Geography: Paddle to the Sea

Geography in Elementary Years

This is a our first year including Geography in our homeschool.  I had never enjoyed geography in school and thought of it as “extra”. In fact, I didn’t learn geography until the 9th grade. My teacher was Mr. Arnold. I vaguely remember reading the news for class. Overall, Geography was boring.  But when  I read what Charlotte Mason thought about Geography, I tried to keep an open mind.  She wrote, “But the mother, who knows better, will find a hundred opportunities to teach geography by the way…”

Charlotte Mason loved geography. “To teach by the way” means that the mom teaches her children in everyday conversation. Walks around the neighborhood become opportunities to teach how to tell the time of day by noticing where the sun is in the sky. Drives through the town become teaching tools to learn which way is north and which direction you take to get home.

Geography Map Paddle to the Sea

Geography Should be Exciting

Geography should captivate the child’s interest. Charlotte Mason wrote, “But let him be at home in any single region; let him see, with the mind’s eye, the people at their work and at their play, the flowers and fruits in their seasons, the beasts, each in its habitat; and let him see all sympathetically, that is let him follow the adventures of a traveler; and he knows more, is better furnished with ideas, than if he had learnt all the names on all the maps.  The ‘way’ of this kind of teaching is very simple and obvious; read to him, or read for him, that is read bit by bit, and tell as you read,…Here, as elsewhere, the question is, not how many things does he know, but how much does he know about each thing(Home Education, 275).”

With Charlotte Mason’s words, I found myself pulled into the wonder of learning. I set out to make geography an adventure.  I wanted stories filled with “ideas”- ideas that spark a hunger to learn in my children.  While searching, I found the book, Paddle-to-the-Sea.  Paddle to the Sea is a story about a little Indian named Paddle.  A little boy carved Paddle, who sits in a canoe, from wood. The boy leaves Paddle on frozen Lake Nipigon just before Spring. When the ice begins cracking, he sets out on a journey to the sea (the Atlantic Ocean).  The story takes us along with Paddle through all five Great Lakes, the Niagara Falls, the St. Lawrence River and finally out to Atlantic.

Traveling with Paddle, I saw the animals at Lake Nipigon.  I noticed all the steal mills in Michigan.  Then I learned that there’s a lake that is a continual whirlpool near Detroit.  Everywhere I went, I saw.  I couldn’t wait to see Paddle’s next adventure.  Then I noticed my children couldn’t wait either. My kids were eager to learn where Paddle would travel next.  With sweet interest, they would find the place on the map and imagine all that Paddle had seen.   Funny how it tugged at my heart strings.

Paddle-to-the-Sea Reviews

After reading Paddle-to-the-Sea, I asked my kids why they enjoyed it so much.  Here are their replies,

“It was adventurous.”

“Because of the maps.”

“Because of the waterfall and the whirlpool.”

Charlotte Mason was right.  Together we followed the adventures of Paddle-to-the-Sea; “and we know more” and are “better furnished with ideas”.  Instead of memorizing a list of facts, we’ve experienced a journey that we’ll stay with us forever. Now I’m thoroughly convinced Geography is exciting- not because Charlotte Mason said it was, but because I experienced the adventure for myself.


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