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The Colorado Plateau - Part I: Learn About the Grand Canyon

We recently checked off an item near the top of our family bucket list.

People will tell you the feeling you have when you first see the Grand Canyon is indescribable. We heard things like “Pictures don’t do it justice.” and “It looks like you are standing in a painting.”

Yep. All of the above.

Truly - you really can’t understand until you have been there.

John Wesley Powell, one of the most famous explorers of the land west of the 100th meridian, named this area during his 1869 expedition.

The Colorado Plateau comprises a series of tablelands (plateaus or mesas) located within an immense basin surrounded by highlands. Stream valleys that are typically narrow and widely spaced dissect the region, as do larger valleys, including the most spectacular – the Grand Canyon. ~ The National Park Service

(Before we left for our trip I read Wallace Stegner’s Beyond the 100th Meridian - I highly recommend this to prepare yourself!)

These four states provide some of the most beautiful landscapes and rich learning opportunities of any concentrated area in the United States.

The Colorado Plateau - Part I: The Grand Canyon - itinerary and learning resources

Traveling the Colorado Plateau

When I was sharing pictures from our trip on Instagram, so many of my followers said - you MUST share your itinerary.

Our itinerary was simple because I didn’t have to plan a single thing.

We took a Trafalgar Tour - Colorful Trails of the Southwest. I knew we wanted to cover a lot of ground in approximately 8-10 days. I also knew that I didn’t want my husband to have to worry about a SINGLE THING - driving, deciding where to stay, what to eat, etc… After pricing some tours and then pricing our own airfare, vehicle rental, hotel prices, etc… a tour turned out to be a fabulous option.

Advantages of a tour experience:

  • you can truly RELAX - everything is decided for you

  • the itinerary keeps you MOVING - we did have some down time, but we were up and out early every morning and didn’t waste time

  • kids aren’t as free to complain or nag at each other because they are with other people

  • an EXPERT tour guide provides a wonderful educational experience - perfect for homeschoolers!

  • the best sights, hotels, restaurants, trails, picture spots, etc… are chosen for you

  • we met locals in several areas and felt we learned a lot more this way

  • you meet other people from all over the world and are enriched by spending a week with them


The first day we traveled from Phoenix to Scottsdale, to Sedona - and that evening found us at the Grand Canyon, staying at one of the lodges in the National Park.

We had some time to just STARE into the canyon. Truly - photos don’t do it justice.

The sun was beginning to set - which proved to be a perfect time to take pictures and watch the light and shadow play off of the rock formations. We never realized you could see so many colors of ROCK. The expansiveness of the canyon was breathtaking.

The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
- John Wesley Powell

Visit the Grand Canyon - resources for learning with homeschoolers

We heard from “Canyon Tim” while we sat overlooking the canyon. He taught us about the geology of the canyon and the many different types of rock found in the Grand Canyon. This was a spectacular science lesson!

That night, at dinner, my kids had some great conversations with the people at our table about the age of the earth. I found myself being conflicted and wondering about the actual age of our earth - and my beliefs about Creationism.

A very kind man (the age of my children’s grandparents) from Tennessee gave my daughter what I thought was the best answer - he told her not to be too concerned about the age of it all, but instead to marvel at God’s creation and do everything in her power to love and protect that creation - and to share the good news of Christ. These wonders are placed in our path by God and we them our respect and awe.

I tend to agree. It is hard to argue with good science, but then again with God all things are possible. Some things are supposed to remain a mystery to us. I appreciated that we could have this discussion - and that my kids were even thinking about this. (Please don’t leave me a comment with your opinion about this - I don’t want to debate you here - I’m just happy to have had the discussion with my children.)

A couple of resources if you want to know more:

Learn about the Grand Canyon

The next morning we awoke early, ate a quick breakfast, and headed out to hike The Trail of Time. on our own. Again - more age of the canyon questions, but this time I felt like we could just take it all in and truly stand in awe at the events that had to happen over time for this incredible canyon to form.

