Beware of the BLOB ! ! ! – A Video Guide to Getting Started With Geography Blobs

I’ve never actually seen this classic horror movie but I can’t hear the word BLOB and not hear the cliched “damsel in distress” B-movie scream.

Classical homeschoolers though, have a whole different notion of the term blob – or more accurately blobbing.

If you are entertaining the notion of classical homeschooling there are two comprehensive books I highly, highly recommend:

                                                                 

I return to these books often and reference them constantly throughout our school year. Sometimes I find myself struggling with how I should tackle a particular subject or how much time I should allot for something- and then it dawns on me–  DUH!  Check my homeschooling bibles! Inevitably one or both of these books will clarify what I’ve been pondering and give me the confidence to carry on.

This happened earlier in my homeschooling planning when I agonized over how and when I would begin geography.  I couldn’t seem to get a clear picture of how it would play out in my head.

Then from the dusty recesses of my mind a word slowly formed and oozed its way to the front of my consciousness-  BLOBBING!

I vaguely recalled reading a section on geography in Leigh Borten’s The Core.  I’d made a mental note to go back to it and now seemed like the time for me to revisit it.  I should add, there is such a staggering wealth of material in both of the above-referenced books that you can’t possibly ingest it all in one reading.  Or two.  Or any multiple thereafter.  You really need to make a point to revisit these books as your child grows and as they progress in their education.

Blobbing 101

After revisiting The Core, we started blobbing and it has quickly become one the girls’ favorite subjects.

Blobbing is a way to gradually and comfortably ease your child into geography and maps.  In time, not only will they develop a deep grasp of geography, but it will literally help them find their own unique place on this great big world.

In an effort to help ease your family into blobbing, I wanted to share with you the exact procedures we’ve been using so you can tweak it to fit your needs.

First give your kids a general sense of direction by working on:

  • Cardinal directions- Before starting geography or map-work, I taught my girls about compasses by purchasing them their own (similar to this children’s one) in an effort to develop a sense of direction within them.  The girls carried their compasses in their science kits and used them during park days or outings.  I also made a point of leaving one in the car, and to this day, will randomly ask my girls to give me directions using north, south, east or west instead of general left or right responses.  When they answer correctly then I’ll expand my question to get them thinking bigger.  For example – “You’re right that Nanny and Grandpa’s house is west of here.  Now which way would we head to go to California . . . or New York . . . or Disney World . . . etc. . .
  • Compass rose on maps – I utilized the compass rose coloring page from Enchanted Learning for this.  You can then have your child start drawing a small compass rose on the bottom of a blank paper as part of the initial blobbing process.

The following 4 short videos will walk you through the blobbing process we’ve adapted for our homeschool.

Each step can and SHOULD BE repeated often before learning the next step.  For younger students you can literally take weeks just practicing how to fold the paper for the equator.  Smaller hands have a harder time keeping the ruler steady so take your time with it and don’t do too much too soon.  Also, depending on your child’s ability they can either label their map fully or simply initial the names until their spelling and handwriting is better suited for it.  For example, there’s nothing wrong with simply using “E” for Equator or “PM” for the Prime Meridian.

Next comes the tropic lines.  I researched to see how most people did this and many simply freehand the lines themselves while some use an atlas to extend the lines out onto their paper.  While I like having an atlas or simple map with the great circles available for reference in the beginning stages of blobbing I don’t want my kids to rely on it.  The whole point for us in this exercise is to eventually freehand the map with just paper and a ruler. My goal is that down the road, after lots of practice, a reference map will not be necessary.

For our tropic lines we use our ruler to mark ¾” north and ¾” south of the Equator.  (We originally tried 1 inch but I didn’t care for the spacing of the lines as much.) I personally preferred the ¾” and felt it was a more accurate portrayal but use whatever measurement works best for your needs.

Here’s a short video of Mira showing how she completes this step.

Next is the Arctic and Antarctic Circles which are easily placed by folding the paper inwards towards the tropic lines.

And finally, Blobbing!  When your child starts drawing out the continents don’t worry about being specific.  The point of the blob shape is that your child can focus more on placement than on worrying about making it look like a map.  (You can also tweak it by drawing geometric shapes in lieu of blobs.)  In either case, when your child is focusing on the continents use questions to prompt them to pay attention to the great circles.  Is Australia north or south of the Equator?  Does it cross any tropic lines?  Where is in the Prime Meridian in relation to it?  

Focus on one continent at a time.  After your child has a general “blob” sense of where each continent lies in relation to the great circles and one another, then go back through and focus on adding in the definition and detail.  Work on accurately portraying the shapes.  Then you can keep “zooming in” to each continent by adding and labeling rivers, mountains, countries, landmarks, etc.

One more crucial element to blobbing is the active participation of YOU.  Get in there and do a blob map with your kids.  It’s actually really fun and there’s no better way to infect your children with enthusiasm for geography than by showcasing it yourself.  I make a point to carry a few rulers in my purse and will pull them out in random places for impromptu blobbing ‘races’.  The waiting room at the doctor’s office or table-side at a restaurant- these are perfect places to practice.

I hope that those of you embarking on blobbing find this post useful.  I’d love to hear the ways you tweak it and make blobbing work for you. (Also, if anyone out there knows where I printed off the map used in the final video I would love for you to link it up! I can’t find the original source and would love to share it with my readers!)

