Homeschooling families across the land are settling into autumn. The sun may be warm, but the air is growing crisp and the orchards are drooping with apples. It is the perfect time to bring hygge into your homeschool.
What is hygge? Pronounced, HOO-GA, it is the Danish secret to happy living. And the Danes should know. Research shows that Denmark is one of the happiest countries on the planet. Hygge has to do with physical space, but it is a feeling above all else. Some might call it coziness or homeyness. It is the feeling of comfort, warmth, pleasure, and security.
We want our homeschools to be places of togetherness and havens from the cold outdoors. So here are some practical tips to help you bring hygge to your homeschool:
The world today is both a scary and exciting place. Our children face both tremendous opportunities and great challenges. Yet, we face a troubling trend. Most young Americans know very little about current affairs.
Homeschooling families have a great opportunity to correct this trend. To prepare your students for their present and future, it is critically important to bring current events into your homeschool.
Here are ten reasons why:
Consider making current events a part of your homeschooling week—for children of all ages!
In our next post, will give you a practical way to bring current events into your homeschool.
We know that homeschoolers learn year round. But for many, Labor Day marks the official beginning of the school year. For the hot dog industry, Labor Day marks the end of their prime season. Labor Day is also a day for big department store sales. Most importantly, it is a day for workers around the country to rest from their labor.
But did you know that Labor Day has a rich history behind it? It is so much more than a day to picnic, shop, and rest.
If you want to seize Labor Day as a learning opportunity in your homeschool, why not try one of these activities:
For a rich, historical study of Labor Day using primary sources, check out our White House Holidays: Labor Day unit study. There, you will find lessons and activities to engage your students in the rich history of Labor Dayfc.
Silverdale Press is thrilled to announce the release of White House Holidays: Labor Day! It is the first in our White House Holidays curriculum series. The curriculum is available now for purchase.
Designed for students in grades K-12, this curriculum is a great way to kick off the school year. It is brimming with vivid illustrations, rich history, and meaningful activities. It is guaranteed to bring fun, learning, and lasting memories to your entire homeschool family.
In this unit study, students will learn about
Studies will also complete enriching activities, rooted in primary source documents.
Students in grades K-6 will
Students in grades 7-12 will
The curriculum is easy for parents to use. It features
Silverdale Press is thrilled to announce our brand new homeschool curriculum series: White House Holidays. Designed for students in grades K-12, these unit studies will enrich your students’ learning about the history of our national holidays. They will inject fun into your yearly homeschool routine and help your family make memories that last a lifetime.
We wrote these unit studies to solve some problems. I (Jill) went to public school from grades K through 12. Some of my fondest memories were celebrating the holidays with my classmates. I remember the parties and crafts. I especially remember the excitement that came with a celebration, break from routine, and a change of pace.
While we did mark the holidays, I do not remember learning much about the rich history behind those holidays. I believe the same is true for many school-age children today. This is a shame because our holiday history really is so rich.
Learning about our holidays is important for children. For younger children, holidays are a way to mark the seasons of the calendar and the progress of time. For children of all ages, holidays bind us together as a nation. They instill in us a sense of patriotism, unity, and togetherness.
I have also heard parents of middle and high school kids lament that when their students phase out of elementary school, holiday celebrations end. I found this to be true during my own schooling. I think this so sad. Holiday celebrations should continue on through the upper grades. For older kids, the holidays can be a time for deeper learning and understanding—and for developing a greater sense of meaning in history.
As a homeschool mom, I know that the holidays can be overwhelming. We do our best to celebrate them, but it is up to us to invent holiday lessons and come up with fun and creative activities. Sure, we can check out a book or two from the library. But coming up with objectives, lesson plans, and enrichment activities? That’s up to us. And that’s a good deal of work to pile onto our already busy lives.
As a presidential scholar, I also know that so many of our holidays and traditions are tied to American presidents. That is why I wanted to invent a holiday curriculum with a unique twist—one that uses the American presidency as a window into the holidays.
I also know how important primary sources are to our students’ learning. That is why I weave primary sources—like speeches, posters, letters, and photographs—throughout the lessons and activities.
