Tag Archives: common core

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!


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, www.summerbridgeactivities.org 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.

Travel and History, Part II

IMG_2955It is spring break and your family is exploring Boston, Massachusetts, and learning all about the American Revolution, a few of our founding fathers, and to top it all off you visit Plimouth Plantation and go to view the big rock in Plymouth Harbor. How can you make sure your kids internalize what they learn, have fun processing the information, and have something they can share with friends and family at home? Here is a list of our favorite ideas!

  1. Keep a photo journal. Give your child a camera and ask them to take pictures about the historical sites they visit. Print out all the pictures at the end of your trip and make a photo album. Work with your child to label the pictures and add relevant dates and time periods. Alternatively, create the photo album on Shutterfly.com or Snapfish.com. Use online sources to find out more information about each historical site and add it to your comments.
  2. Keep a daily journal as if you are living in a different time period. We always love to have our children write a daily journal during vacations. Of course, it doesn’t always happen, but we do have good intentions. A fun twist is to have your child write their journal entry from the point of view of the time period they are learning about. So, if you visit Plimouth Plantation, have your child write about what they learned as if they actually lived there during that time period!
  3. Complete a timeline with the people you learn about, the places you visit, and the pictures you take. After your trip, select a series of pictures taken from historical sites. Figure out when that site was important and label it with the date. Then, create a timeline using butcher paper, a string and index cards, or a paper taped into a timeline. First, add basic dates from American History to the timeline. It might be fun to also add important dates from your family history if you know them! Then, post pictures and information about each picture from your vacation on the timeline.
  4. Start a collage scrapbook using brochures, postcards, and fliers from your visits. To make a collage scrapbook, simply keep every piece of paper you can find from your visits to historical sites! Then, create either one large collage or a series of collages by cutting out pictures, comments, and dates.
  5. Write a history web page or Facebook page and share it with friends and family. Include information that you have learned, pictures from your visits, key information to know, and then write quizzes or tests for each post you write! Perhaps you can offer simple prizes for anyone who gets 100% on your quizzes?

How do you record your child’s learning during vacations?

Travel and History

Are you going on a American family trip for spring break or over a holiday? Here are our tips for incorporating history lessons into your trip! Do you have any other suggestions? Add them to our comments!

  1. Find a couple of books for kids about your destination. No matter which region in the U.S. you plan to visit, there should be books about American Indians. For book suggestions and activity ideas, visit the National Museum of the American Indian here: http://www.nmai.si.edu/.
  2. Don’t forget to talk about how geography affected movement, habitat, clothing, and food resources. You can learn about our geography at National Geographic here: http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/north-america-physical-geography/?ar_a=1. It is also fun to be able to talk about why the landscape looks the way it does while spending time in a car or airplane.
  3. Look up famous Americans that come from your destination. Kidport.com has some great biographies, you can find them here: http://www.kidport.com/Reflib/SocialStudies/FamousAmericans/FamousAmericans.htm. Check out books on these individuals from the library and see if you can find a museum to visit or a house to tour. Every state has plenty of famous Americans to choose to learn about during your visit!
  4. Want to find some historical sites to visit? The History Place has a list of sites sorted by state. Look up the places you will visit and see if you can incorporate a little history exploration! Their website can be found here: http://www.historyplace.com/tourism/usa.htm.
  5. For time spent in restaurants, cars, or airplanes, take along this American History coloring book, found on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/American-History-Coloring-Moorefield-Evans/dp/1511441151/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1429630324&sr=8-3&keywords=leah+moorefield+evans. Full disclosure, this is our coloring book but we recommend it for an overall review of American History to give kids a sense of where individual people, places, and events fit into the larger picture.


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.

Washington’s Birthday

Today is Washington’s Birthday, or Presidents’ Day. Our first president, George Washington, was born on February 22. The holiday was first celebrated in Washington, D.C. in 1880 but in 1971 the U.S. Government made this an official holiday to be celebrated on the third Monday in February. Some states use the day to honor all former presidents and often special mention is made of both Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Federal Holidays in the U.S. often come with cultural celebrations. But, children should know the meaning and story behind each holiday. Currently, our federal holidays include:


  • January 1, New Years Day
  • Third Monday in January, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • January 20 (every fourth year) Inauguration Day
  • Third Monday in February, Washington’s Birthday
  • Last Monday in May, Memorial Day
  • July 4, Independence Day
  • First Monday of September, Labor Day
  • Second Monday of October, Columbus Day
  • November 11, Veterans Day
  • Fourth Thursday of November, Thanksgiving
  • December 25, Christmas Day

Almost all of these holidays are significant for students who study American History. Most schools require that children in elementary school have a basic understanding of the holidays, the history behind them, and the cultural traditions surrounding them. During these holidays, take a moment to research them and talk about them with your children.

Some books to share with your children:

  1. Celebration: The Story of American Holidays, Lucille Penner
  2. All Around the Year, Holidays and Celebrations in American Life, Jack Santino
  3. Celebrations, the Complete Book of American Holidays, Robert J. Myers
  4. Coming soon: our “American History Coloring Book” will have a section devoted to these holidays. Check back here for more information!