Why Map Work is Important
Did you grow up doing map work in school or your homeschool? I don’t recall doing any of it. Certainly, we learned geography and had some memory work for that subject. But, I don’t think we ever did map work. The more I’ve been teaching with the Principle Approach®, the more I’ve come to appreciate map work. In fact, I can say that I love it and count it as a must for anyone’s education. Let me explain why map work is important and what it looks like in a Biblical Classical Education.
Common Map Work
Granted, one type or other of map work may be done in homeschools. For instance, there is blob mapping. Then, there is the idea where students can draw general shapes of countries and states from memory. Or students may simply label a pre-made map to help them memorize locations. Those are fine and they serve their purposes. However, Biblical Classical Homeschoolers see so much more than those basic things to map work.
How We See Map Work
If you have read the post on How to Study History, you’ll begin to understand how map work ties in with it. For example, when we study about the Protestant Reformation, we may complete a map and mark the routes of the Pilgrims coming over to America. In particular, we are looking at it through a Providential lens: How the Gospel moves westward. Another example of a Providential lens when we do map work about the Frontier period of our history is looking at how the Gospel moves westward.
Did you catch that? In addition to learning about locations, we are looking at how the Gospel moves westward. Above all else, our students learn how Christ is the Focal Point of all history. To see that, our students learn of Key Individuals whom God uses in His-Story and how they help to carry the Gospel westward.
If you consider that the east coast is where the Pilgrims landed, then it will make sense about the importance of the Gospel spreading westward.
Additionally, we look at the means which helped to spread It westward. For example, during the Frontier period we may mark on a map things such as the Wilderness Road, National Road, Eerie Canal, the Oregon and California and Santa Fe Trails. Furthermore, we may also make note of the inventions during that time period: stage coaches, Conestoga wagons, steam boats, etc. (essays may easily be written on those topics).
Sure, there were some individuals who had other purposes for heading out on these trails. But, are were those whom answer Holy God by taking the Gospel west. So, for those who put an emphasis on missions in their curriculum here is a fabulous opportunity to teach American Missions history.
How We Do Map Work
Also, when we do map work in a Principle Approach® education, we follow the map standard as explained below by the Foundation for American Christian Education:
- All map names are labeled. Horizontal lines are made with a ruler and pencil. Then the area being identified is written on the line. Pencil lines are erased after the labeling is complete (Grades 4-12).
- Labeling is done in block print (capital letters) using a pencil (Grades K-4) or a non-erasable black pen (Grades 4-12).
- Blue caterpillar hairs distinguish all shore lines: ocean, sea, gulf, bay, lake, river (seen in the graphic above).
- Physical Maps:
- Green colored pencil is used for plains.
- Brown colored pencil is used for mountains.
- Yellow colored pencil is used for deserts.
- Ice masses are left white.
- Political Maps:
- Nations or continents that border one another should be colored different colors to distinguish one from another.
- Students should outline only, not completely fill in nations or continents, leaving room to label cities, states, nations, etc.
Map Work is the Handmaid of Geography
We have a saying in a Principle Approach® education: “Literature is the handmaid of history.” Unquestionably then, map work is the handmaid of geography. For it gives us the visual picture of what happens on the stage of geography. And, it engages students in the story of His-Story. It’s almost as if the story becomes more vivid when a student traces the story for his or herself.
Map Work Gives More Meaning to History and Geography
Map work is more than just names of locations and physical features on a map—dry facts. Indeed, it’s the visual unfolding of what God is doing despite sinful man and the response of sinful man to Holy God. To be sure, we see that some awful things take place as we study history and geography. But, we also see some wonderful things. If we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, then we can see His work in the lives of men and nations.
Plus, it’s easier to remember locations and the history of trails, etc. when we understand what God’s purposes are. And, it gives us a clear picture of hope—there was hope of the Gospel spreading and there is hope for that today. America is indeed a mission field to this day.
So, I put this question before you dear fellow homeschool parent: Will you too help with missions in America by starting in your own home? Map work is an excellent way to teach America’s Mission History. Then, perhaps you’ll consider teaching it in a homeschool co-op or in a small group to other adults. I pray that God blesses your efforts if you make any of these choices.