Teaching Longitude and Latitude

The other day a homeschooling mother of a 5th grader asked me how I, using the Charlotte Mason method, would teach longitude and latitude. Here's a brief summary of my response.

  • Make looking at maps part of your other subjects. For example previously this year they were reading The Story of the Greeks by H. A. Guerber. It is only natural to find the places they were talking about and reading about on a map of the Ancient World and then to compare it to a modern map so that the names and locations were recognized as places in the story, but actually places still there today perhaps under new names. Currently they are reading Treasure Island and it makes sense to look at a map of Britain and then the passage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. In both cases it would make sense to explain that places on the map had addresses and from that explain the nuts and bolts of longitude and latitude.

Last year I was reading Just So Stories by Kipling to the children, and I enjoyed "How the Whale Got His Throat" where you may find this line, "If you swim to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West (that is magic), you will find, sitting on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing on but a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, one ship-wrecked Mariner, who, it is only fair to tell you, is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity." Of course it only made sense to grab my globe and then the atlas and find the location (that is magic).

  • Have fun with maps at other times so to feed that sense of curiosity about geography. That is something this family (with the original question) does expertly. I remember this now 5th grader sitting with an atlas as a Kindergartner and identifying places I knew my current high school geography students would be hard pressed to i.d. An example of having fun with maps is to simply have maps, atlases, and globes around. One family I knew got a world map the size of their dining table and put a clear vinyl table cloth over it. The map was just there and the children had fun studying it. Then when a country came up in conversations or books the children often knew right away where the location was or were eager to go find it.
  • Incorporating our longitude and latitude is so much more accessible today with tools like Google earth, Google maps, and using a GPS. A practical exercise in understanding global positioning is to take up geocaching. If this is foreign to you, here's the beginning of the entry on geocaching from Wikipedia: "Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasure," usually toys or trinkets of little value." If you want more information on getting involved with this hobby check out Geocaching.com. There are many adventures awaiting you in this area. We haven't done this yet, but hope to this summer. I'll do a follow up once we do.

These are just a few ways that I believe you could have a living geography lesson using the Charlotte Mason method.

Happy learning!


These are beautiful comments. I've observed th...

These are beautiful comments. I've observed that children have a natural curiosity about the "where's" and "Who" of places on our earth. Thanks for the good ideas of finding latitude & longitude. My good friends do geocaching whenever they have free time, and I too have called it an "adult-style-treasure-hunt." Happy Hunting!