town names
  • terrain labels

Though I have many choices for maps, my go to is WonderMaps. I hate spending time looking for just the right map. WonderMaps lets me get a map made quickly for my students when the need arises.

Please follow along with us by subscribing to Blog, She Wrote via email. You don’t want to miss any Geography Quests!

Adventures in Sailing, Exploration, & Navigation

A few years ago we did a family study on World Exploration. What a grand time we had traveling all over the world and learning about who these men were and where and why they voyaged! One of the most exciting parts of this unit was navigation. Since then, we’ve done a number of navigation explorations which my kids always enjoy. Our kids almost never leave home without their orienteering compasses. I have the privilege of knowing which direction I’m headed at all times. As we head into spring and summer, what could be more fun than having a navigational adventure of your own?

Blog She Wrote: Exploration & Navigation

There are so many good resources on this topic and I’m going to suggest some for you. Keep in mind the skill level of your student when you put together an Adventure. Do they like to read? Do you need them to read more? Will your student tackle something new easily or will he need more guidance? These are just some of the questions you need to ask as you decide what sorts of things to put into your child’s Adventure.

Blog She Wrote: Exploration & Navigation

Books on Navigation:


Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne – The story of a man and his servant to take a bet to travel around the world in 80 days.

The Captain’s Dog: My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Tribe by Roland Smith and Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis and Clark by Gail Langer Karwoski

Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham about Nathaniel Bowditch who was the first American Navigator and wrote a book called The American Practical Navigator still used by maritime navigators today. It was the first American publication on navigation. My kids really love this book.


The American Practical Navigator by Nathaniel Bowditch We actually borrowed this one from a local university library. My husband was inspired from the biography to read the book on navigation that Nathaniel Bowditch wrote.

Kaleidscope Kids Lewis and Clark- this one tells facts about the duo in addition to having activities relating to this great American expedition

The Story of Maps and Navigation by Anita Ganeri

Tools of Navigation: A Kid’s Guide to the History and Science of Finding Your Way by Rachel Dickinson. This one is a favorite of mine focusing on the history of navigation and tools of course! There is also a section on activities and information about explorers.

The Basic Essentials of Map and Compass by Cliff Jacobson

Wilderness Navigator by David Seidman and Paul Cleveland- written as a hiker survival guide with some great tips on using a compass.

Time Travelers New World Explorers by Homeschool in the Woods- this is a great CD unit on World Exploration and if you need some things all laid out for you with projects, this is an excellent resource! From tying sailor’s knots to making a chip log and a compass, there’s plenty here for students to enjoy.

Blog She Wrote: Exploration & Navigation

Tools of the Trade:

Compass- a good orienteering compass is important for learning and using a compass.

Sextant- we have one, but you need water and a horizon for them to work best

Chip Log- piece of wood tied to a rope with knots at regular intervals

Star Charts- to find the North Star and other constellations

GPS- if you have one, you can do some fun things with it, but it’s not necessary

binoculars- to make sightings

Blog She Wrote: Exploration & Navigation


Compass Sighting also known as triangulation- which is using two points to determine your location using a compass, a map, and a pencil. We did this a few summers ago with our kids at Lake Ontario. The kids had a great time following directions. The Institute of Navigation has a chart of lessons available as well including detailed instructions on how to do Triangulation. We do this often using trail maps while we are hiking.

Our next sighting activity will be finding a specific spot on a map rather than finding where we are on the map using the local ball fields and sight lines to specific objects on the field.

Make your own compass-  to find magnetic north or south (depending on where you live) We made our own compass using a needle, a cork, a magnet and a dish of water when we were studying Explorers. Here’s how to make the compass:

1. Run a magnet over the needle a few times, always in the same direction. This will magnetize the needle. Put the needle through a piece of cork.

2. Float the cork and needle in your cup of water so the floating needle lies roughly parallel to the surface of the water.

3. Place your ‘compass’ on a still surface and watch what happens. The needle should turn to point towards the nearest magnetic pole – north or south as the case may be.

