Bringing American History Alive

GeoWashington (1)My children and I spent a few hours walking slowly down a shallow creek in Ohio looking for arrowheads. We didn’t find any, but we talked a lot about the people who lived in the quiet suburban area a long time ago. We talked about how they felt the same breezes, walked the same paths, endured the same weather. We thought about how our clothes were different (materials, production, quantity) but similar in that they had to protect the wearer from the cold in winter and the mosquitoes in summer. We all agreed that those are challenges we probably shared. We talked about food sources, building materials, and potential conflicts with other groups. We found plenty we might have had in common with our ancient ancestors, even though so much has changed.

Kids love imagining what life was like a long time ago. It helps to be outside, to touch and hold and walk among the sights and smells of the present and the past. History teachers love books, but they also love active experiences. Here are five things we do when we have a “home history” lesson.

  1. Get outside! After reading about a topic we get out there and imagine what it might have been like for the topic we have been studying. For instance, if we are studying a war, we might go out and assess terrain and how hills, valleys, and vegetation might impact decisions made during a battle.
  2. Re-enact! Does your child love drama? We like to write short plays about a topic we have just learned about and then produce them. We find props and costumes in the house and then put on the play. As the mom/teacher, I’m usually the only member of the audience, but we film it and send it to grandparents as proof that we did it!
  3. Create! After learning about a nomadic culture, we went outside and tried to create a weatherproof structure that would keep us safe from bears and marauders throughout the night. (Full disclosure: these were imaginary threats, we actually live in a very safe area). We gathered sticks, clay (from the creek), and long grasses and made a rudimentary hut. The kids had a blast a new appreciation of how hard it is to create a shelter!
  4. Art! Using a visual representation of what has been learned is a great way to remember and think about major concepts. Kids can make a cartoon strip, paint a picture, or work together on a mural. We try to add as many details as possible about our topic and then teach someone about the topic by explaining our creation.
  5. Cook! Almost every time period you might study has recipes that can be found and recreated in the home. We had a great time making recipes from some of the food we read about or spotted on the pages of picture books while studying colonial times. We were easily able to find recipes and cook up treats for ourselves. We tried to do as much of the work as possible by ourselves. Food is a great way to talk about what was available and why, who did the work and why, and what it took for people to remain nourished and healthy during a specific time period.

American history is such a great way to be active, outdoors, and creative. Read a few awesome books and then DO!

Choices in History

 

All of the historical events we study are the results of choices. We are shaped by the choices made by our leaders, by the people, and by individuals. When talking with our children, we can look at history through this lens of choice and discuss who made influential decisions, why they made them, and what we might have done differently.

When studying a decision or an event in history, discuss the choices made with your child. First, of course, point out that it is easy to make good decisions after the event and the fallout have been recognized and recorded. It is much harder to know what decision to make when you don’t know what will happen in the future.

First, learn about one side of a conflict or event. Research it thoroughly.

Second, reflect on that conflict or event and articulate your own point of view about what happened and why.

Third, take a position. What would you have done? What choice would you have made?

Fourth, defend that decision with specific facts (lucky for you, you can use facts about the results of the decision since you are looking backwards).

Fifth, discuss and defend your choice with a parent, a friend, or someone who has direct knowledge of that time period.

Finally, listen to the reaction and response of the person you shared your choice with. Does that change your mind? Why or why not?

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This is a great exercise for critical thinking and to realize the impact and the importance of choices. We use this system to make daily decisions, but applying this matrix to history helps us see the impact of the choices that are made every day.

Earth Day Ideas

Earth Day is coming up and we have a few book suggestions and activity ideas! With so much discussion about climate change, weather patterns, pollution, and what we can do to protect our earth, now is a great time to commit to sharing a productive Earth day with our children! We are planning a big trash-pick up in a neighborhood near the river with friends of all ages. Then, we plan to celebrate with a plastic-free party, seed planting, and mural drawing. How will you celebrate?

Our favorite books for Earth Day:

  1. Help to Help the Earth, by the Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
  2. Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth, by Mary Siddals
  3. Earth Day, Every Day, by Lisa Bullard
  4. I Can Save the Earth, by Alison Inches
  5. Why Should I Recycle, by Jen Green

Activity Ideas:

  1. Try to get through the whole day without using any plastic.
  2. Plant a tree or two.
  3. Get outside and find a place to pick up trash.
  4. Hug a tree.
  5. Create an Earth Day mural with pictures of things you love about the Earth.
  6. Donate your used clothes and toys to someone who can use them.
  7. Make apple peanut butter balls for the birds (dip the peanut butter in birdseed!)

