Geography is one of my kids' favorite subjects, so I was excited when I was given the opportunity to review a couple of unique geography books: Eat Your Way Around the World and Geography Through Art, both of which are published by Geography Matters, a great homeschool geography curriculum company.
Eat Your Way Around the World
It begins with recommendations for how to use the book, either alone or in conjunction with your current geography study. Author Jamie Aramini then moves on to explain how to expand the study of each country beyond just making the recipes, including learning a few words from the language, studying the food-related customs, and playing music from that country.
The heart of the book is obviously the recipe section. This section is divided first by continent, and then by country, and each country has three to four dishes that are historically popular for that country. The recipes for each country are not just main dishes, so all the recipes for that country can be prepared and served at the same meal if so desired.
Jamie Aramini has adapted the recipes to make them as simple as possible using ingredients that can be obtained at just about any regular grocery store. That being said, some of the recipes are more difficult to prepare than others, so each recipe is rated from one to four forks indicating how simple or complicated it is to prepare.
Many of the recipes also include information about food etiquette in that country or extra facts about that country or its food. For example, when my 9-year-old daughter made Dan Hua Tang (egg drop soup), we read about how to serve a Chinese meal and how the eldest person at the table is traditionally served first.
It would be nearly impossible for a single cookbook to include recipes from every country in the world, and this cookbook doesn't either. However, it does provide a fair sampling from each continent (excluding Antarctica of course). Here is a breakdown of the countries that are included:
Africa — Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa
Asia — China, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea
Europe — France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Spain
North America — Canada, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, United States
South America — Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela
Oceania — Australia, New Zealand
After the recipe section, you'll find a "My Food Journal" page that can be copied and filled in for each country studied. "My Food Journal" includes spaces where the child can record details about the recipe as well as his evaluation of the experience by answering guided questions.
The author also includes a "Food Passport" that can be cut out, folded, and stapled together. Then following the preparation of each country's meal, the child can add passport stamps for the country and rate the meal itself. Passport stamps and rating stamps can be photocopied from the book and printed on self-adhesive paper to make it easy to add them to the passport.
You'll also find an additional list of links to more recipes from each covered country in the appendix.
Obviously the biggest advantage of using this curriculum is that you don't have to research and find all the recipes from the different countries on your own. The work has already been done for you. Additionally, the recipes have been simplified to make procuring the ingredients and preparing the dishes easier for you and your child.
The curriculum is also quite expandable. If you want a short overview of each country, then just read each chapter, make the recipes, and leave it at that. But the additional resources, such as the links to additional recipes for each country in the appendix as well as the suggested expansion activities, allow you to study each country in much more detail and from different perspectives than a typical geography curriculum.
Any homeschooling family could use this book with children of any age, and the older the children can even prepare the food themselves with a little supervision.
Really my only disappointment with Eat Your Way Around the World was that it didn't cover more countries from each continent. Understandably, it would have be nigh impossible to include every country in the world, but it still would have been nice to have a few more countries included, especially from Asia.
Geography Through Art
The beginning of the book includes instructions for how to create a geography notebook, and especially how to integrate the study of geography with any other subject. The next section, Art Tips, covers the color wheel and offers suggestions and information about the different media used throughout the curriculum. After that, the author includes some teaching tips to help the parent utilize the curriculum to its fullest. Then the final section before the individual country projects begin covers the world in general and a short discussion and art project about cartography itself.
Finally the country projects begin, separated by continent. There is a different selection of countries than was presented in Eat Your Way Around the World, however, there is quite a bit of overlap. Here are the countries Geography Through Art covers:
Africa — Central African Republic, Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania, Morocco, Zimbabwe
Asia — China, India, Japan, Russia
Europe — England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine
North America — Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, United States
South America — Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru
There are usually several art projects provided for each country, from watercolor to paper mache to sculpting. For each art project, the author includes a materials list and background information about the topic. Many projects also have an "i" symbol next to them which means it is interenet-linked; you can go to the Geography Through Art book website to find links to more information on that topic (the link is listed in the book).
If a country has corresponding recipes in Eat Your Way Around the World, you'll find a fork/knife icon next to it to indicate that there are recipes available for that country. A difficulty rating is also included with each project to help parents know quickly how complicated a project is.
The appendix of Geography Through Art includes recipes for different types of clay, a glossary of geography terms, a "Countries of the World Fact Sheet" to photocopy, and several patterns that are needed for the art projects in the book. Also included in the appendix are outline maps of the world and continents.
Like Eat Your Way Around the World, Geography Through Art does all the hard work for you in finding art projects related to your country of study. And the art projects aren't boring either, even though none of them are overly complicated or require hard-to-find materials. I especially like that the book includes more than one project for each country (with the exception of 5 countries which have only one project each).
This curriculum is definitely a fun way to study world geography, and a great supplement to any geography curriculum.
Because this book includes so many projects, some people who prefer step-by-step instructions may find it difficult to know where to begin. Like many of Geography Matters' curriculum, this curriculum is an excellent resource, but not necessarily laid out in a daily lesson plan format which some may prefer. Consequently, it does take some planning to us Geography Through Art to its fullest potential.
Disclosure: Geography Matters provided me with this curriculum for free to review. However, all of my opinions are my own.
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