Category Archives: afterschooling

American-History-in-a-Box coordinates with Twiga Tutors

We are thrilled to be coordinating with fellow EFM business owner Christianna Pangalos of Twiga Tutors ( in the upcoming year to expand our offerings. We have combined forces to provide a history box and tutoring package for all K – 8 students at post. U.S. certified teachers will guide your child as they learn about American history through the books, games, and activity book included in the American-History-Box. Each package includes the history box plus three months of email and online sessions designed to motivate and encourage your child’s learning.

When you order your tutoring and history box package, we connect you with your tutor and coordinate a schedule that works for everyone. Each package will include a mid-box review and a final test. After taking the exam, a final session will explore areas for improvement or additional exploration.

We are so excited to coordinate with a fellow EFM committed to education, interested in history, and working to improve the expat experience for all children. Together we hope to improve your experience and expand on the opportunities your child has while living and learning abroad.

For more information, you can email Leah at or Christianna at You can also request an invoice from either of us or pay through paypal here:

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New: Add a tutoring package through Twiga Tutors to your American History in a Box! Each course will include nine email check-ins and three Skype sessions with a certified American teacher over a three month period. Your teacher will review the activities with your child, answer any questions they might have, and encourage learning and excitement about the topics in the box.

Click here to order: Any history box plus a 3 month tutoring package: $749 screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-9-18-25-pm

To order multiple boxes or tutoring packages click here and request an invoice.




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

Short Movies about History

U.S. History: Crash Course 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 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 This series covers most major events in our history and is great fun to watch!

 Liberty’s Kids This video does a great job of teaching children about Colonial America. Then, visit for games and activities to reinforce that learning!

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  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 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 Many parents will remember these catchy songs including “This is a Bill,” and “Mother Necessity!”

American History Crafts                                                                                                                         A Book in Time: 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!

Common Core Math in my Life

The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. The first of these are the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. The second are the strands of mathematical proficiency specified in the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up: adaptive reasoning, strategic competence, conceptual understanding (comprehension of mathematical concepts, operations and relations), procedural fluency (skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and appropriately), and productive disposition (habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy). by Shot 2014-11-08 at 9.54.11 PM

I know many people are not happy with “Common Core Math.” However, I just want to share my life experience with math. I spend very little time lining up columns, borrowing numbers, carrying the one, and coming up with a final product. I do, however, spend lots of time playing with numbers in my head. This is exactly what Common Core tries to teach kids. They want kids to have number sense so they can figure out solutions in a variety of ways. This is how I use math:

  1. When I am running I have a constant math conversation with myself. I’ll share a script from running a marathon. It goes like this. “Ok, I’m at mile ten and I’ve already been running for an hour and thirty-five minutes. That means I’m running a 9:30 pace.  But, I want to finish the marathon in four hours I need to run a 9:09 pace. So, that means I need to run the rest of the race in 8:something minutes per mile. That isn’t going to happen. Ok, so if I run at 9:30 that means that 20 miles would be 20 miles at 9 minutes or 180 minutes plus 20 miles at 30 seconds each which is 10 minutes and I add those together and that makes 190 minutes divided by 60 is, well, three hours plus 10 minutes. Then, I have six more miles so that is 54 minutes plus 3 minutes and that total is 57 minutes. I add those all up and I get, more or less, four hours and a little less than ten minutes. I need to run faster.”
  2. I used a lot of math when I was having my babies. “Ok, the contractions are 90 seconds long and they happen every two minutes. That means I only get 30 seconds off. I’ve been in labor for 12 hours and the last baby came in 18 hours and 18 minus 12 makes to many hours and I think I’m going to die.”
  3. Vacations are a great time for math. “We’ve been driving for four hours. We still have 72 miles to do and if we drive sixty miles an hour we will get there in a little over an hour. But, if we hit traffic and only drive thirty miles an hour that means it will take us more than two hours and then we’ll get there after 7 p.m. and that is too late for the kids to eat so we should stop now and eat or at least pick up food and if we do it in ten minutes then we will arrive between 6 and 7 p.m.”
  4. I do it with my age as well. “I had my first child at 34 so when she’s in college (18) I’ll be 30 plus ten or 40 and I have to add 4 plus 8 which is 12 so that means I’ll be 52.” I’m always separating my numbers into manageable chunks, no matter what math I’m doing. Who ever has a pencil and paper when you need to do math?
  5. I play with numbers like this in the grocery store, when I’m paying bills, when I’m figuring out how much we’ll have to pay to send kids to college. I do it when calculating vacation costs, times, and distances. I do it when I have a kid awake at night and I’m figuring out how much sleep I’ll get before the alarm goes off.

