Why Not Read Charlotte’s 1881 Elementary Geography online for free?

Yes absolutely you sure can. That’s what we did when I first started. There are also reprints out there of the 1881 version.

However we used it one time and then I shelved it. I had no desire to go through that book again with another child. We had tears in our family using the old 1881 version. It nagged at me though. How could I be a CMer and not use CM’s own book?! So I began the long process to remake it into something we wanted to use.

If you want to give geography its due time in your homeschool as Charlotte did, if you want to get the most from Charlotte’s book, if you want an easy curriculum for the teacher to guide students, if you want students need movement and active participation, if you want abstract concepts to be demonstrated in the ‘real’ as Charlotte did, then using this new edition of 1881 and its curriculum is for you.

The new Living Geography edition has a lot of perks that make it easier to use for both student and teacher. Here is a brief comparison:

1881 edition. Online and reprints

Living Geography Text and Curricula

English viewpoint

American viewpoint

English system of govt

American government

American history added

American culture added

Black and white


Sparse illustrations

Abundant illustrations

Fuzzy pics and diagrams

Clear crisp redigitized diagrams

No classic artwork

Abundant classic artwork

No real world photos

Living, color real world photos

Historically outdated

Historically accurate

Modern technologies added

Inconsistent organization

Consistent lesson organization

Sparse mention of some major physical features

Added text to include major physical  earth features

Poetry added

Scripture added

No teacher guidance

Teacher’s Notes guides the teacher, open and go

Placement of map questions confusing

Clear use of map questions in Teachers Notes

No corresponding maps

Custom maps in Maps & Pics

Additional Map Q’s

No reference for required activities

Teacher’s Notes  prep, instructions for all activities

Additional activities in Teacher’s Notes

No exam Q’s

Exam Q &A- open and go

Age Form 1

Whole family w/Teacher’s Notes

In our experience, not pleasurable nor productive, used one time

Use again and again

The organization, the confusion over the questions and how to use them, the lack of illustrations, outdated information, and fuzzy diagrams depleted Charlotte’s work. There is a gem underneath, but getting to it required digging. Charlotte has a wonderful way of explaining things, but that was overshadowed by the outdated information, lack of organizational lesson flow, scant coverage of some topics, the old format of the book, the absence of teacher guidance, and Charlotte’s intention for students to use hands-on work.

1881 comes from Charlotte’s English perspective, which is fine, but we are American. Historical references in 1881 are outdated and I had to backtrack and correct that after my student read. For my daughter who is an artist and would ‘read’ books for the pictures, this book was ugly and drab. No fault of CM’s- but color makes the book beautiful. CM didn’t have many diagrams to illustrate points being made. If this was by choice, or due to space considerations, or technology capabilities, I don’t know. But now, there are diagrams, because often a picture speaks a thousand words.

1881 doesn’t lay out all the activities that are required for a solid comprehension physical geography. Grasping the abstract concepts dealing with our earth, the universe, and direction is far easier to grasp with an actual hands-on object or activity. We use manipulatives for math, we need to use them for understanding our world and it’s place in the universe, as well as finding our way on it, and understanding its surface. The (many) atlases I had didn’t always have the answers for the questions CM asked. I was often trying to find one that had the answers that CM was asking the children to find. From reviewing Charlotte’s exam questions, it is clear her students did additional activities. But she has no guide for the teacher. Now those activities are included in the Notes. The teacher doesn’t have to remember to put them in at some point, it’s all there, ready to open-and-go.

Using the Teacher’s Notes, Maps & Pics, Exams, and Notebook with the Living Geography text gives the teacher the full feast and gives the student the whole full range of reading and hands on learning.

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