The Expository Prose…FDR: His Library, His Life… Sandwich

Teaching beginning expository prose is never fun.  Not fun for the teacher and certainly not fun for the young student.  So now is the time.  This year Bounce and I will be exploring the wild shores of expository prose and I hope to arrive at the other side with a competent writer in tow.

FDR Bounce with flag So where do we start?

As part of Bounce’s Boy Scout (Webelo) Citizenship Badge, he is required to write a short paper on an American president.  We chose FDR because his New Deal program has some obvious parallels to current politics.  Why not see where it all began?

fdr1 cartoonWe began by reading short books on FDR and doing some quick Internet research.  Bounce wrote a muddled 2-page paper on FDR.  Not surprisingly, it was evident that Bounce didn’t really understand any of the Big Ideas:  Great Depression, Dust Bowl, New Deal, WWII, etc.

FDR and BrooksWe decided to take a field trip and visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York.

The Library does an amazing job of telling the story of crisis and intervention between 1929-1945.  Each room has short videos that explain the “facts”, followed by artifacts from the era.  The entire exhibition, gallery upon gallery, provides an excellent view of history.  One has the sensation of riding a time-travel train through the lives of Americans, both wealthy and indigent.

Bounce finally understood each of the salient points of the time period.  We were left with the impression of the monumental importance and success of Roosevelt.  Where would we be without him?

FDR 100 daysUnfortunately, there are few counter arguments and questions about alternative paths or the ultimate effect of the rising scope and growth of government.

As Edward Rothstein noted in his June 27,2013 review in The New York Times,

The most intriguing displays are actually scanned documents on video screens that present the controversies and debates during the Roosevelt years: Did the New Deal really end the Depression, or did the coming of the war? Why didn’t Roosevelt support federal anti-lynching legislation? (He did not want to lose Southern Democratic support.) What were his attitudes toward race? What was behind the executive order that interned Japanese-Americans along the West Coast? Did Roosevelt do what was possible to help Jews fleeing Hitler’s executioners? (At one point Alaska was considered as a refuge.) And did he give away Eastern Europe to Stalin at Yalta?

Please see complete article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/28/arts/design/a-revamped-roosevelt-library-and-museum.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

No matter one’s political view, the FDR Library is impressive and educational.  Bounce learned more in one afternoon than would have been otherwise possible.  We bought and read three new books about FDR.  Bounce noticed that all three told different versions of the “truth,” a fact certainly worth noting when reading secondary sources.

For great online resources directly from the FDR Library check this out:

http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/education/students.html

Bounce struggled through creating an outline for a formal paper, with thesis statement and supporting evidence.  We discussed that each paragraph should contain one topic only, and begin and end with bridge sentences that would lead to the next topic.  Finally, his new 3-page paper is complete.  We both heaved giant sighs of relief.

Bounce remains blissfully unaware that my real goal in this exercise is the teaching of expository prose. I am happy to “hide” expository prose in a history-Boy Scout sandwich.  Am I a genius or a coward?  You decide.  But it is working.  Word by word, Bounce is learning to write.

FDR 1932 Presidential Election

1932 Presidential Election map.  Need we say more?

As FDR famously said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

But what if I fear government take over and the loss of liberty and individual freedom?

FDR Pequot warNext topic of government intervention (also prompted by the Citizenship Badge):  The Great Swamp War.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is munching on expository sandwiches composed of real life experiences, while sailing the high seas of independence.  

Save Pequot Library!

My kids and their Destination Imagination Project Outreach teammates have been working hard all year to encourage global literacy. While they were redistributing books to children around the world, something terrible happened at home. Funding cuts threatened to close our local Pequot Library.

The kids interviewed people in their community about the library, donated their proceeds from a lemonade stand to the cause, and created this video and emailed it to to elected officials. They will be speaking at a rally on the Pequot Library Lawn at 1:30 pm tomorrow, and will were also invited to speak at the special RTM meeting to encourage the town to restore Pequot’s funding.

Inspired by Angie: Solving a Homeschooler’s Dilemma

Recently, Angie, a Homeschool HappyMess reader, sent me a series of questions that I thought might make an interesting post, and so with Angie’s permission, she and I will together tackle the intricacies of designing a homeschool curriculum..

A climbing Angie:  Allia, I have been following your blog and am inspired beyond measure.

