Mapping the World with Art

February 5, 2011
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Mapping the World with Art

Content: Geography
Grade(s): 4th and up
Perspective: Secular
Prep Time: Minimal
Teacher Manual: DVD format
Teacher Involvement: Essential
Cost: $$ || ?
Pages: 320 pages
Publication Date: 2009
Review Updated: 4/28/2014
Reviewer: Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed.

Mapping the World With Art, not to be confused with Mapping the World By Heart, is one of the most popular homeschool geography curriculums on the market. The concept is simple and easy to implement: Read a 2-page mini-history lesson and then draw a map about the historical and geographical region. For the less artistic, you can watch 6 hours of instructional DVDs to help with the drawing and painting portions of the lesson.

As you work your way through 30 history and art lessons, you get a sense of time and place in the world. With 100 pages of supplemental activities, you can easily expand your lessons with videos, hands-on projects, and even worksheets so you can create a truly meaningful middle school social studies credit. The curriculum culminates by having kids create a complete map of the world in any art medium they choose.

No doubt exists that you’ll gain invaluable art experience from this curriculum. The step-by-step directions, along with the pictures detailing how to draw each map, are exceptionally executed. Blending art with map-making offers a refreshing new take on a subject that doesn’t always get its fair share of attention.

History-loving readers, however, will most likely take note of some of the generalized (and questionable) statements sprinkled throughout the book. For example, in the Marco-Polo lesson, McHenry states, “… Kublai Khan (the grandson of the infamous Genghis Kan), had requested that missionaries come to his kingdom to teach his people about Christianity.” In addition, McHenry offers a minimalist “fanciful” comment that does not begin to do justice in discussing how Marco Polo’s journey to China has never been fully believed as having actually happened – beginning with his own contemporaries in Venice. (Read a short, non-academic biography of Marco Polo.) More scholary history lovers may even cringe at the more esoteric mistakes, such as referring to “Germanic tribes” as “Germans” – a geo-political term that describes a different time period and people.

Another concern for some families may be the curriculum’s hyper-focus on Western Civilization, despite being a world geography class. While McHenry touches on each of the 7 continents, it’s disappointing to see that Africa only warrants one lesson (well, technically 2, if you count the lesson on the Nile River). As the birthplace for all of mankind; the home to many varied and rich cultures; and a land with deep connections to America – it’s disappointing to see such a cursory nod being given.

While the curriculum is essentially secular, you will find a smattering of Christian references, such as a passing mention of the Shroud of Turin. Families should also note that in addition to purchasing the book, they will also need to buy a variety of art materials.

Chapter Summary:

1- Mesopatamia
2- Nile River
3- Greece
4- Roman “Boot”
5- Holy Land & Arabian Peninsula
6- Black, Caspian, & Aral Seas
7- Iberian Peninsula
8- France
9- Indian “Subcontinent”
10- Greater Antilles
11- Lesser Antilles
12- Britain & Newfoundland
13- Africa
14- Central America & Caribbean
15- South America

16- Malay Peninsula & Southern Asia
17- Pacific Islands
18- Strait of Magellan & Phillipines
19- North America, East coast
20- Gulf of St. Lawrence
21- North America, West coast
22- Scandinavia
23- Low Countries, Ireland, & Iceland
24- Northern Canada
25- Japan
26- Australia & New Zealand
27- Alaska
28- Rest of North America & Asia
29- Other Pacific Islands
30- Antartica

Download 3 FREE chapters of Mapping the World by Art.

About the Author:
Ellen J McHenry is a homeschool mother who holds an art degree, with a minor in math, from Penn State. She has worked as a professional illustrator for more than 20 years. During her years teaching homeschool co-op science classes, Ellen recognized a need for a different type of instructional material and so her career as a curriculum writer was born.

Because one opinion is never enough! Have you ever used Mapping the World With Art? How did it work for your family? Share your review below.



  • Shaun Strohmer May 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I have been using this with my girls together this year (they are 4 years apart in age) and it has been great to have something for them to do together. We have supplemented, especially for my older DD (grade 9), and have considered it a world geography course with a focus on the golden age of European exploration/imperialism and a focus on cartography. The supplemental readings focus on fleshing out those aspects of the class instead of filling in gaps. For my 5th grader, the drawing part has been a bit frustrating. She finds following the directions quickly a bit frustrating and her maps are of course not nearly as neat and stylish as her older sister’s, which is sometimes a source of frustration as well.

  • Janet G. May 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I used this with my 5th grader and have been generally pleased. There are step-by-step instructions for drawing each map, and video demonstrations. There are review worksheets to remember what you’ve learned. There is a two-page history lesson with each unit, based on the history of cartography or exploration (for example, when drawing Cuba and Hispaniola area, there is a brief story of Columbus’ voyages there). We do supplement the history with library books. Finally, there is a section of supplementary activities, such as crafts and board games. The board games basically started off as :”roll the dice and move,” but in the later units they include trivia questions, again to review the material.

    Nitpicking criticisms:
    Some of the links to internet resources are already out of date. The illustrations on the written descriptions of the drawing assignments can be small, and the videos can move a little fast (have the pause button handy).

  • Amanda N. May 3, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    I really liked how we could pick and chooses activities. Sometimes we covered scientific ideas. Sometimes we cooked. Sometimes we just played games. We didn’t use the whole program, but the drawing lessons were really great. Depending on our moods, we would watch the video or use the step-by-step instructions in the book and mnemonic devices to draw the maps. My 12 year-old could draw maps from memory by the end of the year. My younger son could also draw maps, but I wasn’t too hung up with correcting his “mistakes”.

    Don’t confuse this curriculum with Mapping the World by Heart, which I did not like and was not worth the money at all.

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