Choosing the Right Atlas

There are so many types of atlases that it can be hard knowing what it the right choice for your homeschool library. Here are things to consider plus some of my top picks.

Considerations:

1. The Age of the Atlas

Please don’t use a grossly out-of-date atlas for your studies. If you bought one at a yard sale for 50 cents, but it was printed in 1985, well, you got what you paid for. Country names and borders change frequently. Digital atlases usually update frequently enough that this isn’t a problem, but paper atlases either need to be replaced, or you can draw in new borders or write in changed names yourself.

2. Atlases and Age of Student

It is important to match, as best as possible, the right atlas for the student’s age. The level of detail in an atlas is usually a good indicator of its usability. The older the student, the more information can be put on a map and still be useable. The younger the student, the more important it is to keep the maps clean and simple for easy readability. Too many place names will be unreadable for younger kids, while insufficient detail will frustrate older students who can’t find what they need.

Also consider the use of color, if it includes any almanac-esque information, if it includes topography or just political information, and if it’s visually appealing for your student.

3. Atlases: Modern Versus Historical and/or Biblical

I believe a good home library will have all three! Why? Current or modern atlases show you the world today. Historical and Biblical atlases show you the world yesterday. Need to find Thebes, the extent of the Holy Roman Empire, or where Paul’s Missionary Journeys took place? Then you would look in a historical or Biblical atlases.

Most mainstream historical atlases will have few, if any, maps showing biblical history. That’s why we also recommend having a good Bible Atlas on hand as well—especially when studying ancient civilizations. Bible Atlases are great for both history class and Bible study, although they’re a bit too specialized to be your only historical atlas. You won’t find the Inca Empire or the Han Dynasty in a Bible atlas. So the reality is that all types of atlases are important when studying history.

 

Top Picks:

WonderMaps

[Shameless Plug:] I designed WonderMaps with all three of these considerations in mind.

  1. I do my best to stay on top of changes to political geography and periodically updates the WonderMaps software. Free updates are included in your purchase so that you always have up-to-date maps.
  2. WonderMaps allows you to select what features to show on your printable maps, whether you want bare outlines or the whole kitchen sink.
  3. With WonderMaps, you get modern, historical, and Biblical maps in a single product. You can easily search for what you want and print out the maps you need.

[/Shameless Plug]

Besides WonderMaps, I suggest these excellent print resources. Links will take you to the Bright Ideas Press store:

The Student Bible Atlas

This book is our favorite, inexpensive Bible atlas. We find it easy for younger students to use while being compelling enough for adults.

Then and Now Bible Atlas

This atlas adds a wow! factor with cool overlays showing modern borders over ancient sites.

Rand McNally Atlas of World Geography

This modern atlas is for secondary students from grades 6-12.

Rand McNally Historical Atlas of the World

This historical atlas is for secondary students from grades 6-12.

Schoolhouse Illustrated U.S.A Atlas

This modern USA atlas is for grades K-6.

Schoolhouse Illustrated World Atlas

This modern world atlas is for grades K-6.

Tyler Hogan is the head of curriculum development at Bright Ideas Press. He lives in Dover, Delaware, with his wife, Helen, and their adorable daughters, Kaylee, Avalon, and Sierra. He and Helen are both homeschool graduates and now homeschooling parents. Tyler has spoken, performed, and taught classes around the world on homeschooling, geography, the arts, and worldview . He also works as the operations manager for Grace for Dover, a nonprofit Christian community development organization. In his “spare time,” he teaches homeschool co-op classes, reads good books, drinks tea, overanalyzes movies, and writes about himself in the third person. He has a BA in theatre from Belhaven University and always enjoys the adventure of lifelong learning.

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