Using Hands On Activities To Learn About The World

Using Hands On Acitvities To Learn About The World (1)

When I was in seventh grade, I made a salt dough map of Italy.

My uncle helped me. I remember carefully forming the mountains, painting the sea, and painstakingly placing all of Italy’s major cities in their correct locations.

I had never done anything like it before. And I never did anything like it again, until I started homeschooling my boys.

The crazy thing is, I still remember it all. I know Italian geography almost as well as I know the United States. Every single time I do a hands on learning activity with my boys (especially anything involving salt dough) I remember that map.

It reminds me that it works. In school, I enjoyed worksheets and more traditional approaches to learning more than my two sons ever will, and yet, that information about Italy has stayed with me for almost 30 years.


I am a big believer in hands on learning, particularly for my two boys. Their learning differences make it almost a requirement around here. (Ask me about the time that my son finally, after 2 years, learned the difference between capital I and capital H, because I had him create them with Play Doh…)

Confession Time: Even though I know how valuable they are, I am often exhausted even thinking about how to come up with activities that allow my sons to experience and “do” rather than read and write. My brain hurts most days just thinking about it, much less planning for it, figuring out the supplies needed, corralling my troops and of course, cleaning up the mess.


In addition to searching for ways to incorporate more hands on learning into our homeschool, I have been genuinely excited to share my experience with North Star Geography this semester. It’s been a huge help to us – the tone and approach of the text is grounded in real life and the audio version has been a great benefit for my dyslexic son.

Without a doubt however, the best part about North Star is the pre-planned, easy to execute activities associated with each lesson.  Each lesson includes three hands on and experiential options. We can choose to do one, or all three.

Hands On Activities To Learn About The World

Here are a few examples of hands on learning with North Star Geography:

  • Making a homemade compass
  • Geocaching or letter boxing
  • Distilling saltwater
  • Visiting a national park
  • Playing Government Uno

(Incidentally, I  find myself more and more, wishing that every single curriculum provided this type of support. I want a reading/phonics and math curriculum that provide the same type of activities. A momma can dream! )

In addition to these activities, there is also an opportunity to create a personalized atlas. Blank maps are included and allow creativity, as well as the attention to geographical details that I so clearly remember from my salt map making.

I have never seen such a creative and inclusive approach to a homeschool curriculum.


I want to encourage those of you that are trying to figure out ways to help your unique kiddos learn – it is not easy, but there are resources available, both online and in print materials.

North Star Geography is certainly one of them.

If you have any suggestions for hands on learning materials, I would LOVE to hear about them – especially phonics and reading! Please share below or at the Not The Former Things Facebook page!


I have chosen to partner with Bright Ideas Press this year, because I am sincerely impressed with their products. As a partner, I have been compensated for my time spent writing this review, but please know, all thoughts and comments are my own.


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  1. Friendly Chemistry! The author lives in my county, so I took his class when I was 9, and then again at the college level. But when I was 9, he was teaching a mixed-age class of homeschoolers, and even my 7 year old brother who couldn’t read yet, was grasping the concepts!
    It’s pretty awesome, and fun too! http://friendlychemistry.com/home.html

    1. This is great! Thank you for sharing, Bethany.

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