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Paddling from sea to shining sea

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50 states

Last spring when I was looking for geography curriculum, I came across a free resource for U.S. Geography, 50 States and Where to Find Them by Kathy Jo DeVore of Barefoot Meandering. (I honestly cannot remember where at this point. I really ought to write that stuff down. Thanks whoever you were!) I wish I would have discovered this sooner instead of tacking it on the end of our U.S. history studies, but it worked as a summer study. It is the perfect resource for families taking a Charlotte Mason or other literature-based approach to homeschooling. It was also easily adapted to be used with multiple ages. Everyone can do the basic mapping, and then the students can add to the maps or notebook according to their abilities.

The curriculum consists of an instructor’s guide and a student workbook. You can buy a printed version of the instructor’s guide from Amazon, but the student guide is a pdf available only at Lulu. (You can also get the instructor guide as a pdf for half the price of the printed book.) You’ll also need to buy or check out from the library five books. These are all wonderful books and classics that would be good for any library, and not too expensive in paperback form. They are Paddle to the Sea, Minn of the Mississippi, Tree in the Trail, and Seabird* by Holling C. Holling and Follow the Drinking Gourd by F.N. Monjo. You’ll also need a U.S. Atlas. (Obviously)

The country is divided into regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest (further subdivided, because there are twelve states in this region), Southern, Southwest Rocky Mountain, and Pacific Coast. For each state, you read a short informational piece with some basic facts and map the capital, major rivers, and the highest point. The notebooking pages include a space to record information or draw as well as the state flag, bird, and flower to color. Mapping reinforcement is threaded throughout. Within each section, the students map the states and capitals of that region every day. At the end of each region, they review previous regions. Each region also includes a crossword puzzle, a word search, and section relating to the region’s history: The Erie Canal, the Underground Railroad, etc. Each state also has a related geography term. I know that seems like a lot, but honestly, this only took 20-30 minutes a day, depending on how squirmy the boys were. If you were going to do it throughout a normal school year, I would think two lessons a week would be sufficient. That could be two states or a state and end of region review. I think that would make a 32-week course. But we’re talking geography, not math.
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One of my favorite things was how DeVore used the Holling books along with the basic geography. In addition to the state maps, the students complete a map as their reading through the books. Not only are the stories wonderful, they are very informative. I finally know all the Great Lakes and their locations! Yay, me! Holling covers natural and American history through well-crafted tales, so the kids come away with a richer understanding of the area in the story than your standard topography/major industry geography. I loved them all, but so far I think Paddle is my favorite.

I got this resource for free, but I wouldn’t hesitate to pay for it. Especially if you have more than one kid, it’s a bargain. The kids and I both loved it and we know a lot more about our beautiful country than we did before. What more could you ask for? Charlotte Masoners (heh) should definitely check out her other offerings.


*We haven’t done Seabird yet because it still hadn’t been shipped after more than a month. In fact, I just canceled it and bought a used copy through Amazon because ARGH! So I shouldn’t say they’re all wonderful because I don’t know about Seabird yet. But it would be shocking if this one was awful after the other great books. So if you’re going to buy that particular book, order it early.

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