;e Classical Homeschooler
Teaching our children to draw and memorize the world is a priceless gi;.
As a homeschool parent, one of my chief delights is the recovery of lost skills and knowledge. According to national statistics, geography is one of the
most neglected subjects in schools today. If your education was like mine, the
exposure to countries, capitals, mountains, and rivers was negligible. Years
ago, when I began researching the classical model, I discovered how students
formerly learned about geography and
began to put those methods to use in
my own home. Now, many years later, I
have re;ned my understanding of this
neglected subject through writing curriculum for homeschool communities
and through designing summer training
camps for students and parents.
Principle #1: In order to really
learn about the globe, students
should learn to draw the
continents and countries.
In modern classrooms today, teachers
distribute photocopied maps for students
to label and even o;er multiple-choice
answers that correspond to letters on a
pre-printed map. When students learn
geography in this way, the information
is stored only in short-term memory. In
contrast, consider how students learned
geography prior to the invention of the
photocopier: Each student in the class
received a turn with the geography book.
Using a blank piece of paper or a slate,
students copied the map they saw in the
book and then labeled it.
;e ;rst step to learning world geog-
raphy, then, is to practice cartography,
which is the art of drawing maps. ;is
method ensures that students practice
the following skills:
Because students have employed many
skills to reproduce a map, they are creating many pathways in their brains for
storing and retrieving their geography
lessons. With enough practice and repetition, this method ensures that the
information will be stored in their long-term memory.
Principle #2: Start with the very
;rst basics of geography—the
equator, the great circles, and the
Very young students can begin by learning about how we divide up our globe. To
begin, have your child turn an 8½ x 11
sheet of paper so that the long side is at
the top (landscape). ;en, have him fold
the paper in half from top to bottom. ;e
long line across the middle of their page
can be traced and labeled as the equator.
Students will need to add two lines north
of the equator to represent the Tropic of
Cancer and the Arctic Circle and two
lines south of the equator to represent
the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle. Repeat this lesson with your
family until everyone can complete it
quickly and easily.
;e next step is to practice adding
blobs for each of the seven continents. At
this stage, students do not need to worry
about replicating the exact shape of each
continent. Instead, they should draw
large or small circles or ovals to represent
each continent. What they should pay attention to is where the continents should
be drawn in relation to the great circles
they have placed on their map. For example, North America should be drawn
so that its top is above the Arctic Circle
line on the map and its lower end is below the Tropic of Cancer.
A;er the continents are on the map,
label the oceans. Again, repeat this lesson with your family until everyone can
complete it quickly and easily.
A;er students have mastered the great
circles, the continent “blobs,” and the
oceans, they are ready to add more detail.
Choose one continent at a time and ask
students to practice drawing the outline
until they can produce a decent approximation of the actual shape. Once each
continent outline has been mastered,
children can expand their knowledge of
that continent. ;ey should learn how to
add the borders for countries and to label
capitals, mountains, and rivers.
If this seems too di;cult, consider the
following two real-life examples. First, I