Geography Fun (how we do it in our relaxed homeschool)

2015-04-21 14.57.23The high school baseball season has come to an end for us. There were at least two straight weeks where our son was playing games six days straight. Add to that two other boys who play ball, our oldest daughter moving back home for the summer after being at college, doctor and dentist appointments, and sundry other children who needed food, clothing, and loving attention, and you'll understand why blogging once again got pushed to the back burner.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links for which I earn a small commission should you choose to click through and make purchases. Many thanks for that small kindness!



I do!

I think it first started when we took a trip across country when I was in fifth grade to deposit my older brother at college in Utah. I was allowed to use the atlas to figure out where we were going and I perused it often to help pass the time on some very long drives. So, it's no surprise that once we started homeschooling, our first purchases included wall maps and a globe.

Our home has long been a place where geography has been an intriguing subject. However, we have never used a formal curriculum. Instead, we have made geography a staple in our everyday lives, through conversations, living books, home decor, travel to other places, and--above all--play.

Our dining room (that's no longer a dining room) is the place where the maps are hung and where we have several types of globes. It's also where my awesome homemade map table now stands. This table has proven very useful in creating some geography games for the kids. We have had two inspiring geography products for a while now, and I thought they'd lend themselves to some games:

  • Safari World Landmarks TOOB
  • Landmark Flashcards (these were the ones I found at my local Target store in the $1 section. Check there when the back to school sales start coming around. National Geographic also used to sell similar cards as well as Rand-McNally, but all I can find is way overpriced used ones online)

2015-05-19 08.42.05

The first game is setting the TOOB Landmarks on their proper places on the map.

You can see how crowded Europe and Egypt got, as the bulk of this TOOB was European landmarks. If you click on the photo, you'll see the landmarks include Big Ben, Stonehenge, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum, the Parthenon, the Pyramids at Giza, and the Sphinx.

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The Asian landmarks include the Taj Mahal, Buddha of Lantau, and the Great Wall of China. The set is rounded out with the Easter Island Heads, the Statue of Liberty, and Mount Rushmore.



2015-05-19 08.43.43The other game is a simple matching game where the child matches the TOOB figures to the landmark cards. I'm not sure we have all the cards that match the figures, but most of them do have a card to match.

So, that's it for our map table and the games we play there. However, we have other items that make learning relaxed and fun.

2015-05-19 08.44.27The Geography Shelves

We have a lot of fun items to explore on our geography shelves. They range from Montessori materials to puzzles, books, and games.

The Montessori materials include the following:


We also have a variety of puzzles, games, and books:

 I love the Target $1 bin when the back-to-school sales begin late in summer. I've found all sorts of cool flash cards that can be used for geography games or added to continent boxes (animals of the world, landmarks, etc.). They also sometimes have inexpensive workbooks and wipe-off white board maps to make learning geography low-key and fun. My 10-year old enjoys using the map white board to test her knowledge in state capitals--much easier than erasing a worksheet or a paper map if she makes a mistake!

Making Connections

One very important thing to keep in mind is helping your child make connections. If a country comes up in what you're reading, casually suggest finding that location on the US or World map. I find it's helpful to use the words "I wonder...?" when making the suggestion.

If someone you know is traveling, once again, rely on your handy-dandy map to seek out where they are going to be. My husband travels a lot for work and the kids are constantly looking on the map to see where dad is headed next. My sports enthusiasts use the maps to find the locations for their favorite teams (I'm reminded of Elizabeth Foss' Monday Night Football Geography and Cuisine post).

And, of course, geography goes hand-in-hand with the study of history and humanities. I love the maps from Knowledge Quest, especially the MapTrek series. They are handy downloads that can be printed up at a moment's notice. If you haven't checked the series out, there is a free sample download available.

They also have several curriculum integration guides, so you can see which MapTrek maps can be used alongside your favorite history curriculum (included are Story of the World, A Little History of the World, Ambleside Online and Sonlight. Check back at this blog for a similar integration for those of us who have the older editions of Connecting With History from RC History).

