Our kids’ favorite subject is the one I don’t teach, at least, not in the traditional sense with tests, textbooks, a teacher’s manual and all that. I’m still trying to decide if that makes me a horrible teacher, or if relaxed homeschooling is really all it’s cracked up to be.
I’m going with the latter.
The subject they love most?
It looks like this…
Years ago, when my siblings and I were being homeschooled through the early elementary stage, my Mom had a close friend that lived nearby who also homeschooled. Every other week or so, they’d take turns watching each other’s kids so that one of them could have a few hours alone to get a haircut, grocery shop, slip away unaccompanied to the library, or whatever it was that provided refreshing. (I didn’t realize how much that reprieve meant to my Mom until I started homeschooling!)
We loved it when it was our turn to go to our “Aunt’s” house, especially if we got to stay for lunch! On their twelve-person kitchen table, underneath a clear vinyl tablecloth, was a huge world map, and we spent hours reading out all the capitals and cities while we munched on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was something we looked forward to each visit, and I clearly remember wanting to do the same thing if the Lord ever blessed me with a family of my own.
He did, we’re doing it, and it thrills my heart to see that our children love tabletop geography just as much as I do, but I totally underestimated how much they’d learn!
I don’t “teach” them; they sit at the table for breakfast, lunch, and supper, and the learning happens naturally. It’s a simple matter of observation and participation, fueled by their curious minds and the voracious appetite for knowledge all children are born with.
“Italy looks like a cowboy boot!”
“Did you know Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria! That’s my middle name!”
“Why do some of the islands say ‘United Kingdom’ by them, and some of them say ‘France’? Do they own those countries?”
“This is where Christians are persecuted, right Mom? We should pray for them.”
“How come some flags have the Union Jack in them?”
“Australia is an island, and a continent, and a country all by itself!”
“What language do they speak in Zambia? Zambian?”
“Russia is the biggest country in the world, then Canada. Then what? Brazil? No, I think it’s China.”
“Chile is super long like a noodle! Do they eat chili in Chile?”
“Can we listen to China’s anthem on Daddy’s phone?”
“Why is Alaska part of the United States, and not part of Canada? It looks like it should be.”
If I don’t know the answer, we look it up. Sometimes we’ll do a Unit Study on a country they’re particularly interested in. Every once in awhile, I’ll make a culture’s traditional staple for dinner and they’ll try to guess where it originated from. Sometimes we scatter mini marshmallows over a map and serve them as a treat to the first child who correctly guesses the name of the country underneath.
The best compliment to our world-mapped kitchen table has been Kathy Troxel’s Geography Songs CD. We’ve been listening to it over the past year in the van, and thanks to the power of music and repetition, they have the names, capitals and significant facts of many countries in the world memorized, and know how to find them on the map.
Kathy’s Geography Songs CD (you can listen to samples of all 33 songs here) also teaches you how to sing the states of America in order, the Canadian provinces, names of the continents, oceans, and planets. “The British Isles,” pictured above, is a favorite in our house. My husband and I were particularly amused when our kids wanted to learn more about “the beetles where the Queen lives.” Ha!
If you’re not teaching Geography (Don’t worry; I won’t tell because I’m not either!), just buy yourself three things:
- A map
- A clear vinyl tablecloth
- Kathy Troxel’s Geography Songs CD
Geography will teach itself, and you’ll discover more about the world in the van and at breakfast, lunch, and supper, than you could ever learn in one textbook anyway!
The tabletop learning method is equally effective when the world map is replaced with maps of individual countries, over-sized posters of the human body (if you can stomach looking at the digestive tract while you’re…um…digesting), medicinal plants, fish, minerals, and virtually anything you can think of.