Geography is a subject that I haven’t given a lot of priority to around here – until this fall! Last month we received a fantastic United States geography curriculum to review called Drawing Around the World: USA by Brookdale House.
I had just been reading about Charlotte Mason’s methods of teaching geography when this curriculum became available for review. It was exciting because this Drawing Around the World: USA seemed to coincide with Charlotte Mason’s super simple guidelines to teaching geography. Only this was a tad bit better, because everything was already laid out for me and I really didn’t have to use a single brain cell to make a go of it!
Drawing Around the World: USA
Drawing Around the World: USA is one of two books in the Brookdale House Geography Drawing Series. Also, available is Drawing Around the World: Europe. The curriculum is available as a printed book for $25.95 or as an e-book for $22.95. I was given the electronic version to review. The purpose of the program is to teach students to be able to draw, from memory, the entire Unites States of America. How cool is that?
This curriculum is super simple and easy to use and it only requires a few minutes of time each day. Each week the student studies one or more states by filling in a page of interesting state facts. Then, throughout the week, the student will draw that state and any previous states learned, on a dotted outline of a map. Then on the last day of the week the student will draw the states, from memory, on a blank sheet of paper. By the end of the curriculum, the student will hopefully have learned how to draw the entire Unites States.
The weekly schedule is simple and straightforward.
Each week the student will repeat this process:
Day 1: Study the New State
Complete the State Fact Table
Locate and Label each new state onto the dashed, black and white map.
Draw all states studied thus far.
Day 2: Locate and label each new state onto the dashed, black and white map.
Draw all states studied thus far
Day 3: Locate and label each new state onto the dashed, black and white map.
Draw all states studied thus far
Day 4: List, from memory, the states studied thus far.
Using the blank textbox, draw, also from memory, all of the states you have learned.
For us, each day’s assignment didn’t take more than 15- 20 minutes, usually less.
Thoughts and Usage
I was given the digital version of Drawing Around the World: USA, so I began by printing out the file and hole punching the pages to fit inside a 3 ring binder. It was a lot of pages, so I printed out just the first eight weeks worth of lessons. Now, I am so glad I didn’t print out the entire file in the beginning because I found that the curriculum uses two of the same maps several times each week. After discovering this, I laminated those two maps and let my son use a dry erase marker to trace and draw the states. Saved the life of my printer and lots of money in ink! Given the choice, I would definitely opt for the printed book, as the digital file consists of over 300 pages.
The first day of the week, the student learns about a new state, or states. My son enjoyed learning about each new state and I think that learning interesting facts about states helps you to remember them better. For example, my son thought it was so neat that the state bird of Rhode Island is the Rhode Island Red Hen! We have some in our yard!
For filling out the state facts worksheets, I went ahead and purchased the National Geographic Kids United States Atlas, suggested as a way to streamline the process. It was only about $10 on amazon.com and it made filling out the state sheets super easy and lots of fun. In fact, in the front of the atlas is a chart with all the state names and their two letter abbreviation. Much more convenient than looking up that information online. If you get the curriculum, I’d definitely recommend the atlas to be used alongside it!
We followed the suggested weekly schedule pretty closely. Sometimes we chose to take it a little slower and study only one new state a week, instead of two or three. Three new states a week was a little much for us.
Learning interesting state facts and drawing state shapes really made learning geography fun for my son. He never once groaned or complained about doing geography. It’s such a light, fun activity; it almost didn’t seem like schoolwork to him!
The curriculum suggests doing drills for additional memorization. We tried some drills and had fun quizzing and competing against each other. At one point, as I was quizzing my son for the capital of Vermont, my little preschooler shouted out, “Montpelier!” So, I learned that you can keep your little preschoolers in the room while you are working with your other student/students. They’re learning too! Although, my son wasn’t too fond of being outsmarted by his baby sister…
On day one, at the top of the page, the student traces the new state shape and then draws it freehand. Under “Additional Memorization Techniques” at the beginning of the book, the curriculum encourages students to make a picture out of the state to help him remember its individual shape. This was hard for my son. I can see how this technique would really help students memorize state shapes, but it’s a very challenging task. It would be really nice if this was already done for the student. For example, on the state page for Maine, just mentioning that Maine looks somewhat like a mitten would’ve really helped cement that state shape in my son’s head. I think that task is a little too hard for most kids. After all, it was even a challenge for me!
We really enjoyed this curriculum. For me, it’s been super simple and easy to use and for my son it’s made geography an enjoyable, interesting subject. I really can’t wait until my son can draw the entire Unites States by memory!
If you’re interested, Brookdale House has sample pages of Drawing Around the World: USA available for those who want to take a look inside the book.