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Geography Matters


By George and Cindy Wiggers
www.geomatters.com


The folks at Geography Matters are here to show us just how much geography really does matter! They have written and published an amazing array of products designed to help homeschoolers educate their children. All these products are high quality! They are professionally written and published, and you will be hard pressed to find anything else out there that is as thorough. I received a large package of books and products to review from these great people, who truly have a love for the Lord and for homeschooling! Below, I'll write a review for each product I've seen, but there are many more than this! Check out their website at www.geomatters.com.

Uncle Josh's Outline Map Book
Uncle Josh's Outline Maps on CD-ROM

At least one of these two products should belong to every homeschool family! I can't count the number of times I've needed a map at the spur of the moment, and I just didn't have time to go search the Internet. The Internet is handy for when you can plan ahead, but it is so nice to be able to truly have every outline map you may need at the tip of your fingers! I can even get my son to help with the research. I've been asking him to go pop the CD in and find a map of (whatever I'm studying) and print it out. It's easy for him and so much simpler for me! The maps included in these two products are quality outline maps, and they are easy to label and color. They also include gray outlines of rivers, so you can let your student color the river lines blue and label them without having to find them and draw them in themselves. The Wiggers have done all the work for us with these quality products. The only real difference in the two products is that one is in a book, with permission to copy the maps for family or co-op use only, and the other is a CD with printable maps. The CD does have some extras on it that are not in the book. These include each of the Canadian provinces and Territories, which makes this product much more universal! We will be using these maps for many years to come, they compliment any geography or history study!

Continent Map Set
World laminated Mark-it Map

This is another great idea! Seven maps come in a set. These maps are large, ranging in size from 15 x 22 to 23 x 34. They are perfect for unit studies, and getting the kids to all label them together. All the major continents are included in the set, and they are available laminated also, so you can use transparency pens and label them, wipe them off and reuse them over and over again! The paper set is good for a finished product, to show what the kids have learned, and to be able to keep as a permanent copy. All of the maps are printed on quality paper. The World laminated map is also an excellent product! We have ours on our wall and we use it for everything from Bible (highlighting where missionaries live) to geography to history. This is a truly cross-curricular product! The opposite side of the world map is a map of the United States, so you could easily flip from side to side. Highly recommended!

Mark-it Timeline of History

This is a laminated timeline of history. It is quite large, and one side has history marked off in 50-year periods, while the other side is blank, so you could label it as you wish. The timeline can be written on with overhead markers. The company recommends that dry erase markers NOT be used. If they are not erased, over time, they may not completely come off. The Vis-à-vis overhead transparency markers do not have this problem. The timeline can also be cut into strips and attached lengthwise with packing tape, to truly give a "line" to timeline! This is a very versatile product and can be used to compliment any geography or history program.

Historical Timeline Figures

This book was written and developed by Liberty Wiggers, one of the daughters of George and Cindy, the company founders. This was started as a school project, but it became apparent quite quickly that there was a need for this in the homeschool market! The figures are printed on card stock paper, and can be removed from the book and laminated, or taped over before using to make them slightly more durable. The figures are color coded according to continent, so when they are placed on a timeline you can see where each event took place, as well as when. The figures are the perfect size to fit on the Mark-it timeline of History (above). They will work equally well in a notebook style timeline. For art phobic mothers, like me, who desire their children to "see" history, this solves the problem of making those little icons to go with the event in history. I LOVE anything that helps make my job easier, and this book definitely fits the bill! Also included are cards for two games, Who am I and Before or After. Both games look like fun, and will help cement the historical people and events in your child's brain.

Trail Guide to World Geography
A Teacher's Manual with Daily Geography Drills
By Cindy Wiggers

This book was truly inspirational to me! I LOVE the concept! Here's what the author, Cindy Wiggers, says in her introduction: "Wouldn't it be exciting to turn your geography studies into a guided trip around the world? How wonderful to just sit back and relax as the guide shows the way and takes your students through a learning experience they will never forget." WOW - I like that idea! What excited me even more is that this book was specifically written for the whole family! You can use the same book for all your children from second grade up through tenth! THAT is exciting! The Trail Guide to World Geography takes your students on a journey to each continent. There are lots to learn on each continent, and this book is a great trail guide! There are mapping assignments and appropriate hands-on activities, which use readily available resources. The manual is divided into three sections, and there are a variety of ways to use each section. The sections are: Geography Trails; Points of Interest; and Geography through Literature (a unit study based on the book Around the World in 80 Days). The instructions are very clearly written, making it easy for even a brand new homeschooler to jump in and get started.

