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“I wisely started with a map.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
While this may be a quote in reference to literary cartography, the same can be said for the use of maps in our home schools. Maps are a valuable resource for every subject one can possibly study from preschool to beyond high school. I am excited to have the opportunity to review the Maps Combo-Pak (US & World Maps) from Home School in the Woods.
What’s in the Maps Combo Pak?
The short answer: EVERYTHING. You can take my word for it, go ahead and download the set, and move on to something else. But, since this is a review, I will gladly share the details of what’s in the Maps Combo-Pak digital download as well as give you some ideas of ways to use the maps.
U.S. Maps Set
I’ll begin with the United States map set. There are three formats of every state, including Washington, D.C. The labeled format contains details such as bordering states, water ways, and the state capital. The non-labeled format provides physical features, and the outline maps are exactly that – only the border and political lines of surrounding states. These are great to use for customizing whatever you may be studying: weather, landmarks, crops, population, statistics – the possibilities are endless.
Home School in the Woods doesn’t stop there. There are labeled and unlabeled historical maps for everything from Colonial America to Native American Tribes, to maps of free and slave states and more! State facts pages are also provided for every state and includes a teacher key. Colored printables for every state flag are also part of the download. Another nice bonus is the printable cover sheet and spine label (in color or black and white) to slip into a binder and keep all the maps in one place.
World Maps Set
This map set comes in two categories: Ancient (or “Early”) and Modern. Ancient maps offer physical characteristics such as mountain ranges, and no political borders (with a couple of exceptions). Modern maps have the political boundaries seen today. Like the U.S. maps, the world maps offer three different formats: labeled, unlabeled, and untitled. The bonus notebooking pages include: reports, brochures, holidays, recipe cards, flags, and much more. Home School in the Woods did not skimp on the details. There are even options for dashed or ruled lined paper for the notebooking pages!
10 Ways to Use the Maps
When I was telling my husband about how many map options are available, and what you could do with them, he compared me to Bubba telling Forrest about shrimp! I’ll just give you ten off the top of my head:
- Current events – this is an obvious one. There are always places in the news. I think we all know where the Ukraine is now.
- Notebooking – the pages that come with this set are terrific, or use with any curriculum!
- Landmarks – discovering landmarks are a fun activity for all ages!
- Story Settings – little ones, as well as older readers gain insight into a story line by mapping the location.
- Where is that from/they’re from….I remember going through our home when our kids were little on a quest to find where different items were from, then finding those places on a map. The same goes for people you may be studying.
- Bible or religion studies – whether it be Paul’s missionary journeys, or where a certain kind of religion is practiced, maps are essential.
- Holidays & celebration origins – many of our holidays come from places afar – very interesting to research for older kids. We also made little ornaments one year when the kids were small with a unit study on how other countries celebrate Christmas.
- Play-doh Geography – laminate the maps and use them as a hands-on learning to teach shapes to little ones. For older kids, use as a template for a salt-dough map. You really can’t call yourself a homeschooler, until you’ve made a salt dough map, right?
- A game of 20 questions – Choose a map, then get the kids to try and figure out which one you chose by answering several yes/no questions.
- Board Game idea – I actually saw this in some of the introductory material included in the U.S. map set. Use the country or state itself as a game board, then place stickers around the map to create a path. Next create questions having to do with the particular map. If answered correctly, the player can advance to the next sticker, working their way all the way around to win!
- Another idea that has worked for our family that isn’t really a “school” related activity, but I have always had a map in our dining room. Maps are the perfect conversation starter, as well as a tool for passive learning while waiting on the food to be passed!
What I thought of the Maps Combo-pak
Well, that’s pretty obvious! I think every homeschool should have their very own Maps Combo-Pak. I gleaned something else from the written material in the set, and how they tie with the Timeline set I reviewed last year. (They now have a bundled timeline option available – Essential Timeline Library.) In a nutshell, timelines are used to plot the “when in history; mapping plots the “where”. Both are crucial pieces and define a context that allow us to navigate history through time and place. When used together, these pieces build a bigger picture of our world.
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