Monday, June 17, 2013

Memoria Press: Geography I - A TOS Crew Review

In early May I was fortunate to receive a set of Geography I from Memoria Press to use with my son to review. 

Memoria Press, launched in 1994, is a publisher that provides easy-to-use curriculum for a Christian classical education.
Classically educated students learn Latin, and through their years they study what is known as "the great works of the Western tradition". The  philosophy of a classical education is to cultivate wisdom and virtue by focusing on that which is true and beautiful and good. Classical study have a focus on liberal arts, and concentrate on the writings and the lives and thinking of great men from Western tradition. The liberal arts studies focus on grammar, logic and rhetoric (these three known as the "trivium"), and arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music (these four known as the "quadrivium"). What is known as the "Western Civilization", which the studies cover, is encompassed by a study of the Romans, the Greeks, and the Hebrews of ancient time.

There was a day in our history when everyone who was considered educated would have received an education of this nature. Students studied Plato, Socrates, and Justinian, and students read original works in their original languages of Greek, Latin, or Hebrew.

The concept of giving my children a classical education has long intrigued me, but for the longest time it was inaccessible to me, not only financially, but also practically. I began home educating in 1991, before this company's materials were available. I don't speak or read Latin, Greek or Hebrew. I'm challenged even in my native English when it comes to assigning and judging writing assignments. 

Since I have become familiar with Memoria Press, I no longer consider a classical education to be inaccessible! (I'm even working on learning Latin!) I was interested in using the Geography I materials with my son, because I have neglected his instruction in Geography somewhat.

Oh, happy day when the box arrived! What fun it always is to receive a new shipment of books!
We received five soft-cover books of various sizes. The Geography I program is appropriate for students in grades 4 through 8 (being part of the Memoria Press plans for Grade 4). The program  includes three books focused on the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe,

and two books focused on reviewing the geography of the United States.
My son showed an immediate preference for focusing on the geography of our own country, the United States of America. He is familiar with it, and yet it is challenging to him because although the names of states and capitals are familiar to him, he does not yet have state locations memorized or each state capital memorized.

The States and State Capitals Review Student Workbook (pictured above) contains 25 pages, and the Teacher Key, Quizzes, & Tests (pictured above) contains corresponding worksheets, quizzes and tests (on 95 pages). The country is divided into eight regions which are focused on in groups. I had my son work on one to two pages several times a week. My son does not like to color, so I did not insist that he color states (which the curriculum asked him to do). I do think I will have him go back later and in some way outline the states that belong to the different regions, as I do believe that is useful information for him to learn. My son still needs a lot more work on this material. (I think his brain was already more focused on summer break then school work when we were still in May...)

This student book was laid out using the method that I believe is most helpful to my son, where he is to fill the state name in the state itself, unless it does not fit, in which case he can write it in the ocean and draw an arrow to the state (Rhode Island, for instance).
When it was time to work on the materials for The Middle East, North Africa and Europe my son repeatedly resisted me. (This is part of his nature, by the way, to cling to that which is familiar and to resist and turn away from anything new, particularly if the new subject matter was not his own idea...) JD insisted that he had no need to know this information, and even while he was saying this the radio was on in the background tuned to our talk radio station, with conversation about Syria and Afghanistan. I pointed that out to him, and he said, "I don't even know where Afghanistan is!" And I replied, "Exactly!"  

The Middle East, North Africa and Europe is divided, as its title suggests, into the three sections of:
  1. The Middle East;
  2. North Africa; and
  3. Europe.
The Student Text contains 103 pages, which include pages at the back with maps of the countries! The Teacher Guide does not have numbered pages (so I'm not sure how many pages are in it); it includes answer pages that correspond to the Student Workbook, as well as blank Quizzes and Tests with their corresponding Answer Keys. The Student Workbook contains pages and maps that correspond to the material presented in the Student Text, as well as review pages for student use. 

