Young kids are the perfect geography students, because they're already interested in the world around them, and their minds are ready to absorb lots of facts about it. Ned Bustard recognizes this and has written a series of whimsical introductory texts to both introduce the basics of geography study, and to guide students in a world tour of each continent and its countries.
Parents, do not fear: you need not be well-versed in geography yourself to successfully guide your young scholars through this course (though if you are, all the better). Everything is self-explanatory, engaging, and self-contained: all you need to do is open the books and get started, making this an excellent first stop on your kids' journey toward geographical fluency.
How Do These Work?
There are five storybook/workbook pairs for grades 1-5. Both elements of each pair can be used independently, though you'll need both for optimum results. The 1st grade book takes less than an hour to read, though you can stretch the workbook out for a few weeks; the other storybooks are slightly longer, with considerably longer workbooks that can be used over an entire semester.
None of the Legends & Leagues books are intended to be a full geography curriculum, however. These are supplements and introductions, and should be used as such. In fact, Veritas Press sells Geography Songs, States & Capitals Songs, and Evan-Moor's Beginning Geography workbook to be used alongside the 1st grade Legends & Leagues set. Geography Songs will be be needed for the rest of the series as well.
Nevertheless, these books are packed with information, albeit wrapped in an amusing and entertaining package. The first storybook is illustrated in full color, and tells the story of Mr. Elmo Tardy who's trying to get to an appointment on time. Mr. Tardy is always late because he can never find his way around, so Mr. Longitude and Mr. Latitude show him how to read maps, AND help him get to his appointment on time.
Subsequent books feature Messers. Latitude and Longitude, but focus on specific world geography with some history thrown in. The 19th-century travelers meet everyone from Peter Pan to Bigfoot to Dracula to Saint Wenceslaus as they travel the world on some quest or search or other.
Each storybook is a fun fantasy with actual geography mixed in, but it's the workbooks that impart the real knowledge. The first workbook is 44 pages and black and white, while the other four are around 160 pages each and full color, with maps, photographs, text to read, vocabulary words, exercises, activities, periodic tests, and more.
The first set is simply called Legends & Leagues. The second grade set is Legends & Leagues South and covers Antarctica, Africa, and the Middle East; the third grade set is Legends & Leagues East and covers Asia and Oceania; the fourth grade set is Legends & Leagues North and covers Europe; and the fifth grade set is Legends & Leagues West and covers North and South America.
While you could hurry through each level as fast as possible, it's better to go more slowly and make sure your kids really absorb the information. By the time they reach the end of the last set, they'll be fairly well-versed in the basics of map-reading and world geography, and definitely prepared for further study.
Our Honest Opinion
The folks at Veritas Press consistently publish fine materials for Classical-style education, though some of them tend to be too advanced or mature for their intended audience (for instance, some of the titles used in the Omnibus program). The Legends & Leagues series is typically excellent, and perfectly suited for the elementary students for which it was written.
Students will be introduced to a variety of tools and vocabulary to assist them in further study, but there's enough fun stuff to keep kids interested. Again, since these aren't a complete geography course you can feel free to supplement with other materials, though it's probably best to keep it light at this point. The sections on map-reading could be supported with more content, however, and we'd suggest the MCP Maps/Charts/Graphs series toward that end.
There's no law that geography has to be boring, and Ned Bustard seems to be one of the few geography curriculum authors who actually gets that. His series is highly educational but also highly fun, and the adventures of Mr. Longitude and Mr. Latitude are ever ready to take your kids on a tour of the wonderful, beautiful world they live in.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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