Holiday history, presidential history, and fun and meaningful activities—these unit studies have it all. Not to mention, they are easy for parents to use—complete with lesson plans, teacher scripts, and primary source material.
Over this summer, fall, and winter, we will be releasing the first in our series of White House Holidays Unit Studies:
And there are more in the works!
And so I began writing these holiday unit studies—first for my own children, then for families with children of all ages. They have enriched my kids, and they have enriched me. Our hope is that they will enrich your entire family as well.
Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for updates, as well as for ideas and tips for learning about the holidays.
Posted by: Jill
The summer heat is blazing, but it’s never too early to think about how to jazz up your curriculum in the coming school year. Why not plan ahead to celebrate the holidays?
By holidays, I mean all American holidays, not just Christmas. Don’t overlook Labor Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving in the fall; Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, and Valentines Day in the winter; and St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Memorial Day in the spring. The holidays can bring both excitement and learning to your homeschool.
I know the holidays are easy to overlook in homeschooling. There is math and grammar to be finished, handwriting to be practiced—not to mention the piles of laundry and dishes. The holidays can seem like just one more thing to tack onto an already a huge amount of work.
But celebrating the holidays is worth it. Here are 5 benefits that the holidays can bring.
1. Holidays Help Students Learn History
There are rich histories behind each of our holidays. Unfortunately, many of these rich histories are not taught in schools. Do you know that Labor Day came out of a Pullman railroad strike? Do you know why we observe a moment of silence at 11 o’clock a.m. on Veterans Day? Do you know what the Pilgrims really ate on the first Thanksgiving? Many people do not. But dig a little deeper into each of the holidays, and you will discover some fascinating people, events, and facts.
2. Holidays Break Up the Homeschool RoutineIt is easy to sink into the homeschooling doldrums. The shine of new schoolbooks soon wears off. Erasers wear down. Crayons break into pieces. If your homeschool is anything like mine, complaining about math flashcards and sentence diagramming will rapidly ensue. Marking the holidays is a great way to break the homeschool routine. A special meal or baking project—we do waffles served on china and a special red tablecloth for Valentines Day breakfast—or project or craft can really get your kids excited and back into the groove of learning.
3. Holidays Help Students to Get Involved
Too often, our kids' learning is limited to the walls of our home and the words of the curriculum we purchased. But the best learning—hands-on learning—takes place outside of our homes. The holidays are a great time to help students get involved in the world beyond. For example, Veterans Day is a great time to serve those who have served our country. Memorial Day is the perfect occasion to visit a local war memorial to learn more about a foreign war and the people who served in it. Martin Luther King Day is a great time to do a community service project. The opportunities for getting involved are limitless!
4. Holidays Instill Shared Culture and Values
Holidays are about togetherness. They are about shared values and traditions. They are about uniquely American values and what makes our country great. The holidays can really bring these values home to students. Thanksgiving is a great time to learn about freedom of religion in the New World. Martin Luther King Day highlights the struggle for equality. Memorial Day shows how some have given all to preserve democracy.
5. Holidays Help Families Make Memories
One of the goals of our homeschool is to make memories. When our curriculum is not working and the kids are bored, I know I need to refocus on our goal of making memories. The holidays are perfect for memory-making. Stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree together, crafting valentines together, participating in a service project together—these are all great ways to make memories as a family.
So, consider intentionally marking the holidays in your homeschool this year. The little extra effort will be worth it!
Posted by: Jill
You've spent the fall immersed in presidential politics. What better way to commemorate all of your hard work than to give a presidential-themed gift?
My mom is a Christmas ornament fanatic. When I was growing up, she enouraged my budding interest in presidential politics by giving me White House ornaments. Each year, I look forward to digging those ornaments out of their boxes. I still place them front and center on my tree.
If you're looking to give a presidential gift this Christmas, here are some ideas. (No affiliate links--just some things I've come across).
Each year, the White House Historical Association puts out an ornament honoring the presidency. This year, they commemorate Herbert Hoover. The 2016 ornament is inspired by the fire trucks that responded to the 1929 Christmas Eve fire at the White House.
The White House Historical Association is a non-profit educational organization. Founded in 1961 by Jacqueline Kennedy, their mission is to preserve the White House and its artifacts. I like to support them because they gave me a travel grant to do research in presidential libraries when I was a graduate student. I've started a collection of these ornaments for my daughter, beginning the year she was born. Past ornaments are also available.
