Schools are not your daycare and teachers are not your babysitters

Every time I would complain about public schools to a friend of mine who is a public school teacher, he would respond with “You don’t understand how awful most parents are. You are obsessed with your child’s education, but many other parents are not even remotely interested in what happens to their kids. Public school curriculum gets dumber and dumber because parents are getting less and less interested in their kids’ lives. You don’t how hard it is to teach kids to read when their own parents don’t give a shit about whether they learn to read, such that they won’t take even 30 minutes to read to them at home. I’d tell parents their kids are failing the grade, and they’d tell me to take it up with their child because it’s not their problem.”

He’d also respond with this tirade whenever anyone brought up the issue of school violence and bullying. There are a lot of parents who want teachers and school administrators to be wholly responsible for disciplining their child.

What was always surprising to me about these exchanges is that he was not at the stereotypical “forgotten” school. He was not Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds trying to teach British literature to inner-city gangbangers that just wanted to fuck and kill and were going to graduate to prison. He was in a middle class suburb with college-educated parents who could afford all the Baby Einstein they wanted. You ever wonder how celebrities who could afford to send their kids to the best schools end up having to bribe colleges to admit their functionally illiterate children?

Caring about education is not a function of money and class now, assuming it ever was. It’s kind of remarkable how many social problems all come down to the destruction of family life.

After a couple weeks of coronavirus school closures, I totally understand what he was saying. Many parents truly regard their kids’ schools as taxpayer-funded daycare.

Ever since I nixed all my social media accounts, I have a friend here who likes to send me screenshots of all the stupid stuff she sees on social media. It’s kind of nice seeing what’s going around without having to sort through it myself (something my mental health will not permit). Because she’s a homeschooler, the theme from the past couple weeks of her screenshots are parents who are complaining about having to do homework with their children since schools are closed. The memes and comments started off with crazy kid antics, but they’ve become increasingly dark. One said “Day 10 of homeschooling, human biology: testing whether chloroform is really odorless,” and it had a picture of a mother holding a washcloth over her kid’s face. I’m sorry, that’s just sick.

I’m not sure what humor parents take in the fact that they have raised complete hellions that they don’t even like to be around. “Please let this pandemic be over so I can dump my hellspawn off on someone else” doesn’t seem like the kind of sentiment a normal, well-adjusted person would want to share with the world. I would like to think that most parents are not complaining about having more time to spend as a family. That most people think the hours spent with their children are precious because they only get one childhood.

We have a neighbor down the street who works from home on a normal day and sends her child to a private elementary school here. That school has aligned its decisions with the public school system explicitly to avoid liability. They do not want to hold classes when the state is not and then have to deal with lawsuits if kids get sick.

She has sent us two messages so far asking us if we would babysit her child for several hours (during the middle of the work day) so she could be in meetings. No kidding. The notion of fixing your kid a snack and starting a movie for them in another room is too hard? Or handing your child a book to read and telling them that you are going to be on an important phone call, so please be quiet?

I kind of get it now, though. On normal school days, she’s at home but leaves her kid at the school in after-school programs until 5 pm. That only leaves a couple hours in the evening to have to deal with the kid, which is mostly a meal and a bath. During spring and summer breaks, the kid attends a litany of camps – in perfect succession, so the kid never actually gets a break from being managed by adults. There’s no careless summer vacation for that child of racing bikes and building forts. When she’s awake, she waits for someone to tell her what to do and where to be.

This pandemic is quite literally the mother’s first experience of being responsible for her own child for large stretches of time and she’s desperate to find anyone to fill the childcare void that her child’s school served. She’ll even ask neighbors to take a break from earning a living themselves to supervise her child. It doesn’t even occur to her that this might seem insane.

When this pandemic first started, I was skeptical that parents like this existed, but now I understand they do. They are willing to outsource parenthood to any random Joe in their environment. In fact, she thinks that because we have come up with an effective way to homeschool and run our own business simultaneously, throwing her own child into our mix is an elegant solution. Nope.

These are not minor cultural failings. Having parents make it 18 years without assuming any role in their child’s education (and, yes, a child should be getting an education before kindergarten) is a big deal. Having children who need to be professionally managed every moment of the day is a big deal. Even young children should be capable of entertaining themselves and participating in independent activities. And these are really two sides of the same coin. The kids aren’t developing their minds, so they cannot function independently. If your child cannot occupy themselves for a couple hours without misbehaving to get attention, you have a big problem on your hands. And it’s not the kid’s fault. It’s yours. You have neglected a major component of their personal development.

