Geography was one of my favorite subjects in school so naturally I wanted to incorporate that into our homeschool. For some reason, I loved looking at maps and learning about other places, but not all of our kids had the same curiosity about it. I wanted to make Social Studies fun through experience so I decided we’d learn about other countries by getting the kids involved.
I’d decide on the country we were going to study and cut out pictures from old magazines like National Geographic and learn about the terrain and people, their basic way of life; superstitions, culture, beliefs, climate, population, and economy (fishing, manufacturing, etc.). Then I’d suspend all other subjects for the day unless they somehow fit into the country we were learning about. I’d then continue it into mealtime and proclaim it “International Night” to expose our family to that specific country’s cuisine.
When we studied Switzerland, for example, we learned about the capital city, looked at pictures of the Alps, read about life in the mountains, learned about their neutral role in WWII, and appreciated the beauty and hazards of the climate there. When mealtime came, they’d learned Switzerland was also known for its varied flavors of cheeses. So, I served a wheel of cheese wedges made in Switzerland that was available at the local grocery store. Each small triangular wedge was individually wrapped in foil with the name of the cheese on it. I’d announce the kind of cheese it was and cut it into small bits so each of us could have a taste. Some were wonderful! However, the kids were quick to make a distasteful face at others which only added to the fun.
For Norway, we learned about the fiords, fishing, and the gorgeous terrain. When someone asked if Norwegian Elkhounds came from there, we found out. We learned about traditions and at mealtime, we ate “kippers” and crackers and laughed at the funny comments about the fish staring at us.
In our study of Germany, of course the tragedy of WWII and the holocaust needed to be included. However, not wanting to leave such extreme sadness in their thoughts, we also discussed German Shepherds and the lack of speed limits on the autobahn, the German highway. The kids learned how to count to ten in German, and included in our meal was “spatzel”, a type of dumpling my German grandmother made me as a child.
Italy included beautiful scenery of the countryside, winemaking, pictures of infamous statues, paintings, and architecture, and an introduction to composers. Of course, we couldn’t study Italy without eating pasta.
Whatever country we discussed, I always used maps and globes. Actually seeing where a place was located was extremely important because the culture was almost always dependent on its borders and climate. Terrain was also crucial whether it was mountainous, desert, or tropical, while shorelines meant a source of marine life for food or trade.
Our family had the privilege of traveling the world through study while learning some wonderfully informative things, but the best part was we had a ‘tastefully’ great time doing it together!