The teacher instructions recommend the teacher have the student work through 2-3 countries each week. It is suggested that for each country the following be done:
  • name and country and its capital be written in (information gotten from the textbook)
  • paragraphs about the country, from the text, be read by or to the students;
  • student listen for and record "Fun Facts" about the country into the spaces provided in the workbook; and
  • student mark workbook map showing geographic landmarks (mountains, deserts, etc.)
The teacher is to encourage use of colored pencils, and to encourage neatness. I remember doing a year of Geography when I was in 7th grade. I remember mapping out the countries in Africa and the Middle East, Europe, Asia. I remember carefully coloring each country a different color with my colored pencils, and labeling the countries and trying to memorize them. I took joy in neatness. We students would compare our maps, and find fault with the maps of others to make ourselves feel better about the job we did on our own maps.
It is so challenging to be teaching a student that is so different from myself. My son does not want to use those colored pencils. He fills in the country names grudgingly. He does not consider facts about countries he is unfamiliar with to be "Fun Facts", and he makes sure I know it. Even after all the time he spent working on this material, he insists that he does not need to know this information. He has happy to learn that it was time for me to write the review because he mistakenly assumed that he would never have to complete the books. He is wrong, and I made sure he knew it. The reason I am so happy to do product reviews is that it gives me an opportunity to receive materials that I want for free, materials that when the review is finished I can then spread out over the rest of the school year to meet a curriculum and educational need in our home school.

To the left is a page from the Student Text, so you can see what that looks like. I saved Egypt for my son to do next year, as we gear up for our studies of the ancient cultures the following year. Next year we will be focusing on the 20th Century to present, and our studies of the countries of the regions included in this series will be so very relevant to our studies of the war and politics of current times!

The photos below from the Teacher Guide show the way the answers are all filled in -- country names, capitals, mountains, countries nearby. Countries with rivers have the river name labeled. The dotted line below shows the Arctic Circle. I chose to show this map of Norway because of my Finnish/Norwegian heritage.

The above photo, from  The Middle East, North Africa, & Europe Student Workbook, is an example of my son's work. Sorry the above photo washed out. The format of the workbook has sections where the countries are numbered, and the student is asked to write the country name on the corresponding number's line. The above photo showed an example of that method. When I saw that, I instructed my son to ignore the numbered lines and just write the answers in the outlined country itself. I did this because I know my son and his weaknesses. My goal is for him to learn the material. I am not currently concerned that he "test well". So if he knows the countries, their locations, the countries around them, the capitals, geographic differences of note, etc., he will be far ahead of where he is now. Sometime in the next two years I need to work with him to help him improve his test-taking skills, but I did not want to combine that training with this material at this time.

The Middle East, North Africa, & Europe Student Text
We have some busy months ahead of us this summer, so we will be very limited in the school work we will be doing until September. I fully intend, though, to work our way through the rest of this material this school year. This is a rich program, and I am so happy to have had an opportunity to try it out. I wish I had had this when my two older students were in Middle School.

I love Memoria Press. I love their products. I love their Geography I program. (I am not being paid to say this.) My son, though, does not like school, does not like these Geography I materials, and does not want to learn anything that is not his own idea. He reminds me of Thomas Edison, who got kicked out of school and was eventually able to pursue what was important to himself, and thus we have so many inventions! I expect great things from my son one day, but in the meantime educating him is very often so challenging. Because of this I end up adapting products to use them in a way that works for use. That is the beauty of home schooling. I find the products from Memoria Press are able to be adapted in this way. My son may never get the grasp of the material to a degree that he would if he followed the program the way it is laid out, but I am not certain he would actually learn it better if we followed the instructions, because his brain is just a little different. I had one student who would have thrived following all Memoria Press methods and procedures. My current student is not that student, but the products by Memoria Press are, nevertheless, excellent materials for him and I highly recommend them.

So if your student is needing to study Geography, I recommend you take a good look at Memoria Press's Geography I program. Its price is a very reasonable $48. You can see a Geography I sample Text page here, the Geography I Table of Contents here, and a Geography I Workbook Sample here. The Geography I web page also contains links to color images of places in the Text as well.

If you would like to see what other Crew members thought, click the link below.

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