Thursday, 2 January 2014

Making Geography Fun (Background Projects)

Apologies to lovers of Geography who were offended by the title... it's just that Geography is not my personal favourite subject.  My memories of school lessons on the subject mainly involve deep boredom, so it is not something that I automatically turn to with thoughts of "yay, let's look at this" in mind.

That said, I may be about to change my mind.  One of the many joys of home education so far has been the opportunity to fill the gaps in my own knowledge while learning alongside the children, and now we have another good opportunity for this in an up-coming world geography project.  While mulling over possible plans for the next HE season the other day, I decided it was time for a new "background project" (my invented term).  These background projects are usually chosen by me, and usually kicked off by a large poster on the kitchen door, followed by a few fun activities and games around the theme, and they usually last several months, just doing the odd activity when we feel like it - nothing too heavy or structured.  Our first background project when we started HE was on the Human Body, our second (and most recent) one was to do with rocks.  It feels like now is a good time for a new one, and I have been drawn to the idea of a world map, based on a few conversations and questions that have come up recently.
Naturally this led me to consider what we could do to facilitate natural and fun learning along this theme, and I have come up with a few ideas that I am enthusiastic about (when choosing a parent-led aspect of HE it has to be something that I find interesting and inspires enthusiasm, or I may as well not bother - even something as low key as a background project has the potential to be soul-destroying for all concerned, not to mention utterly fruitless, if imposed as law rather than shared enthusiastically). 

So firstly, having done a mini culture swap in the summer, I thought how lovely it would be if people we knew around the world could send us some little bits representing where they live, so I put out a plea on Facebook yesterday and we already have lovely people offering to help.  I'm thinking we can put markers on the world map, showing where all of our friends live. (We already have a UK map marked with all the places we have visited over the last few years - this is an extension of the same idea I suppose).

Secondly, and in a similar vein, I have signed up to Postcrossing, where we send and receive postcards to and from people all around the world.  My boys love hands-on learning, and I think this will grasp their imaginations.  I can't wait to start receiving the cards anyway!

Thirdly, I was looking for a related board game that they could play, to assist in the 'fun' aspect of things.  'Risk' would be good if they were older, but otherwise there aren't many that I think would appeal to them that are currently on the market - so I came up with my own idea and am in the process of making it.  Details will follow if I get it working!  While I was planning it, I naturally found some things out that have inspired further interest on my part, so hopefully the boys will like it too.  Next time I'll involve them in the planning, as they love making games!

Fourthly, I asked the boys what sort of things they would be interested in finding out about our friends who live in other parts of the world, and they came up with some good questions - so we may even get writing to our friends - much more fun than just research for the sake of it, and a little writing practice to boot!

And that's it for now - I don't want to get carried away, just have some ideas up my sleeve for an appropriate moment.  What usually happens is that the boys start to enjoy 'my' games and activities, and then come up with their own ideas and take it further that I initially thought, in the directions that particularly interest them.  Of course, if and when this happens, I will fill in the details here :)

So for now I'm just enjoying being in the novel position of looking forward to learning about Geography!  If home education can do that, surely there are no limits to our learning fun.

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