Being a terrible parent is not cute or funny, and you don’t get a mulligan on the responsibilities of raising a child. Being a good parent is also not some impossible task that must be outsourced so you can earn a living. If you can make time to watch seven hours of a gay polygamist meth-head zookeeper on Netflix, you can help your kid with their homework without a bunch of manufactured, self-indulgent drama and martyrdom. And this isn’t just about when your kids are out of school and you’ve lost your taxpayer-funded babysitter.

A “passing” grade versus mastery

I was having a conversation recently with a friend whose children are enrolled in local public schools. He was debating the idea of homeschooling his own children. Because his older son is most interested in math, he wanted to compare what we were using for math versus what public schools were using. And – you know me – I was quite happy to oblige.

He seemed frustrated with his son’s low performance in what was otherwise one of his favorite subjects. Boredom is a major problem for his son in school, he explained. He was performing poorly on tests – on content he knew cold – simply because he was not sufficiently motivated to listen to the teacher’s instructions and thus routinely made dumb mistakes. Anyone who has ever sat in a classroom listening to a teacher drone on and on and on can appreciate where that kid is coming from. He’s the quintessential smart kid staring out the window all day.

But what struck me from this conversation was how conditioned the father was to be okay with an average score on a test. He was disappointed with a “C” test score, but it wasn’t really a problem for him so long as his kid was not ultimately going to be held back a grade. Imagine how this translates into subjects in which his child does not have a particular gift.

I don’t know many (any?) homeschoolers who teach their children that way. When our daughter misses questions on regular school work or a test, she has to go back and correct each one. We do not move on to another topic until I am 100% convinced that she has mastered the one we are working on, even if that means I have to make or hunt for more practice content. There is no congratulating a child for getting 70% of the answers correct. Period.

It struck me that the cumulative effect of this sort of behavior is immense.

Granted, some parents who have their kids enrolled in traditional schools share the same philosophy as homeschoolers. But they are often derided by other parents for doing so – consider the term “tiger mom,” referring to Asian mothers who only accept the best work from their children. To master something is often caricatured as being an “overachiever.” “Oh, well, your child actually learned the content they are teaching… Do you even let them have a childhood?” This is the way a lot of people talk about education, and it’s insane.

If you accept a “passing” score throughout the early years in education, later years are not going to be any easier for the child. But mastery is a true foundation for later learning. This is why homeschoolers knock other kids out of the water on college testing. They don’t have to cram for a massive standardized test because they truly learned the content in the first place. They aren’t sitting in a classroom of 40 kids with a teacher that is simply estimating the probability that they learned something well enough to maybe use it in real life (if they haven’t already forgotten it by the time that knowledge is summoned). Their future supervisors are never going to say, “Hey, at least you can do the easy problems on this topic. That’s good enough.”

It’s a huge difference, both from an academic standpoint and from the standpoint of establishing a work ethic.

Our human biology and genetics curriculum (homeschooling)

Continuing my series publishing my lesson plans so parents who are interested in homeschooling can see how we do it in detail. This is our 4th grade human biology and genetics curriculum.

Our daughter is gifted and interested particularly in science. We go all out in studying science each year so she feels happy and challenged. She just turned eight years old, but we typically use late middle school and high school textbooks for her. When she was younger, we did not use textbooks at all. We systematically worked our way through the children’s non-fiction section at the library, reading thousands of books together over the years. There are so many high-quality STEM resources for children now. If you’ve passed those on to your kid and then show them a regular textbook geared toward elementary-aged children, they are going to tell you it’s for babies. And they aren’t wrong. Somehow general curriculum has become more basic as our society has become technologically advanced. It’s a fascinating phenomenon.

I say this all the time, but having the ability to teach your children at their real intellectual level – as opposed to what the government thinks is average for their chronological age – is one of the best arguments for homeschooling. Our daughter specifically asked to study genetics this year. I can’t even fathom how much we’d be suppressing her intellect by putting her in a traditional school.


