Tour the United States and travel the countries of the world each week with the River Houses. Our Sunday States & Countries posts will point the way.
Many homeschoolers like to review the U.S. states and the nations of the world each year, and your River Houses reference library (riverhouses.org/books) includes a current world almanac, a world atlas, and a history encyclopedia that make these reviews fun and easy. We go through the states in the traditional order of admission to the Union (almanac page 422), so this week’s state is:
- 🇺🇸 MINNESOTA (the 32nd state, 11 May 1858) — The North Star State, the Gopher State. Capital: St. Paul. Minnesota can be found on page 576 in your almanac and on plates #39 and #142 in your atlas. Name origin: “From Dakota Sioux word meaning ‘cloudy water’ or ‘sky-tinted water’ of the Minnesota River” (almanac page 423). State bird: Common Loon. Website: mn.gov.
❡ Little lessons: You can teach a hundred little lessons with the state-of-the-week, using your reference library (riverhouses.org/books) as a starting point. Find the location of the state capital in your atlas. Look up the state bird in your bird guide. Read the almanac’s one-paragraph history aloud each week. Using each state’s official website (above), find and copy the preamble to that state’s constitution into a commonplace book over the course of the year. Practice math skills by graphing each state’s population and area. Look up the famous state residents listed in your almanac either online or at your local library. The possibilities are endless and they can be easily adapted to each student’s age and interests. Pick a simple pattern to follow for a few minutes each week, and by the end of the year, without even realizing it, your students will have absorbed a world of new geographical and historical information.
❡ Explore more: If you’re planning a comprehensive unit study of one or more of the U.S. states, be sure to investigate the collection of primary source materials for teachers available from the Library of Congress (loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/states). And the helpful State Symbols USA site (statesymbolsusa.org) has everything you and your students will want to know about flags, seals, mottos, state birds, and much more.
This week’s countries, with their official websites, are:
- 🇳🇱 THE NETHERLANDS, in western Europe. Population: 17,084,719. Capital: Amsterdam. Website (in English and Dutch): www.government.nl.
- 🇳🇿 NEW ZEALAND, in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Population: 4,510,347. Capital: Wellington. Website (in English): www.govt.nz.
- 🇳🇮 NICARAGUA, in Central America. Population: 6,025,951. Capital: Managua. Website (in Spanish): www.asamblea.gob.ni.
- 🇳🇪 NIGER, in north-central Africa. Population: 19,245,344. Capital: Niamey. Website (in French): www.gouv.ne.
These all appear in your current almanac, atlas, and history encyclopedia as well. For example, you’ll find the main entries for the Netherlands on almanac page 817, atlas plates #63 and #137, and history encyclopedia page 536, with illustrations, flags, and other mentions available through the indexes in each volume.
❡ Read and think critically: The country links above go to official websites, which are not always in English and which may well be propagandistic in one form or another, thus offering older students a good opportunity to practice their critical reading and thinking skills.
What geographical discoveries have you made in your homeschool lately? Tell us in the comments! 😊