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 recommended homeschool 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 429), so this week’s state is:
- 🇺🇸 ILLINOIS (the 21st state, 3 December 1818) — The Prairie State. Capital: Springfield. Illinois can be found on page 569 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 430). State bird: Northern Cardinal (bird guide page 522). Website: 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 location of the state capital in your atlas each week. 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 just a few minutes each week, and your little lesson is done. 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 primary source materials for teachers available from the Library of Congress.
This week’s countries, with their official websites, are:
- 🇮🇱 ISRAEL in the Middle East. Population: 8,424,904. Capital: Jerusalem. Website: www.gov.il (in Hebrew, English, and several other languages).
- 🇮🇹 ITALY in southern Europe. Population: 62,246,674. Capital: Rome. Website: www.governo.it (in Italian).
- 🇯🇲 JAMAICA in the West Indies. Population: 2,812,090. Capital: Kingston. Website: jis.gov.jm (in English).
- 🇯🇵 JAPAN off the east coast of Asia. Population: 126,168,156. Capital: Tokyo. Website: www.japan.go.jp (in English).
These countries all appear in your current almanac, atlas, and history encyclopedia as well (riverhouses.org/books). The almanac, for example, has profiles of all the nations of the world on pages 745–852; the endpapers of the atlas are index maps that will show you where each of the individual national and regional maps can be found; the history encyclopedia includes individual national histories on pages 489–599; and you can find additional illustrations, flags, and other mentions through the indexes in each of these volumes.
What grand geographical discoveries have you made in your homeschool this week? 😊
❡ 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 way or another, thus offering older students a good opportunity to practice their critical reading and thinking skills.
❡ Plan an imaginary vacation: Here’s a fun exercise for your students: take one of the countries that we list each week and write out a family travel plan. How would you get there? How much will it cost? Will you need a passport? Where will you stay? Will you have to exchange your currency? How do you say hello the local language? What cities and attractions and landmarks will you visit? What foods will you eat? How will you get around (car, train, boat, mule)? Make a simple worksheet with blank spaces for the answers, have your students do the research, and start planning your world tour. ✈️ 🚞 🚗 🛳 🐎 😊