McDougal Littell Science, Human Biology

McDougal Littell Science, Cells and Hereditary

Margaret Matt, Human Anatomy Coloring Book

Silver and Wayne, My First Book About the Brain

Robert Griffin, The Biology Coloring Book

Other thematic non-fiction books (listed below)

Human Biology

  • Read Michael Bright, How We Became Humans: Our Incredible Evolutionary Journey
  • Read Chapter 1.1 – The Human Body is Complex; Notes
  • Activity – How Do the Systems in Your Body Interact?
  • Coloring Page – Systems of the Human Body
  • Read Chapter 1.2 – The Skeletal System Provides Support and Protection; Notes
  • Activity – Movable Joints
  • Coloring Pages – Skeletal System; Skull; Vertebral Column; Axial Skeleton; Appendicular Skeleton – Upper and Lower Extremities
  • Math in Science – Rates of Production
  • Read Chapter 1.3 – The Muscular System Makes Movement Possible; Notes
  • Coloring Pages – Muscular System; Muscles of the Face, Head, and Neck; Muscles of the Torso; Muscles of the Upper Limbs; Muscles of the Lower Limbs
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 2.1 – The Respiratory System Gets Oxygen and Removes Carbon Dioxide; Notes
  • Activity – How Does Air Move in and Out of Lungs?
  • Coloring Pages – Respiratory System; Nose, Nasal Cavities, and Pharynx; Mechanisms of Breathing and Swallowing; Larynx and Trachea; Alveoli; Breathing Mechanism
  • Read Chapter 2.2 – The Digestive System Breaks Down Food; Notes
  • Activity – How Does the Digestive System Break Down Fat?
  • Activity – How Does Saliva Affect Starch?
  • Math in Science – Internal Measurement
  • Coloring Pages – Digestive System; Mouth and Esophagus; Stomach; Small Intestine; Larger Intestine; Accessory Organs of Digestion
  • Read Chapter 2.3: The Urinary System Removes Waste Materials; Notes
  • Coloring Page – The Urinary System; Kidneys
  • Activity – How Does the Skin Get Rid of Body Waste?
  • Activity – Modeling a Kidney
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 3.1: The Circulatory System Transports Materials; Notes
  • Activity – How Fast Does Your Heart Beat?
  • Activity – Heart Rate and Exercise
  • Coloring Pages – Circulatory System; Heart; Pulmonary Circulation; Arteries; Veins
  • Read Chapter 3.2: The Immune System Defends the Body; Notes
  • Activity – How Does the Body Keep Foreign Particles Out?
  • Activity – How Do Antibodies Stop Pathogens from Spreading?
  • Coloring Pages – Lymph System
  • Read Chapter 3.3 – The Integumentary System Shields the Body; Notes
  • Activity – What Are the Functions of Skin?
  • Activity – How Does Oil Protect Your Skin?
  • Extreme Science – Artificial Skin
  • Coloring Pages – Skin; Scarring, Nails, and Coloring
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 4.1 – The Nervous System Responds and Controls; Notes
  • Activity – Can You Name the Scent?
  • Coloring Pages – Nervous System; Nerve Cell; Brain; Spinal Cord; Sensation Sites; Autonomic Nervous System
  • Discussion – What is Consciousness? What is a Coma? What is Intelligence? Historical Experiments Testing Awareness and Artificial Intelligence
  • Activity – Are You a Supertaster?
  • Coloring Pages – Cerebrum, Cerebellum, Brain Stem, and Nerve Cells
  • Coloring Pages – Making Sense, How You See, How You Hear, Keep in Touch, How You Smell and Taste
  • Coloring Pages – Left Brain / Right Brain, Corpus Callosum, Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Keeping Balance, Cranial Nerves
  • Coloring Pages – Nerves and Involuntary Faculties, Grow that Brain, Comparing Human and Animal Brains
  • Coloring Pages – Feelings, Memories, and Dreams
  • Read Chapter 4.2 – The Endocrine System Helps Regulate Body Conditions
  • Coloring Pages – Endocrine System
  • Activity – How Does Your Body Temperature Change When You Exercise?
  • Connecting Sciences – Heating and Cooling
  • Read Chapter 4.3 – The Reproductive System Allows the Production of Offspring; Notes
  • Activity – How are Egg and Sperm Cells Different?
  • Math in Science – Twins and Triplets
  • Coloring Pages – Reproductive System; Female Reproductive System
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 5.1 – The Human Body Changes Over Time; Notes
  • Activity – Are There Patterns of Growth?
  • Activity – Life Expectancy
  • Read Chapter 5.2 – Systems in the Body Function to Maintain Health; Notes
  • Activity – Food Labels
  • Read Chapter 5.3 – Science Helps People Prevent and Treat Disease; Notes
  • Activity: Cleaning Your Hands
  • Review

