Archive for August, 2012

A Week of Tapestry Geography

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Before I begin… a little disclaimer. Geography has not traditionally been a huge priority in our homeschool. While my son, Nathan, excels at this subject, his sisters and his mother do not. About two years ago, Bethany begged me to teach her geography and I felt like a terrible failure. “Mom, it’s embarrassing how little I know. Nathan knows the whole world and I can’t even find Texas!” she wailed in exasperation. After looking up where Texas was, I showed her. (Just kidding but I am about that bad.) That was a wake up call. Jobe Academy needed to take geography a little more seriously.

Our curriculum, Tapestry of Grace, integrates geography with history, Bible and literature, government and philosophy studies. It is wonderful. Each week there are maps to print and a list of geography terms and countries, rivers, mountain ranges, etc for students to find. It made sense to start with our own curriculum. (Yes, I ignored that little section of our curriculum for several years just because I wanted to get to the “good” stuff… the writing, history and lit!)

Tapestry has an impressive geography project recommended in the curriculum that involves base maps and transparencies. For several years I’ve dreamed of doing it. I probably will some day. However, for lack of time and organization, I have not as of yet. Instead, I simply asked the children to label their maps using a globe, the terms, their printed maps from our Map Aids CD-Rom, and their mother who was armed with the answer key. This technique was a step ahead of where we’d been. However, the children really didn’t retain much. Also, for my youngest school-aged child, the writing was tiresome.

Over this past summer, I came across a fantastic resource – the Tapestry of Grace Yahoo groups. In each year’s files, someone kindly donated documents containing all the geography terms for each week of the curriculum. They are designed to be printed on clear mailing labels so that grammar students can peel and stick instead of write, write, write. I’ve adapted the use of these documents and now have a geography plan that my children are really enjoying.

At the start of each unit, I print on white card stock, laminate, cut out, and then magnetize (with magnetic tape) the geography terms.

On the first day of our Tapestry studies, I have the children locate the geography terms using our globe and several Atlases I’ve accumulated. The Atlas of World History is a resource on my wish-list, but usually, the books I own suffice. My older children write on their printed maps. My 5th grader uses the labels. We use magnets to adhere her weekly map to a magnetic board and then she puts each magnetized label where it belongs. I am still armed with the answer key but I have found that it is very worthwhile to have a few good history Atlases. You never know, the children may actually read all the facts about the maps they are studying!

Printed map from the Map-Aids Cd-Rom. The children keep these in their notebooks for easy reference.

After the first day of “work, (finding and labeling,)” geography gets fun. I set up all the terms for the week on my giant magnetic whiteboard along with the a large map from Geography Matters. I can not recommend their “Whole Kit and Kaboodle” maps enough – 26 large, laminated maps for $50. This, of course, is not a mandatory Tapestry of Grace resource. However, I like the fact that it gives my children another perspective of the places they are studying. If you don’t have these maps, you can certainly continue to use the printed maps from Map Aids. A neat place to label these smaller maps would be your refrigerator. Just hang it eye-level for your child and ask for several labels to be placed on the map before each meal or snack 🙂

The children enjoy this activity. After putting the labels on the big map a few times, they like to “see who’s fastest!” They are challenged to go to the answer keys if they can’t figure out where one of the labels goes. Here is our completed map for Year 2, Week 2. (You may click any picture to see it enlarged.)

If the children need help, I just let them look at my laptop with the answer key for the week. After a time or two, they usually can label the map from memory.

Actually, not the same week’s plan… but an answer key for another week.

I store the labels in envelopes labeled for each week and put them in a small accordion file.

And that is it! You could test at the end of the week by just asking them to point to the locations. Of course, you could print another map from Map Aids and require pencil labeling, if you like. Or you can skip the test and ask them to do the magnetic “puzzle” one more time without looking at the key.

Today Sarah, who is now about the age Bethany was when we had our geography lesson on Texas, excitedly exclaimed, “My history book just mentioned Italy, Corsica and Sicily, and I know EXACTLY where those places are!” After this fun discovery, she ran to the map just to confirm her new knowledge and yes, she was right! (For a 5th grader, that is all the “test” I need!)

And Bethany, by the way, no longer complains that she can’t find Texas. I think that today she beat her siblings on the speed test 🙂


To access the geography labels, go to the Tapestry Yahoo year plan group (whatever year you are studying.) Each year has a sidebar called “files.” Click in the files and then click on “geography.” You will need to join the group first.

Year 1     Year 2     Year 3     Year 4