“Geography is, to my mind, a subject of high educational value.” (Home Education, p. 271)
“The peculiar value of geography lies in its fitness to nourish the mind with ideas, and to furnish the imagination with pictures.” (Home Education, p. 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 …” (Home Education, p. 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.” (Home Education, p. 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.”(Home Education, p. 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.” (Philosophy of Education, p.224)
- Home Education, p. 271-78
- Philosophy of Education, p. 224-340
- Home Education, p. 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.
Mater Amabilis Approach
Charlotte Mason’s approach to geography in the early years of a child’s education included a substantial activity based element and a considerable amount of outdoor work. Task sets 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. Charlotte Mason 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 Miss Mason 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 available, 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 Mater Amabilis has 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.
Geography studies include:
- Living books about life in a number of countries and environments. (Prep, 1B, 1A, 2, 3)
- Map work, aiming to build a sound knowledge of the political and physical map of the world (all levels)
- Introduction to geography through study of places with family connections (1B)
- A hands-on, activity based introduction to both land-based and water-based physical features of the earth. (1B, 1A)
- Practical introduction to maps, plans and use of the compass. (1A)
- Understanding, monitoring, recording and predicting weather. (1A)
- An introduction to geology through the study of mountains and volcanoes (1A)
- Introduction to American geography using Holling C. Holling’s books. (2)
- An activity based geography scheme for British families.
Level 3 & 4
- A study of the geography of the world through famous landmarks and locations in Level 3 using Book of Marvels.
- A study of the history of exploration in Levels 3 & 4
- A study of the Geography of Europe in Level 4.
- A 3 year plan for a formal study of geology in Levels 3 & 4.
Level 5 & 6 (High School)
- Level 5 and 6 (High School) geography courses designed to introduce students to the general landforms of the world, as well as people and cultures of the past and present, including curated articles covering current culture and political boundaries.
- Earth studies included in Level 5 and 6 geography courses which can be extended through science coursework
Note from the Mater Amabilis Advisory (2021):
Concerning the origins of the universe, life, and man, the Mater Amabilis curriculum offers multiple scheduled geology and astronomy books that presuppose developmental creation/theistic evolution and assume the estimated age of geologic features, and the origins and development of the universe, life, and humanity according to the contemporary study at the time the book was published.
All Mater Amabilis content reflects the “Catholic position” on evolution. The Church has infallibly defined that the universe was created by God out of nothing. The Church does not have an official position on whether various non-human life forms developed over the course of time (biological evolution). However, it says that, if they did develop, then they did so under the impetus and guidance of God, and their ultimate creation must be ascribed to him. Regarding the origin of humans, Church teaching allows for the possibility that man’s body developed from previous biological forms, under God’s guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his soul. Further explanation is offered in (Pius XII, Humani Generis 36).
All Mater Amabilis content on the question of when the universe, life, and man appeared is faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. Teachings on the chronological/literal interpretation and the “topical” or non-literal understanding of Genesis are offered by Pius XII in Humani Generis (37), the CCC (159 and 390), and Leo XIII (Providentissimus Deus 18) for further reading.