Topographic Maps

We have been learning about elevation and topographic maps and I could tell the kids weren’t quite grasping the idea of contour lines.  They understood that the lines meant a change in elevation, but couldn’t quite visualize the spatial concept of it.  I decided a hands-on lesson was in order. EXPLORATION: Topographic Maps With A Mountain Model I covered our school table with white butcher paper and got some colorful markers, dental floss, and some rulers out.  I made a big lump of salt dough and created a mountain with it in the middle of our table.  The kids all helped sculpt the mountain. We picked up the mountain and one by one, put it right in front of each kid, allowing them to trace the outline of the mountain on the spot in front of them using a marker.  Then we put the mountain back in the middle. Next, … click to read more

Layers of Learning Unit 3-4

History: Reformation Geography: Angola & Zambia Science: Birds The Arts: Reformation Art Description Make a chart discussing the argument between the Catholics and the Protestants during the time of the Reformation and teach your kids your two cents about what you believe.  Play a “Bible Smuggler” game.  Discuss the costs of the salve trade that still plague Angola and how important family and society structures are to individual happiness.  Play a matching game and learn how bird’s bills are shaped to make eating their favorite foods easier. And practice identifying the differences between Reformation and Counter-Reformation art with some simple exercises.  Unit 3-4 includes all of this, plus library lists, printables, and links to take you to the web.  52 pgs, full color. This is a PDF. In each unit you’ll find a recommended library list, important background information about each topic, lots of activities to choose from for kids of … click to read more

Readers’ Theater: A Chinese Tale of Seven Brothers

I was very privileged to go to China recently.  Our parents are living there for several years and teaching English at Nankai University in Tianjin, a city south of Beijing.  They have fallen in love with the people of China, and I treasured the bit of time I got to spend there.  China was a fascinating and beautiful place.  Every inch of it feels infused with history – the stories of centuries of Chinese who have lived, worked, celebrated, and often suffered there. I was most fascinated with the art, archaeology, and stories I learned while there.  I thought you might enjoy this old Chinese tale, written as a readers’ theater to perform as you learn about China.  It is the tale of seven brothers who must go up against the emperor.   Here is the printable PDF version for you. The Seven Chinese Brothers Narrator: Long, long ago, when Ch’in … click to read more

Layers of Learning Homeschool Geography Curriculum-Tuesday

Tuesday is Geography.  This week we’re learning about Australia and New Zealand as part of the Layers of Learning homeschool curriculum. I’ve looked through the Layers pdf for this unit and decided to do a map of each country and look at a few links that lead us to aboriginal art and a link or two to listen to the didgeridoo, a native Australian instrument, being played.  So I print a map for each kid from the printables at the end of the Layers unit. We looked at our globe and our wall map of the world and found Australia and New Zealand.  I told each of the kids they could color and label their maps however they want. Usually we have a specific assignment with the map work, but this time I just wanted them pouring over the atlases while I led them in a discussion about Australia and … click to read more

Globe Trotter Geography Game

Today we looked at the globe and explored various parts of it through a discussion and then by playing Globe Trotter, a simple geography game.  We found each of the continents and oceans, the equator, the poles, the arctic and tropic circles, the prime meridian, the international dateline, the compass rose, and our location. We also compared maps and globes and listed what each is best for.  (Oh, and while we were doing that we also compared the look of certain places, like Greenland, to see if they looked the same on the map and on the globe.) Globe Trotter Game Exploration Finally, we played globe trotter.  It’s a really simple geography game that takes no preparation at all.  We took turns spinning the globe and then stopping it with our finger on a random spot.  Wherever it stopped, we Googled that spot and wrote down at least 3 things … click to read more

Maps of Samoa and American Samoa

Here are two maps of Samoa and American Samoa are beautiful islands in the South Pacific.  You can color maps of American Samoa and Samoa. These countries are tiny islands in the vast Pacific and probably won’t be easy to see in your student atlas.  Look at American Samoa and Samoa on Google Maps.   Find photos, read about the history, read about the geography, learn about the type of government each country has and do some cultural crafts. National Park of Samoa Samoa Facts From National Geographic Make a Paper Lei (not just for Hawaiians) Additional Layers American Samoa was governed by American Naval officers, then the state department.  Today they are independent, electing their own officials, but still exist under the umbrella of American government.  What other territories does the United States claim? Most Samoans are Christian.  How and when did they adopt this religion? On your map make arrows pointing to … click to read more

Missouri State Study

This Missouri State study includes the history of the great state of Missouri and some activities you can do with your kids as you learn about it. Missouri History Missouri was a part of the Louisiana Purchase and it’s position along the Mississippi River made it important early on.  Settlers began to pour in from the east and very early on they had to pick sides for or against slavery; there was no being lukewarm.  Eventually the territory was admitted as a state in 1821 just after the Missouri Compromise, which stated that for every slave state admitted a free state would be admitted, in order to maintain the balance of power.  Missouri became a slave state, with a staunch population of dissenters and a free state, Kansas, just across the border.  This conflict brought bloodshed to the state long before the Civil War broke out.  Missourians actually attacked Kansas abolitionists, issued an official extermination … click to read more


Glaciers form when snow falls, doesn’t melt, and becomes compressed.  It takes a couple of years before any particular snow fall can be considered a glacier.  When the snow first begins to compact there are lots of air bubbles so the ice looks white. Look at an ice cube from your freezer.  It is white because of air bubbles.  If you look closely you can see the air bubbles. As ice becomes more and more compressed, it turns blue because the air bubbles are pushed out and the only light reflected is the blue.  This is a property of water molecules that they reflect blue light and absorb the other colors. Glaciers aren’t just blue or white though.  They can be many different colors depending on what they collect.  There are black glaciers, full of vocanic ash, or brown or gray if they’re full of dirt and rocks. Glaciers melt, but … click to read more

Continent Research Worksheet

I frequently take the kiddos to the library for some good old fashioned research.  I know, I know…the internet has it all, but there’s just something awesome about finding things in a book.  Before we go I try to give them a directed research form so they know what kinds of information they’re looking for (and what I expect!) ahead of time.  Besides the basics, I also encourage them to find out some crazy or cool facts that impress them, and I have them list as many of those as they can find on the back of their research sheet.  We usually also bring a notebook with plenty of paper for them to draw pictures (like a flag of the country) and jot down project ideas and notes. Here’s an example of a printable Continent Research Form that I would give my kiddos: It’s really simple and straightforward, but provides a … click to read more

Creating Brochures

Creating brochures is a perfect opportunity for kids to combine a bit of history, geography, writing, and art all in one shot. It’s a perfect project for any age because it can be super simple (pictures with just a few words) or much more detailed (full paragraphs, illustrations, maps, and detailed information) for older students. Along with our study of the California Gold Rush we created historical brochures to convince people to move to California in 1849. I left it pretty open for my kids (the oldest is only 8, so we aren’t quite to detailed paragraphs just yet!). The assignment was simply creating an attractive brochure that included pictures and the reasons why someone should move to California in 1849. Prior to their open work time we read several books on the Gold Rush and discussed how some people were PUSHED to move out west (crowded east coast cities, … click to read more