Dissection Week

  • Dissection of sheep’s brain
  • Dissection of sheep’s heart
  • Dissection of sheep’s kidney
  • Dissection of sheep’s eyeball

Cell Structures and Genetics

  • Read Chapter 1.1 – The Cell is the Basic Unit of Living Things; Notes
  • Activity – Does a Candle Show Signs of Life?
  • Coloring Pages – Being Alive; How Science Began; Scientific Method Today; Matter and Elements; Compounds and Mixtures; Elements in Living Things
  • Activity – Using a Microscope
  • Read Chapter 1.2 – Microscopes Allow Us to See Inside the Cell; Notes
  • Coloring Pages – Subatomic Particles; Atomic Structure; Ionic Bonds; Covalent Bonds; Water Molecules; Unusual Properties of Water; Acids and Bases
  • Coloring Pages – Cell Theory; Sizes of Things; Student Microscopes; Research Microscopes; Cell Preparation for Light Microscopes; Cell Preparation for Transmission Electron Microscopes; Interpreting Thin Sections
  • Activity – How Do Plant and Animal Cells Compare?
  • Coloring Pages – Animal Cell; Plant Cell; Prokaryotic Cells
  • Read Chapter 1.3 – Different Cells Perform Various Functions; Notes
  • Activity – How Do Roots Differ from Leaves?
  • Activity – Cell Models
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 2.1 – Chemical Reactions Take Place Inside Cells
  • Activity – How Are Different Types of Molecules Important in Your Everyday Life?
  • Activity – What Happens When You Combine Oil and Water?
  • Coloring Pages – Carbohydrates I; Carbohydrates II; Lipids; Protein; Amino Acids; Protein Structure I; Protein Structure II; Nucleotides
  • Read Chapter 2.2 – Cells Capture and Release Energy; Notes
  • Activity – How Can You Tell if Fermentation Releases Material?
  • Biosphere 2 Documentary
  • Read Chapter 2.3 – Materials Move Across the Cell’s Membranes; Notes
  • Activity – How Do Particles Move?
  • Activity – How Does Cell Size Affect Transport?
  • Activity – Diffusion
  • Coloring Pages – Membrane Properties; Osmosis; Evidence of Membrane Ultrastructure; The Fluid Mosaic Model
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 3.1 – Cell Division Occurs in All Organisms; Notes
  • Activity – How Does DNA Fit Inside the Nucleus?
  • Connecting Sciences – Chemical Dyes Show Nerve Growth
  • Read Chapter 3.2 – Cell Division is Part of the Cell Cycle; Notes
  • Activity – How Can You Model Mitosis?
  • Activity – Stages of the Cell Cycle
  • Read Chapter 3.3 – Both Sexual and Asexual Reproduction Involve Cell Division; Notes
  • Activity – Which Part of Plants Can Reproduce?
  • Math in Science – Divide and Multiply
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 4.1 – Living Things Inherit Traits in Patterns; Notes
  • Activity – Offspring Models
  • Read Chapter 4.2 – Patterns of Hereditary Can Be Predicted; Notes
  • Activity – How Can Probability Help Predict Results?
  • Activity – Do Probabilities Affect Each Other?
  • Coloring Pages – Introduction to Genetics; Mendel’s Peas; Flower Color Hybrids
  • Coloring Pages – Gene Symbols; Two-Character Cross
  • Read Chapter 4.3 – Meiosis is a Special Form of Cell Division; Notes
  • Activity – Why Does Sexual Reproduction Need a Special Form of Cell Division?
  • Activity – How Can You Model Fertilization?
  • Coloring Pages – Mitosis and Meiosis; Summary of Mitosis and Meiosis
  • Activity – Are Traits Linked?
  • Coloring Pages – Linkage in Fruit Flies; Chromosome Crossovers; Sex Linkage I; Sex Linkage II; Sex Linkage III; Blending Inheritance I; Blending Inheritance II; Codominance and Blood Types
  • Review
  • Read Chapter 5.1 – DNA and RNA Are Required to Make Proteins; Notes
  • Activity – How Does a Template Work?
  • Activity – Extract and Observe DNA
  • Coloring Pages – DNA Discovery; DNA and Transformation; DNA in Neurospora; DNA in Bacteriophage; DNA Base Pairing
  • Coloring Pages – The Double Helix; DNA Replication; Protein Synthesis – Translation; The Genetic Code
  • Coloring Pages – Charles Darwin; Artificial Selection and Natural Selection; Natural Selection We Can See; Speciation; Communities; Biochemical Cycles
  • Read Chapter 5.2 – Changes in DNA Can Produce Variation; Notes
  • Activity – What Happens to a Code If Small Changes Occur?
  • Activity – How Does a Large Number of Non-Coding Sequences Affect Mutations?
  • Math in Science – Percents and Populations
  • Read Chapter 5.4 – Modern Genetics Uses DNA Technology; Notes
  • Extreme Science – Modern Genetics Meets the Dodo and the Solitaire
  • Review

