American History for Expat Kids!

American History in a Box Level IIAmerican History in a Box is a standards-based elementary course on major American History themes and concepts. With four levels for different age groups, (grades K/1, 2/3, 4/5, and 6/7) the boxes include historical fiction, non-fiction, games, puzzles, supplies, and an activity book based on the Virginia Standards of Learning and the National Common Core Standards.

This overview provides a framework for future learning for Foreign Service/expatriate children who are not in standard courses offered to students living in the U.S. More information about the boxes here.

The course is intended to be fun, easy, and student-directed as many students will complete the box while attending school or during summer.

American History in a Box is reimbursable for some  families posted abroad with the U.S. government. Email us for more information and a reimbursement approval request form for your Financial Management Officer.

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5 Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day!

MLK

Every January, many Americans have a day off to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This holiday allows us to honor the birthday of one of our most famous and influential Civil Rights leaders.

Born in Georgia in 1929, King fought for equality and justice throughout his life. He believed in peaceful protest as a way to bring about social change. Legal racial segregation in the U.S. ended in large part due to his work. With this holiday, we celebrate his life, his work, and take the time to reflect and honor his legacy.

This is also a great time to talk about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. While King was an important leader, there were many people who contributed to the cause including Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and many others. In addition, this is a great time to talk about what those people fought for and the events in our history that made the movement important.

A review of the movement could start with the slave trade and the devastating effects of slavery in the South. Discuss the many heroes in the abolitionist movement including those who helped many escape from the South. The Civil War resulted in freedom for the slaves and Reconstruction provided many opportunities cut short by segregationist policies. The Great Migration saw many flee to opportunities in the North and was the impetus for the Harlem Renaissance and the flowering of African American art and music. Today there continue to be setbacks and struggle within our communities and King’s birthday can be a time to talk about how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

Finally, while children living abroad are exposed to a wide variety of world history, geography, and language experiences unavailable in the U.S., sometimes our own history is given short shrift. Families can incorporate books, stories, and activities into home life to ensure children know about their own holidays and historical leaders as well as those in the host country.

Here are five ideas for learning about King and celebrating his birthday with the family.

  1. Create a timeline of Civil Rights history after reading books about the topic or watching videos. History.com is a great place to find educational videos.
  2. Celebrate his birthday with a cake and make cards thanking him for his work!
  3. Learn about his “I have a Dream” speech and then make lists of personal and family dreams and goals.
  4. Talk about diversity and equality in the United States and in the country in which you are living. Compare and contrast the history of equality in the U.S. and in other countries.
  5. Give back and honor King’s commitment to service. Volunteer at a local shelter, arrange a neighborhood trash pick-up, or make a donation to a favorite charity.

Our favorite books about King include:

  • For all children, Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport, is a Caldecott award winner that tells the story of his life using his original writing.
  • For elementary children, I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King and Kadir Nelson, pairs King’s most famous speech with beautiful pictures
  • Middle school children will enjoy Free at Last, by Angela Bull, which is a thorough biography with illustrations.

Martin Luther King, Jr., fought to end racial segregation and inspired, and continues to inspire, many Americans. This holiday is perfect for discussing the Civil Rights Movement and the impact of one of the movement’s most famous leaders.

American History Videos to Complement your American-History-in-a-Box!

Our American History boxes include books, games, puzzles, and activities to learn the major concepts in our history. We recommend starting each topic with a quick video to learn background information before reading the books included in the box. We love the videos found at Have Fun with History because they are short, engaging, and full of great information.

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Another great option is to listen to the free Khan Academy lectures on each time period.

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Including a variety of resources when learning history helps kids to internalize the major concepts and ideas in our history. We recommend watching a short video for each topic, then read the books in your box, and finally complete the activities in the workbook. We encourage families to talk about the topics and to try to:

  1. Put the concept in the context of the time period. What else was happening in the U.S. at that time?
  2. Put the concept in the context of today. How do we look back on that person, event, or idea? How do we think about it now?
  3. Put the concept in the context of the country in which you are currently living (if possible). What was going on in your host country during this time period?

For additional materials or resources, write to us at afterschoolplans@gmail.com.

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.