A leap of faith

Believe me, I am grateful for your confidence in our humble homeschool.  Homeschooling is a leap of faith.  You have to believe in yourself and believe in your children.  It is my hope, through this blog, that people can see themselves bringing inspiration and creativity to their own children’s education.

A Bounce hand paint

Mine is one step in an effort to right the wrong of boring, stultifying education whose tenants of secular equality for all has whitewashed history and distilled learning to nothing more than a series of meaningless platitudes, creating a generation of children with no interest in reading and little ability to write, let alone create.  Break out the paint, glue and glitter, read original documents, apply literature to history, perform a science experiment…together we can explore the planet.

Angie:  I have a few questions:  Do you use the literature to guide the history lessons or do you teach history in a chronological order (like other classical homeschoolers) and choose literature that corresponds with that time in history?

I am a strong believer in the benefits of teaching history in chronological order, after all, that is the order in which it all happened.  Like domino’s, each event was the catalyst for the next, each shift in beliefs, a result of the immediate past.  That being said, I have found that if followed too literally, it is difficult to ever get out of the Middle Ages, let alone Ancient Mesopotamia.  So, although I enjoy reading A Childs History of the World, by Virgil M. Hillyer, and my children love The Story of the World (especially on tape), by Susan Wise Bauer, sometimes (often) I will jump around.

 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.  Hall of Armour

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Hall of Armor

HappyMess boys wearing "real" armor!

HappyMess boys wearing “real” armor!

I am an even bigger believer in grabbing opportunities as they present themselves, and building a quick mini-lesson around an exhibit, or a play or an article in the newspaper.  History, and science are so much more interesting when a child can see the immediate application of the knowledge.

Joan of Arc, MET

Joan of Arc, MET

 

HappyMess kids studying Joan of Arc at MET

HappyMess kids studying Joan of Arc at MET

History at the MET

History at the MET

Museums are a great place to learn about the past.  Here we find that ancient peoples had similar aspirations as ourselves.

History books that we have enjoyed include:  The American Story, by Jennifer Armstrong and A Young Peoples History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. There are countless wonderful books about ancient Egypt and Greece and about every corner of the world.  I like to choose books with engaging pictures as I usually begin every History lesson with shared reading.  Initially, it is the parent, or teacher, who breathes life into the history lesson.  A good history lesson is like a piece of theater, filled with anticipation, suspense, surprise and resolution.

We have found that many literature books dovetail nicely with our studies.  When reading historical literature we concentrate on understanding the feelings of the characters, asking ourselves, Why did they make these choices? Respond in this manner?  How is this different, or the same from our experiences, desires, actions?  Frequently we will read a book that is so compelling, we will read the literature first and then research the time period afterwards.

Celadon pottery at the MET

Celadon pottery at the MET

This was the case with A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park.  We read the book, chose a quote as our school motto, and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to view original pieces of celadon pottery.

A wonderland boook picturesOh..and built an entire book club, around that experience, and created an Outreach Program, Wonderland BookSavers, that has so far, since September, donated 4,000 books to needy children both in the US and abroad…

A doc filmand created a 7 minute documentary film and a Destination Imagination theatrical presentation…see the importance of just one piece of quality literature…?

So, what was the answer?  Usually I am running at least two concurrent history programs.  One is plowing forward through time, looking at facts, geo-political factors, resulting changes, etc., the other is inspired by current events, great literature, museum exhibits or lectures on a topic.

Additionally, Homeschool HappyMess kids participate in National History Day each year. This leads to very in depth research into a specific topic.  This year we are focusing on the TET offensive and the media misinformation that surrounded that event, causing the American people to further turn against the Vietnam War.

A TET 1A TET 2 fall_of_saigonA 1968-Tet-Offensive-3Our older children have created a theatrical piece in which the “war fought in the living rooms of America,” literally comes home through investigative journalism.  They recently won First Place for their local presentation, and are off to the State competition next month.  Working on projects and competitions allows the student to “own” a piece of history.

We are also engaged in learning the fine art of the “research paper,” through a project on the Economy of Ancient Ephesus, as an offshoot of the study of Latin and a subset of the history of the Roman Empire.

History is the wonderful and terrible story that envelopes us all.  There are 1,000 ways to study, memorize, examine, and theorize about history.  Choose any path, as they say, “All roads lead to Rome.”

Angie:  How do you relate the sciences?

