Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cultural Geography

We are undertaking a Cultural Geography class this year. The result is shaping up to be a literature-based and food-based mashup of different levels for an asynchronous learner. I am sharing this here in case it is helpful to anyone.

What this is not: It is not a physical geography course. We check in with our map, but that's it. It is not a history course. We are reading about and discussing the world as it is now and has been within the past 20 years.

Come along with us, share resources where you can, use whatever may work for you and ignore the rest!

For no particular reason, we decided to start with Australia and Pacific Islands and roughly work our way west around the world from there.

**Our primary books used throughout the year**

We started off by reading pages 4-13 in How People Live, which gives an overview. The following units could be done in any order:
Australia and the Pacific Islands
Southeast Asia to the Indian Subcontinent
East Asia
North Asia and Russia
West Asia
North Africa
East Africa
South Africa
West Africa
East Europe
West Europe
North America
Central America
South Africa

Cultural Geography Spines

Can they really be called "spines" when there's a pile of them? These are the books that we'll be using throughout the year.  Where I list age/grade ranges for the book, I am assuming neurotypical kids; adjust as appropriate for you. For those wanting resources for kids on the older end of the range here, I'd suggest the first four books. For those wanting resources for kids on the younger end of the range, I'd suggest the first book and the three Children Just Like Me books. The others are truly more optional and add interesting information that we enjoy. We're using it all, with the simpler options breaking up the heavier options in our schedule.

Note: I don't even know how to do affiliate links. These go to, which can be configured to donate a portion of your purchases to the charity of your choice.

How People Live - This would be our "main spine". It covers so many geographic areas and cultures! The great news is that it is available used for very low prices. The bad news is that's because it's a wee bit dated, being published nearly 20 years ago. It works for my purposes and I found nothing else that aimed at this age range and focused on modern culture. Written for grades 2-6.

Material World - A photojournal with detailed information on what possessions people own throughout the world. Middle school +, but heavy on pictures which can make it appeal to younger grades as well.

Hungry Planet - Photojournal with detailed information on what families eat during a typical month throughout the world. Middle school+, but heavy on pictures with can make it appeal to younger grades as well.

Women in the Material World - Photojournal with detailed information on women's roles and work throughout the world. The style of the text is different in this book than the last two, with more portions in interview formats, making it harder to read aloud well. Some of the themes are also more difficult/mature. While I am using this with my elementary kid, I would generally place it in a high school+ category.

Multicultural Cookbook for Students - This was by far the most comprehensive world cookbook I could find, but what really impressed me was the focus on "normal" food for each place instead of "special occasion" food. 

Children Just Like Me - the DK/UNICEF classic has a 2016 version out now! Brief portraits of elementary-aged children around the world. This is a much gentler introduction to individuals around the world than the above photojournal-style books, written for elementary students.

Children Just Like Me: Celebrations - one of the spin-offs of the CJLM books, this one gives brief, interesting introductions to several celebrations from around the world, focusing on how they are celebrated by children. Written for elementary students.

Children Just Like Me: A School Like Mine - another spinoff of the CJLM books, this one gives brief introductions to the different types of schools attended by children in different parts of the world. My child can't be the only homeschooled kid obsessed with school structures, can she? Written for elementary students.

Our World of Water - Picture book about what water means to people around the world and how they access it. Elementary grades.

Throw Your Tooth on the Roof - Tooth traditions from around the world. Best for kids who are losing their baby teeth and are still fascinated by the subject. This book is unpaged, so I wrote in my own page numbers with "page 1" being the first page of traditions in North America. Though I decided not to use it, another option would be the book Wish, which talks about wishing traditions around the world.

My Librarian is a Camel - Descriptions of different, unusual libraries around the world. For elementary ages.

One World, Many Religions - This is the most non-biased introduction to major world religions that I have found. It discusses major beliefs, holy books, celebrations, and the basics of how and where people worship. This book is written to inform, not to persuade. Target age is mid-to-late elementary, but it would be appropriate for younger or older, in my opinion.

Back to the Cultural Geography home

Saturday, May 20, 2017

What grade IS she in, anyway?

We started The Kid in "kindergarten" around her 4th birthday. It made total sense: many of her friends were starting Kindy that school year, she was already working at levels higher than that in most things, and she was quite adamant that she was supposed to be starting, too. Since then, we've promoted her one grade level on each birthday. Therefore, her birthday this Sunday marks the end of second grade and beginning of third.


We're moving to California this summer. Land of public charter schools. With enrichment classes that she can take with other kids! She is so excited about this idea. At this point, she has no desire to go to "regular school", but seeing the same group of kids every week for art or music or a book club or whatever it is that gets offered, while being able to continue homeschooling? Absolutely!

By public school cutoffs, she would just be starting second grade this fall. Neither "second grade" nor "third grade" nor any other grade describes where she's at academically. Her physical writing ability is low, her math ability is high, and her language ability is very high. Socially, she's a bit all over the place as well.

So, for now, she's 7. Or, she will be tomorrow, anyway! We'll enroll her as a second grader this fall. On the blog, I think I'll just start referring to her age.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Unfinished Stuff and a New Adventure

Wow, I really haven't been posting.

Tomorrow, The Kid and I are off on a new adventure - four weeks of Spanish school and homestay in Antigua, Guatemala, followed by a week of vacation in Roatan. Should be fun!

When we return, we will have a "class" that I'm tentatively titling Unfinished Stuff. We want to wrap up some of the piles of projects that we (or she) have started and then left languishing. She has several large art projects to finish. We started working through a chemistry set and then stopped. The list goes on and on and on. We filled a sheet of notebook paper listing it all out. So, yeah. Unfinished Stuff.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Drowning in Crafts

The Kid loves crafts. All sorts of crafts. Millions of crafts.

