Tag Archives: afterschooling

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!

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?

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.

How to keep your kids “unbored!”

My nine year old has outgrown her sisters for the time being. She doesn’t want to play with the dollhouse anymore, is annoyed with constant coloring and drawing, and has little interest in building with blocks. She says she is bored.

So, I bought her this book,

Unbored;The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, by Elizabeth Joy Larson and Joshua Glenn

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 8.33.54 PM

Now, she’s not bored anymore! She loves to read the book, loves to make lists of activities, and loves to put the ideas into action. Thanks to this book we have explored geo caching, she has made me a home made facial, and she is currently hard at work creating a paper dragon. The ideas are varied, interesting, and usually pretty easy to do.

Psychology Today has a great article about the benefits of boredom here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/nurturing-resilience/201206/let-kids-be-bored-occasionally

And, the New York Times discusses it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/your-money/why-its-not-all-bad-to-be-bored.html?_r=0 

Finally, USA Today shared the benefits of boredom in this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/your-money/why-its-not-all-bad-to-be-bored.html?_r=0

So, let your child be constructively bored. Provide a little help, a little direction, or maybe just push them out the door for a couple of hours of outdoor time on their own (weather and space permitting, of course). See what creative spark or new idea emerges from the experience. If your child already benefits from occasional boredom, that’s great! Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Kids on the Move (Exercise)

IMG_4174Many people are concerned about how high stakes testing is pushing out the arts, music, and physical education in schools. Another loss is recess. Kids need time to run, jump, play, negotiate, and engage in creative and self-directed play. We recently read an article about this (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/07/the-right-and-surprisingly-wrong-ways-to-get-kids-to-sit-still-in-class/) and it struck a cord. As a teacher several years ago, exercise quickly became a way of deflecting discipline. If a kid (or kids) started to act up, we would all stand up, go outside, and run a couple of races or do a silly dance. Taking just a few minutes to jump, run, or act silly would usually ensure that we could get through the rest of the class without a disciplinary disruption. Kids so often get in trouble because they just can’t sit still for one more minute. They aren’t bad kids, they aren’t trying to ruin the lesson, and they aren’t out to get the teacher. They are just tired of sitting still and paying attention. Many teachers dealt with this by incorporating lessons into games of baseball or studying for a test by doing jumping jacks after every correct answer. So many creative teachers and so many creative ideas. Yet, many are increasingly hampered by the push to get so much done in so few hours. I think (and I know many others do as well) that focusing on the whole child while pushing for high standards is the only future we have in education. Exercise is one important tool we have to keep in our toolbox.

Ideas for movement at home:

  1. Make cleaning up time a physical activity. If you have very hyper kids, have them put a toy away and then run up and down the stairs before putting the next toy away. Time them and keep track of progress.
  2. Create a homework scavenger hunt. If your child has three or four items to complete, hide them in four different places. After finishing the work, kids can ask for the clue about where their next activity is hidden!
  3. Build a morning obstacle course. For example: first, brush teeth, then crawl under the bed, come out and get dressed, fun up and down the stairs three times, put on your shoes, run and touch a chair in every room in the house, put your backpack by the door and do ten push-ups, jump up and try to touch the ceiling and then run to the table for breakfast.
  4. Punishment exercise. Let your child choose his or her punishment for fighting with siblings or talking back! Twenty pushups for fighting with a sibling, 20 jumping jacks for talking back, ten sit-ups for a bad attitude. Better yet, do sit-ups until you have a GOOD attitude!
  5. Make laundry into a special game. Set up a basket and a foul line and kids must throw their dirty items into the basket (if they miss they have to try again).

Do you have any other ideas about how to get kids moving in your house? Post them below!

5 Definitions of Home for Families on the Move


  1. Home is an accumulation of our memories, experiences, and dreams. We settle them down where we eat, sleep, and connect with the people we love.
  2. Home is where we are rooted, a place of history for our family, our country, and our culture. It is a place to visit and connect with, a place to land and rest, so that we can fly and explore and learn about places that we don’t call home.
  3. Home is people who remind you of who you are, where you have been, where you are going, and of all the possibilities inherent in life and living.
  4. Home is a feeling of peace, quiet, and connection. It is that place inside yourself, that place of beginning and strength.
  5. Home is you. It is where you begin and where you can always return.

Major Events in American History for the Family History Project

100_2916We created a list of major dates in American history to add to our family timeline. (For directions, click here) After creating our timeline with a long piece of butcher paper on the wall, we will include major time periods, family births, and notable family events. We definitely want to include events from American History and we will start with this list. We are going to print out the list, cut them out, and paste them in the correct spot on the timeline. Next, we’ll add pictures from our family and from history. Finally, we’ll spend the next few months collecting notable dates and events to add to our timeline. If you can join us in this project, please send pictures!

Picture: the foundation lines of the house where George Washington was born.

Major Events in American History
1492 – Columbus discovers America
1619 – Slaves are brought to America
1620 Pilgrims establish Plymouth Colony
1754 French and Indian War begins
1764 First of the British Stamp Acts
1774 First Continental Congress
1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord
1777 Articles of Confederation
1787 Ratification of the Constitution
1803 Louisiana Purchase
1812 War of 1812
1820 Missouri Compromise
1848 Gold is discovered
1852 Dred Scott
1861 – 1865 Civil War
1862 Battle of Yorktown
1863 Emancipation Proclomation
13th Amendment 1865
1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson
1868 Fourteenth Amendment
1917 U.S. Enters World War I
1929 Black Thursday, Depression begins
1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright complete first flight
1941 Pearl Harbor, U.S. enters WWII
1945 WWII Ends, Hiroshima and Nagasaki
1950 U.S. Troops fight in Korea.
1954 Brown vs. Board of Education
1963 President John F. Kennedy is assassinated
1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated
1974 Richard Nixon resigns after Watergate
1991 The U.S. launches war in Iraq