20 Sep 2011

A Panoramic Method of Geography

The panoramic method...(of geography)... unrolls the landscape of the world, region by region, before the eyes of the scholar with in every region its own conditions of climate, its productions, its people, their industries and their history. This way of teaching the most delightful of all subjects has the effect of giving to a map of a country or region the brilliancy of colour and the wealth of detail which a panorama might afford, together with a sense of proportion and a knowledge of general principles.

Charlotte Mason Towards A Philosophy Of Education p228
You all know, I guess, that geography is one of our very favouritest subjects.

Our Australianised geography study this final term of AO4 is the Mighty Murray River. We're reading a couple of wonderful living books: Colin Thiele's River Murray Mary and Leila Pirani's Old Man River, both of which I have plans to tell you about in detail shortly; and mapping things on our river map as we go. We've already made a visit to Swan Hill, and Echuca is on the agenda.

We've also been doing a bit of work on the first Murray River residents - the Aboriginal People. Poppy's mother in the marvellous Our Australian Girl series is from the Bangerang People near Echuca, and we've been reading our way through her story as each book appears. (Not to self: must post on these as well.)

Today we watched this lovely Aboriginal Dreamtime story, Thukeri, from the Ngarrindjeri people who live in the lower River Murray area of South Australia.

It's starting to sound a little bit like a unit study, right? The kind of study that Miss Mason denigrates so strongly in Volume One, right?

Or are we?

Right, I mean?

Does Miss Mason really disapprove of integratory methods like this, or is this exactly what she's talking about as the Panoramic Method of Geography above?

Miss Mason talks a lot about her geography methods in Volume Six. She describes how her students learn first about their own region and country before moving onto next to their continent of Europe and later on to the rest of the world.

She writes that the youngest children..."are engaged with the counties of England, county by county, for so diverse are the counties in aspect, history and occupations, that only so can children acquire such a knowledge of England as will prove a key to the geography of every part of the world, whether in the way of comparison or contrast."

This is what we're trying to do with our River study. The Murray River is the biggest river in Australia. It is also one of the longest in the world. It forms the natural boundary between our State of Victoria and New South Wales. It has been the home of the Aborigines since before history was recorded, and was explored by many of our first explorers. Paddle steamers carried wool, wheat, and other goods up and down its length. It's a dream region for a geography study. It also happens to be local.

Jemimah dips a toe in 'New South Wales'

I love it when geography comes together like this. The book spines we're reading all term are the glue. They bring it all together. The other stuff though - the visits to the region; the free read novels and the videos are what makes The Mighty Murray more than a name. They're the things that make this study of local geography "a key to the geography of every part of the world, whether in the way of comparison or contrast."

If we could visit very geographical region we wanted to study, then we probably wouldn't need books at all. If not, then this panoramic method does a pretty fantastic job of unfolding a 'panorama' of the region in our mind's eye.

Once again, Miss Mason hits the nail right on the head. She always does, doesn't she?

If we read her right.


  1. Poor Miss Mason. She suffers from the same syndrome as many theologians. People take a snippet of a truth and build a platform around it. After awhile it barely resembles the original emphasis.

    All things in context and relevant to learning without making artificial connections is what I think Miss Mason was on about.

    I remember an incident that occured years ago online. I was the co-mod of CM&F-ANZ (as I still am) and was on a CM leaders email group. I mentioned that I was starting to devise my own unit study based around Ancient Egypt. Oh.My.Gosh. One would be forgiven for thinking that I'd shot the pope!

    I felt like I was being shunned. To make matters worse, I was told off. Told that CM did not approve of unit studies and any serious stuent of CM would know that. Blah blah blah.

    Well, I don't know but IT WAS FUN. Some of the best fun and bonding times in our homeschool. So it wasn't all that bad.

    But what I later went on to learn is that Charlotte didn't like the artificial tying together of subjects. Trying to integrate maths into Ancient Egypt is just plain hard work... and hard to sustain of lifestyle of academic learning around it. But as far as tying geography, culture, music, art and history together - there was nothing much wrong with it so long as I presented it in a natural, appealing way.

    Back to my point. Poor CM. She has undergone such immense popularity yet is often misunderstood. Thanks Jeanne, for the work that you do to raise awareness of the philosophy behind the method, in your own gentle way.

  2. Jeanne, if I had the money my whole idea of homeschooling would be to plonk the kids in a gypsy caravan behind a plodding horse & travel the world the wonders therin to see!

    No mighty rivers here ~ just the Pacific Ocean heaving to eternity. Between Star & I, both strong visual learners, I must confess our geography has leant strongly towards "Ooooh, look at that! Isn't that pretty?! rather that anything more prosaic ~ but then art & music are geography too, aren't they. ☺

  3. you might like riverboat family by elizabeth wilton and spit magee (I'd read spit yourself to see if suitable) There are lots of 60's and 70'books set aroung the murray hard to find these days but great reads if you can (I pray the Lord would lead us to the great books and He does)-we read His book every day and are comitted to read only that which is lovely so lots of matilda's list we would not read but bfg is a favorite as is fff (not the movie though, terrible!)we love arthur ransome, but we love boats and sailing. just a thought here you spend alot of time with the WSC which along with the bible will help form us into godly people why put into your spirit things that do not do this (be innocent of evil) such as many books films novel etc even if the writer is considered great we wont touch them if not pure lovely etc. just a thought happy book seaching.

  4. I wonder if the previous commenter meant The True Story of Spit MacPhee by James Aldridge - it's set on the Murray in Swan Hill (called St Helen in the book). He also wrote The True Story of Lilli Stubeck, also set in Swan Hill. I think Lilli Stubeck is a great story (I've only read half of Spit Macphee) but Jemimah might be too young for some of the themes.


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...