Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Charlotte Mason’s ideas about geography, from Home Education (Volume 1) pages 271-279:

Mason disagreed that geography should be taught as the memorization of facts.  She wrote that geography should be interesting to a child, and that we remember stories we hear from our friends who have traveled, as well as from books written by explorers.  (She mentions The Voyages of Captain Cook.)

Mason wrote that children should spend long hours outdoors, playing, to see how the natural world worked.  (For example, water flows downhill, just as rivers flow down mountains to the ocean.)  The teacher/parent should read stories that follow the adventures of a traveler to get children interested in the world's regions.  One book Mason suggested for 1st and 2nd graders was World at Home by Mary and Elizabeth Kirby.

She also wrote that by the end of 1st grade, a child:
-has read of hot countries and cold countries,
-has observed the seasons and the rising and setting of the sun,
-has said to himself––
     "Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
     How I wonder what you are!"––
-Knows something of ocean and sea,
-has watched the tide come in and go out,
-has seen many rough sketch-maps made and
-has made some for himself, and
-has, no doubt, noticed the criss-cross lines on a 'proper' map;
-knows that the earth is round
-can describe the motions of the earth (rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun)

Other books she mentioned were Tropical World by Hartwig, Polar World by Hartwig, Livingstone's Missionary Travels, and Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (she said by Bishop, but the book I found from the 19th century was written by Bird), omitting what one thought necessary to omit.

[R]ead to him...–in fact, any interesting, well-written book of travel.

The goal is to give the child "intimate knowledge" about all the details of a region.  What people do for work, what they do for play, what plants grow there, what the climate is like, what animals live there, what the region produces, what the physical geography is, and what the culture is.

Mason wrote that by age nine, a child should have had about 6 travel books read to him, and these six should be from all over the world.

When you come to a bit of physical geography, go deeper into the how and why, for example, if the region has a volcano, learn about how and why volcanoes work.

Make maps using a sand tray.  Sketch maps to show the traveler's progress.  Compare sketch-maps to complete maps.

Mason wrote that pictorial readings and talks introduce a child to geography, but then the child should move on to maps.

[G]eography should be learned chiefly from maps.

A child should learn how to interpret and use a map.

To do this, Mason suggested that a child:
1st)Draw a plan of his schoolroom (or house), according to scale.
2nd)Draw a plan of a field (or park)
3rd)Consider how to make the plan of his or her town

...and be carried gradually from the idea of a plan to that of a map; always beginning with the notion of an explorer who finds the land and measures it, and by means of sun and stars, is able to record just where it is on the earth's surface, east or west, north or south.

Then a child could go on to learning about ideas such as latitude and longitude, the sea, rivers, and mountains.

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