Monday, October 19, 2015

Sons of Liberty - Fabulous Book to Teach Kids about our Colonial Heroes

I love to use older books to teach history - the older the book the less history has been rewritten.  The Sons of Liberty, published by Julian Messner in 1969, is one of my family's favorite books that teaches about how our great nation was born.  It's one of those books that the kids will treasure forever. It was written by Felix Sutton of Virginia whose ancestors came to Virginia from England one generation before the Revolutionary War.

Sons of Liberty covers five of the colonial heroes that helped to form the United States - Sam Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere and Joseph Warren.  Joseph Warren?  Yes, Joseph Warren.  He was a doctor in Boston that spied on the British.  I had never heard of him myself until I sat down and read this book with my children.  Rest assured, my children know who he is.

Because this book focuses on just five of the colonial heroes, kids learn a bit more about these fine and brave men.  Here are some facts that aren't usually mentioned in other books on this time period for kids:

Samuel Adams - Most adults thinks of the beer when Sam Adams is mentioned. He lead the men who comprised the Sons of Liberty.  Sam Adams was never a soldier yet he brought about the Revolutionary War more than anyone with his words and thoughts.  He is called "The Great Agitator" because it was he who created all the excitement and made people angry enough to fight for the cause of freedom from Britain. 

John Hancock -  He was the richest merchant in Boston and paid all the bills for the Sons of Liberty.  John Hancock was quite the opposite of Sam Adams, but they had one thing in common - the desire for freedom from Britain.  Did you know there is no inscription on his tomb stone?  Even without that everyone knows who he is with his large signature on the Declaration of Independence, which is clearly his epitaph.

Patrick Henry - He was from Virginia and inspired the colonists with his famous words "Give me liberty, or give me death."  He was a boy who did not like school.  He played hooky all the time until his father finally let him stop going to school.  His father decided to teach him at home and that is where Patrick thrived!  He eventually became an attorney and became a great speech writer. 

Paul Revere - A Boston silversmith, Paul Revere carried secret messages all over the colonies.  He will best be knows for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem . . . "Listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere."

Joseph Warren - Warren was a spy from Boston who obtained many of the Redcoat's military plans.  He was one of the first members of the Sons of Liberty and was dedicated to the cause for freedom.  As he was a doctor, he cared for both the British and the colonists.  He would listen in on the conversations of the British military members and pass that information on to the Sons of Liberty - hence his importance to the cause of freedom.  He was the one who gave Revere the messages that Paul had to spread. 

As you can see, the actions of these brave men were pertinent to the United States gaining their independence from Britain.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ten Halloween Jokes for Your Kids

Kids love to tell jokes.  They also love to be told jokes.  Here are some fun Halloween jokes and riddles you can try on your kids:

What do mummies dance to?

  Wrap Music

What is a witch's best subject in school?


What room do zombies not go into?

  The Living Room

What kind of dog does Dracula have?

  A Bloodhound

What did the vampire say to the invisible man?

  Long Time No See

What do you call a witch that lives at the beach?

  A SandWitch

Who's the best dancer?

  The Boogie Man

Why do witches fly on brooms?

  Because Vacuum Cleaners Are Too Scary

Why did the vampire go to the orthodontist?

  To Improve His Bite

What is a baby ghost's favorite game?


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Don't Stop the Goth Look

"My son wants to dye his hair jet black, what do I do?", I asked a friend of mine.  "Let him do it." was her answer.  Those four words were just about the best parenting advice I have ever been given. 
As a child who had been homeschooled through 8th grade, entering high school at a big public school was a huge adjustment for my son.  He made some really nice friends right away, joined some organizations and was on his way to a rewarding high school career. 
Soon after school started he wanted to grow his hair out.  That was fine with me.  Then he went from wearing his khaki pants and plaid shirts to black jeans and black t-shirts. Then black coats.  Then the black eyeliner started.  Goodness! I didn't know what to say to that, but he actually looked great in the eyeliner! And I still don't know how he learned to put it on so well!
The end all beat all was when he asked to dye his hair jet black.  His hair was dark brown to begin with, but he wanted it BLACK!  That is when I called my friend to see what on earth I should do.  This was my son wanting his hair dyed, not my daughter.  She had already raised two teenagers and she is the one that said "Let him do it. There's a lot worse things he can be doing at his age.  If you fuss, he'll fight you on it.  Just let him do it, and let him get through this phase. It'll pass."  I had another friend who told me her son went totally goth in high school and college and is now a clean, cut wall street broker.  So there was hope of normalness after the "goth era".
Sure enough two years and four months after his first day of high school my son came bounding down the stairs asking me to take him shopping. "What do you need?", I asked.  "Colored clothes.  I'm sick of wearing all this black."  That sentence was music to my ears. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Goodness! Look What Was Happening When Last the Chicago Cubs Won the World Series.

