Creating my own geography curriculum

I realized early this summer that I was going to run into a problem in terms of our progression through Sonlight “cores” (the main portion of our curriculum, which covers Bible, history, geography, literature, readers, etc.). We were going through them too fast! We stared Core A in January right when my daughter turned 5, even though it was rated for 6- and 7-year-olds and “advanced 5-year-olds.” She had finished the previous core quickly, was loving chapter books, and I decided to go for it. It’s worked out well for us, but the problem with starting it at the very earliest possible is that, well, we school year-round. So even with missing a *lot* of school in the spring because we expected to be moving and I was trying to pack, we were still going through the core so quickly that we’d be hitting the next core, rated for 7- and 8-year-olds and advanced 6-year-olds, before she even turned 6! If we continued to school through the summers, and get through cores too quickly just because my daughter was always requesting that we read more, more, more, then the problem would just be compounded as the years go by. And Sonlight cores aren’t so much rated the way they are because of intelligence or learning ability, it’s more about maturity, what kinds of situations kids are ready to handle. So I really didn’t want to jump too far ahead.

So, what I decided to do was to make my own core, which would be an “around the world” geography tour, before we started Core B (world history 1). I thought that it would help give her a basis for world history and be fun at the same time. I also thought that it would be a great idea to go back through many of the Sonlight books that we’ve sped through in the past, and do them again, but this time paying attention to their geography to give us a sense of the layout of the world. Not to mention that it would be nice to revisit books with maybe a bit of additional maturity so that we can get more out of them.

I’ve spent a lot of the summer working on it! I started with a list a fellow Sonlighter made of the books from P4/5 (the previous core) sorted by country/region. I then added any books from P3/4 (the first core) and Core A (the one that we’re doing currently) and sorted them in as well. I added in a few other books that had been recommended to me, and then I started making a schedule. Of course, as I made the schedule, I’d notice that I had a ton of missionary stories for one country and that we’d need to spend a lot of time on it to get through all of them, but there weren’t any regular stories to balance things out. So I’d look in the library for some regular fun stories/tales to add in. And then I realized that if we were going to spend two weeks on a country, instead of just reading missionary stories and the country’s folktales, we ought to add in a nonfiction book or two about how people actually live in that country. Etc. I chose several “spines” from Amazon… geography books that gave an overview of many countries/peoples of the world, and then scheduled in some nonfiction from the library to fill in gaps. But, of course, if you’re going to spend a year learning about the countries of the world, you might as well make it fun with crafts, music, and recipes, right? And then you need a passport to mark our trip, with lots of little flags to cut out and paste in when we visit countries, right?

So what I’d originally expected to be a basic review of previous books and stories that we’d read, before moving on to the next core, has morphed into a giant core of its own! And if we go through it at the speed I’ve scheduled it, it’ll end up taking us about 40 weeks! We’ll see how it goes, though, as it can be hard to estimate how fast we’ll move, how much reading we’ll want to do per day, etc. We also have a certain little new arrival expected in October who may throw off schooling for a while in there.

My spreadsheet, which lists books/stories (individually if they are about separate countries/peoples, as one item if the whole book is on one country even if it has many chapters/stories), recipes, songs, science projects, crafts, etc., is now up to 733 items.

The spines we’re using (books or CDs that cover a lot of countries and I’ll be buying because we’ll be using them frequently all year) are as follows:

Geography Spines:

A Life Like Mine
A Child’s Introduction to the World
Children Just Like Me

Fiction Spines:

Around the World in 80 Tales
Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book
Lion Storyteller Book of Animal Tales
Stories from Around the World
Tales Alive!
Tales of the Shimmering Sky

Missionary Spines:

Hero Tales
I Heard Good News Today

Activity Spines:

Science Chef Travels Around the World
Sticker Dolly Dressing Around the World
THUMB Coloring Book
Science Around the World: Travel through Time and Space with Fun Experiments and Projects


European Playground
African Playground
Latin Playground
World Playground
World Playground 2

I’ve bought some great fiction books that I think will be fun to read, along with the stories in the books listed above, and I plan to get many more at the library as we go along. I’m also planning on adding in a lot of the easiest level of nonfiction country books that my library has. I’m not sure how much we’ll be thrown off by our move in March/April, because I’ll be moving to a new library system that will probably not have many of my painstakingly chosen books and will have entirely different ones instead. But I will deal with that when we get closer and I have an idea at what point we’ll be in our curriculum at the time.

If anybody is interested in my spreadsheet/schedule of books and activities, or the flags I’ve set up in printable form to glue into our passport, or anything like that, please let me know, I’m happy to share it. I’m also working on making a list of readers on the 2nd/3rd grade level for Emily to read on her own while we’re doing those countries, so I can share those as well. Right now I’m working on verifying reading level for the ones I’ve found, to make sure they’re doable for her.

We look forward to a fun year doing geography once we start! I think Core A will last us another few months (we’re on week 22 so far, but going through it a bit faster than scheduled), so I figure we’ll probably start in November/December. But we’ll see how the baby affects that. Hopefully once we start I will remember to take pictures on occasion and let everybody know how it’s going!

8 thoughts on “Creating my own geography curriculum

  1. Hey there! I followed you from the SL forum. I would love to see your spreadsheet/schedule of books and activities for this geography core. I am finishing up Core A right now (on week 30 I think) and had planned to start Core B, but now I’m wondering if maybe we should do something else first. My son is 6, will be 7 in Feb and my 2nd son is doing Core P4/5. He is about to be 5. My email is westakm(at)yahoo(dot)com if you’re sure you don’t mind sharing! 🙂

  2. Hi! I saw your geography curriculum on the Sonlight Forum, and I would love to see your spreadsheet with your order and list of books! Could you email it to me?! We have Core 4/5 and I would like to use it in a more geographic order with my son, and supplement with some other books to use for his Kindergarten year! We will be doing Core A, but I was hoping to wait a little longer to start, and I was hoping to spread it over two years instead of one!

  3. I found your blog from the SL forums while trying to figure out which core to buy. I love your geography idea and would love a copy of your spreadsheet/schedule. Thank you for offering to share it. My email is thegirlwhopaintedtrees at gmail dot com
    Congratulations on your baby girl!

  4. I found your blog on theSL forums as well. Just started Core B with my 5 y/o twins….will be 6 in August, but will probably need something to fill in some time before we get to Core D (at the rate we are going, when they are 7). I would love to see your spreadsheets/ schedule and booklists! Thank you!

  5. Hi! I, too, would love to receive all of this information. Thanks for doing so much work and be willing to share with us all! I am trying to slow our cores down, as well, so this would be very helpful!

  6. Hi, I found your blog from sonlight forum as well. I would love to have a copy of your geography spreadsheet/schedule and book lists if you still keep them. Can you email it to me? My son was doing p4/5 last year and we just finished The Boxcar Children from core A recently. And he wants to read the entire book again! I am planning to do core A, science A and Language Art 1 this year and also focusing on his mandarin writing and reading starting this summer. I would also want him to have a general idea of the geography besides playing puzzles. Thank you very much.

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