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CBD: You co-wrote Hands On Geography and The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide, both popular resources among homeschoolers. How did you become interested in geography? Do you have any background in the field?

MH: When I was about 12 or so, there was a boy named Robin and a sailboat called “Dove.” Robin was on a quest to become the youngest boy to sail solo around the world. I think he was about 15 or 16 at the time. I was fascinated! I followed his adventures in National Geographic and in newspapers, and I put pictures on my wall, including a world map to track his expedition. I talked my parents into sailing lessons, saved up for my own sailboat, and dreamed of being the youngest girl to sail around the world. Unfortunately, one day my boat sank (while I was in it) and put a kink in my plans!

I grew up in Florida and spent much time in the Bahamas. I loved travel, meeting people with different customs and views, exploring wildlife, and eating exotic food. Then I took the required 7th grade geography course in junior high. Ugh. It was soooo incredibly boring (no maps or anything—just a dry old textbook) that I decided I hated geography!

When we began homeschooling in 1992, I realized I had to teach this “dreaded” subject. In looking for ways to make it interesting, I discovered that geography is inherently exciting! It was just my formal education that was dull. Geography is about people and places—how can that be boring? After collecting ideas and “experimenting” on my kids and in co-ops, Hands-on Geography was born. Now in the Hogan home, geography is COOL!

CBD: A recent National Geographic survey revealed that geographic illiteracy is widespread in this country and around the world. For example, nearly 30% of young Americans, ages 18 to 24, could not point to the Pacific Ocean on a map, and less than 15% could locate either Iraq or Israel. In your opinion, what factors have contributed to this shocking lack of knowledge?

MH: I think it has much to do with the dumbing down of American schools. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, geography morphed into “Social Studies.” Less and less emphasis was placed on the “where and why” of things and more on why every culture is equally wonderful.

I also suspect that vast amounts of television watching and electronic game playing have replaced the kinds of reading and exploration we did as kids. There’s nothing like lying outside under a tree reading a story set in faraway places to ignite the fire of curiosity!

On a positive note, I believe the National Geographic Society has done a tremendous job of promoting geography through the National Geography Bee. Their organization has given geography an exciting image and prompted many kids to voluntarily spend time researching. I also appreciate the ease in which they allow homeschoolers to participate.

CBD: Many people view geography as dry, boring, and irrelevant to their everyday lives. Why is the study of geography important? How can parents get their kids excited about the subject?

MH: Look at what geography really encompasses! It isn’t just place names and locations, but also includes religions, political and economic systems, languages, climate, plants and animals, earthquakes, volcanoes, and so much more!

Make it personal (“Can you find Grandma’s house on the map?”) and include hands-on projects. From salt dough maps to “Around the World Nights” to keeping nature notebooks, geography is fun! Integrate geography with other studies. For example, learning about life sciences this year? Plants, animals, bodies of water, habitats, migration, etc. are all geographic studies as well. Our newest book, Christian Kids Explore Biology (K–6), purposely does this for you.

CBD: Studying geography entails learning about the diverse populations of the Earth. What tips can you give to parents who want to emphasize a Christian worldview in their lesson plans?

MH: Pray your way around the world! Use resources like Hands-on Geography, which provides helpful tips for teaching geography from a Christian perspective. Another great book is Operation World, which includes prayer requests and background info on a huge variety of other cultures and nations. The web site for Voice of the Martyrs, www.persecution.com, is valuable as well.

Track the journeys of famous missionaries as you read their biographies. Keep biblical, historical, and current atlases handy and use them for Bible reading, history lessons, and current events. Discuss current news as well as historical events in the light of God’s Word. What does the Bible have to say about it? What should our response as Christians be? Always run lessons through the grid of who we are in Christ.

CBD: You have two sons, both of whom you home educated through high school. Your oldest is something of a world traveler, since he’s now in the Army (3rd Infantry Division) and has just returned from a long deployment in Iraq. Can you share a few practical insights and encouragement with homeschool parents who are daunted by the thought of teaching their high school-aged children?

MH: It’s been a tremendous blessing to have homeschooled JB and Tyler all the way through. The high school years in many ways are the most important years in which to have our young people home. And sadly, those are the years in which parents are most likely to give up on homeschooling. It’s not always obvious which paths to choose during the high school years. For example, one mistake I made with JB was to obsess over high academic achievements and not to leave enough time for relationship building. Teenagers are not always easy to teach—but what better way to train them for adulthood than to have them in your home where you can work on things side by side?

Bob and I look at ourselves as “facilitators” of our sons’ education. This means we are ultimately responsible to see that they get what they need, but we do not necessarily teach each subject ourselves. For example, we might teach a course or we might use a video text, a computer or correspondence course, college classes, co-ops, independent study, tutors, etc. We provide oversight, grade papers, set goals, help our sons develop strong work and study skills, and provide the moral underpinning of our homeschool.

The beauty of high school at home is that they can pursue their own interests to a huge degree! We are not tied to a traditional course of study—we can be creative and flexible depending upon their needs, abilities, and goals.

Our youngest, Tyler, is into so many things. He’s a senior this year and is spending a large amount of time on his ministries. A few years ago he began a mime troupe at our church that does outreach evangelism through mime, sign language, music, etc. He spends much time on this as well as his music—he both sings in ensembles and plays in our church orchestra. Writing, languages, mission trips, and his own home business of map making also keep him busy. He’s taking a few traditional courses: physics, logic, consumer math, and driver’s ed., and he works out a schedule based on his ministry commitments and our family’s travel schedule. We are so thankful to the Lord that Tyler has the time, support, and motivation to give his best to God. If he were away from home all day and then had additional homework responsibilities at night, this customized curriculum would not be possible.

Bob and I have spent the last 10 years directing a large homeschool support group. We’ve seen many high school kids come and go, and are always amazed at the variety of educational experiences they have had homeschooling. It truly is an awesome launching pad for adulthood!


 

 See resources from Maggie Hogan in our Bright Ideas Press Store!

Hands-On Geography: Easy & Fun Activities for Exploring God's World
Hands-On Geography: Easy & Fun Activities for Exploring God's World
Maggie S. Hogan

Student History Notebook of America
Student History Notebook of America
Maggie Hogan

Gifted Children at Home: A Practical Guide
Gifted Children at Home: A Practical Guide
Janice Baker


 

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