Easy U.S.A. Geography Study

united-states-of-america-364546_1280I 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.

image-1We 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!

vt_qtrThe 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!

imageWe 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.

image-2You 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!)


May I recommend:

Learning the States and Capitals

Be Patriotic!

States & Capitals Songs CD

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Memory Tricks for Learning the States and Capitals

Homeschool mom Catherine Lamb offers these fun and silly memory clues to help other mothers teach their children the states and capitals.

The Pacific States
Washington, Olympia (Washington sits with the Greek Gods in Olympus.)
Oregon, Salem (Ore e goin’ sailin’? Are you going sailing?)
California, Sacramento (Can I afford a sack of Mentos?) (*Mentos is a candy)
Alaska, Juneau (Do you know Alaska? say with an Hispanic accent)
Hawaii, Honolulu (easy to remember, no clue)

The Mountain States
Idaho, Boise (I have a hoe named Boise.)
Montana, Helena (Helena went to the mountains)
Wyoming, Cheyenne (Indians are in the Western state of Wyoming)
Nevada, Carson City (My car and son went to a city in Nevada)
Utah, Salt Lake City (easy, no hint)
Colorado, Denver (Color a do in the den.) (*do = a hair do)
Arizona, Phoenix (The giant phoenix bird flew out of the heat of Arizona’s deserts)
New Mexico, Santa Fe (Santa doesn’t go to New Mexico.)

North Central States
North Dakota, Bismarck (We go to North Dakota to eat Bismarcks) (*a donut with pudding in it)
South Dakota, Pierre (We go to South Dakota to smell fresh pea air.) (*one of the lame ones, any better suggestions?)
Minnesota, St. Paul (St Paul gave me a mini-soda)
Nebraska, Lincoln (Lincoln went to his knee‚ ask ya)
Iowa, Des Moines (I owe a day mowing)
Kansas, Topeka (To peek at a can of sauce.)
Missouri, Jefferson City (Jeffer’s son in the City misses Ori.)

South Central States
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City (easy)
Texas, Austin (Ah! is tin in Texas?)
Arkansas, Little Rock (I saw an ark and a saw on a little rock)
Louisiana, Baton Rouge (Louise and Ana took their batons and rouge to the Mardi Gras.)

Midwest States
Wisconsin, Madison (Madison, wish no sin!)
Michigan, Lansing (Miss yi gun? Lance him.) (* little violent I know —unfortunately my boy’s favorite clue!)
Illinois, Springfield (Simpsons live here) (*the cartoon Simpson’s)
Indiana, Indianapolis (Capital name almost same as State.)
Ohio, Columbus (OH! Hi O‚ Columbus) (*greeting Columbus)

Northeastern States
Maine, Augusta (A gust a wind blew through the horse’s mane)
New Hampshire, Concord (Cut on the cords of the new ham, sire.)
Vermont, Montpelier (Vermin on a mount of peels – also mont ends Vermont,
starts Montpelier) (*we picture a rat sitting on a pile of fruit/veggie peelings)
Massachusetts, Boston (My boss weighs a ton. That’s a lot of Mass—or—weighs a ton from from mashed potatoes)
Connecticut, Hartford (connect a cut in the heart)
Rhode Island, Providence (It was Providence that we found a road on the island.) (*Providence means divine care or guidance.)
New Jersey, Trenton (Trent has on a new jersey)
Delaware, Dover (Dangerous Dave dove her into the Delaware.)
Pennsylvania, Harrisburg (Mr. Harris Burg has pencil size veins.)
New York, Albany (New York has all the bunnies.)

Southeastern States
Kentucky, Frankfort (Frank’s in the Fort, but Kents not so lucky.)
West Virginia, Charleston (Rich men are in Virginia, but Charles has his own town in West Virginia) (*see clue for Virginia)
Maryland, Annapolis (Anna’s polo game is in the merry land.)
Virginia, Richmond (Virginia was the first colony so it has all the rich men.)
Tennessee, Nashville (Ten seas are in Nashville.)
North Carolina, Raleigh (Oh Raally [snobby accent], you are from North Carolina?)
South Carolina, Columbia (A Column a bees flies South to Carolina) (Also, Carolina and Columbia both have C,O,L,I,A)
Mississippi, Jackson (Jack’s son misses his missis.)
Alabama, Montgomery (I’ll bam Mont’s gum merry!) (*whatever that means! but the sillier, the better we like them, ha ha)
Georgia, Atlanta (My sailor Georgia is at land.)
Florida, Tallahassee (I sit on the floor in da tall house by the sea)



May I recommend:

A Moment for Memorization

Times Tables Fun

States & Capitals Songs CD

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