4. If you want to investigate further, place a magnet near your compass and watch what happens. How close/far does the magnet have be to have an effect?

Use a sextant- to sight the north star to measure your latitude. You can determine this using the maximum height of the sun during the day and the maximum height of the north star at night. It is easiest to do this on a beach (large lake or ocean) where you can site off the water, but you can do it in your backyard using a level as well. The trick is finding a sextant!

Dead Reckoning- used by Lewis and Clark. This method is dependent on being able to make continuous measurements of course and distance traveled. You start at a known point and measure your course and distance from the point on a chart. Your course is measured by a compass and your distance is determined by the speed of the vessel times the time traveled.

We plan to try out a dead reckoning exercise in the ball fields a few blocks away from our home. The plan is to have them walk paces in particular directions and have the kids find an object (like a coupon to our local ice cream stand).

Use GPS- if you have access to a handheld GPS unit, you can have your kids use the GPS to find a waypoint (a set of coordinates that identify a point).

Determine magnetic deviation- the error of a compass due to magnetic deviation. On our ferry ride from the US to Kingston, Ontario last summer (across the St. Laurence Seaway) we attempted to test our compasses for magnetic deviation. Apparently, there is an anomaly in the Kingston Harbor which causes a compass to turn away from magnetic north. If you don’t find yourself in Kingston Harbor, you can just run a magnet near your compass and see what happens. What does this mean for navigators?

Use a chip log – to determine boat speed. A chip log is a piece of wood tied to a rope which has knots at regular intervals. See if you can research how to use the knots in the rope to determine nautical speed in knots!

Map the sky- learn to recognize constellations through the seasons and how navigators used the stars to stay on course.

Navigation where you are- how was your state or area explored? Here in NY, Henry Hudson was among the first Europeans to explore NY. Who is a famous explorer where you live? Study more about him. Where was he from? Who traveled with him? What navigational tools did he have at the time?

Determine Magnetic Declination- this is the difference between magnetic north (or south) on your compass and true north (south). This will vary depending on where you are and over time. You can usually find the magnetic declination on USGS maps for wilderness or navigational use. We have one of some local forest lands which include the magnetic declination as part of the map’s key. If you can’t find out specifically what it is where you are, just investigate what it means and how to find out what it is and why it’s important.

Blog She Wrote: Exploration & Navigation

Dan prepared the map of the beach area and coastline of Lake Ontario where we were camping and taught the kids how to make a sighting based on some features of the coast line. He just printed a portion of the Google Satellite map focusing on the State Park coast line.

Blog She Wrote: Exploration & Navigation

A quick web search revealed lots of resources on navigation:

A long time favorite of mine is Google Earth and there is a great website on using the program in the classroom.

Google Earth Lessons – a great resource for using Google Earth in the classroom and homeschools. Lessons are organized in various manners depending on how you want your student to use them. Student controlled lessons are great for homeschoolers.

One example from Google Earth Lessons related to navigation is Drake’s Circumnavigation which is a virtual tour of this first trip around the world. There’s information including primary sources to learn more about this incredible feat. They can even make their own Google Earth tour of the circumnavigation using the raw data they are given.

There is a lot to explore on this website which I’m sure Google Earth enthusiasts will enjoy!

You can use Google Earth to find latitude and longitude from National Geographic Xpeditions

Find out more about marine navigation from NOAA using a nautical chart to plot a course.

There are a lot of directions you can go with this Adventure. Older students can enjoy learning navigational techniques and working on making sightings while younger students can try their hand at making a compass or learning to find north on a compass. The reading is endless with many stories based on travel and exploits around the world. You could focus on mapping your own journeys or simply get lost in stories of adventurous sailors.

I hope you’ll be inspired to go exploring with your kids this summer or simply let them explore and tell you all about their discoveries!

Bon Voyage!

Hopscotch-With-iHN-Spring-Collage2Be sure to check out the other bloggers who are sharing a series this week through iHN’s Spring 2013 Hopscotch.