To understand how to use a geography living book, you need to step back first and get to the nitty-gritty of what is geography and what is a living book. Both definitions need to intersect.
Visualizing what geography is can have some kids (and moms) moaning because they may think it means just drawing or labeling maps (snore). Contrary to what some people think, geography is not just a study of maps. That field is cartography.
Geography is so much more, it’s about relationships. The relationship can be people to places, animals to land, earth to air and people to plants to name a few.
Merging Geography with Living Books
Look at expanding the definition of geography to include:
- the science of the earth.
- learning about oceans and any area occupied by water.
- exploring plant life.
- investigating animal life.
- studying what is on the earth, up above, and under the earth like the natural resources.
- understanding people and how they use their natural resources while highlighting their culture.
Geography is learning about our home, which means geography is a bridge to all other fields of study.
It connects math to science, science to history, math to history, and people to the place they call home.
Next, identifying the features of a living book are equally important. Capturing the definition was Charlotte Mason, a 19th century British educator. Many of her principles are valuable and I’ve implemented them in my many years of homeschooling. And though I do follow more of a unit study method, many Charlotte Mason methods including the use of twaddle-free living books are part of my unit studies.
Pulling the definition up close and analyzing (you know I like the details), it helps sometimes to understand what is not a living book.
Look at these things that are not traits of a living book:
- A textbook.
- A dry factual book.
- Any book created for the sole purpose of meeting today’s educational standards.
- A book that is dumbed-down meaning that it was intentionally simplified to appeal to more people.
- It means an unabridged version, but not always. It’s something I look at, however, when judging the value of a book.
- It doesn’t always mean it’s a classic, but a lot of times it does.
- And contrary to some popular beliefs, it’s not always a book where a child feels like he can escape to another place. A romance novel can do that, but that doesn’t mean one that exploits sexual fantasy is a good choice for reading.
The Power of Geography Living Books
Look at these things that are tell-tale signs of a living book.
- Opposite a textbook is a book written by an author that is passionate about the subject. He either is knowledgeable about the subject because it could be his lifework or it’s personal experience.
- Instead of presenting dry hard facts, a reader is drawn in through a story, which is always the best way of remembering any set of facts.
- Instead of writing to meet national standards, a writer may unintentionally offend the politically correct view or standard. Not that we are looking for shock value in a book when we allow our kids to read books that do. But we are opening windows in their mind and stimulating their imagination. This can’t be done when all the thinking is done for a child. However, one common weave is the power to influence children in a positive way.
- Too, it’s not that we don’t want to embrace the modern world, but older books were written at a time when stunning imagery engages the memory and makes the words memorable.
5-Point Checklist: Geography Living Books
Armed with these two sets of ideals, merging them is essential before you can evaluate if a book is a geography living book.
Look at this 5-point checklist, which gives you a beginning point.
►ONE. Like history, which should be written in a narrative format about the people and places your child wants to learn about, geography should also be written by a good story-teller who unfolds his plot.
►TWO. Instead of textbooks written based on a survey of monetary gain and approved by review committees because they meet standards, a geography living book is written based on enthusiasm, passion and personal experiences. Look for clues in the summary or passage. For example, V.M. Hillyer wrote one of our favorite geography living books for young children, A Child’s Geography of the World and he states: “As I had been a traveler for many years, had visited most of the countries of the Globe, and in actual mileage had been five times the distance around the World, I thought I would write a geography myself.”
►THREE. In addition, geography living books should encourage a child to think not only about the subject at hand, but to make good choices in his life. Choosing excellence and goodness should become a practice. Is that a lot to ask for from a geography living book? Look at this passage from the same book, “There is a saying that “Good fences make good neighbors,” but that depends on the neighbors.” Statements like this leads your child to make conclusions as to the type of person or neighbor he wants to be.
►FOUR. Learning dry and boring statistics and repeating abstractions instead of events are things that are absent in a geography living book. Look again at another passage from A Child’s Geography of the World, “To me, as a child, geography was a bugbear of repellent names – Climate and Commerce, Manufactures and Industries, and products, products, PRODUCTS. Geography was a “stomach” geography; the “head” and “heart” were left out.” How did geography become just a study of export, import, coloring flags and memorizing barley, rye and wheat as the crops produced by a country? (snooze)
►FIVE. Similar to any living book, a geography living book, no matter when it was written is one that is alive and relevant today. The world changes; facts in an old book, which are not true today doesn’t mean the rest of it is useless. Instead of viewing that as a roadblock, I view it as an opportunity to probe and investigate. Laying a foundation of interest in the world around us and a thirst for knowledge that a child wants to quench in his lifetime should be the goal of a living book. Classics have an enduring quality that lasts generations. Think about classics that you read in your childhood or that your parent’s read. I couldn’t wait to share with my children classics like Heidi, Raggedy Ann & Andy and The Story of Ferdinand. Further, we have an inborn need to communicate and converse with conviction through our words and our vocabulary. One book, Study Is A Hard Work, which I love, the author remarks, “Mental laziness and limited vocabulary are usually bedfellows in the same brain.” Rich and colorful vocabulary found in older books adds meaning not only to a study of geography, but makes an impression in a child’s mind.
Encapsulating the definition of a geography living book helps me to not forget what my educational standards are as I continue to homeschool and I hope it helps you too.
In upcoming articles, I will be sharing lists of geography living literature.
Do you have any favorite geography living books?
Also, look at these tips for The Anatomy of a Well Laid Out Homeschool High School Geography Curriculum, Homeschool Geography Go To Resources and 3 Reasons Hands-on Geography is Important in Middle and High School Homeschool.
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