Early morning in the Grand Canyon is so peaceful and beautiful. We saw a lot wildlife and were amazed by the lack of people on the trail.

We spent about two hours hiking, stopping for pictures, and just marveling at the beauty. Our guide had explained to us that the Grand Canyon tends to be a more passive national park - meaning people mostly LOOK at the scenery in the park. As we would come to Arches and Mesa Verde we would experience more active National Parks.

I’m sure we could have spent more time and done more activities at the Grand Canyon, but having a little less than 24 hours in the national park was perfect for us - especially because we had more to see and do in the next seven days!

Learn About the Grand Canyon

Learning Resources for The Grand Canyon

There was learning before, during - and will continue to be after - our visit to the Grand Canyon.

We learned more history on our trip than we ever could in a textbook. I count each and every one of our travel days a SCHOOL DAY. This is intentional learning, and I wish every child had the opportunity to learn about America in this way!

No matter what age my children have been, I always have the following strategy for before, during, and after our trips:

  • adult reading for mom and dad — so we can talk with each other and the kids about the area we’re visiting

  • books for the kids to read while on our trip

  • follow up read aloud books, puzzles, coloring, etc…

  • National Parks games are great — they have helped us learn so much!


Click here for Part II of our Colorado Plateau Adventures - Monument Valley and Mesa Verde National Park!

I’d love to know if you’ve traveled to the Grand Canyon, or if you are wanting to make a trip.

I hope these resources have been helpful to you. Leave me a comment below!

Five Ways to Foster a Love of Geography

A knowledge of our world is central to all other knowledge. 

This knowledge provides context to everything - science, history, literature, math, fine arts, and more.

Providing our children opportunities and resources to build their geography knowledge is simple, but it requires commitment and intentionality. It should be part of our ongoing committment to continually set a beautiful educational feast before our children in our homes.

Through homeschooling, we are able to provide this knowledge so much more effectively because we can immerse our student in the world - literally.

Five Ways to Foster a Love Of Geography

Following are 5 simple strategies to foster a love for geography in your children. I've seen these work with my own children.

Their knowledge of the world amazes me. It has inspired me to reclaim my own geography education. 

Recently, I posted a free hand drawing of Africa that my son had completed - I was shocked by the response this picture received.

So many of you asked what I did to help him achieve this. 

The answer is simple: provide tools, opportunities, and inspiration

This post outlines what we've done in our homeschool to inspire a love of geography.

5 Ways to Foster a Love of Geography

1. Surround Children With Geography

We've always surrounded our children with geography. Easy ways to do this:

 

  • Invest in Globes

Keep a learning globe in a place where your child can easily access it. Encourage them to play with it often. Talk to them while they play. Play together. Show a fascination in the globe and your child will follow your lead.

 

  • Hang Child-Friendly Maps

Dry-Erase Map Decals are fun in a child's room. 

A simple map of the world hung in your home will always provide a point of discussion.

 

  • Use Map Placemats

Don't you remember these from when you were a kid? (I do!) Geography placemats are one of the most simple way to cement that geography knowledge, and it's so easy to strike up a conversation or an impromptu quiz during a meal, right?

 

  • Talk to Children When You Go Places

Even if it was a simple day trip, I always was talking with my kids about geography.  

When they see you in the car with a physical map (shocker - don't use your phone with Google Maps!) they make the connection that following a map leads to interesting destinations and events. 

When we would take trips I would print notebooking pages and have the kids create a notebook for that journey - a great way to learn more about the place, but also to help with our knowledge of geography, too. 

(Pictured below are the state pages, but we've used Notebooking Pages for tracing countries of the world, too!)

 

2. Create a Geography Table - Blobbing & Tracing

This is the SINGLE MOST effective thing I did to nurture an interest in geography.

Read this post and watch the video below to see exactly what I included as part of our table and also what time of day we used the table. 

In the post and video I mention blob mapping quite a bit. My dear friend Brandy has an excellent post and printables that help with this!