Happy about the Trump victory? I came across this ornament and this one on Amazon.
Our family gives lots of books at Christmastime. Here are a few presidential books I'd recommend:
Herbert Hoover: A Life (to accompany your ornament)
Washington & Hamilton (for those who love the founders)
Christmas in the White House (a big and beautiful coffee table book)
A Christmas Tree in the White House (for little kids)
We are a train loving family too. Train gifts always feature prominently under our tree. How neat are these presidential boxcars from Lionel? Chances are, they have one commemorating your favorite president.
May these gifts help your family never stop learning about the presidency.
Happy Thanksgiving to you! In the wake of this frantic election season, this is a good time to reflect on the blessings of our democracy and our constitutional system of government. In the spirit of the presidency and thankfulness, I have three ideas for your homeschool this post-election Thanksgiving week (the third one involves pie and a recipe).
1. Read George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation to your children
George Washington was the first president to declare a national day of Thanksgiving--in 1789, the year the Constitution was ratified. His words remind us of what the country had--and still has--to be thankful for. Washington was especially thankful "for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted."
Establishing the Constitution was no easy task. We had just fought a bloody war with Britain to gain independence. The first constitution--the Articles of Confederation--was a disaster. And there were many who opposed the Constitution, which is now the world's oldest. We should be thankful that ours is a government of laws, not of men.
2. Watch Donald Trump and Barack Obama's press remarks following their first meeting
Many countries around the globe do not enjoy peaceful transitions of power between rulers. It is nothing short of a miracle that we do enjoy this in the United States. Regardless of whether your candidate won, all Americans should be thankful for the peaceful transition of power. It shows that our country is safe and secure.
3. Bake Mamie Eisenhower's Pumpkin Pie
When I think of Mamie Eisenhower's pumpkin pie, I think of prosperity. Mamie Eisenhower was first lady in the 1950s, a time of economic boom preceded by a period of depression and war. In the 1950s, Americans were cooking, celebrating, and consuming. Magazines wanted to know all of the details of Mamie's domestic life, including what was on her Thanksgiving table.
Mamie's pumpkin pie even uses gelatin, the popular postwar thickening agent. I made Mamie's pie with my kids this week, and we had a great time. Consider bringing Mamie's pie to your Thanksgiving Day gathering. May it remind you to be thankful for our country's prosperity. Enjoy!
Mamie Eisenhower's Pumpkin Pie
3 beaten egg yolks
3/4 cup brown sugar
21/2 cups cooks pumpkin (canned is fine)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 envelope Knox gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
3 stiffly beaten egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
One (baked) pie shell
Combine egg yolks, brown sugar, pumpkin, milk, salt and spices. Cook in double boiler until thick, stirring constantly. Soak gelatin in cold water, stir into hot mixture. Chill until partly set. Beat egg whites, add granulated sugar, and beat stiff. Fold into pumpkin/gelatin mixture. Pour into pie shell and chill until set. Garnish with whipped cream.
Wow! I was surprised by the election results, as were many around the country. Experts, pundits, and average citizens alike will spend the following days and weeks trying to figure out how political outsider Trump pulled off the incredible win over consummate insider Clinton. So, how did it happen? The answer: Trump forged a winning Electoral College coalition.
Election Day always leaves people puzzling over how our presidential election system works. It is confusing. Presidents are not elected directly by the popular vote. Instead, they must win a majority of Electoral College votes.
How It Works:
Voters go to the polls in the individual states and then vote for a candidate on the ballot. The votes are then tallied in order to determine who received the most votes in the state. For the candidate who gets the most votes, the individual electors from the candidate’s party gets to cast all of the electoral votes in the state. This is called the “winner-take-all” method.
Maine and Nebraska exceptions:
These states use the “Congressional District Method.” With this method, a state is divided into its congressional districts, and the winner of each district is awarded that district’s electoral vote, and the winner of the state-wide vote is then awarded the state’s remaining 2 electoral votes. (Note that Maine's result this year was split).
