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I don’t remember learning much United States geography when I was in school. Sure, we had to memorize the state capitals, but somehow those lessons never included locating the states on a map. We certainly never learned about the landscape, weather, or culture of other states.
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we are not confined to subjects the state Department of Education deems important. In my house, I get to decide what we learn. Sure, Washington has a few required subjects, but I am not limited to that list.
As someone who has lived in most of the regions of the United States, I think a good working knowledge of United States geography is important.
I want my children to understand not only where each state is located, but also how the geography influences the food, the culture, and the people.
USA Geography Curriculum
I have never found a single United States geography curriculum that I loved, so I make my own by combining a few resources.
Each week we will study 1-2 states. Ideally we would devote an entire week to each state, but that would take 50 weeks…which is longer than our school year! Moving through the country at a fairly quick pace keeps it entertaining. We never have time to get bored with a particular state.
Ben and I came across this book while perusing our local used curriculum store. Initially, I was skeptical because a few of the recipes I saw while flipping through contained ingredients I don’t use – white flour, cream of mushroom soup, cake mix, etc.
Ben read through a few pages and was hooked. If my kids are excited about a teaching resource, I will usually make an attempt to use it. He was really excited to try all of these recipes so I will just need to find substitutes for some of the ingredients. I break into hives when I eat gluten, so I am use to finding substitutes.
I am excited to try chicken enchiladas (yum!) when we study Arizona, blueberry pie when we study Maine, and Clam Chowder when we learn about Rhode Island.
I’m sure many of these recipes are probably available on Pinterest, but my time is worth more than the cost of this book. This book will save me probably at least an hour every week searching for recipes to coordinate with each state.
Eat Your Way Through the USA gets bonus points because it can also double as home ec. Kids are learning to cook while learning geography. Win-win.
These Dover coloring books are a fantastic addition to any USA geography curriculum. Each page contains a large image of the state, noting any major rivers and the state capital.
There are a few sentences on the bottom of each page that give a little more information about the state. For example, New Mexico is home to the oldest church in the United States. These little tidbits are just for fun, but they might spark a bit of wanderlust.
I bought two copies of the United States Coloring Books – one for each child. They are so inexpensive it didn’t seem worth it to just buy one and make a copy. The cost of the ink and printer paper would eat up any savings. And let’s be real, I am much more likely to complete all of the lesson if it doesn’t require extra planning ahead. Time is a limited resource.
The USA Activity Bundle by The Crafty Classroom includes 3 ebooks of printable worksheets for each state – a state page, a state bird page, and a state map.
We tried this resource out for a few weeks this summer and my kids LOVED the state mazes. I think the mazes will be a great introductory activity or even just a way to keep their hands busy while I’m reading aloud.
The printable bird matching game will be a fun way to review state birds. Knowing the state birds is not one of my main goals for teaching USA geography, but just a fun little addition.
We picked this game up at our local thrift store last year and had a lot of fun playing it. This game is based on the book by Laurie Keller.
Each player holds state cards that they want to match up to the scramble cards. The state cards contain the state name, the state shape, the capital city, and the state nickname. The scramble cards say things like: capital has 2 words, nickname contains 4 different vowels, state has more than 10 letters, etc. The first person to match their state card to the scramble card wins the round.
The beauty of this game is that kids are studying the state cards without realizing they are memorizing state facts.
State Themed Picture Books
Every week I will add a few state books to my library book reservation. I will include a fact book or two as a reference. However, the majority of the books will be picture books. Yes, I read picture books aloud to my 9 and 12 year old.
I know that might seem a bit odd, but picture books are awesome. They tell a full story in a short amount of time. The text can be engaging and informative, and the pictures are great.
Thankfully, another homeschool mom took the time to assemble a list of books for each state. All I need to do is check the list, reserve the books, and start reading.
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USA Geography Schedule
The best education resources in the world are worthless if you don’t actually use them.
This is how I plan to combine all of the fabulous resources mentioned into one cohesive curriculum. I may need to tweak it a bit depending on what else is going on each week, but this is the general schedule we will follow.
I plan to start with our state – Washington. From there we will work our way west and south, trying to keep regions of the country together. I recommend starting with a state that naturally holds a bit of interest for your family. That might be where you live, where you wish you lived, or a favorite vacation spot.
Monday – State maze from the USA Activity Bundle
Read a picture book about the state
Tuesday – Complete the state page from the United States of America Coloring Book
Read another picture book about the state
Wednesday – Cook a recipe or two from Eat Your Way Through the USA
Thursday – Play The Scrambled States of America game
Friday – Start the next state with the state maze and picture book
How do you teach USA geography?
Know someone hoping to teach USA geography, but isn’t sure where to start? Please share this post with them!
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