Don't forget about their FREE Globalmania curriculum, a $14.95 value! This is a great way to learn together as a family in a fun and relaxed manner.

Our Favorite Apps

Lest you think we're all about paper and tangible items here in our pursuit of geographic knowledge, we also make use of technology to enhance our learning.

Stack the States

This is a cute app which teaches US geography with trivia about the states. It also uses strategy to stack the state shapes without having them topple over. When you complete a level, you "win" a state that gets placed on your US map. It's very cute.

Stack the Countries

As with Stack the States, you can learn about world geography through trivia and strategy. It too is available for Android, iOS, and Windows.

Both of these games are available in free Lite versions for the iOS platform.

National Geographic GeoBee Challenge

We actually have the board game version of this geography trivia game. The Android version makes it easier to just do the straight trivia, rather than having to keep track of cards and game pieces. Plus, you're able to take it on the road, which isn't easy to do with a board game! Also available for iOS.

Google Earth

Of course, this is a must-have app, available for free for Android, iOS, and Windows. The beauty of Google Earth is that you can explore geography in such a unique way. This product allows you to do fly-overs and see world cities in 3-D. Google Earth also has Street View, which gives you a whole other experience, enabling you to see places in the world you might never get to see in person. I made serious use of Google Maps and Google Earth when planning our trip to Ireland in 2014.



So, there you have it--how we do geography in our home. I hope you find some of these resources useful in your home learning journey.

Do you have other resources you have found helpful?

Any tips you'd like to share? Leave a comment or drop me a line at my Facebook page.

Let's keep the conversation going!


Grassy Run Field Trip

2015-04-24 13.43.14The Grassy Run Rendezvous in Williamsburg, Ohio held their student day today. I was expecting the event to be packed, but we were pleased to share the encampment with a couple of small local Catholic schools and likely a handful of other homeschoolers.

What I love most about these living history encampments is that the folks are really eager to share their knowledge and skills with the patrons. That love of history makes things stick longer in young (and old) minds!

2015-04-24 12.37.22Our first stop was where a lady was spinning wool. She explained to us the process of shearing sheep wool, how lanolin colors the white wool a yellow color, and how it needs to be cleaned and carded. We remembered carding wool from our visit to Sharon Woods Heritage Village and had the chance to do it again. Then she took the wool and showed us how she spins it into yarn on the spinning wheel. AJ was intrigued by how the wheel was threaded so that the yarn could be gathered on the spool.

We then stopped and chatted with a nice gentleman who told us a bit about the Battle of Grassy Run. He also shared a story about Simon Kenton running the gauntlet when captured by the Shawnee. Did you know that after Kenton's death, they had found a couple of indentations in his skull that they think had been caused by being hit with a pipehawk when he ran the gauntlet? Neither did I! Late in his life, old Simon had complained of frequent headaches, which they think was caused by the head wounds he suffered. I don't know if this is a completely true story, but it was interesting nonetheless!

We skipped the table where the school kids were crowded around, testing out writing with a quill and ink. We'll have to try that out here at home instead. We also skipped the tin punching since that was also a favorite of the school groups. We were entertained by a couple of different musicians. One fellow played the penny whistle and explained the lyrics of "Yankee Doodle", most notably what "macaroni" stood for. Another played the hammer dulcimer, which my sixteen-year-old daughter thought was really cool.

2015-04-24 13.05.42The kids also tried their hand at tomahawk throwing. AJ managed to hit the target once, but Liz was frustrated by being, in her opinion, too close to the target to be effective.

We watched many demonstrations and listened to explanations on what a typical 18th century settler would've work and carried with them when they were out hunting. We got to see and even handle a variety of weapons, from tomahawks to flintlock rifles.

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The kids and I also got to try our hand at weaving after watching a demonstration by the very garrulous and friendly weaver. And a couple even attempted to work together to cut through a piece of wood!


2015-04-24 13.52.28Our last stop of the outing was the rope-maker. His station was crowded when we first came to the event, so we came back around and learned how to make rope. Liz was the anchor, holding the hook that would spin the individual cords into the rope, while AJ turned the crank that wound the cords. Each cord is twisted until it prompts the hook on the opposite end to twist the three cords upon themselves to make the rope. It was pretty cool and we got to keep our rope as a souvenir!


Here is a video clip of the kids working with the rope-maker to show how it's done.




Here are some resources that are good for early Ohio history (some affiliate links):

Homeschool Spring Cleaning

2015-04-20 11.14.35Inspiration hits in unusual ways.

It all started when I was clicking through Bloglovin' and came across this brilliant little post about decoupaging a child's table with vintage children's book images.

"Hey," I thought to myself, "I have a tired old table that could use some rejuvenation!"

I let the idea stew a little. Then I talked about it with a couple of the kids. And then, one afternoon trip to Hobby Lobby sealed the deal. I knew they had paper maps there as well as large bottles of Mod Podge, among other tempting goodies. I don't know what it is about a craft store that makes me go ga-ga. I was good, though; I didn't go overboard. I was a woman on a mission and didn't let myself get distracted by packs of multi-colored permanent markers or lovely watercolor pencils or pretty scrapbook paper (these are seriously things I tend to purchase even though I don't need them...sigh).

Anyway, I jumped right into the project. I mean, how hard can it be? Right? Umm...wrong! If you are considering replicating this genius idea in the photo, be sure to actually research the best way to attack this project so you will spare yourself the grief and frustration that come as wrinkles and bubbles!

So, after letting the map table project relax while I went to Atlanta and back in a 36 hour time span (can you say "rained-out baseball tournament? sigh), I decided to paint the border around the map this morning before going out to an all-girl hair appointment. And, well, once we got back and I was so pleased with the look of the table, I decided it was time to spruce up the room a bit.

Cleaning the Resource Room

I should explain why I call it a resource room. Actually, I still call it the dining room, even though it has never, ever functioned as that kind of room for us! We all know it's the room that we walk through from the kitchen to the den. But for you, dear readers, I am calling it the resource room. Why? It's not a schoolroom, since we learn all over the house. It's the area where the bulk of our resources (besides books, that is) are housed.

Here...have a gander at some BEFORE photos:

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The photo on the left was taken after I had started moving things around and cleaning. There was a bookshelf against the window by the wall (which you can see in the first photo at the top of the page) that I decided didn't need to be in the room anymore. It now has a new home behind my desk in the den (which is the adjoining room). The bookshelf was holding a lot of early learning materials that we no longer need to have sitting out. I moved those things into a box in the basement...not sure why??? To have around for grandchildren? (shrug) It's still kind of weird to go through certain items and know we won't be using them anymore since our youngest child is seven and reads quite well. Anyway, I digress...

After culling old items, cleaning, and rearranging the shelves, I came up with a happy arrangement to the room:

20150420_175732 20150420_175732


Can you tell I'm a little map-happy? We enjoy geography around here. Maps, globes, geography's all good!

The white shelves all house "centers", or grouped items to invite independent exploration in various subject areas. The geography center is obvious, right? Next to that is science and nature, then math and art. The two small tables are the writing center. There are various papers and writing instruments, including calligraphy pens. There are also lined white boards for penmanship practice and Montessori pink and green spelling cards.

The clock hanging there no longer keeps time very well. It was moved from our living room (and I got a new clock at HL for 50% off on that same trip...BOOYAH!) I figure it can be used to teach telling time with Roman numerals. Or it can just hang there and look pretty.

