Four Ways My Kids Absorb Geography Using a Markable Map

a markable map lays on shag carpet

We are currently studying American History using BookShark Level 4 and thoroughly enjoying learning how our country came to be what it is today. I don’t feel like any part of history would be complete without a little geography thrown in, and so we use our BookShark Markable Map regularly as part of not only our history lessons but also ScienceLanguage Arts, and even other subjects like art and music!

Because it's foldable, we can enjoy a quick geography lesson, wipe it clean, and store it on the shelf with our books. Of course, some families like to hang maps on the wall, and that's great if you have the space. But the Markable Map can be stored out of sight and thus requires nothing more than a flat tabletop or room on the floor to use during homeschool lessons. (The Markable Map is one of the required resources for any BookShark Reading with History curriculum. You buy it once and use it year after year with each Level.)

Here are four ways my kids are absorbing geography—with ease and fun—using the Markable Map.

1. Labeling the Map with Eraseable Markers

Four Ways My Kids Absorb Geography Using a Markable MapThe Markable Map isn't labeled, so it's perfect for spur-of-the-moment quizzes and fun map drills. I check to see if my son remembers the places we have studied by asking him to outline places or write in names. It seems that labeling a country, state, or river on the Markable Map is both more memorable and more fun than pointing to it on a traditional map with labels. I have to admit, it is fun for me to try and remember some of the countries and label where I think they are on the map. My son gets a kick out of correcting me when I make mistakes!

When we are reading about North American explorers, my son can doodle on the map, illustrating the stories in his own creative way. On the next day, his doodles and diagrams serve as a quick review before we read that day's new material.

My BookShark Instructor's Guide suggests locations to mark on the map for most history lessons, but we typically go beyond those and pull out the map even more frequently just because we love geography so much.

2. Marking Our Destinations and Travel Routes 

We are a travel-loving family, so when we begin preparing for an adventure, we like to see how far our destination is from home. That means we pull out our Markable Map. Of course, talking about an upcoming trip leads to discussions of past journeys as we remember fun family travels we've already taken. Before you know it, the kids are reviewing geography as they relive precious families memories.

When we talk about a place that we have visited on our family travels, my kids listen a little closer, so I take advantage of all past connections in our studies. I also try to draw as many parallels as possible. For example, we recently looked at how close Germany is to Paris, and realized that we have taken plenty of road trips that far. When I can tie our homeschool geography to a real-life experience, it becomes more meaningful to my children.

Four Ways My Kids Absorb Geography Using a Markable Map

In our trip planning we look to see where our destination is and map out our journey, marking each leg of the trip. Sometimes our mapping turns into full research projects as one question leads to another. 

  • Is that area experiencing the same season we are?
  • What's the weather like?
  • How do they say hello and thank you there?
  • What do people eat there?

3. Making Comparisons with Geography

Instead of studying geographic forms in isolation, I like to use comparisons among different regions, states, and countries to give my children more perspective. For example, I have traced and cut out both the US and our home state of Alabama. Placing those cut-outs on top of other continents and countries on the Markable Map shows my children just how tiny Alabama is and how massive the US is.

Using the Markable Map for comparing geography, the sizes of USA and the state of Alambama

Not long ago we were discussing that Germany and France aren’t much larger than our state. Being able to place the cut-out of Alabama over various places on the map really brought home the large size of some of the countries and the smaller size of others. Seeing the continental US in comparison with other parts of the world was interesting for them. The Markable Map makes this comparison activity easy for us.

4. Spaghetti Tracing

Once I boiled spaghetti and let my son trace countries, continents, and states using the noodles! He was able to see that tracing the United States used more noodles than tracing France. It was a unusual, hands-on way to compare sizes of countries.

spaghetti tracing on the Markable Map

Getting interactive with the world and US maps are a great way to keep the interest up and to encourage a love of learning about the world around us. My main advice is to simply keep the maps handy. All it takes is the invitation to use a Markable Map, and your kids will easily begin to absorb geography.

See BookShark Reading with History Programs

About the Author

Pamela GannPamela Gann lives in Alabama with her husband and two kids where they love doing science experiments. They began their homeschool journey back in 2013 and have used BookShark Levels K -4. Pam is a former flight attendant and is married to a pilot, so traveling is not just their passion—it is their livelihood. She blogs about their homeschool and family travel journey at PamGann. Homeschooling for their family takes place on planes, in cars, and most often outside under a shade tree.