Mapping the World With Art

Let me introduce you to my favorite homeschool purchase of the past two years.

Mapping the World with Art is a geography resource unlike any other! Mapping marries detailed but easy-to-follow drawing lessons for each part of the world with chronological history lessons and wonderfully creative learning activities. By the end of the study, your students should be able to make a detailed physical map of the entire world from memory. Along the way they will have learned lessons about exploration and cartography from the Babylonians through Polar explorers of the early 20th century.

Now you might be wondering about the title. Doesn't that sound an awful lot like another curriculum called Mapping the World by Heart?!?!  Well, yes, and that is not unintentional. Author Ellen Johnston McHenry had used MWbH, but like many others, myself included, she found it to be lacking in some respects. My family has used Mapping...Heart twice, and while it has been a great experience each time, using the skeleton of an outline provided in that book required enormous time in planning and preparation. (You can see the maps from our last go round here and here.)

Mrs. McHenry, a professional illustrator and homeschool mom, had a different vision in mind when she created her product. Yes, children will learn to make memory maps, though these focus on physical maps rather than political ones. But a couple of things set this program apart from the other. First of all, it is MUCH more user friendly!

Ben starts his map by making guidelines he'll later erase
Second, Mapping the World with Art is more creative and just more fun. Interesting ways of presenting and reinforcing information must continually flow from Mrs. McHenry's brain. (Check out her "Basement Workshop" for TONS of free games, play scripts, and other resources to teach everything from Bible to nuclear chemistry to Latin. Oh, yes - and geography.) Mrs. McHenry's creativity shines in the Mapping program both in the variety of activities suggested and her clever ways of helping students look at the maps they are drawing, seeing Crete, for example, as an alien lying on his back.

Nile River valley drawn on papyrus
And finally, Mapping... Art is a great value. At $46.95 for the full package ($42.95 from Rainbow), you'll receive the hefty manual, three DVDs with Mrs. McHenry's detailed drawing lessons for each map, and a CD-Rom of the entire book as well. The latter is handy for printing review maps and games from the manual rather than wrestling the book into your copy machine. (Note: If you purchase the book from Amazon, it does NOT include the drawing DVDs. They are totally worth buying, so you are better off to purchase the curriculum directly from Mrs. McHenry or Rainbow Resource.)

Mapping...Art has thirty lessons which can be completed over a year. It's generally recommended for students at least 10 years old. When we began our co-op, the children ranged from 9-12, so we decided to take two years rather than one to complete the program. This curriculum works great as a co-op class!

Each of the lessons interweaves the three segments (history,  map drawing, and activities) beautifully. At first, the order in which maps are taught will seem strange, but give it time, and you will begin to understand the big picture. Since it takes a chronological approach, lessons and drawings begin around the Mediterranean and then move on from there. The activities range from making cookie maps (cuneiform "clay" tablet maps) to crafting a model of the Santa Maria to playing a Viking Voyages board game. Review maps periodically help students put the various smaller maps together into a cohesive world map.

Co-op class prepares to make South America tortilla maps

tortilla features key


A small amount of daily practice makes all the difference.

Ben finished this practice map while I was writing this post

But maybe you are wondering WHY anyone would want to spend this time learning to draw a world map anyway. I'll answer that in the next post!
5 Responses
  1. Unknown Says:

    I love your observation that "Interesting ways of presenting and reinforcing information must continually flow from Mrs. McHenry's brain!" Ellen was my childhood babysitter, Sunday School teacher, and friend and that's a perfect description of her creative mind. Thanks for the review and explanation of why learning to map the world is worthwhile. --AshleyEwer

  2. tina boyle Says:

    I know this post is older, but I am looking at using this in a co-op next year. We only have 20 weeks, would it be easy to figure out which lessons to cut to make it work in that amount of time?

  3. Anne Says:


    The book has 30 lessons, so cutting it down to just 20 would present some difficulties. Here are a couple of ideas off the top of my head:

    1. If you have time between co-ops, you could assign some of the lessons to be done at home only.

    2. There are some lessons which could be dropped without missing much. Maybe 10 and 11 (Greater and Lesser Antilles - the Caribbean islands); 17 (Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Celebes, New Guinea, Spice Islands); 29 (Polynesian Islands); 30 (Antarctica). After that, it would get pretty hard to decide what to omit.

    3. Consider taking two years to cover the material. That is what my co-op did. We only meet three times each month, and one of those meetings is a book club. So we had fewer than 20 "regular" co-op meetings in each year. This also gave us a few weeks at the end of the year to work together on review and making final memory maps.

  4. Tina Says:

    thank you for replying. I was wondering about the possibility of combining more than 1 lesson per class period. Would that be an option? I don't have the book yet, so I am not sure. the class periods give us around 50 minutes of teaching time.

  5. Anne Says:

    I think it would be really hard to accomplish two lessons in one session of just 50 minutes. The video drawing portions (with pauses for the kids to catch up) take at least 20 minutes each lessons and the history lessons as long. Activities can take as long as you wish. Most of the time we spent close to 1 1/2 hours on each lesson, though without the activities, this could be considerably shortened.