There are still a couple of areas that need fixing. Next to the entry to the kitchen is a old desk that needs to be repainted. It is where we keep a lot of our craft supplies, but it also tends to be a clutter-catcher, so I need to re-think how we're going to use it. Also, next to the map table is a white shelf that has basket storage cube things that the kids used to use to hold folders, workbooks, and various scraps of papers. They kind of fell into disuse as we changed our approach to learning and record-keeping (I really like binders as well as digital records), so that area will be revamped as well.

Here's one last photo of a spontaneous game that happened with our World Landmarks Toob (affiliate link) on the map table (a certain red-headed child ran away before I could get a picture of her playing):







Field Trips for Spring 2015

Butterfly-6-5-13When we went to the Sharon Woods Heritage Village last month, my ten-year-old daughter admitted that she liked field trips with an "old-timey" theme to them. Needless to say, I've been on the lookout ever since for opportunities that might spark her interest in history even more.

Now that the weather has warmed up some more, we have all be itching to get out and do some things that don't involve baseball.




image from www.grassyrun.orgOne event I've intended to go to for several years is the Grassy Run Heritage Rendezvous. One nice thing about this event is that it is held in our home county, so we don't have that far of a drive. Another nice thing is that they have a school day set aside so that local students can come and learn history in a more hands-on way. Kids will learn about life in 1700's Ohio and will see all sorts of crafts and costumed interpreters taking part in this living history encampment. Living History encampments are pretty cool, as we witnessed when we attended Days of Knights last fall, since the folks all have a passionate interest in their area of expertise.

The school day for this year will be Friday, April 24 from 9am to 3pm. The website doesn't specify if there is a discount on admission for the school day. However, regular admission is $5 for adults (over age 14), and $2 for children between the ages of 6 and 14. The general public can attend on the weekend. All information and directions are at the link above.

On a more personal note, this event is held very close to the area where my father-in-law's ancestors settled in the early 1800s, so I'll be sure to point out the family history connections to the kids.


CatebutterflyWe have gone to the butterfly show at Krohn a few times in the past. I personally love walking into the conservatory that has been turned into a butterfly house and having beautiful insects flitting around me; however, some of the kids are not as fond of the experience as I am.

Cate thoroughly enjoyed the experience a few years ago, so I thought we'd go back this year. The theme this year is Butterflies of the Philippines. The show, which began on April 3 and will go until June 21, is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children over the age of 4. Homeschool groups (of 10 or more) can register online to get a slight discount ($1 off admission for students). However, it might be easier for individual families to download the coupon which gives $1 off any admission and is good for up to four people. Directions and other information can be found at the link at the top of this section.



2013-07-24 20.11.58This weekend I'm heading to Atlanta for a baseball tournament with one of the boys. If we have time between games, I'm hoping to meet up with a homeschooling friend and check out some of the trips suggested by Tricia over at HodgePodge.

We visited Stone Mountain a couple of years ago when we were there for a week-long tournament, so I doubt we'll repeat that. We might hit the World of Coca-Cola since there will only be two of us, or maybe we'll take a gander at one of the many Civil War battlefields in the area. Naturally, this all depends on the game schedule!

Next month we're heading to Grand Park, in Westfield, IN. Many years ago, sometime during our first years of homeschooling, I took the kids to Conner Prairie. This interactive history park is a really cool place to visit and since it's only about twenty minutes from the baseball venue, I am seriously thinking about visiting again. It is kind of spendy at $16 for anyone over age 12, and $11 for kids 2-12. For our family, it would be reasonable to just purchase a family membership. I'm always on the lookout for fun and interesting place to visit when we're on a baseball road trip.

What are some of your favorite places to visit?

Knowledge Quest


I'm please to announce that Seven Times the Fun is now an affiliate for Knowledge QuestFor any purchase made through affiliate links on this blog (or in any downloadable files), I receive a commission.

I've been a fan of Knowledge Quest Map Trek maps for many, many years, since early on in our homeschool journey. Although I'm most familiar with their maps, there are a whole other host of products the company provides to help with your family's study of history and geography.

