Exploring the World: Charlotte Mason and Geography
As we finish up this first year of Ambleside Online, I like to reflect on the year and look at what worked and what didn’t. One thing that we enjoyed the most was Charlotte Mason’s approach to geography through living books.
I am always looking for fun and innovative ways to spark curiosity and bring what we are learning about to life. How can this be done with geography and map work? Enter Charlotte and living books.
Through the use of living books, narration, and engaging map activities, Charlotte Mason believed that geography truly can come alive, allowing the child to explore the globe and the lives of people in different parts of the world. In this post, I want to share my own experience implementing Charlotte’s methods and how we read “Paddle to the Sea” to introduce the wonders of the Great Lakes and the surrounding areas.
When it comes to teaching geography, Charlotte believed in going beyond the mundane textbook exercises and instead using living books to capture the child’s imagination. By choosing books that narrate the experience of people living in various regions, my son was able to be transported to different cultures, environments, and the ways of life (as was I). I was inspired by this approach and going by Ambleside Online‘s recommendation we used the book “Paddle to the Sea” by Holling C. Holling for geography this year.
“Paddle to the Sea” follows a remarkable tale of a small wooden canoe carved by a young Native American boy. He places paddle into the Lake Superior with hopes of it reaching the sea. The story takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, providing a rich tapestry of geographical landmarks along the way. We were engaged in this story from beginning to end and it instilled a deeper appreciation for the diverse landscapes and people in these regions. So no only are we learning geography, but also history.
To supplement the book, my son would narrate each chapter. I encouraged him to retell the story in his own words. This is a fundamental element to Charlotte Mason. This allows for him to externalize the story and remember it. The story of Paddle to the Sea has become etched into our minds and is an unforgettable story.
Additionally, we used Beautiful Feet Book’s blank maps so we could identify key landmarks and study the geographical features of each location. By placing Paddle’s journey in the context of the real world, we were able develop a deeper understanding of the physical geography and gained a sense of the people and cultures that inhabit these areas.
We could take this book even further by visiting some of these landmarks. We live fairly close to Lake Superior, but my son has a whole road trip mapped out to go see Niagara Falls. He wants to see first hand how big the waterfall really is and imagine watching paddle going over it.
So, I would say that even for today’s student, Charlotte Mason has revolutionized the way I will be teaching and learning geography. By using narration, living books, and map work we will be learning about the world around us. Through the journey of “Paddle to the Sea” we have developed a deeper appreciation for the Great Lakes and it has sparked our curiosity to visit these locations.
As our children’s educators, we have a unique opportunity to inspire and spark a love for learning. I truly believe by approaching geography this was we are doing just that. Have you considered incorporating Charlotte Mason’s method into geography?
I'm Julia Mederich - My husband Jordan and I have 3 boys (7, 4, and 2) and a girl on the way. We are a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooling family and enjoy going on nature adventures, reading aloud, and learning through play.
We live in Northwest Wisconsin.
I'm excited you're here! And hope this content inspires you on your homeschooling journey.
”Home is the nicest word there is.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder