We were grooving to the oldies on the car radio when Neil Diamond came
on: “Kentucky woman, she shines with her own kind of light.”
“What’s a Kentucky woman?” our then-seven-year-old Elizabeth wanted to
know. Ah, thought I, recognizing a teachable moment when I saw one. And
we launched into a geography lesson, discussing states and cities around
Young children have fuzzy ideas about geography. Typically, when I ask
my first-graders to tell me what state they live in, they say, "the United
What country do we live in? "California" is the typical answer. Or "San
Francisco." It is only by talking about these distinctions that children
begin to have a clearer concept of what they are.
When she was six years old, Elizabeth enjoyed singing “Meet me in St. Louis”
from the movie of the same name. We used the opportunity to take out an
atlas and sing our way around the map.
How many songs with geographical locations come through your home or car
radio every day? What are your family favorites? “Deep in the Heart of
Texas,” “New York, New York,” and “California Dreamin’” reflect some of
our family history and interests. Ricky Nelson’s “Travelling Man” takes
a trip around the world, with more than enough exploring to cover a session
with an atlas.
A decent atlas is a fun book to have around the house. Even if you have
an old one, you can still use it as a lesson to teach your child that these
used to be different countries but now they have been changed.
There are several advantages of working with your child in this fashion.
It enhances her knowledge of geography, you get to share your love of music,
and, most of all, it’s a terrific way to spend time together.
This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher's Advice for Parents.