Well, we again take several different approaches to the study of science, for younger children I am content with doing fun experiments and visiting hands-on science museums and randomly choosing interesting science books or biographies from the library.  My goal is simple:  awaken curiosity and provide answers about our physical world.  Science and history can often be studied in tandem, as is the case with Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo and Copernicus.  Science, like history, is not a series of facts but a series of people.

A Truth at farm

leaf classification

leaf classification

Our 3rd grader is also following the BJU curriculum.  This provides many interesting facts and experiments in a more organized fashion.  Again, we read books, biographies and enjoy the world.  As our students get older we follow specific studies so they can learn the basics of chemistry, biology and physics.

Angie:  How do you go about choosing your reading list for the year?

A Bounce libraryI love classic literature. Generally those books, which have been known and loved for decades, are well written, use correct English grammar, have interesting vocabulary choices, reflect clear values and tell a compassionate story that resonates with young readers.   In other words, they are worth struggling with and will make your student a better reader and a more thoughtful person.  My annual reading list is comprised of those pieces of quality children’s literature which are at the appropriate reading level.  I mainly choose books the child can read himself, but also include a few that can be read aloud and discussed.  For our book club we have focused on books that reflect a message of personal growth and responsibility.  These books have included A Single Shard by Park, from which we took as our motto, “One hill, one valley, one day at a time…,” Old Yeller, by Gipson, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Carroll, Classic Poetry, Ancient Greek and Roman Myths and now, Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan.  With each book, our book club performed a community service project…but that is a long story for another day…

Angie:  Also, a fun one:  is your schoolhouse an outbuilding or connected to the main house? 

 

HappyMess schoolhouse visitors

HappyMess schoolhouse visitors

In this case, since homeschooling has taken over our lives and thus, every corner of our living space I think it might be more accurate to say that our home is a modified outbuilding connecting to our schoolhouse.

Angie, I hope this helps.  Thanks for your faithful reading!  Allia

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is sharing the experience of growth with an unseen, but forever perspicacious community.

Brown Bag Surprise: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Have you ever started something that brings you to such a different place at the end that you can almost not remember the beginning?  Such was the case with our December Brown Bag Surprise.  It began on an innocent day in December, near the beginning of Advent.

Brown Bag nativityBounce’s Destination Imagination team is committed to Community Service.  This commitment has led them to view every opportunity in the light of service, asking, “How can we take this experience, gift, opportunity, and turn it into a gift for others?”

Upon finding an unused case of 9 dozen teddy bears, our church donated them to Bounce, saying,

“We know you will find something to do with these teddy bears.  All we ask is that when you do, write an essay for the newsletter and let us know how you used these bears.”

It was just three weeks before Christmas; visions of sugarplums still danced in our heads.

brown bag design 1brown bag design 2

Bounce decided to create teddy bear gift bags.

Bounce’s Destination Imagination team is also his Book Club, which is also the Wonderland BookSavers: Inspired by Literature team, a group which has, since September, donated 2,000 children’s books to multiple charities.  Their gifts are inspired by the literature they read.

brown bag poetry reading groupDecember is Homeschool Happymess Poetry Month.  Bounce and the Wonderland BookSavers were studying poetry.  They memorized the wonderful Lewis Carroll poem, Your Are Old Father William, from Alice-in-Wonderland.  They selected favorite poems and practiced their recitation skills, proclaiming their love of rhythm, rhyme and alliteration from the tops of ladders, the schoolroom reading loft, and the tops of bookcases.

Bounce chose his favorite:  The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe.  We had no idea how apt would be that choice.

Hear the sledges with the bells,

            Silver bells!

What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,

            In the icy air of night!

While the stars, that oversprinkle

All the heavens, seem to twinkle

            With a crystalline delight;

Keeping time, time, time,

In a sort of Runic rhyme

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells

From the bells, bells, bells, bells,

            Bells, bells, bells-

From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

What would a gift bag be without a book of poetry?  Bounce found a wonderful, inexpensive, collection of poetry from Dover Thrift publishers.

Brown Bag poem book

We ordered 9 dozen books to go with the bears.

brown bag design 6And the Bears ‘n Books package was born.

brown bag design 3brown bag design 4brown bag design 5brown bag design 7Bounce knew that wrapped gifts were not allowed, and so he and his friends and siblings set about making the most elaborate brown bag designs they could imagine.

brown bag book boxes housebrown bag boxes in car Hear the mellow wedding bells,

            Golden bells!

