Tag Archives: Geography

GeoSafari Laptop

My MIL gave B this GeoSafari Laptop 3 years ago after we announced we were removing B from public school and homeschooling him.  I brought this out a few times and sat him down to play with/learn from it right after he got it and it made him angry.  He didn’t know the answers so that made him frustrated and he didn’t want to spend the time to learn.  I put away on our homeschool bookcase and decided we’d revisit it another time. And although I would gaze upon it a few times during the past 3 years, I never pulled it back out again, until last week.

Although we got off to a rocky start with our History curriculum, Story of the World, Vol. 2, this “school” year, we’ve been doing much better since I discovered a free lapbook to accompany SOTW, Vol. 2 last month.  B is enthusiastic about the lapbook because he sees it as “craft time”; the learning is fun.  Every couple of chapters now, we go back and read through our lap book, as well as the review cards in our SOTW Activity Book.  Since B is now retaining more of the History and Geography facts from the Middle Ages with the addition of the lapbook, I decided to bring out the GeoSafari Laptop.

In addition to geography sheets, there are sheets on inventions, Language Arts, Math, quotations, famous people in History, landmarks, animals, weather, anatomy, wars and more.  B had a great time with sheets on continents, bodies of water, world landmarks and ancient wonders of the world.  Succeeding at something is a wonderful incentive to keep doing something.  And it was good to see that what we had be learning for almost 3 years now, was sticking with him.  I like new ways of learning as well as new ways of “testing” retention.  We will definitely be using the GeoSafari Laptop regularly.

First Official Day of Homeschool

I am pleased with how today went!  This is going to be a learning experience for both of us and it will take some time to get into any kind of habit or set lessons.  But I am OK with that.  We may never get into set lessons.  I decided months ago that there really isn’t a wrong or right way to do this; the main goal is to find my son’s way of doing this.

We both learned new things today, so that in and of itself is a successful day.  Do you know what the largest desert is in the world?  We were both surprised to learn it is Antarctica.  When I went to school, I was taught the Sahara was the largest desert.  But a desert is defined by lack of rainfall, and sparse to no vegetation and can be hot OR COLD.  We’re starting with a geography unit study.  Today we worked on some natural landmarks, like rivers and deserts.  Ben located some on a world map and compared river lengths and deserts sizes to determine their orders from largest to smallest.  I worked math problems in where I could – the Gobi dessert is 1/2 the size of the Arabian dessert (500k sq mi compared to 1M sq mi).  He did a word find of related terms and I created a spelling list.  Since “desert” was on the spelling list, I also added “dessert”.  I know early in school it was hard for me to remember which was which until a great teacher told us a trick to remembering it, so I passed it on.

I learned that we need to set aside more time for learning if I continue to let him set the pace.  And with the amount of time he likes to take, we won’t be covering every subject everyday.  When he would stare at the map for a few minutes, I did not push him to move on to a question; I let him take in the map.  When he saw the shape of a whale in the Sahara, I let him draw a face and water spout on it.  I bet that will be a good reference to remember the Sahara – it’s shaped like a whale!

He’s always amazed me with word finds.  He’ll stare at one for minutes, and when he’s done, he’ll circle 3 or 4 words at once.  I am keeping a journal and made notes for myself as we went along so I did not forget anything.  Once he saw that, he put his pencil down and wanted a pen just like me.  ERRR!  I want him to use a pencil so he can erase and fix things.  But I let him have the pen.  Maybe he will work harder to make fewer mistakes.

When I saw he was fading, we took a break to dance and sing some Bon Jovi.  My son’s current favorite song is “Livin’ on a Prayer”.  He has excellent taste in music, just like is Mama.  :o)

Before heading out to run an errand and then off to my work for the afternoon he said to me, “I really liked this homeschool thing today, Mama.  I’m gonna like this year.”  I said, “This is only day one.  It’s going to get harder and most days we’ll be schooling more time than we did today.  But we’ll work together to make it fun.”  He says he’s up for it.

