Friday, August 3, 2012

Uncle Josh's Outline Map Collection

Have you ever bought anything on a whim and then found that it was one of the most useful and most used resource in your home?

I'm getting ready to start the new school year with my kids next week.  As I was preparing I found myself returning to a resource I bought years ago on a whim - a CD-ROM of printable outline maps.  Why did I buy this when there are so many maps available online for free?  I dunno.  Perhaps I was just trying to round out an order.  Maybe it was because at the time we had dial-up Internet and it was frustrating waiting for downloads to happen.  I honestly don't remember.  But, I'm glad I purchased Uncle Josh's Outline Map Collection CD-ROM because I really have used this a lot.

I should explain that for geography at our house we use a lot of outline maps.  These maps are used to fill in names of areas or label however we choose.  They're really handy.  I should explain that I have the older version with only "over 180 printable outline maps."  It appears the newer version has "over 260 printable outline maps."  This resource is put out by Geomatters and also available at other homeschool supply sites.

What I like:  I like that these maps are available to me whenever I want them.  All I need is my computer, a printer, and Acrobat Reader (computer software for reading pdf files).  It is compatible for Mac and Windows.  My version includes over 180 maps including blackline maps, shaded relief maps, a few color maps, and even a hurricane tracking map.  According to the website:
ADDED to this NEW edition are 50 Color Labeled USA State Maps with Shaded Relief and a hurricane tracking map! New color shaded relief and labeled continent maps. NEW 6' x 9' Driveway Map Template.
Probably one of the things I like most is that when I print off a blackline map from this CD-ROM, I get a map that nearly fills the page.  I find this is very useful - the map is big enough for my kids to label.  I've found when I print off maps from the Internet, however useful they are, they just don't seem to fill the page or are big enough for my kids to label well.  Sometimes its the little things like this that make a difference.

Uncle Josh's Outline Map on the left.  A map printed from the Internet on the right.  You can see how the  Internet maps I've found, while useful, don't usually fit the page.

Added later:  Actually, now that I look at the picture...The actual map area appears the same, just the orientation is different when comparing these two maps.  Strange - it seemed much more apparent in person.  Still, I personally prefer the map that fills the page.  The map on the right was actually the largest free online map I could find. The others were all smaller than this one.

What I don't like:  In my version, all the maps are blank.  I wish that I had reference maps available for me that were labeled.  It appears that this is somewhat addressed in the newer version.  The fix is pretty simple, though.  I just have to find a reference for the maps and that is pretty easy with the different maps and geography-related books we already have.  I've found that is an excellent site for this.  By the way, you can print off blackline maps from worldatlas as well as learn a wealth of other information.  But, again, I found their outline map for the continent I was loooking for was too small for my kids.  I guess I'm just picky that way. Still, is an excellent resource to bookmark.

If I had anything else to complain about, I think I would say I wished some of the larger countries would include boundaries such as the China provinces.  Or, that there would be maps of individual countries or regions of continents such as Africa split into North, South, East and West areas.  But, for our purposes, this resource really does have most of what we will use in our homeschool.

How we are using this resource:  In the past I have simply printed off the map we wanted to fill out and...well...filled it out.  We might have one map with the names of countries on it.  Another would be labeled with landforms.  Yet another we would label with cities.  On another we would shade areas of historical significance.  We would do all these because one map with all these on it would become quite crowded and hard to read.

This year we're trying something different.  We're going to take the base map of the area we are studying and color in the countries.  Then, we'll take a transparency film and write on the countries.  We'll use another for the capitals, another for the landforms, and so on.  I think this will be a neat project and a great way to do our maps.  If you do this, I'll warn you - the price of transparencies is shocking.  Glad I saved up some coupons and discounts!  Then, we're using  ultra-fine tipped Sharpies to write on the transparencies.  In doing a test map I found that after about 10 seconds the Sharpie ink was dry, permanent, and wouldn't smudge.  But, when I did make a mistake, I could use an eraser and carefully rub it off.  There would remain a little smudge mark from the eraser, but the writing would be gone.

The base map.  Look, I stayed in the lines!

Adding the transparency with the country and bodies of water named.

Voila!  A labeled map.  We'll use a separate transparency for rivers and mountains, another for capitals, etc.


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