Have your children blob map DAILY. I had five and six year olds in my CC Foundations class who had such a wonderful grasp of the continents, bodies of water, and things like the Tropic of Cancer, Capricorn and the equator. 

A whiteboard and a dedicated five minutes each day can go A LONG way!

 

Trace maps - A LOT of them!

Tracing maps turned out to be a bit of an obsession for my son. There's something about tracing paper, Ultra Fine Sharpies, and a collection of wonderful maps that just excites kids. 

 

Once your child is good at blobbing and tracing then they will move on to drawing freehand. This takes time, but with enough exposure and time, it will come naturally to them. 

 

 

3. Own Atlases & Geography Books/Read Widely

I've included my favorite geography books below. We have a geography section in our homeschool shelves that my children use liberally!

What's hard to include, however, are all of the beautiful picture and chapter books we read that took place ALL OVER the world. Each time we would read I would point out where things took place in the world. 

This goes back to surrounding your children with geography - have that globe nearby and talk to your kids about where stories and events take place. 

 

There's a Map on My Lap!: All About Maps (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)National Geographic Kids Beginner's World AtlasThe Geography Bee Complete Preparation Handbook: 1,001 Questions & Answers to Help You Win Again and Again!The National Geographic Bee Ultimate Fact Book: Countries A to ZDraw Asia: Volume IDraw Asia: Volume IIDraw AfricaDraw EuropeDraw the USADraw Mexico, Central and South AmericaDraw the World: An Outline of Continents and OceansWhere on Earth? AtlasNational Geographic Family Reference Atlas of the World, Fourth Edition: Indispensable Information and More Than 1,000 Maps and IllustrationsLift the Flap Atlas

 

 

4. Play Geography Games

Anything is more enjoyable when it is a game. 

We started a collection of the 10 Days games a few years ago - these are hard to find, so if you see them at a thrift store or garage sale, or a used book sale, grab them! 

At some point in time, we have played each of these games, and they all inspire more geography knowledge. 

Even my youngest (who is 13 and in Classical Conversations Challenge A) asks me to sit down quite and often and play a geography game with him. It is just part of his daily geography time, and I LOVE that. 

Kids are never too old to play games! 

 

10 Days in Africa Game10 Days In The USA Board Game10 Days In Europe Game10 Days in Asia Game10 Days in the Americas - The Unpredictable Game of Making ConnectionsPassport To Culture® GameScrambled StatesGeo Bee Challenge GameBrainbox All Around The WorldGeoBingo World - Educational Geography Board GameProfessor Noggin's Countries of the World Card GameLearning Wrap-ups States & Capitals - US Geography KeysTicket To RideTicket To Ride - EuropeTicket To Ride Asia: Map Collection - Volume 1Ticket to Ride Map Collection Board Game: The Heart of Africa, Volume #3Ticket To Ride India: Map Collection - Volume 2Ticket to Ride: France/Old West Map 6Ticket To Ride: Nordic CountriesTicket to Ride Map Collection Volume 5 : United Kingdom Board GameTicket to Ride Germany Board GameTicket To Ride: First Journey

 

 

5. Challenge - Draw the World!

Because both of my children went through Classical Conversations Challenge A, they were required to draw the entire world. 

This is an incredibly valuable skill. Not only did they learn every country, capital and feature in our world, but they also developed a habit of discipline and perseverance to learn the sheer amount of geography knowledge necessary to complete the task. 

My son is steadily working his way through each continent and takes a tremendous amount of pride in his drawings. 

Keep in mind, this has been accomplished in large part because of a commitment to geography we've had for many years. 

I'm so impressed with Challenge A and the geography strand in particular. 

5 Ways to Foster a Love of Geography
Five Ways to Foster a Love For Geography

Geography is one of the most accessible, enjoyable, and valuable subjects we can expose our children to in our homeschools.

We have a unique opportunity with ample time, resources, and motivation -- seize the opportunity and give your children the WORLD!

 

Do you study geography in your homeschool?  What does it look like? Leave me a comment below!