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The Benefits of Teaching your Children Geography

© Beverley Paine, August 2007

[this article forms part of a series on Geography you can buy as a Practical Homeschooling booklet from Always Learning Books]

Some people might claim that now, more than ever, geography matters. However, geography always mattered! There is no way you can separate geographic knowledge and understanding from every day: what matters in the teaching of geography is how far we extend our children's natural understanding and skills in this vital area of learning.

We live in a time of rapid change. I'm sure my Grandmother felt the same. She saw the arrival of the motor car, refrigerators, nuclear weapons and space travel! I live in awe of the technological advances that have occured since my schooling, but even more so at the way they have changed how people live. Keeping abreast of these changes may appear bewildering but every successive generation seems to cope. The planet, however, hasn't been so lucky, and now, more than ever before, geographical understanding is crucial. Geography is the study of how humans adapt to their environment and adapt their environment to meet their needs. For millenia we've shaped the environment to suit us: it seems as if we've reached the limit of what we can do and ensure our survival as a species. It's time to use our geography skills to bring balance to the equation and learn how to adapt to our rapidly environment.

No matter what the cause, global warming, is beginning to have a serious effect on all areas of human existence. It is an issue that confronts us daily, along with changing political boundaries, territorial conflicts, and globalization. A sound knowledge of local, regional and global geography empowers people to make wise and sustainable choices.

Studying geography enables us to understand our home and culture as well as our relationships to other cultures and environments. Clarity of vision and understanding form the basis for effective communication and constructive action. When you talk with your children about world events or vacation plans and you turn to an atlas or a map, you teach them much than simply how to get from A to B or what the towns and regions are called. You help them form mental map of their world. This helps them organize and understand information about people and events. It helps them feel like they belong in their community, as a citizen of their country, and as a citizen of the Planet Earth. Helping our children learn about geography teaches them how to use their minds to make a difference in their own lives and those of others.

Geography helps us 'see' the 'big picture'. It broadens our experience both directly and indirectly. The diversity of subjects and topics studied helps children integrate information from many sources. It enables them to communicate across many disciplines. These skills equip children with a solid foundation on which to build life-long learning and are highly valued in the workplace.

Firmly rooted in real life issues, the knowledge and skills developed by the study of geography are never forgotten. It becomes embedded in the general knowedge and ability of the learner. I've often found people amazed at how much I know and understand about the world, but this came from my love and fascination for geography as a child. The emphasis and value my parents placed on this aspect of my education flowed through into my schooling, and I'm very grateful that these attitude was implanted and fostered during my childhood.

There are other benefits from helping young children learn geography: everyone enjoys spending time together, reading, and doing things of interest that interest everyone. Geography helps to teach vocabulary by linking words with experiences. It's impossible to teach geography without touching on history, or introducing the art and culture of other countries, both contemporary and throughout history. Imagining the future is an important feature of geography and encourages problem solving and creative thinking skills. Fieldwork, investigations and experiments take your children into the realm of practical science and mathematics, using the skills and concepts they've learned in meaningful ways. Plus you help your children express their ideas through art, movement, and hands-on activities.

Some of the valuable skills your children will acquire from the successful study of geography include having having the ability to weigh up evidence and situations, the ability to critically analyse arguments and evidence and to reach fair judgements which they can justify if necessary. The wide range of contemporary issues studied in geography will help them learn about themselves and others: the strengths and limitations of people. The more they know about themselves the more confident they will be in their ability to learn and cope throughout life.Learning geography will help them determine their personal and political values as well as which direction they want to head in early adult life.

Geographical knowledge and skills offer opportunities to work in different ways and on different subjects and applying them to new situations. Few subjects can help prepare your children for participating in adult life as fully as geography!

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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