Fun Videos to Supplement History Learning

As we approach fall break (we are in the Southern Hemisphere) I am preparing our “American History Learning Surge!” While my kids have already completed the American History boxes for their grade level, we will revisit the games and books and do some activities to reinforce the learning. I plan to start each section with a quick video (see the list below), sing the National Anthem, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, we will review books and activities in the workbooks. Finally, we will finish with games to help learn States, Presidents, and symbols. Each event reviewed will be put on an illustrated card for our timeline. Stay tuned for pictures!

American History in a Box, Level I Short videos available online

(Please inform us of unavailable content and broken links)

   
People in History  
George Washington, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lXnfitSoYw

http://www.songsforteaching.com/uspresidents/georgewashington.htm

Betsy Ross https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yv8KWIILpoM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiN9ROQFEfY

Eleanor Roosevelt http://www.biography.com/video/eleanor-roosevelt-mini-biography-2204985525

http://www.songsforteaching.com/history/eleanorrooseveltbiography.htm

George Washington Carver https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URZGm1iyspM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7opb2hrm7uU

Martin Luther King Jr. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALQeX7IFBcg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vDWWy4CMhE

Citizenship and Symbols  
Patriotism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmSVnP-oDRs
US Symbols https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVkVH6w4G0I
The Pledge of Allegiance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52dfJnLkEd4
Citizenship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p63JCN5FRuU
Holidays  
Veterans Day http://watchknowlearn.org/Category.aspx?CategoryID=1034
Memorial Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGdg6cf2TpE
Thanksgiving https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faUYJ9fMiGg
   
Geography  
Maps and Globes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC7sPYKjBqE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjpghOjA0qI

Cardinal Directions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXGN2qKrWFE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2I81_BFb-s

Our Presidency

Almost everyone is talking about America’s new president, Donald Trump. Help your children learn more about the American Presidency by focusing on three things:

Our party system: learn about the differences between Republicans and Democrats, the histories of the parties, and the issues that are important to them:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_Republican_Party
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_Democratic_Party
  3. https://www.gop.com/
  4. https://www.democrats.org/
  5. http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4706
  6. http://us-political-parties.insidegov.com/http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Talking-to-your-kids-about-third-party-candidates.html

The Presidency:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_the_United_States
  2. http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/presidential-fun-facts/
  3. http://teacher.scholastic.com/commclub/president_activity1/

Our role as citizens in the United States:

  1. https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learners/citizenship-rights-and-responsibilities
  2. https://civic.mit.edu/blog/erhardt/how-can-we-encourage-youth-to-participate-in-democracy
  3. http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/responsible.citizen.html

But, most importantly, parents should model, discuss, and participate in the the political process. Show your children that you are informed, engaged, and interested. Model appropriate behavior and civic engagement. Discuss political candidates, parties, and platforms using verified facts and after completing research. Participate in the process as much as you can as individuals and as a family. Talk about the history of our political process and how it has affected individuals, events, and the world. Engage your children as citizens now so they will be ready to participate fully when they reach voting age.

 

 

Tips for Completing American-History-in-a-Box!

Our American history courses were designed for children in grades K – 8 to learn the major people, places, and concepts in United States history. The kits were designed using the Virginia Standards of Learning and the United States Common Core Standards. They include the major information that kids should know for each grade level. Our kits come to your child in a box full of fiction, non-fiction, games, puzzles, and an activity book. The curriculum was designed to cover a variety of learning styles and to get kids excited about the themes through hands-on learning. While the kits count as “schooling” we hope that kids won’t see it that way and will instead see the course as something they do for fun because they are interested in the topic. Here are our tips for helping your kids complete the course at home.