The first section, Geography Trails, is five-minute drills that can be used alone for a full year to introduce and reinforce geography terms and place-name recognition. It can also be used as a component of a full geography course when you use it along with the other two sections in the book. The 27 weeks of Geography Trails are written at three levels and focus on a specific region all week. You select the level you feel your child is at based on his/her skills. The author doesn't like to designate grade levels. All students, regardless of level, need instruction using an atlas and reading maps. The first two to three weeks concentrate on this skill; after that, the Geography Trails become five-minute exercises. Each of the levels is designated by a cool paw print. You should have access to an atlas, either a junior atlas, or a full atlas; again, depending on your child's ability. You can use Geography Trails for three years with one child, as the questions are not repeated, but are generally more in-depth with each level.

The next section of the book is Trail Blazing. Depending on how much work you assign, students can work about a half hour daily for four days a week on the Trail Blazing assignments. Reserve a full class period for doing the art projects. You may need some extra resources for this section. The best resource is The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Book. This book is a gold mine, and I will review it in depth later, but it is an invaluable resource for any geography study! Also, the art projects are taken from a book called Geography Through Art. This is also a very cool book, co-authored by Cindy Wiggers. There are very thorough lesson plan guides, and ideas as you go through this book. It is an excellent book for a complete, comprehensive study of World Geography (which, by the way, also includes the culture of the place studied!). You can probably tell that I am very excited about this book. It is what I've been looking for as the mother of four children on four very different levels! The book also includes a book reading list for younger students and one for older students. The unit study included on Around the World In 80 Days is very well done and a compliment to the rest of the book. I challenge you to find an easier to use, multi-level geography course out there, because this one is almost perfect! The only thing that would make it perfect is to sell it combined with The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide, because this book works so well as a resource to the Trail Guide.

Trail Guide to US Geography

This is the second book in the Trail Guide books. This one looks just as promising as the first one, reviewed above. This book concentrates on U.S. Geography and takes you on a tour, state-by-state, using the same basic format as above: the five-minute Geography Trails, and the Points of Interest, which take a little bit longer to explore. This is an EXCELLENT resource for U.S. Geography. Your child will be very familiar with the United States and each state independently when they are through with this course! The recommended resource is an almanac of some sort for each student, again, depending on his ability, not grade level. There is also a six-week book study in this volume, using the book The Captain's Dog, My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Tribe. This book lends itself to the note booking idea quite well. While traveling across the country, students develop a notebook on each state they visit. Included in the back of the book are reproducible sheets that can be used for this option. This book seems to be another quality product from the Wiggers family, and my only complaint is that as a Canadian, I would LOVE to see a Trail Guide to Canadian Geography as well! Even as a Canadian, this book can be well used. There is never a reason to neglect knowledge, and this book is a perfect way to introduce my children to the United States and its geography, something that is neglected in the public schools these days!

The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide
By Maggie Hogan and Cindy Wiggers

This is THE ultimate resource guide to geography! It has absolutely everything you could ever need to study geography! This truly is the ULTIMATE guide. It is everything you will ever need to teach geography from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. It contains many years worth of information and activities. There is absolutely no way this book could be finished in one year. It is a book you buy early in your child's schooling and keep handy for the next 12 years! In fact, the authors warn that attempting to do everything in this book could be hazardous to your health (not to mention that of your students!). There is so much in here that I don't quite know what to say to adequately review it. I am usually never at a loss for words, but when asked to describe this book, I came close! There are 350 pages in this book and it is absolutely packed with information. The authors start out with "Just the Basics," which includes sections on general teaching tips, learning styles, note booking basics, and supplies. Then there is a refresher course for the parent on geography and all that the work entails. There are games in this book, ways to use current events, compass activities, a study of Holland, and teaching geography through literature, which includes a complete unit study on Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. There is a section on geography through science, geography through math, geography through history, and geography through the Internet. There is a huge section on teaching "pure" geography and lessons to do just for middle school and high school. There are tons and tons of reproducibles in this book! There is a complete section on everything you could need to teach timelines! Also included is a copy of timeline figures written and designed by Cindy Wigger's daughter, Liberty. These are available separately in a book already printed on cardstock. Here they are on reproducible paper. If all of this sounds too intimidating, it shouldn't be. This is a fantastic resource, and it will always be a classic, it's that good! Cindy and Maggie have written a wonderful introduction chapter that takes the WOW out of your initial investigation, and replaces it with a "I CAN do this!" There is even a "Yearly Guide for the Less Than Confident," which takes you through the book with every different grade level. If you are at a homeschool conference this year, take a look at this book. It is worth its weight in gold, as far as geography study goes! It is a book that I can personally guarantee. If you plan to teach geography, this book is the book you need! I'd better stop gushing, or you'll think it's too good to be true!



-- Product Review by: Holly Cameron, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine


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