Portfolio – Science in the News

  • Keep a collection of news articles about human biology. At the end of the academic year, discuss new developments and concerns in the context of what you’ve learned.

An app for teaching kids to manage their finances

I get a lot of questions regarding teaching kids about personal finance and investing.

There is a very cool app called BusyKid that is an excellent place to start with a young child. You establish a list of chores for your child to do every week and pay them a set allowance to teach them about earning money and developing a good work ethic. The app then allows them to make decisions about spending and saving the money they’ve earned. They can get a prepaid credit card based on their earnings to use when your family is out about town. They can invest the money in the stock market (for real, not pretend), allowing them to learn about risk and how money can grow without them having to work directly for it. Or they can decide to donate a portion of their money electronically to a philanthropy they get to pick out. I’m sure you can arrange for them to tithe a percentage of their earnings this way too.

As far as teaching kids about financial and economic theory, there are many books available for slightly more mature kids.

Here are a few:

The Economics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained (DK)

The Business Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained (DK)

Six Days in October: The Stock Market Crash of 1929: A Wall Street Journal Book for Children

Our eight-year-old daughter loves everything involving charts. I don’t know why, but when we started working with graphing information in math and coordinates in computer science, she became obsessed. She started graphing everything. She even measures her bearded dragon’s growth and charts it in a journal. I’m sure she’s probably counting and charting the number of crickets he eats too. We spent the last week showing her stock charts with the market crash and recovery, and now she’s hooked on that.

It’s not all that hard to get a kid interested in the stock market. Have them take a moment and think about the corporations they encounter in their daily life: toy manufacturers, food producers, media companies, etc. Then pull up the stocks for those companies and talk about supply and demand for the products and services they provide. On their computer, get them to make a list to track the companies on free websites (Yahoo Finance, etc.). When they are in their later elementary school years, they can even learn about options and derivatives (if you are an especially nerdy family, and I’m going to guess you are if you made it to my blog).

Our read-aloud literature for 4th grade (homeschooling)

Continuing my series publishing our lessons plans so families that are considering homeschooling can see how we do it in detail.

Each morning, we start with reading a chapter or two from excellent children’s literature. This is a great way to prepare your child for learning while they wake up and eat breakfast. This year, we are reading books with some connection to American history.

Here’s my list:

Elisa Carbone, Blood on the River: James Town 1607

Jean Lee Latham, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Elizabeth George Speare, The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Lois Lenski, Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison

Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain: A Story of Boston in Revolt

James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier, My Brother Sam is Dead

Elizabeth Yates, Amos Fortune Free Man

Harold Keith, Rifles for Watie

Patricia MacLachlan, Sarah, Plain and Tall

Lois Lenski, Prairie School

Marden Dahlstedt, The Terrible Wave

Carol Ryrie Brink, Caddie Woodlawn

Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows

Doris Gates, Blue Willow

Scott O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins

Sydney Taylor, All-of-a-Kind Family

Virginia Sorensen, Plain Girl

American Folk Music, Folk Art, and Folk Tales curriculum (homeschooling)

Continuing my series detailing our homeschooling curriculum for 4th grade for anyone who is considering homeschooling to see how we do it in real detail.

