It's an interesting phenomenon that in our modern "glocal" society in which the world seems smaller due to advanced travel and communications technology, there's less awareness about geography than ever before. This is probably due to simple interest—as the world "shrinks," people grow less curious about it, whereas on the cusp of discovery whole populations waited with anticipation for news of far-off places.
With geographical information at such a premium, it's essential that parents teach their children about the world God has made, and Memoria Press Geography is a decent place to start. Designed for younger students (mid-elementary to middle school), each course presents map- and fact-based information and exercises for kids to complete that will lay a groundwork of geographical knowledge for them to build on.
How Do These Work?
This isn't exactly a single program, though each 1-year course does build on the one before it. Roughly, States & Capitals is aimed at grades 3-6, Geography I is for grades 4+, Geography II is intended for grades 5+, and Geography III is for grades 6 and up. The courses are worktext-based, with students memorizing content, completing written and map-based exercises, and taking periodic quizzes and tests. These are introductions, intended to help kids begin, so they won't take too much time.
The first program, States & Capitals for grades 3-6, includes a Student Study Guide and a Teacher guide. The student book is a worktext with one page per state, several regional maps, and review pages. On the state pages, fill out important facts and identify the location and name of the capital city. Review sheets have kids identify states on a map and write down the name of the state, capital, and postal code. By completing 2-3 state pages per week, you'll be able to finish this book in one year; teachers won't have to do more than check students' work and administer tests from the teacher guide.
In conjunction with the student and teacher guides for States & Capitals, the publishers encourage parents to supplement their students' work with Kenneth C. Davis' Don't Know Much About the 50 States, a full-color fact and map book about the United States of America. This book is where kids will find most of the information they're required to include on the state pages in the student book, and it also provides some useful historical information.
For slightly older students, Geography I presents the geography of the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. In the student text, each country is given a two-page spread, with important historical information, the country's current situation, fast facts, one or two black and white illustrations, and a full-page map. The student workbook includes a page for each country with small map and space to write key information, as well as frequent review pages. Answers to all text and workbook questions, along with reproducible quizzes and tests, are found in the teacher guide.
Students do much more map work than in States & Capitals, identifying both landforms and countries, and the material is a little more difficult because it's more unfamiliar. There's also a United States - Student Workbook that reviews what was learned in the States & Capitals course, answers for which are found in the teacher key, as well as quizzes and tests.
Geography II follows the same format as Geography I, except that it covers Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. There's less historical information, more facts about specific land formations and geographical features, and more detailed maps. Students read the text, answer the exercise questions in the workbook, and complete tests when needed. There is no review of the previous courses built in, but the publisher does offer a Geography I Review Book with which you may supplement.
Geography III is something of a whirlwind tour of the world, briefly covering both physical and human geography for all the major regions of the world. The Workbook includes comprehension questions and mapping activities, along with additional projects for honors students and a blank major worldview chart for students to complete. The Teacher's Edition includes answers, tests, reproducible maps, and the answers for that worldview chart.
This is more or less a student-directed course, though the information in each level is limited enough that parents have plenty of room to supplement as they see fit; parents will have to check/grade student work, as well. The maps are black, white, gray, and blue, and all the illustrations are black and white, so don't look for spectacular visuals here. Students will gain a basic knowledge of the U.S. and the world, which will offer them a springboard for further study.
Our Honest Opinion
If you're looking for an easy-to-use course to get your kids feet wet in the oceans of geography, this could be what you want: students will get a feel for the basics of world geography, and be able to identify each state and country on a map. The factual information is fairly cursory, and no research is required, but this could be beneficial if you want to encourage further study on your own, and using handpicked resources of your own choosing.
We wouldn't recommend this for kids much older than 5th or 6th grade. By that time, students should be ready for more in-depth study, instead of just learning the basics as these courses will teach them. One way to elaborate the content of these books would be to camp on each country or state for awhile, guiding students in further research and fact-gathering by fleshing out the exercises with more study. We'd recommend Brenda Runkle's World Physical Geography for older students. Again, as introductions these are adequate; for anything more, look elsewhere.
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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