I dislike anything I perceive as clutter, so this is a constant balancing act.

But a few things that she has really taken to:

Finger Knitting. We started with this Klutz book and a couple of YouTube videos to get started last winter, and she's made piles of yarn creations since.

Weaving Loom. She received this one as a gift last winter from her grandfather. It takes a lot of patience, so there's not a lot being done with it. She is working on a scarf for herself that will take her about a month if she works on it nightly.

Knot A Quilt. She was just dying for this, and has gotten a start on it before getting distracted by all the other crafts around. She'll go back to it once the "new" has worn off some of the other stuff.

Green Kid Crafts. This is a monthly craft box subscription. I have mixed feelings about it - $20 and she's usually only kept occupied for a couple hours, so I don't see us continuing past the three months we signed up for. But she's excited every time it arrives.

Quilling. I didn't even know this existed. She was subscribed to Surprise Ride boxes for a while and this was one of their projects. Thin little strips of paper, twisted into tight spirals and glued onto cardstock to make pictures. It can take hours to create a picture, so yay for independent play!

LoopDeDoo. This is a little creation that greatly speeds up the creation of friendship bracelets. The Kid bought it for herself with a 60% off coupon from JoAnn Fabrics. Anyone out there want a friendship bracelet? Or maybe a dozen? If she keeps up at this rate, she'll go broke on embroidery floss.

Next up: Knitting. Like with actual knitting needles. I'm a bit skeptical about whether a six year old can knit, but she was determined to try and bought the knitting needles and some yarn this past weekend with her allowance. I decided to buy knitting needles and yarn for myself and learn alongside, since that's the only way I'd ever be able to help her out if she gets stuck. We decided on dishcloths for our first project - small and useful. I'm thankful for YouTube videos, as that's how we'll be trying to learn. We just have to find time - hah!

The other "Next up": LoopDeLoom. From the makers of the LoopDeDoo, this is their answer to speeding up a weaving loom. This will be The Kid's winter solstice present, along with some more yarn. The same makers also have a monthly craft box subscription, which I think might be next up when we're done with the Green Kid Crafts boxes. Their individual kits look like some of the better ones I've seen in a while.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

New Games!

The Kid has developed some new patience and strategizing, and so we've been adding to our game shelf! It's so exciting, because the games themselves are much more interesting for an adult to play.

Some of favorite new games:

Ticket to Ride:Europe: This is definitely at the top end of her ability to manage, but so much fun. The board is massive, you have to manage a zillion cards, and you have to really play with strategy and alternatives. But there's cute little trains. And a bit of geography. And the Europe game has the city names written in their native languages.

Qwixx: Simple dice game with a bit of probability thrown in. Take turns rolling and try to mark off numbers in order before others can. From Gamewright, one of my favorite game makers.

Crab Stack: Simple game where you can move your pieces in limited ways, trying to be the last one still able to move at the end of the game. Minimal strategy (unless I'm missing something), but a game takes maybe ten minutes and it's fun.

Double Shutter: A newer twist on the classic Shut the Box games, adding a tiny bit more strategy. The numbers some in a double row, and you can't play the back rown until the tile in front of it is shut.

Gobblet: This is a twist on tic-tac-toe in which the pieces can gobble each other up by playing a larger piece on top. Who knew tic-tac-toe could be made fun again? We had Gobblet Gobblers, which uses a 3x3 gameboard, but The Kid was ready to upgrade to the usual adult 4x4 gameboard recently.

Dixit: You have a handful of cards with generally surreal pictures on them, use a phrase to describe one of them, everyone else finds a card in their hand that might also fit the description, then everyone tries to figure out which card was the one originally being described. In order to get points, you're best off if some people (but not all) can correctly choose your card. Or if someone chooses your card when it wasn't the original one. It took some getting used to, but is now among The Kid's absolute favorites on our shelf.

Dr. Eureka:  Fun, quick visual perception and speed game. You have three "test tubes" and two little marbles of each of three colors. Flip a card and it will have the marbles in various configurations within the tubes and you have to rearrange your setup without touching the marbles with your hands. We've learned for The Kid to play over an empty box lid so we don't spend our time searching for runaway marbles.

Monopoly and New York:1901 have arrived from Amazon, but we haven't even had a chance to break them open yet.

Monday, December 5, 2016

October's Top Books

So, it's December and I've been totally slack in my posting. Logged in and realized I never finished this or posted it, so I might as well give these books credit now as favorites for October!

1. Ballywhinney Girl by Eve Bunting - a story about a girl and her grandfather who discover a mummy buried in the bog in Ireland, told from the girl's point of view.

2. The Greatest Power by Demi - an emperor wants to name a new Prime Minister, so he issues a challenge to all children - return in a year and demonstrate what they believe to be the greatest power in the world.

3. The Bat Boy & His Violin - a father and son story. Reginald loves playing his violin, but his dad doesn't understand and requires Reginald to work as a bat boy for his losing Negro Leagues baseball team. Reginald's playing inspires the team, which in turn manages to have his dad open his ears.

4. How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman - cross-cultural story about two adults learning how to manage a bit of each other's customs, and teaching both to their child. This was a really good find.

Bonus selection! The point of these lists is to spotlight lesser-known books, which this is not. DD read Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, which is by far the longest work of fiction she has ever chosen to read. We've done many Beverly Cleary read alounds, but this would work horribly as a read aloud, so I had been saving it until I thought she would be ready to read it. She loved it, and I was reminded how much I had loved it as a child. This is one I had read over and over again.