30 Days of Homeschool: Day 20 – Geography

(30 posts about free resources for homeschooling)

PREFACE/ENCOURAGEMENT/PONTIFICATION: Today I was reading about the author Flannery O’Connor. While she pretty much stayed in Georgia all of her life, she had an “uncanny grasp of the nuances of human behavior” (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Flannery_O%27Connor). So knowing physical locations, traveling, and seeing the world are not essential to educating smart, well-balanced, and even possibly famous and influential people. But if you’d like to teach your kids about your neighborhood, city, state, country, or the world, then here are several places to get physical, viewable, and dynamic maps.

Rest Area/Visitors Center – These will have free maps, both larger driving maps and smaller visitor maps, of the state you’re entering or leaving. Homeschooling is practically 24/7, so while you’re traveling there’s a ton of learning that can happen!

USA.gov – http://www.usa.gov/Topics/State-Maps.shtml
This has a simple list of links, with each link pointing to that state’s map page. From there you can download a map, or even request/order if you want a physical map.

Google Earth – https://www.google.com/earth/explore/products/
This site is just fantastic! I prefer the Desktop version/download, but you can also get it free for iOS or Android devices. I like to use it like we do with our physical globe – spin it, find a spot and learn about it.

50 States.com – http://www.50states.com/us.htm
This is a simple site, with blank outline maps. View online or download or copy.

National Geographic — www.nationalgeographic.com/
When you go here and search for your state map (e.g., Indiana map), you’ll see your state’s Tabletop map, which you can download for free. Yes, it’s big (Indiana’s map is 35 x 44 in.), but, hey, it’s a free map. If you just leave it on your monitor for viewing you can see the whole thing without having to print.

MapQuest and Google Maps – http://www.mapquest.com/; https://www.google.com/maps
I’m putting these together simply because they’re so similar, and some people may cringe that I think so. These are great for seeing the street level view of just about any place. Good for the kids to be able to see where they are, and quickly zip over to somewhere else. And they both have free apps for smartphones.

An example of a practical use of these: A couple years ago, I used Google Maps to mark out and label all of the streets in a ½ mile diameter, so that our kids could get a feel for what was around them and the importance of knowing the surrounding streets. This was in case of emergency; teaching about emergencies is always applicable, though we want to teach for awareness, not to scare them.

Flash Earth – http://www.flashearth.com/
This uses satellite imagery, but has a list of different views and sources such as NASA and Bing Maps. The variants in sources provide ample information. It’s not as neat as Terra Firma used to be, but Terra Firma is no longer free.

Free World Maps – http://www.freeworldmaps.net/
A good and basic site. Fairly quick to load the pages – nothing fancy, but the maps are colorful. Since the pages are most, if not all, .jpg/pictures, you’d have to copy and paste into some program in order to print it out how you like. But for just viewing on the screen, it’s good.

Happy Homeschooling!

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