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.
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!