Introduction to Geography and Earth Studies

geographyCharlotte Mason on Geography

“Geography is, to my mind, a subject of high educational value.” [HE, 271]

“The peculiar value of geography lies in its fitness to nourish the mind with ideas, and to furnish the imagination with pictures.” [HE, 272]

`How to begin? In the first place, the child gets his rudimentary notions of geography as he gets his first notions of natural science, in those long hours out of doors of which we have already seen the importance. A pool fed by a mere cutting in the fields will explain the nature of a lake …” [HE, 273]

“What next? – Give him intimate knowledge, with the fullest details, of any country or region of the world, any county or district of his own country.” [HE, 274]

“Geography should be learned chiefly from maps. Pictorial readings and talks introduce him to the subject, but so soon as his geography lessons become definite they are to be learned, in the first place, from the map. This is an important principle to bear in mind. The child who gets no ideas from considering the map, say of Italy or of Russia, has no knowledge of geography, however many facts about places he may be able to reproduce.”[HE, 278]

“Perhaps no knowledge is more delightful than such an intimacy with the earth’s surface, region by region, as should enable the map of any region to unfold a panorama of delight, disclosing not only mountains, rivers, frontiers, the great features we know as ‘Geography,’ but associations, occupations, some parts of the past and much of the present, of every part of this beautiful earth.” [PE, 224]


  • Home Education, pp.271-78
  • Philosophy of Education, pp.224-340

Out-of-door Geography

  • Home Education, pp.72-77

Why Geography and Earth Studies? 

by Dr. Kathryn Faulkner

In geography, probably more than in any other subject, there is a wide difference between the British and American approaches. As a British homeschooler discovering American homeschooling catalogues I was bemused by the lack of resources available for one of the core subjects – geography. In British schools geography is typically given equal weight to history as a subject; in America this was clearly not the case. Then I came across a bafflingly unknown subject called ‘earth science’. Eventually the penny dropped. What Americans call earth science, the British include in geography. In the UK, geography covers all aspects of the study of the earth, its physical attributes and its peoples. Reading Charlotte Mason’s writings on geography and looking at old Parents’ Union School programmes make it clear that she too saw geography in this broad sense. We have opted to take the British approach and include earth science with geography to give a broad overview of all aspects of God’s world. For the sake of clarity we decided to use the term Geography and Earth Studies.

Our Approach

Charlotte Mason’s approach to geography in the early years of a child’s education including a substantial activity based element and a considerable amount of outdoor work. Tasks set included modeling geographical features with sand and clay, making plans of the local area and learning to tell time and direction from the sun. Often the work was personal to the child – learning about places visited by family members, studying familiar places. She advocated reading books of travel to introduce the child to ideas about the world (as part of the ‘children’s hour’ rather than as school work), and also prescribed a definite course of study from living books. In the absence of any books she considered suitable for introducing geography to children she wrote her own, the Ambleside Geographies.

Unlike history, geography is a subject where it simply isn’t possible to take advantage of well-written older books. The world is constantly changing – the political map of Europe is vastly different to the map of a century ago; lifestyles across the world are have changed dramatically; cities grow, new cities are built, jungles disappear, ice melts. None of the books used by Charlotte Mason herself, or even those used later by the PUS, are now available, and if they were they would be too outdated. Unfortunately, there is very little to take their place. Descriptive geography books suitable for younger children are few and far between. Substantial living books suitable for use as key texts are non-existent. Books about Britain for children are extremely hard to find. Faced with limited resources we have tried to cover a broad range of geographical topics, drawing on Charlotte’s ideas as much as possible. The availability of books has to some extent dictated the order in which we have approached topics.

Over the course of Levels 1 and 2 geography studies will include:

      • Introduction to geography through study of places with family connections.
      • A hands-on, activity based introduction to both land-based and water-based physical features of the earth.
      • Living books about life in a number of countries and environments.
      • Practical introduction to maps, plans and use of the compass.
      • Map work, aiming to build a sound knowledge of the political and physical map of the world.
      • Understanding, monitoring, recording and predicting weather.
      • Introduction to American geography using Holling C. Holling’s books.
      • An activity based geography scheme for British families.
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