3 Fantastic Resources for Studying the United States: A Desk Atlas Review


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For many years, I described our homeschooling style as “classically eclectic with a Charlotte Mason twist.” Then, in 2012, we started using {gasp} a boxed curriculum! Who’d have thought?

I certainly never would have, but I was burned out beyond belief and not sure I’d make it though that homeschooling year. I would never have guessed that we’d absolutely love Trail Guide to Learning. It was exactly the kind of curriculum I’d have written myself if I had the time and expertise to do so.

Desk Atlas of the United States Review

We were so disappointed to finish the available levels. Geography Matters does have plans to continue the curriculum through high school, but it wasn’t ready in time for us.

We started with Paths of Settlement, and one of our favorite weekly activities was the state study. It reminded me of the 50 State Fridays we did when the kids were younger.

Sometime after we finished Paths of Settlement, the atlas that was used with the state study portion of the curriculum went out of print. So, Geography Matters decided to do what any resourceful homeschooling parent (or curriculum provider) would do – they wrote and published their own atlas!

Can I just say that after seeing the resulting Desk Atlas of the United States, I wish the other atlas had gone out of print sooner? This book is fantastic!

Features of the Desk Atlas of the United States

The Desk Atlas of the United States is beautifully illustrated, uses every bit of available space to share interesting facts and trivia about each state, and is a great size. It would probably be found in the oversized books at the library, measuring 9.625” X 12”, but it’s perfect for an atlas – no squinting to read tiny print and plenty of room for a wealth of information.

And, this may sound weird, but I love the way it feels. The cover is a rubber-textured matte finish – but it’s what’s inside the cover that really makes it unique. (Despite the fact that even the cover was designed to delight users – it has 50 stars, and readers are challenged to find them all.)

Desk Atlas of the United States from Geography Matters

Each state page layout is designed to look like a student has materials open and spread out on his desk, studying each state. Each component of the design features information about the state. On each state page, you’ll find:

  • Demographic information
  • State name, motto, and capital
  • 2-letter postal abbreviation – This isn’t listed as any old abbreviation. Nope, each state abbreviation is found on a postcard (illustrated by a homeschool grad) featuring a notable state feature and postmarked with the date the state was admitted to the union. Love it!
  • The state bird, tree, and flower – each hand-illustrated by a homeschooled kid (flowers) and a homeschool mom (bird and tree)!
  • State quarter
  • A listing of famous people from that state
  • Timeline of important events
  • State facts and trivia
  • A terrain map featuring the state capital, major cities, and interstate highways
  • State flag (It’s featured as a shirt patch and includes a description and the meaning of the flag’s features.)
  • A color-coded tab indicating the state’s region (and a cup of cocoa showing the regional location)
Features of the Desk Atlas of the United States

Not only are the pages filled with a wealth of information, but every available space is put to use. The inside front and back covers are filled with state fact cards (bottom right image above).  There are also political, physical, and thematic maps of the U.S., along with a state almanac and a glossary of geographic terms.

This is really one of the most comprehensive and visually-appealing atlases I have ever seen.

Couple the Desk Atlas with the State Notebook

The State Notebook is a brand-new companion book for the Desk Atlas from Geography Matters. It’s essentially a bound book of state notebooking pages. Each features space for students to write:

  • State facts such as abbreviation, motto, date of statehood, crops, waterways, and more
  • Significant people in the state’s history
  • Important historical events
State Notebook from Geography Matters

There is also a blank outline map of the United States on each page so that students can color in the location of the state. Finally, there are spots for students to place the included, hand-illustrated stickers of the state bird, flower, and tree.

One thing that I really love about the State Notebook is that it’s bound. No more trying to find a binder and 3-hole punching pages so that you can keep up with them during the course of your study.

Add Eat Your Way Through the USA to top it all off!

When we did our 50 State Friday years ago, we almost always prepared a related dish to go with each state. We made spinach-artichoke dip when we studied California (because one of its cities is the artichoke capital of the world) and drank Coke when we learned about Georgia.

Making a meal while studying a state has multiple benefits.

  • It makes the study memorable.
  • It’s tasty!
  • No long-term storage is required.
  • You can incorporate life skills in your geography/history study.

Eat Your Way Through the USA from Geography Matters is an excellent addition to a study of the United States. It features:

  • Culinary specialties from each state and the District of Columbia – a full meal of recipes for each
  • Easy-to-follow recipes so you and your child can feel confident allowing him or her to help
  • Food facts and trivia for each state
Eat Your Way Through the USA

Using these three books together makes it simple to pull together a stress-free, easy-to-implement study of the United States. I’m actually planning to reinstitute 50 State..um, maybe Thursdays since our Fridays are quite busy right now. I’m going to put Megan in charge of each meal as part of the home ec course she requested this year.

Resources for Studying the United States

Visit Geography Matters to order one or all three of these titles.

This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.

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