Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Geography, social science and geneology, OH MY!

One of the great things about homeschooling is that we can tailor our studies to our children's interests. And just as any teacher may, we have the opportunity to use a single issue or item of interest to teach a variety of lessons and skills. We did it with our homemade Princess Curriculum, and more recently we did it with our family tree.

My great grandmother spent ages collecting family history. When she passed away, a copy of her research was given to me, and I've continued to build on it. At our house, I'm not sure a day passes in which we don't talk about one ancestor or relative or another, so it was only natural to create a kid-friendly family tree. It became a multi-day project that included art, social science, geography and world cultures.

We began with an art project. Together, we lined up giant strips of butcher paper on an open wall in the living room, then we drew a tree on it. Then our 7-year-old copied maps of the United State and Western Europe out of the encyclopedia. Those were hung on the same wall, below the branches of the tree.

Then we used a printed family tree to look back at our family history, beginning with our girls' grandparents, and branching out from there. I didn't just tell them their ancestors' names, but something about each of them, about their offspring, about their childhoods or their childhood homes. I tried to think of new stories to tell about the ancestors they'd heard so much already, and with memories of stories told by my own great-grandparents, I was able to tell a little something about more people that I'd realized would be possible! Where photos were available, I shared those images with the girls.

After I told a bit about each person, the girls drew portraits of them, wrote their place of birth and profession. Then they posted the portraits on the family tree. When we'd completed six generations, we called it good. The family tree was pretty extensive by then, and the girls had a clear picture that they didn't just pop out of nowhere.

Then we looked at the maps. We attached a string to each portrait and connected it to the country or state on the map from which that ancestor originated. We talked about those countries, read about them, watched videos about some, and completed special projects for others. We cooked Scandinavian foods and checked out the languages of our ancestors.

These days we're focusing on handwriting (the older girl is learning cursive), basic math facts, continued study of the pioneers (because one of us just can't get enough of that era), spelling and grammar. We've picked up our music studies a bit, and the girls are working on some Spanish as well. We're developing our tastes in poetry and other literature, and the girls continue their crafting.

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