How Electoral Votes Are Calculated:
The number of electoral votes a state gets is calculated by adding the number of congressional districts or representatives for each state (and this is based on population) to the number of senators (2 for each state). So, that’s why bigger states have more representatives and thus more electoral votes. Pennsylvania, for example, has 18 congressional districts, so how many electoral votes does it have? That’s right: 20.
270: The Magic Number
A candidate needs 270 electoral votes in order to win. Flip down a few slides for a mathematical illustration of how this number is derived. Note that Washington, DC, which does not have any voting members in Congress, is given 3 electoral votes by the Constitution. Interestingly, DC has 3 electors because the Constitution says in the 23rd Amendment that it can’t have more than the least populous state. So, the total is 538. The winning candidate needs to secure a majority of the electoral votes. How do you get a majority? Divide 538 by 2 and add one.
Here's the Formula:
435 (total number of house districts/members) +
100 (total number of senators) =
3 (number of electors allotted to DC) =
(538 / 2) + 1 = 270
Party Control of Elector Selection and Electoral College Voting
The states nominate electors through the political parties. Each state has its own specific method of doing this--from state party conventions to campaign committees. In the Electoral College, if the Democrat wins, the Democratic electors get to vote, and Republicans do not…and vice versa if the Republican wins in the state.
The Electoral College in 2016
Trump and the Republican National Committee successfully targeted swing states with large shares of Electoral College votes. They focused registration, turnout, and advertising in these states, especially Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He also focused on Michigan and Wisconsin, which had not voted Republican in years, and Iowa, which has been a swing state.
Want to teach your children about the Electoral College and understand how Trump won? Here are some steps you can take:
1. Review the above information with them.
2. Download and print a blank 2016 electoral map. You can find one here or do an electronic one here.
3. Then find an interactive map online. Politico has a good one here. Starting on the East Coast, click on each state to see the results from the popular vote and how they informed the Electoral College vote.
4. On your blank map, have your child color states that Trump won in red and states that Clinton won in blue.
5. Meanwhile, keep a running tally of Electoral College votes for Trump and Clinton. Add them up. This will show your student how Trump got the needed 270 votes.
Do your feelings about this year's presidential election match anybody pictured in this Norman Rockwell painting, Election Day? Fear not. It's almost here: the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November!
In this post, I'll give you some ideas about what to do with your homeschoolers to celebrate Election Day. I heartily believe that your family should mark the occasion.
1. Take your kids with you to vote.
There is no better way to instill good citizenship values than by taking your kids with you to vote. I will be taking mine. Voting is the most frequently exercised form of political participation, and it is up to parents to set a good example. I have vivid memories of going with my parents to the polls, looking at the ballots, seeing how the process worked.
Many precincts will have kids' voting stations set up, where kids who are under eighteen can cast their own ballots (that are not officially counted, obviously).
After you come home, talk about what you observed--about the people and signs outside, who and what you encountered when you were inside, whether you had to present identification, who was on the ballot and so forth. Ask your children if they have any questions.
2. Volunteer at the polls.
Campaigns are always looking for people to stand outside of the polling places to hand out literature and sample ballots. I just responded to an email requesting that I work the polls on Election Day for my local congresswoman, since I had done some volunteer work for her. The campaign manager was looking for people who could approach voters as they go into the polling place and hand out information.
This is great experience too. Contact your local party organizations, or even contact the campaigns of people farther down the ballot (U.S. Congress, state legislature, governor, mayor, town council, etc.) to see if they need help. I'm sure they do. Of course, parents should volunteer together with their kids.
3. Teach your kids not to take voting rights for granted. Read President Lyndon Johnson's famous 1965 speech, which he delivered to persuade Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. Or read suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt's speech to Congress imploring them to grant women the right to vote.
4. Get something for free.
After you vote, take advantage of one of the many Election Day freebies from retailers around the country.
5. Gather together to watch the returns.
In the past, I have really loved going to election night returns parties. I'd gather with friends around the television and watch the results come in. It is a good time to explain to your kids how news networks use exit polls to "call" the states before all of the ballots are counted. (However, I've been reading some articles lately about how party hosts are planning carefully, since emotions have been running high in this election). But if a party is in the plan, don't forget to follow us on Pinterest for some patriotic food ideas.