This big map hangs in our breakfast nook for easy reference. When N. first started investigating the map, he was confused by the colors. He thought there was some connection between all the countries that are green on our map, for example, and when he saw other maps that randomly used other colors to differentiate countries, he thought those maps were wrong. I thought this was really interesting. He has now learned to look past the colors (a hard thing for a kid to do!) to focus on the shapes and locations of the countries.
Another abstract concept that had been hard for him to grasp is the nesting relationship of city, county, state, country. He seems to have this down pretty consistently now, although the fact that New Mexico is a state but Mexico is a country and New York is a state but York is a city caused some confusion and then turned into a favorite joke.
How is it that geography comes up in our conversations all the time? N.'s passion for old buildings naturally leads to this as we talk about the cities and countries in which his favorite buildings are located. The Random Encyclopedia Entry exercise which Tim and N. do almost daily is heavily weighted towards geography, due to the nature of encyclopedias. We subscribe to National Geographic in N.'s name (the real deal, not the kids' mag); we talk about it as his magazine and he looks forward to its appearance in our mailbox every month. Our family members have done a lot of travelling lately: my sister lived in Abu Dhabi for
With all these, we go back to the big map to reinforce and make connections. When I was in 5th grade, we spent a ridiculous amount of time on a project called "State Reports," which consisted of meticulously copying out information about all fifty states from the World Book Encyclopedia onto lined loose-leaf paper. We drew little state birds and flags, copied out the capitol cities and major manufacturing products. It was the ultimate busy-work; entirely unengaging, it took forever and I at least retained almost nothing from it. In contrast, I hope that since it is contextualized and interest-driven, N.'s exploration of geography has a more lasting impact.