Sunday, December 20, 2015

REVIEW: Geography for Kids: Drawing the USA

Review of Geography for Kids: Drawing the USA

This book is designed to teach children to draw, from memory, the United States of America, while researching and learning information about each state.
Rating out of 5 stars (5 = excellent, 1 = poor)
Is it worth our time? 2 stars
Did it help us learn? 3 stars
Is it worth the money?3  stars
Is it useful to me? 2 stars
Practicality-  1 stars
Quality- 3 stars
Kid Rating- 2 stars

I was given Geography for Kids: Draw the USA to review. I was excited about the opportunity to review this curriculum.  We are currently learning about US history and each state this year in our homeschool using Adventures in US History by My Father's World (MFW). I have a 7 year old boy (2nd grade) who is excited about map making, and a 5 year old girl (1st grade) who loves to draw and paint.  At the time of this review, we have already studied the first 13 colonies in our current curriculum.
What is this curriculum all about: The purpose of this curriculum is to help students learn about the 50 states while also learning to draw, from memory, the shape of each state on a map and their relative position to one another.
Our Experience: Upon receiving the e-book of this curriculum, I reviewed the instructions for what to do each day and printed the daily sheets for each of my children. The last state we studied in Adventures in MFW was Vermont. We decided to start with this state. Both kids enjoyed tracing the state and then drawing a copy of the state in the box provided. They both easily labeled the state capital. Next, we looked up Vermont in our Scholastic Atlas of the United States and began to fill in the Vermont state sheet.  In the MFW curriculum, the student sheets include state sheets - on the front students color the state, state bird and state flower, as well as fill in the state capital and abbreviation. On the back of each MFW student sheet is information about each state, which the student reads and highlights information they find interesting. In comparison, Geography for Kids: Drawing the USA, asks students to research and fill in the capital and abbreviation, size and population, statehood, bird and flower, industry and one interesting fact. My 5 year old needed help filling this information in, while my 7 year old was able to complete the task with limited help. I then provided each student the map of the US with dashed lines. They were able to trace each state they have learned about so far, however labeling proved difficult. The maps provided are quite small, only 5 1/2 inches by 8 inches. Even my husband, who has a drafting background, attempted this activity and found it to be quite small for our young students to be able to plan out the labeling/space needed. A map with labeling lines provided would have been helpful. Finally, we attempted to have our students, including my husband, draw the states on the blank map provided. This task proved too difficult for both our children and they felt overwhelmed. The blank maps do not even include a border outline of the USA, so figuring our spacing proved too difficult for them.  Even after tracing the east coast line, our children were unable to draw more than Maine. I believe much of this difficulty was due to the map size. Perhaps an older student would be able to complete this task with greater success. My husband found this activity to be meticulous and questioned the value of the time spent on it. It took at least 30 minutes for my husband to draw the first 13 colonies and label them.  If we spent more time,  adding one state at a time, I believe an older student may eventually be able to draw each state - however, at age 5 and 7 they haven't developed the patience and attention to detail yet to be successful.  

UPDATE: I just received the hard bound perfect print binding of this curriculum to review. When I initially paged through it, I  realized that many of the pages are the same blank map for tracing or drawing. It seems as though it's designed to be more of a workbook for a child to draw directly into, rather than photo copy the pages from. However, it's been my experience that spiral or comb binding works much better for students to work with, as the pages lay flat on the table, rather then have to compete with the natural curve that a "perfect" bound book wants to keep. Additionally, if you have more than one student, the e-book would better suit your family, so that you can print clean copies and spiral/comb bind them yourself. This perfect bound book would be difficult to make a clean photocopy the sheets. I also noticed that the maps in the perfect bound book face opposite one another, so if you were to make your own workbook using the e-book, I would recommend binding the map sheets so that they are facing the same direction. I believe this would help students to potentially use one map as a reference while working on another.
My daughter's (5)completed tracing and labeling.
My son (7) decided he'd rather trace a larger map.
What I liked:
  • I like the practice of tracing each state to help students learn their shape and relative position to each other. However, you could do this by providing your students with tracing paper and a map.
  • While we didn't do any timed drills, as recommended, I believe this would be a useful activity to do using a blank map. I picked up a wipe off US map, that includes each state abbreviation on top and lines for labeling the smaller states, from the dollar-spot at Target. I plan to have my students use this wipe off map for this type of activity.
Wipe off map from Target's dollar spot. Flip side has the 7 continents.