I just want to say straight out that I've fought with myself long and hard over not "monetizing" this blog. I don't do ads and I don't think I ever will, unless I wholeheartedly believe in the company and the products they are selling. And affiliate partnership is a bit different though. I'm able to choose which companies I want to support and which products I most want to promote on my blog. These companies and resources are ones that I feel have really benefited our homeschooling family and I hope they will benefit yours as well.

So, if you click through and purchase, I thank you for your support.

Homeschool Conventions

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2015-03-31 10.31.21IT'S SPRING...

which means it is Homeschool Convention Season!

OK, I'll admit it. We've been homeschooling since 2001 and I have yet to attend a homeschool convention. I don't really have a good excuse.  The Midwest Homeschool Convention has been held annually in Cincinnati since as long as I can remember (the first few years we homeschooled, I think it was called the Cincinnati Homeschool Convention). Folks come from different states, traveling hundreds of miles to attend this convention, while I live about thirty-five minutes away.

It doesn't help that they come to Cincinnati right when baseball season has gotten underway. That's usually my excuse. When we were first starting out, of course, all the kids were too young to stay home unattended, and there was no way I was going to cart them all to the convention center. In my mind, there was probably going to be very little yield on that investment. Most of the time, though, I just forgot.

However, this year it seems that the planets have aligned and I have vowed to go. Thursday is the one day where there isn't a baseball game scheduled (although it has been raining all week, so there hasn't been any baseball....well, other than four innings of a varsity game that got called for rain/lightning). It also happens that on Thursday evening, Andrew Kern of CiRCE Institute is giving his "Socratic Teaching" talk. I am, in all honesty, excited!For, while I am dedicated to taking a relaxed approach to learning around here, I think I will always be intrigued by the philosophy of classical education.

Prepare Before You Go

Having read for years that a large homeschool convention can be overwhelming, I have taken the advice to do some preparation before attending. Here are some of the things I did:

  1. See which speakers will be in attendance: It may be there are a bunch of folks you'd like to see speak in person over the course of the convention or there may just be a handful to see on one day. Choose which talks would be the most interesting or helpful to you as a homeschooling parent. Some talks are more parenting- or family-based (time management, etc.) while others are more academic oriented. Decide which type you're most interested in a plan which days and times you'll be likely to sit on talks.
  2. See which exhibitors will be in attendance: Luckily Great Homeschool Conventions publishes a list of exhibitors for each venue. There is quite a lengthy list for the Cincinnati venue (which is the Duke Energy Center). Many people like to attend conventions solely to look at and purchase curriculum and resources (saves on shipping, etc.). GHC sells passes for those who only want to shop. For Thursday evening only, from 6-9pm, patrons will be able to gain entrance into the vendor hall and SHOP FOR FREE! Bonus!
  3. Plot your course: I found the assignment for exhibitor booths as well as a map of the exhibit space floor plan. I also looked up the Duke Energy Convention Center floor plan for the meeting rooms. (Yes, because I'm a crazy planner type who doesn't like surprises.) Then I printed out the floor plans and highlighted the booths I would most like to visit, should I find myself with some time to linger about. I've heard it can be super crowded, and with that offer of three free shopping hours on Thursday, I will definitely need some kind of plan of attack.

So, there you go. I'm going to my first homeschool convention even though I'm not a noob! I'll keep you posted how it went.

High School American History Units, Part 1: Exploration to Reconstruction



I did the editing in stages, so I hope all the links are functioning. The YouTube links are especially tricky, since sometimes a video will be removed and the link will no longer work. If you find a broken link, or a missing video, please shoot me an e-mail or a comment and I will fix it as soon as I can.

I also realize that I jumped the gun in publishing Unit 6 and had forgotten some links for the composers, so I will go back and fix that ASAP. The links are in the PDF, though!

