How to Teach High School GeographyAmber Oliver
So your homeschool journey has brought you to the deep waters of homeschooling high school, and you need some pointers for teaching geography, do you? You can do this, and it’s probably a lot easier than you think.
The scope of geography is both much simpler and also much deeper than you might be thinking. As simple as “the study of the world and all the things in it,” the broad definition of geography allows for the inclusion of a large number of topics. While it is indeed impossible to learn all there is to know about this planet, its territories, and its people in just one course, it is quite manageable to give your child a good look at this world we live in from the comfort of your own home.
Understanding High School Credits
Before we dig into teaching geography specifically, let’s do a quick review of high school credits and how they are calculated.
Generally speaking, a high school level course that takes an entire year to complete is considered a one credit course. A one semester (half year) course is worth a half credit. Your geography course may tell you how many credits it’s worth, but if it doesn’t, whether it’s a one-year or a one-semester course will give you an idea.
The North Star Geography curriculum, for example, states that it is considered a one credit course.
How Much Time To Spend On Geography
A one credit course involves around 120-180 hours of class time – more for courses with lab work, less for electives, and somewhere in the middle for basic courses such as language arts. Let’s say you want to shoot for somewhere around 135-150 hours on geography. How does that work out for a 36 week year?
- 40-50 minutes, 5 days a week
- 75-80 minutes, 3 days a week
- 105-125 minutes, 2 days a week
Of course, you could complete a whole year’s worth of work in one semester by doubling the times above for the same number of days per week for 18 weeks. Alternatively, you could spend half the time without digging as deep, and count it as a half credit. Checking for any state requirements can help you decide how much geography you need to plan for.
Remember also, that “work” doesn’t include only reading out of a book, but also researching, writing, and projects.
What to Teach for High School Geography
Now we know how much time to spend, but how do we know what to teach? After all, our definition is pretty broad!
You can start with a pre-selected geography curriculum, such as North Star Geography, or if you prefer, you can create your own curriculum for the year. The two benefits of choosing something like North Star Geography is that the author has done all the work for you, and the companion CD that comes with the book has all of the activities, projects, and quizzes as well. To learn more about choosing a geography curriculum, consult this post about What To Look For in a High School Geography Curriculum.
To quickly recap that post, you want a curriculum that addresses:
- Physical Geography
- Political/Economic Geography
- Human/Social Geography
- Geography Tools
If you still want to create your own curriculum, you would want to cover those same topics to develop a comprehensive study of our world. Either way, you might also want to spend some focused time on the geography of your home state as well.
Promoting Independent Study
It’s likely by this point that your high schoolers are doing a large amount of learning on their own. Independent learning has several obvious benefits, but can have a few challenges as well. Here’s a few tips to help promote and assist with independent study.
1.) Involve your child in the planning. Decide together whether you will spend a year or a semester on the material, whether it should be studied daily or a few times a week. One of the many necessary skills for successfully completing a job is successful goal-setting.
2.) Develop a system of accountability. Develop a system of checklists, planning pages, or other method of lesson planning for your child to maintain and follow, that appeals to your child’s preference for organizing information.
3.) Decide how much or how little you will be involved. Students who are still uneasy about independent learning may appreciate having you teach the lesson and then completing the assignments on their own before they graduate to tackling the lessons alone. Those who are trustworthy with checking their own work may be given the task, while students who lack attention to detail or neglect to check their work may need supervision in this area. If your children struggle with accountability, you may need to help them be accountable for a while.
4.) Give your kids the room to learn to be independent. Everyone has their own best method for success, and it may take some time to figure out, but with practice they’ll get it.
Encourage your children for all of their effort. Learning to self-motivate, be self-accountable, and learn independently is challenging! While adjusting or correcting their process, don’t forget to encourage your children for the growth they have gained. Remember, too, to consider their learning styles and interests while planning. Look for ways to make learning geography at the high school level fun and interesting while letting your kids learn to pursue their studies independently. If planning and maintaining independent study is a challenge, you might also consider using an online class.