I didn’t learn about the states of our nation in school well enough to remember their capitals or their geography as an adult. We are having a lot of fun in our homeschool learning all about the United States. It seems to be a natural interest for children from about 8 to 12 anyway, so may as well make the most of it. This is a lot easier than you would think.
We started with Delaware first, as it is the first state that entered the Union. I check out ‘“state” books from the library and we look at the pictures together and read some of the information. Our library also has a DVD with a little section on each state’s capital that we enjoy watching. “National Geographic” magazine can help too. We look up the state in the encyclopedia and other atlas type books I’ve collected and read all we can. Plus, every state has a website and it is fun to see just what the temperature is in that state at the moment, and have a look at their tourist sites, even take a real look through their webcam! Some even have online virtual tours of their tourist highlights!
After we learn about the state and its capital, we do some easy activities. The little ones color in the picture in a USA coloring book and the older children draw an outline map of the state, marking the major cities, mountain ranges, landmarks, and more. They include the state flower, bird and tree. I have the oldest children (10 years and up) write a state report from what we talked about and draw the state’s flag on the page.
We look for a memory trick to remember the capital of the state, and its main products. For example, Georgia produces peaches and peanuts and has alligators in the Okefeeonkee Swamp. Can you imagine an alligator eating peaches with peanut butter? When I quiz them on the on each state, I might give the hint: “What if alligators liked to eat this state’s main crops?” This is enough to jog their memories and soon they have it learned. (See more fun memory tricks for learning the states and capitals.) The States and Capitals put to music is a great resource! Stick the CD in your car and your kids will learn them as you drive around town on errands. Listen to 3-year-old Jeffrey sing the states and capitals!
The US Treasury minted new quarters representing the states of the union. You will find the state’s symbol on the back side. As we have studied the first states to join the Union, we have collected the quarter of that state. We just finished Georgia, and the symbol on the quarter is a peach for the “Peach State”. This is really a lot of fun, and exciting to watch our change at the grocery store hoping to get the quarter we are studying! We discovered a USA Quarter Collector Map so we can display all those interesting quarters!
We study a new state every Thursday for about an hour or so. We have been learning them in the order in which they entered the Union. Since we are also studying American History, it makes a lot of sense to study the states in chronological order. On the last Thursday of the month, instead of introducing the next state, we have a review and play geography games, put together a USA puzzle, quiz with state/capital flashcards, and test our knowledge of each state’s main crops, industries and famous people. I’ve got a good geography computer game that the children love, that we work on too. Using our flashcards, one of each state we have learned so far, and one of each state’s capital. We lay these out on the floor and try to match them by memory. These activities review all of the states we have learned thus far, so we don’t forget them.
You can carry this study just as far as you want. Wouldn’t it be fun to have some real Vermont maple syrup on your pancakes while you are studying Vermont? Or some Navajo fry bread when you learn about New Mexico?
While playing a game at a birthday party, both Ammon and Emily blurted out “Trenton” when the question asked any player to name a capital city starting with “T” on the east coast of the USA. I am amazed at how much my young children remember, and at how much I am learning too! Finally, I feel like I know my “way around” our United States. (Took me 46 years!)