Real life numbers are estimations and calculations and moving numbers into places that make it easier for us to understand them and use them. Numbers and number sense help us make sense of where we are and where we are going. Doing math in your head is also a great distraction (see marathon and labor above). I love common core math partly because I never understood why all those columns and calculations worked out the way they did. I was taught to carry the one and I did, but I didn’t really understand why. But, figuring out numbers in your head is fun! I would have liked my classroom a lot more if we had spent more time doing that instead of just practicing problems on paper over and over and over again.

Because, math is really a treasure hunt, a scavenger hunt, a mystery to be solved. It should be fun and exciting as you figure out how to get to the end. It’s also flexible. If you are running slowly and won’t get to your target time to finish the race, then speed up and recalculate! If you don’t have enough money to buy all those groceries, put something back and recalculate. It’s fun!

How do you play with numbers in your head?

Ten Minutes a Day

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.40.40 PMWhat skill do you want your child to improve this year? Writing? Reading? A musical instrument? A new language? The ten-minute rule is a great way to slowly and steadily build important skills. Pick one skill and commit to practicing it for ten minutes a day for all of 2016.

We have all heard of the Tiger Mother (and some of you are Tiger’s. This post isn’t for you. If you think you need to practice a skill for six hours a day then you should read a blog about helicopter parenting.) Anyway, this system isn’t for getting your kids into an Ivy League or ready for the Olympic qualifiers. This is to build a skill until it is better, passable, more functional. You can learn a lot about music by practicing just ten minutes a day. You can absorb a lot of vocabulary words if you study a language ten minutes a day. You can finally do that back walkover if you slowly work up to it for just ten minutes a day. But, you have to commit, and you have to be consistent.

The great thing is that kids will not only learn the practiced skill, but they will learn about dedication and focus and consistency. Sometimes they will just want to go to bed but instead they will have to finish their ten minutes. This teaches kids about a lot more than just a skill.

How do you do it? Buy a calendar and check off each day you do your ten minutes. Better yet, create a visual progress report. If you are practicing piano, record your work on the first of each month. If you are learning Spanish vocabulary, keep a running list of words you have mastered. If you are trying to do a back walkover, take a picture of your progress at the beginning of each week. For extra motivation, make incremental goals for each month or quarter. Post those in your calendar. Celebrate victories, celebrate milestones, and show off your progress.

Help your children improve a skill, any skill, by committing just five minutes a day.


Summer Activities for Elementary Kids

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 10.50.06 AMSummer is coming and your kids will be home all day long! While summers quickly fill up with playdates, camps, and outdoor play, what can you do on rainy days and quiet moments? We would like to suggest a few of our favorite summer activity books for your consideration!

First, most schools will recommend that your child continue reading at home. Fifteen to thirty minutes of reading time before bed is great throughout the year. It calms kids down, gives them a quiet activity before bed, and promotes learning. Try to find books that connect with Common Core required knowledge for next year to give your kids a head start!

Second, it is proven that having a parent read out loud to a child benefits learning all the way through eighth grade. Children can typically understand books two to three levels above their current reading level when read by an adult. Challenge and select up, then talk about your reading and the content.

Third, use your daily activities to promote learning. Talk about science while gardening and cooking, talk about history when driving around town or visiting grandparents, discuss math while shopping or building a project.

Finally, here is a list of our favorite summer activity books:

  1. Summer Bridge Books, Just a couple of pages a day will keep your child on grade level!
  2. Unbored, The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, Elizabeth Foy Larson. This is a great book for down time when your child needs to find something to do.
  3. 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Child Do), Gever Tulley, Your kids will love looking through this book!
  4. The Art of Tinkering, Karen Wilkenson. Kids learn so much by exploring and experimenting!
  5. Brainquest Workbooks, Fun activities to do while sitting at home on a rainy day! Exercise that brain!
  6. The Nature Connection, an Outdoor Workbook, Steve Rich. Get your kids outside to do some learning!