1908, the year the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series.  I'm 50 and my own grandparents weren't even born yet.  My great grandmother was only 20 years old in 1908.  I wonder what she would have to say about that day the Cubs last won.  Let's see what all was going on that fateful day. 

Interestingly, the 1908 World Series had the least attendance with only 6,210 watching.  That's a significant amount less than what we see today.  290,985 was the attendance of the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals.  There was also a ticket scalping scheme which caused many to boycott the 1908 World Series.  That's Chicago for you!

In 1908:

General Baden-Powell started the Boy Scouts.

Postage stamps came out in rolls.

First railway tunnel opened under the Hudson River.

Oklahoma joined the Union as the 46th state of the United States. We didn't even have all 50 states yet when last the Cubs won the World Series!

Mark Breith, the Mayor of Cincinnati, announced that "women are not physically fit to operate automobiles". Really?

The Murdock's were the first to travel by car across the United States.  It took them 32 days! And 5 hours and 25 minutes to get from Los Angeles to New York City traveling in their Packard.  It only takes 32 hours to drive from Chicago to Vancouver, Canada now.

London hosted the fourth modern Olympic games.

The first Mother's Day was celebrated.

First passenger air flight occurred.

General Motors was incorporated in Janesville, WI.

Elgar premiered his 1st Symphony in A.

First time numerals were used on football uniforms.

Crazy!  These last two are just mind boggling that they were occurring as the Cubs won their last World Series:

The Model T was introduced by Henry Ford! The Model T, for Pete's sake!

Albert Einstein presented his quantum theory of light. Yes, even Albert Einstein was alive when last the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Top 10 Things Teenagers Do in 2015

What did you do when you were a teenager?  We drove around, I think that was called "cruising' " back in the day.  Listened to our records. We went to movies. Out for pizza.  Miniature golf.  Just plain goofed off. 

What do teenagers do today in the year 2015?  Here are their top 10 activities:

1.  Scroll through Instagram on their phone

2.  Text their friends on their phone

3.  Listen to music on their phone

4.  Watch videos on their phone

5.  Snapchat on their phone

6.  Surf on their phone

7.  Take selfies on their phone

8.  Share selfies from their phone

9.  Charge their phone

and if we're lucky . . .

10.  Text mom or dad on their phone

Unfortunately this is true!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Why It Is So Important To Take Your Kids on Living History Field Trips

Lincoln Presidential Library
History.  Did you enjoy it as a kid?  Most kids don't.  There are ways, however, to make history come alive and make it so much more exciting rather than just reading it out of a textbook.  Reading living books about history makes it come alive, and taking a field trip to the site of it makes it come even more alive!

My kids thrived on learning history this way.  In fact they had no idea they were even working on history.  Oh, the joys of tricking them into learning by doing something fun. 

Granted, it gets costly to go on field trip after to field trip.  So plan accordingly.  There are three ways to do this:

1 . Choose a trip based on a subject that is cherished by someone or all in your family;

2.  Choose to study a topic based on a place you are already going to;

3.  Choose a place you'd like to go and study that.

This gives kids a hands on and visual approach to learning about history.  It makes it real.  They can imagine the people in the time period as the event or events occurred. 

For example here are some of the living history field trips we have done with our kids:

1.  Helen Keller home in Tuscumbia, AL.  My son got very interested in Helen Keller when he was in 6th grade. He read everything he could find on her.  He even taught himself braille! So when he found out that you could actually visit Helen Keller's home, we made a special trip to Tuscumbia, Alabama just to see it.  He was fascinated to see the house where all the work that Helen and Annie Sullivan did together.  And, of course, the most poignant part of visiting her home was to see the well where Helen's huge transformation began.  You can't get this sense and feeling out of a book.  To really experience it and see where Helen's transformation began is just breathtaking.  It gives a child a completely different viewpoint of history.  And guess what.  They will remember it!

