Do you have a U.S. Atlas in your home?

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 10.38.21 AM Do you have an American atlas at home for yourself and for your kids? Most people do, and love looking through the book to learn about different places and what makes them tick.

Our current favorite is this atlas by National Geographic. We run to it anytime we hear of a new country, or have a question about anyplace in the world.

Some fun activities at home to do with an atlas include:

1.) You can complete an atlas scavenger hunt. Try these fun printable scavenger hunts.

2.) Have children plan your ultimate road trip. They can list locations, distances, and areas to visit.

3.) If you could move anywhere, where would you choose? Have your kids pick a new location and then write a letter to you about why you should move, using lots of specific details to bolster their argument, of course.

4.) Where do you NOT want to live? Try to find the worst possible place to live in the atlas and then share your picks and vote on which one would be the worst ever!

You can find more ideas for learning about your atlas here.


Sharing Your Home Culture with your Expat Kids

If you are living outside of your home country, you might struggle to share holidays, stories, and the history of your country with your children. We often don’t realize how much of our culture is shared through media, daily interactions, and local attractions! If you can’t visit a museum, go to a parade, or see tributes to historical figures on the magazine rack, how do you share this information with your kids?

1.) Buy books. Think about stories you want to share with your children and have them in the house. Pull them out to read together or allow your child to read or look at the pictures whenever they like.

2.) Celebrate every holiday you can think of and make up a few new ones! take a minutes to read the “I have a Dream” speech on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or to draw a picture of Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria on Columbus Day. Having an understanding of the concept will allow your child to color in the details later.

3.) Talk about history! When you stumble into history and culture in your new country, compare it to your home country. Is there a monument to World War II? Talk about how the war affected the U.S. Is there an interesting flag flying near your home? Share the story of Betsy Ross.

4.) Share the story of your family as related to your home country. Talk about ancestors that fought in wars, overcame challenges, and participated in noteworthy events. Show how you are connected to your country and why it matters.

5.) Make the most of visits home. Visit landmarks, museums, and historical sites. You can try to cram it all in during the time you are actually in your home country!

Looking for Books to help? We suggest these options:

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Common Core Standards and Reading Informational Text

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Langston Hughes, poet

Summer is the perfect time to really read the Common Core Standards for your child’s grade level. You can find out what they should know and then identify areas that could use a little extra work. You don’t want to “drill” content into your kids but it is a great way to direct downtime and to find suggestions for a child who might be bored.

Many fourth graders are wonderful readers and love the world that opens to them through fiction. Some parents hope to also encourage an interest in informational text for a variety of reasons. We looked at the Common Core Standards for fourth graders and came up with some great books and activity ideas to encourage your child to explore more informational texts. We have listed the Standards here from, and then listed our book and activity ideas.

Reading: Informational Text

Key Ideas and Details

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2 Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3 Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Craft and Structure

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.6 Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.8 Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9 Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.10 By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4–5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

Presidents, Eyewitness Books, James David Barber

I Wish I Knew That: U.S. Presidents: Cool Stuff You Need to Know, Reader’s Digest

Who Was John F. Kennedy, Yona McDonough

Yes We Can, A Biography of President Barack Obama, Garen Thomas

Rocks, Fossils, and Arrowheads, Laura Evert

Rocks and Minerals, A Gem of a Book, Simon Basher

Rocky Road Trip, Judith Stamper

Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne

Heart and Soul, the Story of America and African Americans, Kadir Nelson

We are the Ship, The Story of Negro League Baseball, Kadir Nelson

I, Too, Am American, Langston Hughes

1.) Write a book review newsletter for your friends. Read four or five books and summarize them in 6 – 8 sentences. Type them up and leave blank spaces for illustrations. Come up with a catchy title for your book review and publish!

2.) Pick a favorite president and learn five things about them that surprise you. Share the facts with at least three people. Call a grandparent, write a letter to a pen pal, tell a friend.

3.) Interview your friends, neighbors and relatives about their favorite president. Then, create a graph showing which president is most popular. Try an online graph maker for kids.

4.) Read about rocks and minerals. Go for a long walk in the woods or on a trail and find interesting rocks. Try to avoid gravel. When you return home, try to identify your rocks by searching for them online.

5.) Learn about how rocks are formed. Then, make pancakes to see how something can change when heat is added (igneous) or pressure such as from a spatula is added (metamorphic). Can you think of another experiment that would demonstrate these changes.

6.) Read three books about presidents or about rocks and minerals. Discuss how the information is presented. What are some similarities and differences? Pick the book that you feel presents the information in the best way. Write a recommendation for this book on amazon or on paper to give to a librarian.

7.) Read Nelson’s book on the African American experience and then paint your own picture. Try to synthesize what you have learned about this volatile history.

8.) Read Nelson’s book Heart and Soul, and then look up other African American artists who illustrate their history artistically. In particular, research Romare Bearden’s paintings reflecting the Great Migration. Research this time period and how American was changing during that period of time.

9.) Read about the Negro League and then go watch a baseball game. Talk about how baseball has changed and how our country has changed in the last 20, 50, and 100 years.

10..) Read Langston Hughes and talk about what it means to be an American. Take the citizenship quiz online. Would you pass this test?

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!