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!

Patches, the Moving Bear

Our little book about a moving bear is ready for purchase now on Amazon and Kindle! Pair this picture book with the “Kids on the Move, A Relocation Workbook” for children facing a transition!

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 3.37.15 PMPatches, The Moving Bear

Every couple of years, Patches moves to a new home with his family. So far he has lived in Russia, Ecuador, Ukraine, and Paraguay. He loves learning about new places, meeting new friends, and traveling to exciting places. Yet, he also misses his old homes and friends. Luckily, Patches has a strategy for remembering his old homes. Read the book to find out what he does!

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 http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice/Screen 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.


“Does it Help?”

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.36.28 PMMy new mantra for social media is, “Does it help.” Before I post, comment, or email, I ask myself this question. I am one of those opinionated, enthusiastic, and sometimes cranky person who has (a time or two) added my two cents when it wasn’t welcome or necessary. I have also been guilty of sharing posts or articles that reflect my personal opinion even though I know many others care passionately about the issue (and often in a different direction).

Social media isn’t the place for political discussions, personal advice, or snarky comments because it comes in a vacuum. You aren’t interacting with the person and seeing where they are coming from. Perhaps they are depressed, personally affected by the issue, or maybe they are even right (and you are wrong). Without the interplay of sight, sound, and emotional connection, we can’t really tell what is going on when we are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or email. So, we need to be quiet. We need to not comment. We need to as ourselves, “Does this help?”

When does a comment help? If someone is asking for sympathy, understanding, or validation, give it to them. Better yet, just say, “I’m thinking of you.” If someone needs help, offer concrete suggestions. For instance, if they are overwhelmed by clutter and are asking for ideas, by all means post a link to that anti-clutter book. But, first, make sure it helps.

As a mother, I am trying to temper myself and be more mindful about the qualities I am modeling for my children. I have pasted the list below by my computer so my kids will see it, read it, and hopefully apply it to their own interactions.What are some “helping” comments? This is my list:

  1. I understand.
  2. I’m thinking (praying) for you.
  3. How can I help?
  4. You are beautiful/wonderful/awesome/fantastic.
  5. You are a great mother/father/aunt/friend.
  6. This book helped me a lot with this issue.
  7. This website was helpful to me when I had the same issue.
  8. Can I bring a casserole/cookies/gift card.
  9. Can I pick up your kids/walk your dog/help you out.
  10. Thank you for sharing.