What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!

Through the balmy air of night

How they ring out their delight!

From the molten golden notes,

And all in time,

What a liquid ditty floats

To the turtle-dove that listens while she gloats

            On the moon!

Oh, from out the sounding cells,

What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!

            How it swells!

            How it dwells

On the Future! How it tells

Of the rapture that impels

To the swinging and the ringing

Of the bells, bells, bells,

Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,

            Bells, bells, bells-

To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

After 10 days of hard work the bears were ready for Christmas delivery.  We drove them down to the police station where Christmas gifts where being donated for local children.

brown bag bounce wth policeHere the story took an unexpected turn.

Hear the loud alarm bells,

            Brazen bells!

What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!

In the startled ear of night

How they scream out their affright!

Too much horrified to speak,

They can only shriek, shriek,

            Out of tune,

In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,

In a mad expostulation in a deaf and frantic fire,

            Leaping higher, higher, higher,

            With a desperate desire,

And a resolute endeavor

Now-now to sit or never,

By the side of the pale-faced moon,

Oh the bells, bells, bells!

What a tale their terror tells

            Of Despair!

While making these bear packages, a terrible tragedy occurred:  Newtown.  We were so stunned and saddened by this that for days our homeschool ceased activities and we simply prayed for the children and families of Newtown.  Like many in our community, our grief was too great to describe.

Now the police asked Bounce if he would be willing to donate his bear care packages to the children of Newtown.  They wanted to have gifts to give to the children when they returned to school.

brown bag bounce with state trooperAt 9:00 at night, when the town was quiet, except for a steady stream of mourners, Bounce was taken on a police escort tour of the many memorials of Newtown.

brown bag memorialbrown bag in our heartsbrown bag stay strongbrown bag picket fenceBounce left a Children’s Illustrated Bible at the picket fence, in hopes that prayers would bring some peace to this misery.

How they clang, and clash, and roar!

What a horror they outpour

On the bosom of the palpitating air!

Yet the ear it fully knows,

            By the twanging

            And the clanging,

How the danger ebbs and flows;

Yet the ear distinctly tells,

            In the jangling

            And the wrangling,

How the danger sinks and swells.

By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells,

            Of the bells,

Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,

            Bells, bells, bells-

In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

We know that it will be a long time before peace returns to the community of Newtown.  We respect their efforts to put forth a message of peace and love throughout this terrible ordeal.  As we travel on the highway we are most impressed by an enormous sign reading, “We Are Sandy Hook; We Choose Love.”

Hear the tolling of the bells.

            Iron bells!

What a world of solemn thought their melody compels!

            In the silence of the night

            How we shiver with affright,

At the melancholy menace of their tone!

For every sound that floats

From the rust within their throats

            Is a groan,

And the people-ah, the people,

They that dwell up in the steeple,

            All alone,

And who tolling, tolling, tolling,

In that muffled monotone,

Feel a glory in so rolling

On the human heart a stone-

They are neither man nor woman,

            They are Ghouls:

And their king it is who tolls;

And he rolls, rolls, rolls,

            Rolls,

A paen from the bells;

And his merry bosom swells

With the paen of the bells,

And he dances and he yells:

Keeping time, time, time,

In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the throbbing of the bells,

Of the bells, bells, bells-

To the sobbing of the bells;

Keeping time, time, time,

As he knells, knells, knells,

In a happy Runic-rhyme,

To the rolling of the bells,

To the bells, bells, bells:

To the tolling of the bells,

Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,

            Bells, bells, bells-

To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

And so, yesterday, the police asked Bounce to donate his bears to a neighboring school in Newtown, one that has hosted many Newtown funerals, St. Rose of Lima.

Brown Bag school signThe Wonderland BookSavers were asked to speak at the school’s Friday Mass.

brown bag churchThey brought a message of love and solidarity, saying, “We want you to know that children all around the country are praying for you.”

They recited cheerful poems.  Bounce read a poem about a squirrel.

Whisky, frisky,

Hippity hop;

Up he goes

To the tree top!

Whirly, twirly

Round and round,

Down he scampers

To the ground.

 

Furly, curly,

What a tail!

Tall as a feather

Broad as a sail!

 

Where’s his supper?

In the shell,

Snappity, crackity,

Out it fell

 

The girls did a dual recitation of You Are Old Father William.

 

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said.

“And your hair has become very white; and yet you incessantly stand on your head.

Do you think at your age it is right?”

 

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son, “I feared it might injure the brain. 

But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,

Why I do it again, and again”

 

“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,

And have grown most uncommonly fat;

Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door,

Pray, what is the reason for that?”

 

“In my youth,” said the man, as he shook his gray locks,

“I kept all my limbs very supple.

 By the use of this ointment,  One shilling the box.

 Allow me to sell you a couple.”

 

“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak

For anything tougher than suet;

Yet you finished the goose with the bones and the beak-

Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

 

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,

And argued each case with my wife;

And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,

Has lasted the rest of my life.”

 

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose

That your eye was as steady as ever;

Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose-

What made you so awfully clever?”

 

“I have answered three questions and that is enough,”

Said his father, “Don’t give yourself airs!

Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?

Be off, or I’ll kick you downstairs!”

Brown Bag Old w:eel

St. Rose students thanked the Wonderland BookSavers with a standing ovation.

Wonderland BookSavers asked the St Rose children to join them in their quest to gather children’s books to donate to a library in Appalachia.  The St. Rose children were eager to help.  This week Wonderland BookSavers will bring boxes and posters for a book-drive to St. Rose, and a new collaboration will be born.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.  John Donne

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is living our commitment to the global community.  Love thy neighbor as thy self.

Hurricane Homeschool

Hurricane Sandy has swirled, uninvited, into our lives, and like our neighbors near and far, our lives have been temporarily rearranged.

The leaves are now gone from the branches.  They hover in clumps at the bottom of the pool, shimmering on reflected trees.

We, like many, were Mandatory Evacuated.  In a matter of 45 minutes we grabbed groceries (everything we could see), clothing (not much), schoolbooks (the basics), one computer and the dog.  Of course, we forgot the flashlights.  And so we returned to our Traveling Homeschool mode that marked so much of last year.  This time, with our previous experience, we knew just how to do it.  Hint:  fastest packing item, the laundry basket.  Grab everything you see and toss it in a basket.  Throw basket in trunk and drive away. 

Meanwhile the kids were most distraught about missing their friends and Halloween.  In fact, that was the only salient point they understood about the entire evacuation process.  Prompting my husband to question their sanity.

“But we will be missing Halloweeen,” they howled in unison, as our car pulled out of the driveway.

“It is a National Emergency,” Husband replies matter-of-factly.

“But we can’t miss Halloweeeen.”

Husband turns the volume up louder on the radio.

Three hours later, when we arrive at our new temporary housing,

“When can we go home?  It’s almost Halloween.  We HAVE to go home for trick-or-treating.”

A revolt was imminent.  I unpacked the kids, dog and books and promptly set up a portable classroom.  This shocked the kids into silence.

You may ask, Why school?  With every single school in half the nation closed, why do we continue, undaunted, as we are pummeled by wind and rain?

Simple.  Parental sanity.  With 5 kids in a small space, schoolwork is the most direct route to peace and tranquility.

 We brought only our most basic books, math, spelling and vocabulary.  With many online classes and textbooks we quickly created a computer-share system with priority going to kids taking classes on the West Coast, where there are no weather-related delays.  Remarkably, they got everything completed and uploaded in time, despite being granted extensions.

With few textbooks we quickly turn to the best education:  classics.  By late afternoon each day we are draped about the room, swathed in blankets and reading the available books.  Athena is reading My Antonia by Willa Cather, Quantum finished A Raison in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and then found a copy of Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  Truth is happily reading Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Bounce has finished Alice in Wonderland and is now reading Through the Looking Glass, both by Lewis Carroll, and I am finishing Black Boy by Richard Wright.  Happily, with few clothes and much food, we are comfortably dressed in our pajamas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Scooter found a box of alphabet letters and spent several hours figuring out how to arrange them in alphabetical order. Soon we may use these letters to show Scooter how to create three letter words.  He now knows there is a pattern to word-making.

The lights began flickering and I began steadily cooking all the food in the house.  My husband asked, as the second roast chicken came shimmering out of the oven with several dozen baked potatoes, “What ARE you doing?”

“Cooked ford is more useful than raw food,” I responded, and went on to hard boil another dozen eggs.

So now it is officially Halloween and the police have canvassed the neighborhood and forbidden children from wandering around in the danger-ridden dark.

Needless to say, our neighborhood is now scarier looking than the best Halloween and it looks like real ghosts have been playing havoc with the town.

