Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Family Geography Studies

Some fellow homeschoolers recently asked me to share our Family Geography studies here on the blog.  This is something we do in the first grade as a way to learn some geography and history that is relevant to the children's own background.  It is a suggested topic of study in the plans from Mater Amabilis, a free online "curriculum" of sorts.  I use the quotation marks because it is more a set of suggested resources and guidelines rather than a boxed curriculum of texts.  If you click on Level 1B, you will find the guidelines and suggestions for Family Geography.  Below are some photos of how we have implemented this study in our own family.

Three things that have been very helpful to us for Family Geography:

1. Use of Google Maps.  We have looked up addresses of where parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents have lived.  Using the satellite and street view shots, we can look at the houses, the yards, and nearby landmarks such as rivers and oceans.  My mom and I even "drove" around on the street view for a small town in Ohio where she lived for about six months in the 50s as a toddler, armed with only a photo of the house... and we identified it after about an hour of looking!

2. Obtaining old family photos.  I particularly have pulled out photos that show the houses where people have lived with the family members outside of them or of other geography of the area.  There is one old photo of a great-grandparent at a major river in his hometown, and then we visited that same spot and took a photo of our children standing there.  The old photos have been scanned so I can print them, and then the girls have glued these photos into their Family Geography books. 

3. Visiting the old homes of grandparents and great-grandparents when possible.  If they don't live there any more, we have driven by and taken photos as we pointed them out to the kids.

I have done this with my oldest daughter and am currently doing it with my second one.  So at the beginning of the first grade school year, I have given the child a blank book which we put all of our maps, photos, and information in.  The following photos are of some of the pages from these books.

We printed a family tree template found online and filled in the child, parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.  We also included the birth and death dates and birthplaces of each.

Map page showing locations of each family member's birthplace

We tied in landform study... Georgia, our home state, has almost all the major landforms and bodies of water.  One relative grew up in a town on Lake Superior; one alongside the St. John's River... I had these state sheets from an old teacher workbook and made copies of some of the states that were relevant.  We also visited major landforms in some of the states... my husband grew up in Tennessee, so we went to the highest point in the state, Clingman's Dome, and spent time in the Smoky Mountains.

Page on how my parents came to Georgia and where I was born, as well as my own children's birthplace

My parents were both born in Florida... this page shows where they were born, how they met, and shows some photos of them in front of their homes.  We compared a bay to a gulf since my dad grew up on the St. Petersburg peninsula, in between the Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

More Florida photos... my mom as a baby on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville

We made some recipes that had to do with states or family members... this is peanut butter balls for Georgia.  My daughter narrated the steps and I typed them for her to make this page along with prints of photos of her making the recipe.

Recipes related to my grandmother

Map of Tennessee to show the towns where my husband and his relatives were born

My daughters standing in the same place by the Cumberland River as the old photo of their great grandfather

Another suggestion was to learn about saints from any of the states with a family history... my mom's father was from Pennsylvania, so we made pages on St. Katherine Drexel and St. John Neuman.  We have also visited the site of the first Mass in St. Augustine, FL, and this would make another interesting page or pages for those with relatives in Florida.

There are so many little tidbits they can pick up through this... my grandfather's family owned a slate mine in Pennsylvania, so we found the possible site of it on Google Maps, the house where he lived, how far it was to the university he attended... they could see the mountainous landscape of that region and learn that slate is mined there.  We have a piece of a chalkboard that came from the slate there.  It is neat to tie all these things together!

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