Even though I've lived in Colorado since the 1990s, I'm still amused whenever I pass this sign on Interstate 25:
Yes, apparently Greenland is in Colorado. But if you need services there you're out of luck. Greenland, Colorado covers 1.3 square miles of land, by the way, unlike Greenland the island, which covers a considerably larger 836,109 square miles.
One of the great things about Sonlight is our emphasis on geography. It's important to know where you are in relation to the rest of the world, as well as where the significant events of history took place and why they happened. That's why Sonlight takes time to emphasize both history and geography (our Markable Map is a big help with this).
Why bother learning dates and places? After all, anyone can look this stuff up online in seconds and GPS mapping software can get you where you need to go quickly and efficiently (well, most of the time). Memorizing dates and places is one thing, but actually learning about the places you read about, internalizing the knowledge, and understanding what happened where and the reasons behind the events is quite another matter. This is where homeschooling in general, and Sonlight in particular, can go a long way toward encouraging and cultivating a better understanding of the world.
Although Sonlight emphasizes history and geography, it's not in a boring, memorize facts sort of way. Since many of our history and geography lessons are tied to great literature, children are far more interested in learning about the world around them. Along the way they can learn interesting information about different countries.
Take Greenland, for instance, which in reality isn't very green. It's generally believed that the Viking Erik the Red discovered Greenland after he got kicked out of Iceland (but that's another story). Different accounts tell about how Greenland got its name. One version, usually considered a myth, says that Erik named it that in order to attract other people to Greenland, which certainly sounds better than Cold Barren Island. Some people think the word translated as "green" actually means "ground," as in Ground Land. Others believe that the climate in Greenland used to be warmer, so there may have been more green around back then.
At any rate, every geographical area has history and more often than not the history is engaging and helps children learn about how the world works today. Learning about different nations covers topics ranging from geography, government, religion, economy, language, the arts, and much more.
How do you integrate geography into your homeschool studies? Let us know!
P.S. If you have access to an iPhone or iPad, the world geography app Barefoot World Atlas, normally $4.99, is free for a limited time. It's a fun app that lets kids get a big picture view of geography.