Our Journey Through Geography Using Holling C. Holling Literature Unit Study from Beautiful Feet

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We’ve been hard at play for the past 8 years homeschooling in the Sunshine State. Our blessings range in age from 12 years to 18 months.
Lisa blogs at Homeschool Circus and has several other reviews to check out.  Thank you Lisa for submitting this article.



I grew up in the Great Lakes Region watching Paddle to the Sea each year in school.  I loved the story and wanted my kids to really experience it for themselves – but with more fun and in depth than I had.  So, for a couple of years, I would see this very unit study at our local Homeschool Convention. Each year, I’d pick it up and drool.  This continued until last year, when I decided this would make a great study to do over the summer.

From Beautiful Feet Books this is a Literature/Geography unit study based on 4 books by Holling C. Holling.  The author encourages you to use maps (see above….just a note, I got my maps laminated so we could reuse them) and outside reading materials for each book.  They also encourage you to spend at least 4 weeks on each book.

I LOVED this study.  It was just enough hands-on materials for my oldest  (who is not crafty and prefers to get his information straight from a book), but, needed a bit of tweaking for my 2nd and 4th graders — which was very easy to do.

Here’s a Reader’s Digest version using 3 out of 4 Holling books in this study.


After reading the first 3 chapters of Paddle to the Sea, we investigated Canadian Geese.  The kids were instructed to draw a picture of one…..My oldest (aka Mr. One Crayon Kid) actually drew a goose and colored it appropriately (Small miracle!), Mr. Art drew a goose on it’s mound nest and my colorful little girl drew a plump goose with a pink bill.

She told me it was a girl and I said that I could tell by ‘her’ pink bill. She then told me, “No Mommy, that’s her lipstick”! OF COURSE, I should have known that!

Then the following conversation ensued:

Me: What country do Canadian Geese come from?

Daughter: The United States…

Me: Well…yes, but, where else? Doesn’t Canada and CANADIAN Geese sound alike?

Daughter: Well…..<face lights up> I got it! They come from Africa!!!!

Boys proceed to burst out laughing at the thought of African geese!

Note to self…..do extra work on geography of Western Hemisphere…..

They loved using the map and learning more details about the Great Lakes region.  We also spent some extra time on the geology of Niagara Falls (a passion of mine) and capped everything off with a big bowl of popcorn while watching the original movie.



Upon finishing Paddle to the Sea, we took a few days reading  “The King’s Fifth” by Scott O’Dell as a family to introduce us to The Conquistadors.

After the book was finished, we jumped into Tree in the Trail.  We ‘watched’ history through the branches of a Cottonwood tree from the Native Americans to the Spanish Conquistadors to The Westward Expansion along the Santa Fe/Cimarron Trail .

For our map, we did things a bit different this time.  Instead of having the kids write out the states, capitals and rivers, I typed little tags for them to tape onto the map.  It made the map much more legible AND made the end of book quiz easier too.  I just removed the tags and had each child put them back where they belong on the map.  I did have them draw in the Santa Fe and Cimarron Trails and Coronado’s route complete with a map key.

One of our hands on activities was to draw a Conestoga Wagon…..why draw one when you can build one?

We also researched Cottonwood trees, Bison, flint and iron arrow heads, Matchlocks (gun), bows, arrows and ox yokes.  My children have varying degrees of artistic talent, but I think they all enjoyed drawing these things as well.


Next we cruise down the Mississippi River with a Turtle named Minn……



We’ve finished up our journey with a lovable, three-legged snapping turtle named Minn.  From Lake Itasca (the headwaters) to the Gulf of Mexico we traveled  2,552 miles learning all about snapping turtles, geography, industry along the mighty Mississippi, Cajuns, Explorers and my favorite – glaciers!!!

Instead of keeping a plain old book of information, each child made their own Minn.  Within their Minn ‘book’ are pages of information on how turtles lay their eggs, locks, mound builders, explorers, differences in watercraft and glaciers.

We’ve enjoyed our journey through Geography with Holling C. Holling.  The break from regularly scheduled History was refreshing.

4 Responses to Our Journey Through Geography Using Holling C. Holling Literature Unit Study from Beautiful Feet
  1. Betty
    May 3, 2011 | 1:53 pm

    Oh, this looks neat…How does it pull God into the lessons? Thanks.

  2. Lisa K
    May 4, 2011 | 7:44 pm

    Ah, great question! I have to admit that this is one literature study from Beautiful Feet that does not have much emphasis on the Word. During the “Minn of the Mississippi” section, the student is instructed to look up a few scriptures pertaining to ‘instinct’. Otherwise, we did spend time relating what God’s word says about Creation vs. some references in Holling’s books regarding evolution. In my opinion, I feel that the richness in literature and geography outweighs these references.

  3. Jenn S
    September 5, 2011 | 4:41 pm

    I noticed your kids colored in the states (on the Tree in the Trail map) in different colors. Did you have a particular reason you colored those states in different colors, or not? Thanks!

  4. Kelly
    April 13, 2014 | 11:49 am

    I noticed you said you had to do some tweaking for your younger kids. What did you need to do? I am thinking of doing this study with an advanced 6th grader and a reluctant 3rd grader. Thanks.

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