Here is what Charlotte Mason has to say about the study of Geography:
“Geography is, to my mind, a subject of high educational value; though not because it affords the means of scientific training…Now, how is the subject commonly taught? The child learns the names of the capital cities of Europe, or of the rivers of England, or of the mountain-summits of Scotland… Poor little fellow! The lesson is hard work to him; but as far as the education goes–that is, the developing of power, the furnishing of the mind–he would be better employed in watching the progress of a fly across the windowpane.”
She goes on to explain that this method of teaching has little value because it makes no lasting impression on the child. The information has never really been received by the brain. Most of us were taught to cram for tests and then afterwards we do a brain dump never remembering that information again. That is not education, that is not learning. The Charlotte Mason method of education requires the actual learning of information, lasting knowledge that we never forget because it has made an indelible impression on our minds.
She suggests studying Geography by spending time outdoors and discovering nature firsthand, this will lead to books on the subject (she suggests books like Livingstone’s Missionary Travels, Hartwig’s Tropical World and Polar World, and Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks in Japan), picture books will also help them learn the names of rivers, mountains, cities, countries, etc. They then draw rude maps of what they are reading or seeing. As their interest grows you can provide them with more details, more books, let him study different regions of the world and what makes those regions unique.
When my boys were little they enjoyed playing the ipad apps (still do) Shake the States and Stack the Countries. This was a great way for them to memorize cities, states and countries, but as Miss Mason suggests, it provides little educational value. We were very blessed to have the opportunity to live in Europe and travel to many countries in that region. My boys enjoyed seeing the flags of each country and started a “map & flag” notebook where they drew maps and flags of all the countries we were visiting. They even created a banner with flags of all the countries in Europe to hang on our school room wall.
Before vising a country we would study a bit about the history and the sights we would see. We particularly love the This Is series by Miroslav Sasek. There is even a compilation of all the individual books titled This is the World. We also like illustrated coffee table travel editions you can find at your local bookstore and the Children’s Amazing Places Encyclopedia.
If we were traveling to a city that had many sights spread out in different locations (like Rome, Athens & Istanbul) we hired a private guide to show us around. These were our most meaningful trips because we let the guides know in advance that we had four children so they were prepared to cater to them. They got down at their level, spoke to them and made the history exciting. Some of our most memorable “geography” trips were to Pompeii and Lascaux Caves.
Ambleside Online recommends Long’s Geography and Elementary Geography which was written by Charlotte Mason for primary geography text and also recommends some fabulous living geography books for each year.