To-Do List for Privileged Kids

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  1. Work at a restaurant waitressing, hosting, and washing dishes. Learn about what makes a good employee, and what makes a good customer! Budget your earnings and figure out how they would support an individual, a small family, or a large family.
  2. Clean houses (for a full week!). Learn how hard it is to physically clean a house from top to bottom.
  3. Work in a car repair shop. Every kid should know how to change a tire, change your oil, and disable a car if necessary. A little working knowledge about the car will make it easier for you to buy, repair, and discuss cars with anyone.
  4. Work with a small businessman or woman. Spend time with an artist, carpenter, electrician, or local shopkeeper. Try to learn about all the parts of the business and how the person manages it. Talk about certifications, licenses, goals, and rewards.
  5. Regularly visit a nursing home. Talk to the people there about what advice they would give to a young person. Keep advice lists to look back on later. Share what you are learning about in history and ask for their perspective.
  6. Walk dogs or pet cats in an animal shelter. Your child should know about what happens when animals aren’t spayed, when they are left on the streets, and when there is no one to take care of them. Teach your kids that you don’t buy a pet unless you are committed to caring for it for a very long time.
  7. Work on a farm. Help your child learn where food comes from and how much work it is to produce it. I suggest a small, organic farm, not a large industrialized farm. It would be great if you child could learn about the process from planting to plate.
  8. Work at Walmart or Target as a regular employee. What is it like to work for minimum wage, what sort of person does it, and what is their life like? Are they really that different from someone in a privileged background?
  9. Regularly volunteer in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Spend time talking to those who live there and learning their stories. Ask about their childhood, their hopes and dreams, and their plans for the future.
  10. Visit another (poor) country. Volunteer with an orphanage or a charity group. Spend time with the people who run the charity and those they help. Talk about how politics, culture, and history affect the chances of success for citizens.
  11. Attend churches, synagogues, mosques, and places of worship of as many different religions as possible. Discuss their genesis stories, their belief systems, and how they help their communities.
  12. Tutor other children in an inner-city school. Compare the resources and challenges that these children receive with those that you are accustomed to in your life.
  13. Volunteer for a local political campaign…for the party you do not usually support. Do not share your views but ask lots of questions and really listen to the answers. Research the party, the candidate, and the platform. Try to understand their positions. Talk to as many other volunteers as you can and try to understand why they support this candidate and party.
  • Do not tell anyone that you are a “privileged” kid. Dress for the job, act appropriately, and do not give advice or suggestions for improvement. In essence, go incognito and really connect on a personal level.
  • Do not Instagram, Facebook, blog, brag, share, or otherwise tell people what you are doing. Learn about others in the context of a personal experience, not creating a persona to share with your friends and classmates. Focus on your personal growth, not your social growth.
  • Keep a personal, hand-written, journal about all of these experiences. On the right side of the journal, write about your experiences. On the left side of the paper, keep a running list of “lessons learned.”
  • Before doing these activities (which could take years if you spend enough time on them) make a goals and dreams chart . What do you want to be when you grow up? What characteristics do you want to have? What words do you want people to use to describe you? Complete the activity again after completing as many of these tasks as possible and then compare notes.
  • The main goal is to get out of your bubble, your milieu, or your own mind-set. Ask your child to learn as much as they can about people in the world before they decide who they are or what kind of person they want to be.

Project-Based Curriculum

I’m studying Spanish (I have been for years). I speak so well with my teacher. She will say, “Today, we will work on subjunctive verbs” and wow, can I knock them out. I pretty much get them all right. But, the reason I can do that is that I know what we are working on. I know exactly how to conjugate each verb because I already know it is going to be in the subjunctive tense. I look brilliant! But, an hour later, when I’m picking my kids up at school and talking to a friend, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll conjugate all of those verbs incorrectly. That’s because when I’m talking in real life I use all the tenses and I use a lot of different verbs and often I’m just frankly making up words.

School is a lot like that. It is easy to do math when you know your whole test is going to be on multiplication. But, what happens when you are looking at your finances and have to add, subtract, divide, and use percentages? What about when you are cooking and you want to halve or triple your recipe? Maybe you are an architect and you have to use math, science, and art history all in one project? We don’t live live subject by subject, chapter by chapter, and we probably shouldn’t learn that way, either.

I’ve been reading a lot about project-based curriculum. I love reading about kids who learn about Westward Expansion by reading books about adventurers, mapping out a trip West, learning about the flora and fauna encountered on the way, studying weather patterns to decide departure times and “hunker-down” periods. That is fun, that will get kids excited, and you will find kids learning skills that they might use in their regular lives. Perhaps they will plan a move of their own some day. Of course. they won’t have to pack a conestoga wagon but they might need to pack their SUV. Wolves might not be an issue, but knowing speed limits and best routes would be helpful.

I would love to teach about George Washington. I would have kids read books about him, visit Mount Vernon, his farm, either in person or virtually, and plan their own farm outline. It would be great to have a class grow some of the crops that Washington grew and maybe even harvest them in the same way. (Not tobacco, of course). Kids could work on a budget for running the household, debate what he should have done about slaves both at home and in the country, and write their own plan for establishing a new nation. The possibilities are endless! A project-based curriculum will help kids learn, remember what they have learned, and be able to apply their learning to real life situations.100_2968

The Common Core Standards have a lot of great concepts in them. It would be easy to take the standards and put them together in grade level projects. Would our current testing system make sense? No. But, maybe we can keep the good (the standards) and improve the tests so that they assess additional skills like working as a team, solving problems, anticipating issues, and creatively completing a comprehensive project.

We can hope, right? In the meantime, I’m going to keep reading everything I can about project-based curriculum programs.