  1. No pressure! We encourage kids to do the boxes because they are interested in learning more about their country and their history! Make the books and games available but present it as a fun project, not required work.
  2. Find a fun space! Allow kids to find a space to read the books and do the activities. Maybe they would like to read the books while sitting in a tree? Complete the puzzle in a fort under the dining room table? Play America-opoly while eating pizza on family night? While the content is in the box, you can think outside of the box for where you complete the activities!
  3. Snacks are awesome! We strongly feel that kids learn history best while snacking on brownies, cookies, and ice cream. Healthier families might provide peanut butter and apples or rice cakes and almond butter. Totally up to you!
  4. Share with your siblings! Many of the games need more than one player. We encourage kids to work with their siblings and to play the games, complete the puzzles, and read the books with friends, parents, and siblings. photo (34)
  5. Spend fifteen minutes a day! Don’t overdo it! Let your children read and complete activities when they have time, are well-rested, and they are interested in learning. Don’t force them and they will enjoy it!
  6. Do it over and over! Each time a child plays one of the games or reads one of the books they will learn new things and become even more familiar with the topics.
  7. Family time. We read our history books to our kids before going to bed. For younger kids, it is a quick read with the easier books but we read a chapter a night for our older kids. Everyone listens and we talk about what we learned afterwards. It is fun for kids and for adults and a good refresher for everyone.
  8. Apply your learning. If you can, watch videos, research topics online, and visit historical sites while you are in the U.S. Extend the learning in every way you can! (More suggestions on this topic soon!)
  9. Dinnertime conversation. Adults can share what they learned about our history and connect it to family history.
  10. Tell the truth. Schools in the U.S. have traditionally celebrated Christopher Columbus for discovering America. There are many issues with this that we won’t get into here. We think it is important to know about Columbus because he is a part of our American “story.” Tell your child the truth (as appropriate for their age) and use that discussion as a jumping point for discussing your family values. More importantly, tell your truth. Your family and your history probably mean you have a certain way you would like to teach history. The history boxes provide a framework for you to extend the learning in any way you see fit. You might connect the learning to your religion, to your personal experiences, to your own education, or your own learning outside of school.

In elementary school, kids are just starting to learn the stories and histories that we take for granted. The boxes (like any classes) are a starting point for deeper and more relevant conversations that you can have at home. Your children will be learning their history in your home and you can help them and guide them as much as you like.

Resources to use with your “American History in a Box”

Short Movies about History

U.S. History: Crash Course https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8dPuuaLjXtMwmepBjTSG593eG7ObzO7s These short videos that take you through the major time periods in American History. This is a great way to start any history lesson. Let your child watch the video for background, then read the book in your box on that topic. Finally, complete the activity for that time period in your activity book.

Watch Know Learn http://www.watchknowlearn.org/Category.aspx?CategoryID=116 You will find a variety of short videos about every topic in American history. After reading about a concept, explore this site for more information!

Video Series

This is America, Charlie Brown http://www.amazon.com/This-America-Charlie-Brown-Complete/dp/B00I462XSY/ref=sr_1_6?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1460333366&sr=1-6&keywords=american+history+video&refinements=p_n_theme_browse-bin%3A2650365011 This series covers most major events in our history and is great fun to watch!

 Liberty’s Kids http://www.amazon.com/Libertys-Kids-Complete-Walter-Cronkite/dp/B00CMDPTTA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1460302092&sr=8-1&keywords=libertys+kids This video does a great job of teaching children about Colonial America. Then, visit www.libertyskids.com for games and activities to reinforce that learning!

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? http://www.amazon.com/Where-World-Carmen-Sandiego-Classic/dp/B00002SANG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1460302171&sr=8-1&keywords=where+in+the+world+is+carmen+sandiego This fun video series helps children learn about geography and major sights around the world. Use the atlas in your history box to pinpoint where she is!

Primary Documents https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/PrimDocsHome.html  The Library of Congress shares many important documents in our history. Explore their website and check out their book lists for adults and children!

American History Music                                                                                                                  Songs for Teaching http://www.songsforteaching.com/store/learning-american-history-by-song-pr-58495.html You will find many wonderful songs from all time periods in history with this website. After learning about a time period, check out some of the songs that were being sung, played, or composed!

Schoolhouse Rock http://www.amazon.com/Schoolhouse-Rock-Special-Anniversary-Edition/dp/B00005JKTY/ref=pd_bxgy_74_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1Z7RXYHW95K1HAAVSV9W Many parents will remember these catchy songs including “This is a Bill,” and “Mother Necessity!”

American History Crafts                                                                                                                         A Book in Time: http://www.abookintime.com/crafts/projectsmainamerica.html Search for crafts by time period. After completing your activity for the time period you are studying, see if you can find a fun craft to do with your family!