You are free to print this document out for your own use at home, although anything that is a link will only print as blue. You are free to share on your own blog or on social media provided you link directly to the blog post or document and provide appropriate attribution to me. The document can be downloaded via the link below and will also be added to the Downloads page.

Download High School American History part 1


A History of Music


Don't forget about these fun multi-level units to study music history with your whole family!

A History of Music

I have also set up a section at my Amazon aStore so you can find and shop for resources more easily. Please check out A History of Music at the Seven Times the Fun bookstore.

(Can you tell I'm trying to drive more traffic so I can support my book habit. I hardly make any money through my Amazon affiliate, so any click and purchase through my links is very much appreciated.)

Have a Happy Passover and a Blessed Easter!


High School American History, Units 5 & 6: Slavery, Abolition, Civil War, and Reconstruction


Well, I'm more or less done with High School American History, Part 1: Exploration to Reconstruction. I have finished Units 5 and 6, which will be below. Once I have edited,double-checked all the links, and have prettied things up, I will post the entire file as a PDF for download (which will likely have links to AP US History questions/vocabulary).

Also, I have created a section on my Amazon aStore for resources for the units for easier purchasing, so please make sure to check out the Resources for High School American History Units.

Links to Previous Units:

Remember, links for the Core Texts can be found in the previous 3 units, or you can check the Resources at Amazon linked above. For the worksheets, visit History Scholar; for the mapwork, visit Knowledge Quest.

Here are the two final units for Part 1:

Unit 5: Slavery and Abolition (~1850-1860)


Core Texts: (choose one)

  • The Americans:  Ch. 10
  • Oxford History of the American People, Vol. 2 (Morison): ch. 17-18
  • A History of the American People: pp. 400-450
  • Abraham Lincoln’s World part 4 (pp. 223-296)

 History Scholar Worksheets:

  • Abolitionists and Slavery
  • Underground Railroad
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Slavery
  • John Brown

 Literature/Primary Sources:

Mapwork:Try Knowledge Quest Maps, or use the following links

Fine Arts:

Picture Study: Pre-Raphaelites c. 1848

Dante Gabriel Rosetti

William Holman Hunt

John Everett Millais

 Romantic Composers: (Romantic Period)



Unit 6: Civil War and Reconstruction (1860-1877)


Core Texts: (choose one)

  • The Americans:  ch. 11-12
  • Oxford History of the American People, Vol. 2 (Morison): ch. 19-24
  • A History of the American People: pp. 450-507
  • Abraham Lincoln’s World part 5 (pp. 297-353)

History Scholar Worksheets:

  • A Divided Nation
  • Union Army Soldier
  • Confederate Army Soldier
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Lincoln’s Assassination
  • Reconstruction


Literature/Primary Sources:


Fine Arts:

Picture Study: French Impressionists

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

 Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Mary Cassatt (American Impressionist)

Romantic Composers: (Romantic Period)


High School American History, Unit 4: Western Expansion


For links to Core Texts mentioned below, please see the previous units. Please note that the links are affiliate links.

- See more at:
- See more at:
- See more at:
- See more at:






Unit 4: Western Expansion (1800-1850)


Core Texts: (choose one)

  • The Americans:  Ch. 6.4, 7, 8, 9.
  • Oxford History of the American People, Vol. 2 (Morison): ch. 1-16
  • A History of the American People: pp. 211-400
  • Abraham Lincoln’s World parts 1-3 (pp. 1-222)

 History Scholar Worksheets:

  • Louisiana Purchase
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition
  • War of 1812
  • The Cherokee
  • New States to the Union
  • Santa Fe Trail
  • Oregon Trail
  • Manifest Destiny

 Literature/Primary Sources:

Mapwork: Knowledge Quest Map Trek or the links below

Fine Arts:

Picture Study: The Hudson River School Artists: Cole, Church, & Durand, 19th Century

Thomas Cole (1801-1848)

Frederick Edwin Church (1826-1900)

Asher B. Durand - (1796-1886)

Classical Composers: