It took us 3 months, but we finally completed the main lesson block about Native Americans. Whew! We read traditional stories, related housing and food to environment, and touched on some of the geography of the lower 48. This last part is worth mentioning:
For 3 years we lived in Alaska. I refused to put up a map that showed Alaska in a little box near California. We were near the top of the world in a state 1/3 the size of the continental US, and I wanted my children to know it. Everything about Alaska was extreme: the temperatures, the mosquitoes, the berries, the latitude, the dark in winter, the light in summer, the kindness of almost everyone we met. I could feel the earth tilt with the seasons up there. So I put up a satellite photo map of the world. My kids could see where we lived in relation to every other state and country, without the false colors and boundaries and funky sizing distortions of most maps.
Then a week ago I showed E a map of the lower 48. A drawing of the continental US with state boundaries marked. I had removed the boxes with Alaska and Hawaii, for reasons stated above...holy distortion, batman. I started pointing out the different geographical areas to E as if he already knew the basic layout of our country, because, well, I thought he did.
Unfortunately, not at all. He couldn't find a border he recognized in the whole map. Not even our home state of Oregon. Who can't find Oregon? It's the second box down on the west coast. He'd been pointing out Oregon and Virginia to e for years on our wall map...on our wall map. Oh, right. Our wall map of the world with no boundary lines or fake colors. Heh. Without realizing it, I had started with whole and was only now getting to specific parts. Of course he didn't recognize the US without Canada and Mexico and Alaska and the oceans.
So I showed him how it fit on North America, and he got it. Within a few minutes he could pick out a number of states he'd been to, plus others that we'd read about or had friends from. He knew the information in the larger context of a world map, but hadn't seen it in isolation. A gap caused by our lack of textbook use, people. Was it a problem? Maybe, maybe not. But either way it was easily and quickly fixed.
And then my boy took this unfamiliar shape and free-handed it as you see above. Drew it. No tracing. What do you think, mom? He's my son, right?
Then my girl took what I thought was a week's worth of writing and did it all at once.
Plus, she read it to me. Read. It. To. Me. It was a good day. :)