We have been using Pin it! Maps for our geography lessons since the end of July. I thought I’d provide a little update on how we have been using our maps this past month. I’ll share a bit about our favorite map, utilizing free material on the site, using the maps with differing learning styles, and finally, I’ll share some of the ways we have used these maps with the littlest Farmhouse Schoolhouse students.
The farmhouse favorite is definitely the Land and Water Forms map. This 9×24 map is a manageable size for my kids to set up on their own. I often discover my second born in the classroom with the map and accompanying pins set out. He practices sounding out the words on each flag and then finds its location on the control map that he sets up in front of his pinning map. He often invites his eldest brother to come and play. Yes, play! They race each other to find the correct features on each map. They quiz each other. Last week they made up a silly song with all the vocabulary terms they deemed silly or strange. “Archipelago and Fjord bought roller skates.”
Three days ago, we were cuddled up in the boy’s bunk beds reading a chapter book. I turned the page and a little voice cried out, “LOOK! An Alpine Lake! Do you see that picture? Right there! That right there! That is an Alpine Lake.” He settled back into the covers with a little smile, “I knew that all by myself.”
I love that my boys can use these maps on their own, absorbing geographical placements and vocabulary terms in a hands on way and then relating it to other areas of study in a natural way. Not to mention the way it has enhanced their play. I know my boys are learning well by how they are playing. When someone shouts, “Corral the troops west of the delta!” or “We’ll sail to the archipelago and search each individual island for signs of the treasure!” I know things are clicking.
Pin it! Maps has a wonderful tab on their site: FREE TEACHING MATERIALS.
Love me some free teaching materials—and these printables are flawless!
Above you can see the Land and Water Form cards. I printed, laminated, hole-punched, alphabetized and then placed all the cards on a large ring. What is an inlet? Look it up! The cards provide a graphic of how the feature appears on the map along with a picture of the feature “in real life!” (My son loves saying, “This is how the fjord looks IN REAL LIFE!”) I have made key rings for every available set of cards and they have taken the maps to the next level. I never ask the boys to use them. I simply place them by the maps and then walk away. The boys love being able to investigate the information for themselves. They learn how to manipulate the cards and they practice their ability to sort through alphabetized material quickly. They relate the material back to the maps and double check their work.
Yesterday, my son pulled out the World Map. He set up his pins, pulled out the laminated key ring, took out a command sheet, set up his control map and began to work.
The command sheets walk the boys through each pin command. Right now my boys are on Level 1, simply familiarizing themselves with the pins and their placements. They are already asking when they can move on to Level 2 so they can begin recording their answers on the recording sheet. (All of these pages are available for free in the link above!) My son worked his way through the commands and then went to find the Biome cards.
He worked through each Biome, placing the beautiful pictures into each appropriate category. He referred back to the map often, exclaiming with wonder, “I never knew there was a desert there! I can see it in my mind now!” These maps really are set apart from other maps, the beautiful hand-drawn shading adds such sharp distinction between biomes. The boys can now quickly identify grasslands from jungles and coniferous forests.
Pin it! Maps has also proven to be a multi-functional resource in terms of its ability to meet my children’s different learning styles. My eldest used to be absolutely overwhelmed by detailed maps crowded with writing. He could not focus on the words he needed to find and often flipped his letters around in his panic. Earlier this week, our Classical Conversations community studied The Assyrian Empire in geography. I made up rhymes and a story to help my boys learn the placement of each sea, gulf and city. My eldest seemed to be following along well enough, but it was tough to gauge precisely how much he was understanding. This morning we used our Pin it! Map and that is when I saw the light go on for him. Having those words standing up on individual pins helped him to understand placement, space, relation, etc.
These maps also provide a welcome challenge to our second born. He is a voracious reader and can never sit idly by. His hands are always looking for something to do. He loves teaching himself how to take on new skills and challenges. To be honest, its exhausting for me at times! He knows how to make a mess and get in a jam! When our maps arrived, he was instantly drawn in by the challenge. He loved that it was an independent activity capable of providing deeper learning opportunity without a finish line.
My third son is a kinetic learner and is not reading yet. He is also using these maps along with his (almost) three year old brother.
Here are a few of the ways we have employed our maps for littles (ages 3-5)
- Biome Card Game: These cards are available for free on the website. My 4 year old spent a few weeks familiarizing himself with these cards and organizing the pictures into appropriate biomes. Now we play a game called “Decorate the World.” Based off of the shading and drawing on our World Map, my son can easily find the biome each region belongs to. When I point to the Sahara Desert, he quickly grabs a picture card featuring a desert landscape and places it on the Sahara Desert and shouts, “DESERT!” We play through the deck and decorate all the features.
2) BINGO BABY!: The 4 year old insists that I inform my readers—he alone invented this game. He is also the Captain of this game. Baby Bingo happens at least once a day. My 4 year old takes down the control map of the world which features brilliant, multi-colored continents and all the oceans. He then gives “the baby” (ahem, 3 year old) a stack of green bingo chips and a stack of blue bingo chips. He points to a spot on the map and asks “What is this? Water or Land?” His brother responds by placing either green (land) or blue (water) on the map. They will do this for twenty minutes at a time. TWENTY. MINUTES. Thats enough time for tea and a piece of chocolate, folks!
3) SAFARI TOOB: We also love to place animals from our Safari toobs around our maps. Grizzlies in Colorado, panthers in Florida, Elk in Montana, etc. We have also used landmarks with mixed results. Animals they get, a tiny replica of the Eiffel tower…not so much yet.
4. YARN: A simple string of yarn goes a long way with these boys. We shape them around the continents very carefully and then whip them away very fast. They think its hilarious. I’m happy that they are focusing carefully and quietly on a task with their hands while familiarizing themselves with geography.
5) Rice Game: Another game we made up. I give my four year old a cup of rice and a small piece of wood that has been sanded smooth, its about 4 inches long. I then dump the rice on the control map and tell him to put all the rice on Australia. All the rice has to be IN Australia. Then I switch to another continent. He loves feeling the rice, pushing it around gently with his hands or the wood stick and then making it fit within the borders. He laughs when I pull out the magnifying glass to inspect his work. After we are done I gently wipe down the control map and store it away again.
6) Mr Thumbkin & The Family Band Travels: Yup. We draw little faces on our fingers and go for a tour of the world. We visit different cities, make up stories, learn about biomes. The possibilities are endless with this one. Sometimes the older brothers chime in with the things they are learning. “If you are going to India, you had better stop by the Ganges Delta near West Bengal, I think you might be able to find your missing purple scarf there.” Lots and lots of playacting, voices, adventures and honest to goodness GEOGRAPHY! I always ask them to point out the “pin home” before we leave an area we have named. The “pin home” is the spot where the pins are inserted (according to my eldest boys). My littles don’t use the pins yet, I am training them even now to only place the pins in their homes.
We are in the process of finishing up our North America map and Africa map and the boys can’t wait to start using them as we gear up for our studies of the United States with Adventures and Africa with Classical Conversations.
I am really thankful to have found Pin it! Maps. I love being able to support a fellow homeschooling Mama in this courageous endeavor to provide beautiful, quality, affordable maps to families. I love seeing my boys engage in joyful learning together. It feels good to use resources that create a space for all learning styles to combine.
I can’t wait for the US Map series to be unveiled in December!
Pin it! Maps has graciously extended our PROMO CODE until the end of OCTOBER.
Farmhouse Schoolhouse readers will get 10% off their orders with the code: FARM