Knowing the countries of the world is essential . . . history makes more sense, you feel more like one human community, and perspective is gained.
This can be done by slowly introducing your children to other countries, traveling, map-arting, memory work or all of the above. Just do what you can to make it happen by the time they leave your home.
Teach your children the distinction between cartography and geography. It will help them safely avoid correction from those who need you to know that they know there is a difference.
I am not opposed to memory work. All of my children rotely memorized facts to one degree or another and enjoyed the accomplishment. They have all been heavily involved in theater and have never had a problem memorizing long passages of lines and perhaps, their early memorization helped them with that. I used these two books in addition to other sources for cartography memory work. These are affiliate links.
My favorite song from the world geography book was the Africa song and in the new book, it was broken up into many different songs rather than the one long song. I had my older daughters memorize the one long song and tried my best with my younger two (I was tired and busy by then;). Eden recently said she thought we lived in Africa because we listened to the Africa song so much.
If you have no money for memory songs on top of all the other curriculum, my absolute favorite free cartography games can be found at Sheppard Software. While the website has the look of an arcade, which makes me anxious, the cartography games are really good. They have several different levels, the last of which is the cartographer level where you need to not only drop the country in the right place, but resize and re-orient it to fit the correct spot. We never got to that level and you don’t need to in order for your kids to learn the countries of the world, but some kids might take that on as a challenge.
You could have your child do the games every day or every . . . certain day . . . and print out the score or write the score on a sticky note attached to the computer. Once they gain some proficiency, you can have friendly family competitions. Cartography need not be something you are involved in teaching your children. They can accomplish it on their own if they are given the tools.
Some curriculums encourage you to start blob mapping, memorizing, and eventually free hand drawing the maps. Anna loves to draw and this was her map in fifth grade. For children who don’t love to draw, this could be overwhelming particularly if they are trying to be accurate in the details. If you choose to do this with your kids, in order to free them from the perfectionism, call it an impressionist map to stress that it is their impression of the map and not a realistic representation of a map. Anna didn’t take too much time on this . . . just enough to demonstrate she knew the basic shape and some details.
Another option is games. Ticket to Ride has a variety of countries and cities . . . . (affiliate links):
I mentioned Axis and Allies in this blog post. The game board is a map of the world so the opportunity to learn the countries well during gameplay is high. These are affiliate links.
Pandemic uses a world map as a game board as well. It is a cooperative game so the players work together to beat the game. We don’t own this game but I’ve played this once and have considered purchasing it. (affiliate link)
And then there are puzzles. There are 2D puzzles that range from very simple to 4000 piece puzzles of the world. I am from near Chicago and I wanted my kids to get to know a cityscape so I bought this Chicago puzzle (we didn’t complete it before we had to clean up for a special event). They have several major cities . . . Dubai, Stockholm, London, Sydney, Barcelona, Berlin, St. Petersburg. If your family is traveling to a certain city, it would be interesting to do a puzzle while planning for the trip. (These are affiliate links.)
You can also have wall art of the world. My son has a huge world map on his bedroom wall. And I love the idea of putting a map or any memory work under a plastic cover over a table so they can review while at the table. My tables didn’t allow for that so I opted for placemats that accomplish the same thing.
Acquiring this knowledge was non-negotiable in our home. We are a human race first. Every family will do it differently but I hope we all deliberately ensure our children know that our own country is not the center of the world.
How have you helped your children have an international perspective?