As I explained in an earlier post, I try to take an interdisciplinary approach to homeschooling. This year, our theme is our identity as Americans. We are studying American history, American literature, and I created a special unit on American Folk Music, Folk Art, and Folktales. I put so much work into researching resources for this unit and I am quite proud of how it turned out. I tried to work in a lot of content on the music and traditions of Native Americans and the African-American community. If anyone out there has any suggestions or ideas, please send them along.

American Folk Music and Patriotic Songs

TEXT: Wee Sing America

  • We Love the USA
  • John F. Kennedy Quote
  • The Star-Spangled Banner
  • Preamble to the Constitution
  • You’re a Grand Old Flag
  • Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue
  • The Stars and Stripes Forever
  • There Are Many Flags
  • America
  • Thomas Jefferson Quote
  • Abraham Lincoln Quote
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Quote
  • America, America
  • America the Beautiful
  • Statue of Liberty Excerpt
  • The United States
  • Presidents of the United States
  • Yankee Doodle Boy
  • Yankee Doodle
  • Old Abe Lincoln
  • Abraham Lincoln Quote
  • Dixie
  • Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • George Washington Quote
  • When Johnny Comes Marching Home
  • Goober Peas
  • The Caissons
  • Marine’s Hymn
  • Patrick Henry Quote
  • Anchors Aweigh
  • Sweet Betsey from Pike
  • I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
  • John Henry
  • Drill, Ye Tarriers
  • Paddy Works on the Railway
  • The Old Chisholm Trail
  • Goodbye, Old Paint
  • I Ride an Old Paint
  • Git Along, Little Dogies
  • My Home’s in Montana
  • Old Texas
  • The Boll Weevil
  • Pick a Bale o’ Cotton
  • Cotton Needs Pickin’
  • Shuckin’ of the Corn
  • Old Settler’s Song
  • Sacramento
  • Blow Ye Winds
  • Cape Cod Chantey
  • Blow the Man Down
  • Erie Canal
  • Down the River

TEXT: Wee Sing Fun ‘n’ Folk

  • Crawdad Song
  • Bought Me a Cat
  • Polly Wolly Doodle
  • Shortin’ Bread
  • Oh, Dear! What Can the Matter Be?
  • There’s a Little Wheel A-Turnin’
  • Jennie Jenkins
  • The Wabash Cannonball
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Train Is A Comin’
  • The Rattlin’ Bog
  • Great Granddad
  • Billy Boy
  • Father Grumble
  • Hold On
  • The Old Gray Mare
  • The Big Rock Candy Mountain
  • Cindy
  • Old Joe Clark
  • Frog Went A-Courtin’
  • Grasshoppers Three
  • The Bee and the Pup
  • Little Red Caboose
  • The Bear
  • The Arkansas Traveler
  • Keemo Kymo
  • Goin’ to Boston
  • The Railroad Cars Are Coming
  • Old Dan Tucker
  • Had a Little Rooster
  • Little Liza Jane
  • Put Your Little Foot
  • Hop Up, My Ladies
  • The Frog in the Bog
  • Pawpaw Patch
  • Buffalo Gals
  • Turn the Glasses Over
  • Turkey in the Straw
  • Jingle at the Window
  • Shoo Fly
  • Rig-A-Jig-Jig

Native American Culture and Music

Audio Resource: Sacred Music: Chants and Dances of the Native Americans

  • Introduction and Prelude: How the West Was Lost
  • Winter Ceremony
  • The Counter-Clockwise Circle Dance
  • Celebrate Wild Rice
  • The Cradlesong
  • Advice for the Young
  • Wishes of Happiness and Prosperity
  • Elevation
  • Intertribal Song to Stop the Rain
  • Heal the Soul
  • Brandishing the Tomahawk

TEXT: More than Moccasins: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life

Everyday Life

  • Tepee
  • Backrest
  • Wigwam
  • Pueblo Village
  • Weaving
  • Burden Basket
  • Pottery
  • Boxes
  • Parfleche
  • Bark Containers
  • Pouch
  • Canoe
  • Fishing Lure
  • Duck Decoy
  • Special Shield
  • Coup Stick
  • Wampum
  • Peace Pipe

Things to Wear

  • Vest
  • Breechcloth and Apron
  • Leggings
  • Armbands
  • Cuffs
  • Anklets
  • Fancy Dance Bustle
  • Women and Girls’ Capes
  • