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 review the U.S. states and the nations of the world each year, and your recommended River House 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, with a link to its official website, is:
- ILLINOIS (the 21st state, 3 December 1818) — The Prairie State. Capital: Springfield. Illinois appears on pages 570–571 in your almanac, and on plates #41 and #142 in your atlas. Name origin: “French for Illini or ‘land of Illini,’ Algonquin word meaning ‘men’ or ‘warriors’ (almanac page 423). Website: www2.illinois.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 state bird with your almanac and look it up in your bird guide. Trace the state’s outline with your atlas. 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 the library. The possibilities are endless, they can be as simple or as complex as you wish, and they can easily be adjusted according to each student’s age and interests. Pick a simple pattern to follow each week, and by the end of the year, without even realizing it, your students will have absorbed a world of new geographical information.
This week’s countries, with their official websites, are:
- ISRAEL 🇮🇱 in the Middle East. Capital: Jerusalem. Website (in Hebrew and English): www.gov.il.
- ITALY 🇮🇹 in southern Europe. Capital: Rome. Website (in Italian): www.governo.it.
- JAMAICA 🇯🇲 in the West Indies. Capital: Kingston. Website (in English): jis.gov.jm.
- JAPAN 🇯🇵 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Asia. Capital: Tokyo. Website (in Japanese, Chinese, and English): kantei.go.jp.
These all appear in your current almanac, atlas, and history encyclopedia as well. For example, you’ll find the main entries for the island nation of Japan on almanac page 792, atlas plates #91 and #134 (where you can practice reading insets on a map), and history encyclopedia pages 590–591, 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 lately?