Wednesday, September 24, 2014

V is for... Visits to Europe

Visits to Europe

Visits to Europe is the study guide that we are using as a sort of spine for Kennady's Cultural Geography course this year. It's published by Simply Charlotte Mason, and I found it at a homeschool conference vendor hall in the spring. It seems to be a unique resource, and just what we were looking for!

Kennady wanted to study European culture and geography this year for Social Studies - she wanted to learn about the geography and landmarks of Europe, and about the customs and languages and arts of the various countries, but she didn't want to do much history. I could understand that, because we've focused a lot on history up until now, and she wants to take a little different approach. I started looking for a curriculum that would focus on what she wanted, but was also challenging enough for middle school or early high school, and came up empty. Sometimes I found resources that were European geography, but they were written for early elementary students. I found a couple of high school level geography courses, but they were purely geography and covered the whole world. The closest thing I could find was a Grade 9 Cultural Geography textbook published by Bob Jones. It was exactly what we wanted to study - cultures and geography - but it was the whole world. I was pretty sure we'd use that and just do the Units on Europe, and make it work somehow, but I decided to wait until after the spring curriculum fairs, just in case something presented itself. When I stumbled upon the "Visits to..." series at the Simply Charlotte Mason booth, and talked with the author, Sonya Shafer, I knew we'd found what we needed. I phoned Kennady and walked her through the sample pages at the website, and she agreed!
Visits to Europe

The book is set up so that it can be used for a wide range of ages. There are a couple of additional resources we needed - the books Hungry Planet and Material World, both by Peter Menzel. These books are sort of like photo albums showing the typical foods eaten by families around the world, and the kinds of material possessions and daily life of families in various countries. Another additional resource suggested is a text written by Charlotte Mason.
Hungry Planet and Material World
For each region in Europe, the student first studies the map, then labels their own map with the main features of the region. Our first focus of study was the British Isles, so Kennady identified the countries of the United Kingdom, as well as Ireland on her map.
Visits to Europe
The student is instructed to read about families living in those countries in one or both of the Peter Menzel books, and notes what they learned on the "Meet the Families" pages. Here, Kennady was reading about the Hodson family from Cold Island in England.
Material World

Visits to Europe and Material World

There is also a "Make Your Own Map" activity. For this one, Kennady made her own map of the British Isles by tracing the outlines from the given map onto tracing paper using pen. Then she scribbled over her outline with a soft pencil, and finally, put the tracing paper on the blank part of the page and traced again to "transfer" her lines onto the page. Then she was instructed to label her map and the towns, rivers, and other features that she chose to include; or to color her map as she wished.
Visits to Europe

Visits to Europe

Visits to Europe

In this way, the student works through all the regions of Europe, learning about a few countries at a time, and adding to their maps as they go.

We are also using the applicable parts of the Cultural Geography text in our study; and we are taking some "side trips" in our Visits to Europe by doing art projects and trying foods from some of the countries or regions. I am looking forward to having a fairly regular feature here on the blog sharing some of the foods we are trying, similar to the Eating the Americas series of posts I did last school year. I just need to come up with a good title or two for the series! I suggested to Kennady just today that we should bake a bread from each of the regions, and try a dessert or some other dish from as many of the countries as we can. I think that sounds like fun!

I'm so glad I found Visits to Europe! It really is fitting with what we had hoped to study, and even my initial concern that it wouldn't provide "enough" material has been laid to rest. This is the kind of study resource that can stand alone, or be used in combination with other things, as we are doing. I also love that the student can really personalize their maps, and is encouraged to do further reading and projects to enhance the study. In the spring when I started hunting for a middle school curriculum that focused on European culture and geography, I had almost resigned myself to needing to write my own, which I could have done. But thankfully, I didn't have to do that after all!

Have you ever just about given up on finding that "great fit" curriculum or resource, and then found it after all? Leave a comment and let me know about your great finds!

This post is linked at Blogging through the Alphabet, hosted by Ben And Me.
Ben and Me

This post was added to the Throwback Thursday Blog-Style link-up hosted by Tots and Me... Growing Up Together! on September 24, 2015 

Tots and Me

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