  • Students learn how to research information about each state.
  • The option to print and spiral bind the sheets to make a workbook for a student to use (using the e-book version only, the perfect bound book doesn't seem to be designed to be used as a student workbook.)
What I didn't like:
  • Completing more than one state per day, as recommended in the table of contents would be too much for a elementary school student.
  • Maps are too small for young students to successfully draw and label, especially the blank map.
  • Maps didn't include lines for labeling the smaller states.
  • Activities were somewhat duplicative to our current curriculum.
In summary, if I had no other curriculum to compare or had older students, I probably would like Geography for Kids: Draw the USA and would modify the lessons to fit the time and ability of my children. While I was hopeful that this book would supplement what I'm already doing using Adventures in MFW, unfortunately it is duplicative and geared toward an older student .  MFW provides state sheets with research information and coloring opportunities, as well as a large blank US map for students to trace and color each state, a better fit for my younger students. I had hoped the blank map provided by Geography for Kids: Draw the USA would be a fun activity for our students to learn to draw the USA, however, it is just too small and difficult for them to complete. This curriculum may be appreciated more by older students.
My husband's freehand drawing map without tracing. Completed in 30+ minutes. He is 37 and had a drafting background.
My son's (7) completed tracing/ labeling using a wall map.
*I was given a free downloadable and print bound copy of  this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and reflect my own experiences.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Free Bible Songs for Kids: WORDology

Do you want your little ones to have the Word hidden in their heart, but can only do so much Bible memorization? We love making up songs to learn Bible verses and there are a few resources we really love that pair the Word to upbeat, relevant music. Oh, and they don't sound like it's only for kids.
One such resource we love is WORDology. Not only is is awesome music (made by dear friends of mine), but it is also FREE! Who doesn't love free music?
If you enjoy their music, please tell your friends!

To download you FREE copies of WORDology and WORDology2 visit: or click on the Album covers below.
"Romans Road" by WORDology

For more information visit their official website:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Craft for Sending Love to Relatives

Who doesn't love little baby feet? Our littlest just turned 3 months this week. Realizing we never got prints of his tiny little baby feet when he was born, I decided to create this fun craft to remember how cute those little footprints are and send some love to his grandparents who live out of state.

All you need to create this craft are:
  1. One set of adorable baby feet
  2. Red washable tempra paint
  3.  Paint brush
  4. White card stock or plain paper

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Last Minute Valentine's Day Snack/Craft: Painted Toast hearts

Are you a multi-tasking mom? Do you need a good Valentine's craft to occupy your kiddos - RIGHT NOW?  Well, here it is. This week we combined snack time with craft time and celebrated  Valentine's Week. As I child, my mom used to do this activity with my sister and I. To keep my kids excited about it, I only pull out this activity/snack for special occasions. Since my little girl and husband both have birthday's on Valentines day it was the perfect week to break out: Painted Toast.

What you need:
  • egg tray or some other tray to hold your "paint"
  • milk
  • food coloring
  • white bread
  • paint brushes (that you reserve for this activity or new)
  • cookie cutters - we used heart ones
  • cookie sheet
  • oven or toaster oven or toaster
How to make your paint:
  1. Pour a small amount of milk in each spot for your painting tray (egg tray)
  2. Add food coloring to the milk- this is also a great opportunity to teach your kids about primary and secondary colors. (red, yellow, blue and then how to make green, purple etc), mix with toothpick
  3. Give each child a paint brush and slice of white bread (you could try another kind of bread, but the colors show up best on white). Let you kids create their designs.
  4. Using a cookie cutter, cut shape out of the bread. My kids liked to eat the scraps that were left over.
  5. Toast the bread designs on a cookie sheet in the oven or in toaster oven/ toaster. Be careful not to burn the bread.
  6. Enjoy! Totally edible art - Can it get any better?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lessons from The Giving Tree

This week the kids and I have been studying Apples and I decided to bring out one of my favorite books of all time, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Here is a link to the lesson we are using for this book on Homeschool Share.

I loved this story as a child because it's about a little boy and his journey as he grows up. However, now as I read this book to my own children, as their Momma, this book has taken on new meaning. Instead of identifying with the boy, I now identify with the Tree. She loves the boy. ALOT. She plays with him, he hangs from her branches and makes crowns from her leaves. She plays hide-and-go-seek with the boy, and feeds him apples.
And as the boy gets older, she sees less and less of the boy. The boy goes off to experience the world, but she remains, firmly planted in the ground, unmoving. She's there for the boy when he needs money, when he wants to get married, and have his own children. And she is happy to serve him in any way she can, giving him her apples, her branches, even her trunk. She comforts him when the boy returns and is sad. And eventually, at the end of the book, when the boy returns, She is still there to provide him a place of rest.

What amazing sacrifice this tree makes for the boy she loves. As a parent, I can identify more now with the Tree. However, I can see how the Tree is much like God. God wants to be our friend. He gives us food (physical and spiritual food) to nourish our bodies and souls. He is our Refuge when we need shade from the harshness of life. He promised to give us what we need, if we only ask Him. He is our Provider. He is our Rest, when we feel too weary to go on.  Oh, that we might remember that God really is like this tree - he wants to be our friend forever.