Several months ago we were reading a delightful book, Schoolroom in the Parlor by Rebecca Caudill, copyright 1959. The book is about the Fairchild family, and how their eldest daughter, Althy, "homeschooled" her younger siblings in their parlor!
After reading a particular passage in the book, we had this wonderful idea for an activity for us. First, let me share the passage from the book with you:
Emmy looked over Chris's shoulder at his geography book.
"You're studying about Arabia, Chris," she said. "Why don't you strike out for Arabia?"
Debby, too, looked over Chris's shoulder. "Why don't we all strike out for Arabia, Miss Althy?" she asked. "Wherever Arabia is," she added.
"I know!" said Bonnie. "Why don't we all play 'If I Had a Boat,' Miss Althy? Can we go to Arabia in a boat?"
Bonnie remembered the day the children in Miss Cora's school had played "If I Had a Boat." Debby had thought up the game when rain had fallen all day, the river had overflowed its banks, the footbridge had washed away, and there seemed no way to go anyplace at all without a boat.
In Debbie's game, the children pretended to get into their boats at the footbridge. Then, looking at the maps in Althy's geography, they rowed down little rivers to big rivers, and down big rivers out to the open sea. Across the oceans they rowed their boats to far-away places that Bonnie had never heard of - the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, the China Sea and the Japan Sea, the Java Sea and the North Sea, the Coral Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
"All right," said Althy. "We'll all play 'If I Had a Boat.' Every day, as long as we're snowbound, we'll visit somebody in a faraway country. Today we'll visit Nader in Arabia."
"Let's hop into our boats and shove off," said Debby.
Chris and Emmy, Debby and Bonnie pushed their chairs away from the fire, spread Chris's geography book on the floor, and sprawled around it. It was open at a map. Althy sat watching, ready to guide them on their voyage.
"We start here," said Chris, pointing to a fine black line that ran across the map. "That's the Poor Folk River that runs in front of our house. And," he continued tracing the line with his finger, "we row down here till we come to the clover Fork. And that's the head of the Cumberland."
"And we row down the Ohio," said Debby, tracing a still heavier line with her finger.
"And then down the Mississippi," said Chris, tracing a still heavier line down the map until it met the big blue stretch of map that Chris said was the Gulf of Mexico. "And from here we row straight across the Atlantic Ocean till we get to - till we get to-" He turned to another map.
"I see!" shouted Emmy. "Till we get to the Mediterranean Sea."
"And right there's Arabia," said Debby, pointing to a brown spot on the map.
What a fun way to learn geography!
After reading this, we immediately started two activities. One in our boat and one in our car! Our boat travels the world's waterways to other lands. Our car travels throughout the United States.
We started with our boat! The only rule was that we had to stay on water routes - no portaging over land formations! This is how our first activity went:
We chose Poland as our first country to visit since some of Rich's (dad) ancestors are from Poland. Our little town of Strasburg, Ohio is right next to a little creek. (Our crayfish and our snail came out of that little creek!) My assumption was that Michael would simply find his way to the Ohio River, down the Mississippi, out through the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic Ocean. Ah, but I was wrong!
We used a local map to locate our town and the Sugar Creek, as well as to use a world map to locate Poland. We decided to try to take our boat into the capital city of Warsaw.
This was the route Michael found for our boat. As he would call out the route, I would write it down:
Wait a minute! We've been to Niagara Falls. You can't go down the Niagara River! We had to land our boat while we tried to figure out what to do. We knew that boats traveled the Great Lakes. There had to be a way to go out of Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. Off to our trusty World Book Encyclopedias we marched.
(I must interject here how much we love our old World Book Encyclopedias! They are copyright 1963 and they are wonderful. One of the more famous homeschool writers has said that encyclopedias are a waste of money. We say that our old World Books are worth a lot! There is so much great information in them, much of it reading almost like a story. I love having answers to our questions right here, right when we want them. If you ever find an old set of these at a garage sale or book sale, snap them up!)
Our World Books didn't disappoint us! We found out about the Welland Ship Canal! I had no idea there was a major canal to transport ships between the two lakes. Forget the Niagara River! We're taking the Welland Ship Canal!
We made it! Now let's see what we can find out about the people.
We read a little bit about Poland and the people from our encyclopedia. One of our Childcraft Books (also from World Book!) had a story from Poland in it, "Near or Far" by Czeslaw Janczarski. We looked at pictures from Poland in our National Geographic Picture Atlas of the World.
I then took a spiral bound notebook and started to keep a journal of our travels. Into the journal, I would transfer all the waterways Michael called out while "guiding the boat." I logged stories we read, books we perused. I also used clip art to print out an outline of the country as well as the flag. We cut these out and glued them into the journal.
(I know you can't see what is written in the book - and these pages in the journal are for India, not Poland! But each country is done the same way. On the left side is the map and the flag, with notes, any pictures we may want to put in, and a list of items/stories we read. On the right side is the log of the route taken to get to the capital city of the country. This picture gives you an idea of what we're doing.)
We labeled the clip art map in the journal with the name of the country and the capital city. I then made a few notes as to what Michael thought was most interesting about Poland:
We next took our boat to New Delhi, India. We followed the same format as above. We left Warsaw, Poland, retracing some of our steps to get back out into the Atlantic. Michael really started to get into this and rather than to take the "easy" route around all the continents, he ducked into the Mediterranean Sea, stopped at Crete to visit a friend :-), and worked his way through the Suez Canal and into the Arabian Sea. We read stories from India, looked at pictures, and read a little about the country and the people. I found a picture of the Taj Mahal on the internet. I printed it and we cut it out to put it in the journal. Once again, we put in a clip art map and flag.
This is a really neat way to not only acquaint Michael with continents, countries, and capital cities, but with water routes as well. I'm learning right along with him! I am amazed at how many named areas of water there are! If we would have done this when he was younger, I'm sure we would have done it on a blanket on the floor, with the maps spread out around us. The blanket would have been our boat, and I would have tipped it over and dumped him out a few times! I bet he'd still like to do that!
Our second activity was to start traveling throughout the United States in our car! I allowed Michael to pick any state as a starting point - except Ohio. I told him we would finish in Ohio and do a unit on Ohio History while we were at it. He chose Colorado to start.
Before we started, I used our Print Artist to print out a map of the United States (sans Alaska and Hawaii for the time being). The map shows state boundaries only. We are also journalizing these travels. Each state is done in the same way:
I then transfer all the information into the journal.
My plan is to continue this broad overview of geography for the remainder of this year (through August). For the next school year, we will then take several countries, one country at a time, and do a more in-depth study of the people, customs, culture, etc.
But for now, we are on our way to Iceland in our boat, and Florida in our car!
(By the way, the clip art we use is Task Force Clip Art - Really Big Edition.)
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