An article in the NZ Herald this month (September 2002) told how a survey of nearly 3,000 school children found “that many children have a limited
knowledge of New Zealand facts and history. Only 33 per cent of Year 4 pupils (aged 8-9) and 59 per cent of Year 8s (aged 12-13) could pinpoint their country on a world map.”

Well, we’ve not had that problem! Maybe that’s because first of all I love geography and maps myself and am always looking something up.

But when we once fostered and home educated an eight-year-old who knew little, we found a fun way to make him look like an Einstein. A trip to the library secured a couple of those great National Geographic maps of continents.  He taped South America on the big window and taped a blank sheet of newsprint over the top. It was fun tracing the continent with a bold felt pen because it didn’t involve books or reading or sitting at a desk. He learned all about bays & peninsulas & river mouths & islands in the process. Then he traced the national borders and put big dots for the capital cities.

The next part was hard, but made more tolerable because I sat with him the whole time helping him with encouraging words: writing out the names of each of the countries in the continent on some card. I made it interesting by telling what little I knew about each of the countries as he wrote them out, and found that my memory had some really cute little snippets stored away once I started searching for them. Cutting the names into individual cards was an enjoyable task.

Then his job was to match each card to the correct country he had outlined on his map, now stretched out on the table, using the National Geographic map as a guide. We would do what he remembered several times a day and would add new ones as he was able. After he’d mastered about four countries, he discovered he knew more than most adults, and this motivated him greatly. Soon he knew all 13 South American countries from memory. Every adult who arrived would be met with an invitation to look at his map…..and then be handed the 13 innocent-looking cards and challenged to place them correctly! None could do it!

Let me tell you, this was really impressive to all the friends and neighbours skeptical about home education, and made a visit by the ERO officer really plain sailing, when in fact the little guy’s maths and writing skills simply weren’t there. And as a result each of our other children chose a different continent, and soon each one was an expert in a different part of the world. So when we started reading Operation World to learn of the state of Christianity in different countries, our children’s appetite for more geographical information had already been sharpened.

There are some great interactive geography games you can download from the internet….for free! Check it out at the Owl & Mouse Educational Software site:

Blank map printouts are available at:                     

From Keystone Magazine
September 2002 , Vol. VIII No. 5
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389

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