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Mapping the World by Heart
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Mapping the World by Heart

Printer Friendly Version

Publisher: Tom Snyder Productions
Author: David J.  Smith

List Price: $59.95

Ages: All Ages

Reviewed By: Peggy Flint

 
Subtitled "An innovative approach to learning geography," this resource is one of the most popular geography curriculums on the homeschool market. Their ads often show "before" and "after" pictures that are highly impressive. I must admit that from what we have done so far, I have no problems believing that this program really can teach students to map the world (in great detail) from memory.

One thing that I like most about this program, is that they lay the material out in a "menu" format. They specifically tell you to "choose what you want, use it as you wish, add to it, or combine it with other items, and make a 'meal' that suits your own needs and your particular students." In other words, they understand that you may not wish to cover every lesson and they don't require you to do so.

The lessons are broken down into "appetizers," "entrees" and "dessert." The six appetizer lessons are designed to familiarize the student with map reading and nomenclature and include lessons like making a map on a grapefruit (and then peeling it). The 13 entree lessons are the backbone of the program and they help the student to locate and place major geographical information. The two dessert choices help you to conclude the program with daily practice maps and the final map drawn in great detail over the last 3-4 weeks of the class.

I must admit that until we started this program, I never understood contour maps and how they worked. I have had it explained to me several times but it just never clicked. Now I understand how to read and draw contour maps--so this portion of Mapping was great for mom.

In the entree section, I like the fact that the student (and in this case, the teacher) labels major rivers and mountain ranges along with cities, states and countries. Each map has a specific list that the student uses in creating their map, so that there is no question of "What am I supposed to put on my map?". There are also tests so that you can check to see what your student has retained from their study.

One section I haven't mentioned yet is the "seasonings" section. This includes activities for review and enrichment that can be used anytime of the year. For example, you can have a World's Fair where a physical features map is drawn and information is shared on topics like populations, government, education, trade and religions. The World's Fair idea would be a great support group project where each family covers a different country of the world and shares it with other families. One other game included is Geography Baseball. This would be good for larger families who have enough children to form teams.

The dessert section contains the information on preparing the final map for closing out the school year. This information is very detailed and this project will take a lot of time. Unless my children become intrigued by this idea, our family will not do it because of the time involved in completing the project. However, whether you complete the project or not, you could take the five page list of items to be included on the map and use it as a test. Give your student a blank world map and see how many countries, cities, mountains, oceans and rivers they can label from memory.

This curriculum comes with consumable maps from Rand McNally. If you have more than one student you will need to purchase extra copies of these. However, these maps are visually appealing (compared with most that I have seen), and we have enjoyed working on them.

Now that I have shared what is in the curriculum, let me deal with the "controversial" part of this review. I have talked to others about this program, and it seems like folks either love it or hate it. I am one of the few neutral people that I know!

People love this program because using it is easy. Simply open the book, find the next map list and share it with your children. If you bought extra maps for each child, you don't even have to worry about providing a blank map for your student to use! However, Mapping the World by Heart is not a complete geography program. Many people who have bought it seem to think it is and then find themselves disappointed when it doesn't cover all of geography. Therefore, they often criticize Mapping. I would like to point out though, that while this program shares about the five themes of geography studies, it doesn't claim to cover them all. Mapping does include a list of learning objectives that mainly focuses on learning to read and draw maps, but it doesn't claim to focus on helping the student learn "the rest of geography"--meaning things like the religious and political climate of each nation.

I like this program. Using it is quick and easy, and I don't have to reinvent the wheel to teach my kids the world's geography?at least locating major geographic features. Together, we are learning a lot! Because I have saved myself literally hours in lesson preparation time, I feel this program was a worthwhile investment. I would recommend this program especially to moms with lots of children who need something "extra" for an older student - or who have students who love projects. I know one family that used this program with a high school geography textbook and enjoyed the study largely because their daughter could work on her own. However, if you want a full geography study and you want it all to be from one resource, I would pass this up. I would also pass this up if your funds are limited and getting this resource would mean you'd not be able to purchase something you needed in another area. Otherwise, I highly recommend Mapping the World by Heart--especially for those winter months when cabin fever abounds.
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Peggy Flint
Art and Peggy have been homeschooling their twins, Eric and Robin, since 1989. They started out teaching the kids, and now find themselves learning from their own children--and liking it.
Copyright © 1998 Eclectic Homeschool Association
 

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