4/17/11 Note: If you appreciate this piece, please see the 6th of 8 presentations recapped in "MN's Top High School Orators Inspire Faith for the Future."
Many 'top-of-the mountain' moments can occur when parent and child are working through an assignment or subject, with both parties engaged enough to add to the pair's mutual understanding or cumulative knowledge. One subject where this occurs more often than not is geography-- be it local, national or global.
First, a tip o' the hat to a wonderful geography and social studies teacher-- Ms. Sawyer. Were it not for her recommendation to acquire Amazing U.S. Geography, the answer to a very basic, but intriguing historical question would be unknown to me.
Periodically, in seeing a film, play or reading about the original 13 colonies, I have wondered where the states of Vermont and Maine were during the colonial period. Of course, we can all recite the original 13 by heart :-) -- Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, & Virginia.
But what of Vermont and Maine? Well, today, an answer appeared. Vermont was once part and parcel to New York, while Maine belonged to the non contiguous area of Massachusetts. There's likely a good story about intervening New Hampshire in there somewhere :)
Okay, all you wisenheimers who are snickering at my utter ignorance: Quick, which 6 states make up the region known as New England? *
To test the theory that kids might care about things geographical, I bounced out a couple factoids on France at today's "travel brochure" writing session with my son's elementary class: What country, approximately the size of Texas in land area, sports the world's 4th largest economy? Answer, the one that is also the world's number #1 tourist destination--- France. Now you may have had to be there, but these kids were seeing France in an entirely new way :)
Far more than being an exercise in memorization for the sake of regurgitation, I consider it a wonderful middle age discovery to realize the integral role that geography plays in understanding the history, culture, politics and economics in the vast interactive web of an increasingly globalized society.
Our children don't have the same luxury of time to figure out what's going on in the world (and we adults are probably kidding ourselves if we think we did in the first place.) By tapping into the types of learning material referenced on this page, we can assist them with this important process.
Additional online resources for testing your child's geography skills: Sheppard Software's USA Kid's Corner
*Answer: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.