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Learning

Geography

This article shares practical ways of exploring geography within everyday experiences which is especially helpful if you unschool or are more child-led.

Geography can help children develop a curiosity and fascination with the world and its people. As children develop geographical skills they will gain a deep awareness and meaning of places and spaces as well as an understanding of the formation and use of landscapes and environments. It is a really exciting subject that feels more accessible to learners as it can be done within daily life and surroundings.

This article shares practical ways of exploring geography within everyday experiences which is especially helpful if you unschool or are more child-led. 

If you are following the national curriculum there are many websites that provide lesson plans to support this such as Oak National Academy but the main features of the English Keystage 1 & 2 national curriculum are below. For Keystage 3 click here.

The national curriculum for geography aims to ensure that all pupils: 

  • develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places – both terrestrial and marine – including their defining physical and human characteristics and how these provide a geographical context for understanding the actions of processes 
  • understand the processes that give rise to key physical and human geographical features of the world, how these are interdependent and how they bring about spatial variation and change over time 

The National Curriculum states that the geographical skills needed are to:

  • collect, analyse and communicate with a range of data gathered through experiences of fieldwork that deepen their understanding of geographical processes  
  • interpret a range of sources of geographical information, including maps, diagrams, globes, aerial photographs and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) 
  • communicate geographical information in a variety of ways, including through maps, numerical and quantitative skills and writing at length

However, a real focus for many homeschoolers is the importance of exploring the skills needed rather than topics, these can be incorporated into the many ‘organic’ opportunities below:

  • Planning and making trips (near and far)
  • Mapping skills, creating your own map with a key, using features of a real map, for younger children this can start with creating treasure maps
  • Using grid references/coordinates and 8 point compass points to locate places on maps. When you are planning a trip, getting a map out or look up online. You can also play games where you go to given coordinates (Geocaching is a great activity for the whole family to enjoy)
  • Learning to navigate in different ways to get to different places. The internet is great for being able to plan routes, comparing the time taken to get there by car, bus, bike or train
  • Using Sat Nav to key in where you are going and following it to that destination is a great way to see how long it will take and how far you will travel
  • Younger children might enjoy role play, pretending to pack for somewhere hot and somewhere cold, pick a country and let the game begin. What temperature will it be? What would you need? How will you get there? How much will it cost? What currency do they use? What foods do they eat? If you are really going away this is a great chance to do it for real
  • The internet offers a wealth of programmes, information, images and videos about other countries. Maps, landscapes, weather (including humidity), time zones, altitude, cultural activities, and even food will tell you a lot about that country
  • Within map work look at continents and the seas that surround them, discuss how land has changed through land movement with earthquakes and volcanos
  • If you have friends abroad or can create links, you could write letters/e-mails or even video call them as pen pals to find out more about their country to be able to compare and look for similarities
  • Look at why people live in the places they do and what the population is like in those places. Why do/did people emigrate or decide to live in certain areas? What appeals to people? What would you look for if you were moving (looking at conveniences, close to beaches if you are a surfer, city if you work in banking)? Linking this to migrations of people
  • Consider trade links between countries and how these came about
  • Create a weather station and log the weather in your own area and compare it to the weather in another part of your country or the world
  • Looking at what is happening to the climate over time and exploring ways we can help with the climate challenge and consider the climate from the Ice Age to now
  • Collecting and identifying fossils, if you live near the Jurassic Coast or anywhere that is known for fossils you can hunt for free. Look at the work of palaeontologists such as Mary Anning
  • Collecting and identifying rocks from a variety of different places will tell you lots about the landscape, you can download a rock identifier on your phone, you can smash up rocks and look at them under a microscope to identify different features like texture and particle size
  • Many children go through a period of interest in dinosaurs, you can’t beat the Natural History Museum in London but there are many dotted around the country, if you can’t visit one you can generally look at their websites, it is always fascinating the name recall children have for the range of dinosaurs and the periods they were from
  • Consider using some of the following terminology when talking with children about geographical subjects: beach, cliff, coast, forest, hill, mountain, sea, ocean, river, soil, minerals, valley, vegetation, season, weather, city, town, village, factory, farm, house, office, port, harbour, shop

As these skills develop children can create more in-depth studies, recording their findings in projects by creating: posters, booklets and YouTube videos. If your child is passionate about the subject they may consider taking it as a GCSE or rather an IGCSE depending on your situation and whether the exam board requires coursework (this is hard to achieve when homeschooling and that is why many home educators take IGCSE).

Some useful websites

National Geographic 

BBC bitesize

Oak National Academy Geography Lessons

Digimap

Dollar Street

Eco School at Home

The Geography Association

Ordnance Survey Mapzone

Royal Geographic Society

IGCSE Geography