Additional resources:

 

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About Kristen

Home schooling classically with a dash of whatever strikes our fancy.
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20 Responses to Beware of the BLOB ! ! ! – A Video Guide to Getting Started With Geography Blobs

  1. connie says:

    This is just terrific! Great job Mira (and Mommy too). I have been struggling with where to start, but this guide definitely gives me everything I need to get going. Perhaps I might just try learning this for myself!! Thanks Kristen!

  2. Erin says:

    Guess what we are adding to our new term (that starts on Monday!)? Blobbing! Thanks to this post! Thanks for the great guide, so great to see what it looks like in real life.

  3. Erin K. says:

    Great videos! I have always been intrigued by this idea and even made a page for my preschooler’s felt book that has to do with blobbing. It makes so much sense actually seeing you do it. Thanks:)

  4. Nicole says:

    So so helpful! Thank you for posting this! I have been wanting to do this for awhile but wasn’t sure how to get started. Thanks!!!

  5. Julie says:

    Thanks for such a clear tutorial! How often a week do you do this at home? Is it something you regularly schedule in? I saw you wrote you often do it when you are waiting at doctors’ or restaurants, but how about at home? (Our pediatrician shows Disney movies in her waiting room, so my kids are completely lost to me there. I once brought schoolwork there and ended up giving up on it getting done.) Does your 4 year old participate as well in the blobbing? I can’t see my 4 yr old son wanting to do this, although maybe if I convinced him it was a cool art project:)

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Julie!
      We started out doing the great circles every day. It literally would take less than 5 minutes. We’ve since scaled back a bit and only do it 3x a week during our scheduled school days but, like I said, blobbing pops up often in our daily life when we’re out and about. Those are considered extra and we still make a point to do it during school whether or not we were doing them at a restaurant together the night before.
      My 4 year old participates but at this point we’re just working on the equator and prime meridian folds. She has yet to master a perfect fold so we’ve just been working on that and properly holding the ruler. It moves around for her as she tries to trace the line. She’ll label it with an E and a PM only.

  6. Julie says:

    Bear just tried this today, following Mira. It was great and she seemed to enjoy it. Do you have a photo of one of Mira’s completed Blob Map (if she’s done one with all the continents) to add to the end of the post? Thanks.

    • Kristen says:

      Mira just started Australia last week. Even though she has been correctly placing it, I planned to introduce only one new continent at a time and spend at least a week (if not two or more) repeating it. I want it to become automatic and I fear if I add too many continents she may forget them as she goes. This way it’s repeated over and over and over again. She doesn’t seem to mind and isn’t getting bored. I think it’s mainly because I join in and do it with her. Geography has never been my strong suit so I’m thrilled to be learning it alongside her and can’t wait until we actually get to countries and the detailed stuff. When Mira does finally have them all placed correctly I’ll add an update on here for everyone to see. {Or heck– I’ll probably even proudly show off MY map too!}

  7. Julie says:

    Oh, good to know! We’ll just work on folds, lines, and Africa then this week. I tried to get J-jo to join in, but he’s just about to turn 4 next month and he wasn’t interested in anything but watching Mira. Maybe I will just have him make a hotdog and hamburger fold for now. I am so very glad you wrote this post and took the time to make the videos. I don’t think I would have realized how quick and easy it is to incorporate into the school day otherwise.

  8. Kristi says:

    This is awesome!!! Blobbing seems to be really popular all of the sudden. I read about it a few years ago in The Core (one of my favorites, too! OK, probably my absolute favorite…), and tried it, and failed miserably. The videos are helping me visualize, thank you so much!

  9. Amy says:

    I’ve never heard of this, but I love geography and this looks great!

  10. Rachel says:

    We’ve also tried to copy maps as suggested in The Core. It’s a fun family activity. Since we’re from Canada, we drew Canada on Canada Day and on the fourth we plan to draw the states. We love map puzzles too.

  11. Heather says:

    Great post! Thank you so much for doing this. We are starting this tomorrow. :) I’ve been wanting to do so for some time but had a hard time wrapping my brain around how. I’ll link to your post on my blog soon.

  12. Amy says:

    This is awesome! Mira did a fantastic job and the videos are great (and helpful)! I had never heard of this before I saw your post a couple of weeks ago. I am definitely going to start this in the fall. I have a feeling we will be at the folding stage for a while =)

  13. Jody says:

    I’m pinning this! I’ve never heard of blobbing before – such a great idea!

  14. nicole says:

    Just watched your blob map tutorial. Where did you get the great map with the lines of latitude and prime meridian for the child to look at? The ones I find online are mostly too complicated. Do you have a link to the one you used?

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Nicole,
      I’m so sorry that I can’t find the original source where I printed off that map. I did make a plea at the bottom of my post hoping that one of readers might recognize it and steer me there so I could direct traffic to it. I agree with you that other maps have too many lines and look complicated for younger students. That’s why I loved the one I printed off. It wasn’t as overwhelming/distracting.
      I will let you know if I ever track it down (or one similar one). So sorry!!
      Also, please let me know if you find one that I can share! Best of luck to you!

  15. Julie P. says:

    THANK YOU for this! This is such a helpful post and makes things so simple. What a blessing!

  16. Amy says:

    I came back to reference this again because we are going to start tomorrow! I’m sure we won’t get past the first fold, but that’s ok =) We can go over the compass rose and learn the directions. Thanks again for the great videos!

  17. I read The Core and we’ve been working on mapping through CC. I wanted to let you know I LOVE your visuals. Not only were they helpful for me, but it was nice to have my daughter watch them as examples as well. Thanks for posting them!

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