Our family, like many others, is thankful for our safety.  We are grateful for simple family moments: meals shared together by candlelight, games played by the fireside, and long afternoons spent reading cherished classics, all punctuated by long rainy-day dog walks.

Hurricane Sandy has provided us the opportunity to stop moving at the speed of light (electricity) and begin to move at the more natural speed of the human being.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is being grateful for the miracle of safety and educating your children through literature in the midst of chaos and adventure.

Wordless Wednesday: Have Sign Will Travel

We observed this man at the beach.

Man and his Sign.

We stayed long enough to determine that:  Yes, he arrived and departed with his sign, carefully folding it along with his chair and book, before returning all parts to the trunk of his car.

This is one dedicated individual.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is enjoying the local political scene while drinking coffee at the beach. 

History: The Timeless Gift

A quick History lesson from Pulitzer Prize winner, David McCullough,

Nobody lived in the past, if you stop to think about it.  Jefferson, Adams, Washington- they didn’t walk around saying, “Isn’t this fascinating, living in the past?”  They lived in the present just as we do.  The difference was it was their present, not ours.  And just as we don’t know how things are going to turn out for us, they didn’t either.

 In a 2005 speech, David McCullough makes the point that “history” happens to the everyday man and woman.  What makes the story interesting, and thus memorable, is the way the people respond to the events of their time.  As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Character is Destiny,” and McCullough makes the case that our Founding Fathers’ biggest attribute was their character.

McCullough encourages the teaching of history to ensure that we, the current occupants of this world, value the gifts we have been given by our predecessors.

He says, “We have to know who we were if we’re to know who we are and where we’re headed.  This is essential.  We have to value what our forebears did for us, or we are not going to take it very seriously, and it can slip away.”

McCullough offers this analogy, “If you’ve inherited some great work of art that is worth a fortune, and you don’t even know that it is a great work of art and you’re not interested in it – you are going to lose it.”

Thus our precious Democracy will go by the wayside if we fail to teach our young students the value of freedom and personal liberty.  It becomes our responsibility as teachers, parents, and educators to instill a love of our Nation and an appreciation for the sacrifices that have afforded our freedoms.

One of our favorite books for the young historian. 

Our Happymess kids love history.  We strive to make every century seem relevant and interesting.  We use countless sources from illustrated children’s books, colorful atlases, ancient maps, primary sources, personal diaries, illustrated encyclopedias and dense historical dissertations.  We love documentary films, old newsreels and historical novels.  History is the story, our story.  And thus we were very gratified to find a perfect endorsement of homeschool-style teaching in the middle of McCullough’s presentation.

The original flag that inspired The Star Spangled Banner national anthem. We visited this last year in Washington, DC.

And we need not leave the whole job of history teaching to the teachers.  The teaching of history, the emphasis on the importance of history, the enjoyment of history, should begin at home.  We who are parents or grandparents should be taking our children to historic sites.  We should be talking about those books in biography or history that we have particularly enjoyed, or that character or those characters in history that have meant something to us.  We should be talking about what it was like when we were growing up in the olden days.  Children, particularly little children, love this.  And in my view, the real focus should be at the grade school level…they can learn anything so fast it takes your breath away.  The very important truth is that they want to learn and they can be taught anything.  And there’s no secret to teaching history or making history interesting.  Tell stories.  That’s what history is: a story.  And what’s a story?  E.M. Foster gave a wonderful definition of it:  If I say to you, the king died and then the queen died, that’s a sequence of events.  If I say, the king died and the queen died of grief, that’s a story.  That’s human.  That calls for empathy.  And we ought to be growing, encouraging and developing historians who have heart and empathy.

I wonder if McCullough knew he was actually accurately describing the homeschool movement and our emphasis on multi-disciplinary, multi-generational and multi-cultural education, all with the purpose of “making it feel real” and thus instilling empathy for all.

We are grateful for today’s history lesson, which was a portion of Lesson One from Exploring America, a homeschool curriculum designed by John Notgrass. We have used this program before and really love it.  Notgrass has written text, quizzes, short-answer questions and essay questions, which cover the myriad facts that together comprise our national history.  The companion volume, American Voices, is an amalgamated 400 pages of primary sources. Through these speeches, letters, poems and essays the student of American History can live and breathe the very words of the Americans who built our nation.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is bringing the past to life though original documents and mementoes.