2.  Lincoln Sites and Presidential Library in Springfield, IL.  Our daughter is a huge Abraham Lincoln fan.  At the age of 10 when girls had Miley Cyrus posters (back when she was with Hannah Montana) she had posters of Abe Lincoln in her room.  What better place to take children to learn about good Ol' Abe than Springfield, IL.  There we went to the home he and Mary Todd owned.  The house is full of Lincoln relics.  And the neatest part of all, is Abraham Lincoln has actually touched the handrail on his staircase.  To see the look on our daughter's face when she ran her hand up that banister was priceless and the thought of it still is today. 

3.  Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.  When our son was younger he was very into dinosaurs.  What better way to show him how enormous they were than to take him to the Smithsonian to actually see real dinosaur fossils.  We did not tell him there were going to be dinosaurs in the room before he entered, so when he walked in and saw the bones of a ginormous T-Rex his jaw just dropped and stayed dropped for quite some time.  This was a great lesson as it put all those different sizes of dinosaurs into perspective for him - much better than just comparing them on a page of a book.

4.  Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.  We were in Memphis so we hopped on over to the Civil Rights museum to see where Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot.  We had studied him in school, of course, but this was an added treat.  It really gave some perspective as to where exactly he was when he was shot.  The new James Earl Ray museum across the street actually shows the vantage point Earl was at when her shot King.  This was a field trip we never planned ahead on going to.  It just happened because we noticed it was there when we were in Memphis and thought it was something the kids should go see. It really depicts the times well with racial strife and even has a bus where you can sit with Rosa Parks on it.

5.  Revolutionary War and Civil War sites in Charleston, SC.  We were fortunate to live in Charleston, SC until the kids were in high school and junior high.  Charleston is known for it's Civil War history, after all the war did start there at Fort Sumter.  But did you know it's also rich in Revolutionary War History as well?  Magnolia Plantation and The Old Exchange are two such places that bring the Revolutionary War to life.  It's also quite fascinating to walk the halls and be in places where George Washington actually had been.  When it comes to the Civil War, there's not much better place to live to learn living history of the war than in Charleston.  One of the best places even is Magnolia Cemetery where all the men who died on both Hunley submarines are buried.  And, of course, the Hunley, the first submarine to sink a ship in battle, can be seen right in North Charleston.  Again, rather than just seeing a picture of that submarine, seeing it live puts it really into perspective what those men went through to accomplish what they did.

Whether you can go one field trip a week, or one a month or year, take the time to do this with your kids.  If you home school of course you will have more time and reason to do this.  And even if you don't home school, this a wonderful way for your kids to learn something new, and it also creates a great time for family bonding.  It's something your kids will always remember and will talk about for years to come.  Mine do.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Do Your Kids Know Why We Celebrate Labor Day?

Labor Day.  When I was a kid I had mixed emotions about Labor Day.  Labor Day meant the end of summer.  It also meant that when you went to bed on Labor Day evening you'd wake  up to the excitement of the first day of a new school year.  Not many schools start the day after Labor Day any more.  Now Labor Day is a day off after a few weeks of a new school year.

A day off.  That's what kids think Labor Day is.  It is also a day off for workers - which is its original intended purpose.  Here are the facts of how Labor Day came to be a holiday:

- Workers used to work in harsh conditions with long hours and very little pay.  Children were also subject to working under the same conditions as adults.

- Labor unions sprung up to fight for workers.  They worked to get the US worker higher wages with less working time and to protect children from working at a young age.

- Peter McGuire started the first Labor Day rally in 1872.  Tired of working in horrendous conditions he got 100,000 workers to go on strike and march through the streets of New York City demanding a better work environment for all.

- In 1882 McGuire proposed that workers deserved their own holiday.  On September 5, 1882 10,000 workers marched in the streets of New York City for the first Labor Day Parade

- In 1884 the celebration was moved to the first Monday of September.

- In 1894 Congress passed a law making Labor Day a national holiday.

Kids should know that it was the work of the labor unions that ensured they would not be spending their days working in factories rather than in school. And they can thank Peter McGuire for this day off of school.