Unit Studies

There are so many different ways to teach and not all of them work for every child.  I am not going to “pick” one style of homeschooling; I will be dabbling in all of them to see how B and I like them.  The hubs and I continue to take advantage of learning opportunities in everyday life just like all parents do.  Because, regardless of whether your child goes to an institution for learning or stays home, every parent’s job description includes “teacher”.  But we pay attention more, now, and stop what we are doing to explore further into something B is interested in or to answer his questions.  It is so wonderful to teach him something and them see him go on to share the knowledge he has learned with others later.  It lets us know it is sticking with him!

Even though learning will happen all on its own throughout the day, B needs learning directed by me, as well.  Last month, I started out with subject specific teaching.  I alternated Math and Language Arts every other day and we did Science everyday.  Not a lot, just enough to keep him in the habit of working and so he does not lose everything he learned from 1st grade.  Although he did not fight me on doing work, it was boring for him and me.  Plus it was just like work at his elementary school.  So I stopped that and starting thinking about the style of HSing that attracted me the most  – unit studies.

With unit studies, you pick a subject your child is interested in – baseball, princesses, dinosaurs, LEGOs, baking, whatever – and learn about it.  While learning about the subject, you find the math, reading, writing, science and social studies within it.  Math is in the measuring of ingredients and doubling or halving a recipe, comparing the sizes of dinosaurs or using multiplication to find out how many LEGO bricks are in a structure your child built.  You and your child will read books from the library and research found on the internet.  Writing will happen when your child journals about all the things he is doing and learning or penpaling with an expert in the field or another child with the same interests.  Think of all the new spelling words you will come across while learning about your subject?  The beauty of unit studies is that you don’t pick a “school” subject and try to make it interesting, you take something your child finds interesting and turn that into learning.

As part of supply gathering, I bought some great maps at Costco for $7/each.  They are over 3′ x 4′ and laminated.  I have one of the US and one of the World hanging in the upstairs hallway.  I bought one of the Solar System, too, but returned it.  It was covered so much in these cartoon characters and descriptions of who they are, that you couldn’t see the Solar System, itself!  The US map includes pictures of all state flags and the World map includes pictures of all the country flags.  I’ve learned from years of being B’s mom that my suggestion of or push towards something is turnoff #1 to him.  So I put up the maps and didn’t say a word.  I noticed B was disappearing for 10 – 20 minutes a couple of times a day and I would find him in the upstairs hallway.  I didn’t mention the maps; just told him I was curious where he was.  Then I woke up one morning to find a yellow thumb tack in each of the 2 maps exactly where we live.  :o)  When I came downstairs he said, “Did you see the tacks in the maps, Mama?”  “Yes. Why are they there?”  “It’s where we live, of course!  Didn’t you KNOW that,” he asked.  Last weekend we were driving to a reunion with my elementary school peeps and B called out from the back seat, “That building is flying the Texas flag.  And if you take off the star, it would be the Checky flag.”  I look over my shoulder and we were passing a Texas Roadhouse restaurant, in fact flying the Texas flag.  When we got home, he showed me the other flag he was referring to, the Czech Republic flag, and I could see the similarity without the star.  He not only made us proud, he made us confident in our decision to HS him.  He let us know, he IS learning, he IS going to be OK.  So, maps has turned out to be our 1st unit study.

I got something off Freecycle last week and made him hold my phone and use the GPS and tell me where to go.  A workbook I bought last month to look through for ideas actually has a whole section on maps.  We are visiting New England soon and I’ve shown him on the map where it is and all the states we’ll go through to get there.  I am going to have my dad go over the route on the map with B and then have him be in charge of navigating.  Outside of maps, there is so much history to see and learn about in New England!  We are currently reading a fictional book about an 8 yr old boy, two 14 yr olds, and a freed slave who happened to be on the Dartmouth during the Boston Tea Party and are trying to escape the city to Philadelphia w/o being caught by the Red Coats.  He is really interested.  And that will make him interested in Boston sites more than just showing up at the city, pointing them out and trying to get him to listen to a tour guide explain why a place is famous.  I am currently looking for free, printable coloring pages online for New England.  If you find any good ones, leave me a comment with a link, please.  Thanks!

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