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.


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?