Here’s a funny story about the geography memory work for Classical Conversations. I will tell you the moral of the story ahead of the story: simple doesn’t mean nothing.
Our first year of CC we didn’t do much. I had a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, a 1-year-old (and found out about baby #4 in January). Oh, and there was a hike – literally. Every week, when we went to Community Day, we drove an hour, got everyone piled out of the car, and hiked downhill to the classroom. I didn’t really have much energy for more than just listening to the memory work. So, most of the time, that is what we did. We listened in the car every week, for an hour. And we would add a bit here and there.
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Memory Master at Five?
Fast forward to January of our first year of CC. I had just discovered there’s another one on the way. And we go to our community day, hike down the hill, and at the morning meeting with the whole community, our Director tells us about Memory Master. She says a couple of things about it, but she ends by saying there is a t-shirt given to those who attain Memory Master. My little 5-year-old’s eyes lit up. “Mama, I want to be a Memory Master! You get a t-shirt!!”
My newly weary Mama brain says, “Sure. But I think that is for older kids.”
Over the next few weeks, we had a similar conversation each week. And I am not proud to say, my 5-year-old won. In the end, after all my convincing her that this was a difficult task, and it was for older kids, and there would be time for her to do it later; she got her way. I sat down with her and looked into her half-decade-old eyes and said, “Sweetie, if you really want to do this, I will do everything in my Mama power to help you. You will have to do the work, but I will be there to give you all the support you need.”
Two weeks later, I was casually discussing this predicament with my F/E director when she, just as casually, mentioned that the Geography memory work required the kids to be able to identify the locations on an unmarked map.
“um….Come again?” I had it in my brain that a Memory Master needed to know the list (simply the list) of locations for each week. Nope. What was worse, we had almost never looked at the map all year.
It didn’t get any better. I decided to see where we were at by asking her to identify the continents and oceans. Not. A. One. Nothing. She had all the lists in her brain, but nada in terms of placing them on a map. We had a LONG way to go if she was going to be a Memory Master.
By keeping our Classical Conversations memory work too simple, I had done my little learner a severe disservice by doing almost nothing.
The story does have a happy ending. The happy ending is: she made it! She became a Memory Master – it was such an accomplishment. What is more: when I asked her what her favorite subject was for her first year, she responded with an enthusiastic, “Geography!”
First-Time Students – a bit of advice
I tell that story to tell you this: even if this is your child’s first time through a cycle, do the most basic map work. Take a map out (make copies of it from the Foundations guide and put it in a plastic sleeve). Listen to the geography locations have them point to the places. Oh, and always do it on an unmarked map – the blackline masters in the guide. When you have a strong reader, you would be surprised at the hunting and pecking that goes on. That will give them all the foundation they need for success in Geography.
If your child struggles to learn Geography like mine did; I cannot recommend more highly CC Happy Mom’s Geography songs. She works hard to show you how to help your student sing it, show it, and sign it. Her hand motions may be taken or left depending on your student. But the tunes she uses are fun and memorable. Again, not without the use of a map!! You can order her songs through her website or watch them on YouTube – my kids think it is a treat whenever a computer goes on during school time!
The Second Time Through
Fast forward three years from our first year and we are embarking on our first repeat cycle. The Geography is much the same. But the second time through a cycle, I believe we should challenge our students to do One Thing More in one subject of their choice. A small bit more than what they did the last time through. To engage their brains to think a little deeper is the goal.
I have seen lists filled with “extras” for already overwhelmed parents. That is not what this is. This is as simple as I can make it, while doing One Thing More. If you are interested in other One Thing More lists, I will be adding them this month as we prepare for our Cycle 2 to begin again. They should all be up by the end of August 2019. Currently, One Thing More Science is up for you to check out.
Geography is a unique subject in that it seems to be incredibly simple or overly hard (hello, learning to hand draw one’s own map from memory!), especially for this age group. Our students going through either Foundations or Essentials on a repeat cycle are not quite ready for the Challenge level. But if they choose Geography as their One Thing More subject, we need to give them a little extra.
Splitting the difference
To split the difference between first cycle Foundations and Challenge, I mixed up my list a bit. It has resources and activities for the actual memorizing of locations on a map which is good. But it also has some simple books about the places themselves. Much of Geography learning is cultural learning, at least if you are doing it well. Thus, these One Thing More Geography students will get some much-needed culture this year. I tended to add cultural resources when the memory work strayed from Europe since the focus of much of Cycle 2 is Europe.
On the topic of book recommendations for kids, literal books have been written. I am not reinventing the wheel here. So, if you have a kid who is super interested in Geography and other cultures, I recommend Jamie C. Martin’s excellent Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at A Time. It is filled with wonderful book recommendations. Keeping it simple is what the goal is here, so if you are a completionist, don’t even think about buying that book and starting to “add to your library.” I see you. I know you. And I am you.
So without further ado (you came for the overly long story, right?) and trying not to over-explain what is supposed to be simple,
Here’s the list of resources:
- Geography A to Z A Picture Glossary by Jack Knowlton
- Trivium Tables: Geography from Classical Conversations (1 per student)
- CC Happy Mom’s Cycle 2 Geography Songs – we purchase the MP3s
- Maps by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinska – I hesitated to add this resource but I just kept coming back to it. It is such a fun feast for the eyes. I can imagine my student spending hours looking at all the details. And I did say I was trying to keep it simple. NOTE: It is kind of hard to find (especially at a good price) but I found it on Christian Book Distributors for $24.99 – on backorder. If you can’t wait that long, it is available at Beautiful Feet Books for $10 more.
- Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins – I discovered this beautiful book at a library sale this summer and I think it is perfect for week 11. It is adapted from a Russian folktale. My older student will easily be able to retell it to her younger siblings.
- A Story, A Story by Gail E. Haley – what a treasure this book is, especially as an audio book! There are a number of Anansi books to choose from, too.
- Where the Flame Trees Bloom by Alma Flor Ada. A story about growing up in Cuba, the geographical description at the beginning is so helpful for kids thinking about Caribbean geography.
And here are some activities to enhance Cycle 2 Geography:
- Spaghetti Geography – this is just what it sounds like. Using cooked spaghetti noodles to form the lines of continents and countries. I made it a little easier for you by writing up the instructions and preparing the outlines.
- Pin-Prick Continents – based on a Montessori practice for fine-motor skills. This project invites the student to create a world map with pin pricked construction paper attached to blue poster board.
- Build origami mountains – this tutorial is so helpful, even beginners can do this. And the practice of creating one for each set of European mountains will build confidence. Grab a simple pack of origami paper and have fun!
- Asian Kites for Kids: Make and Fly Your Own Asian Kites by Wayne Hosking. I set this for two weeks of the match-up. We will feel accomplished if we can choose one of the four kite options and get it finished in that time.
One more thing…
If you are like me as a homeschool mom, you have a hard time holding back on the riches that lay before your kids. Especially after watching a video of a kid drawing a map from memory. We are still really early to that train if we have kids in the Foundations and Essentials years. So I hesitate to add this resource to the list, but here goes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Draw Europe by Kristen J. Draeger – This is a resource more for parents than kids at this point. There is plenty of time in the future years to draw maps. But, with that said, we worked on a little bit of map drawing this past year and found it very fun and challenging. If your child is too intimidated to try it (as mine was), try tracing first. This is a lead learner project if I ever saw one!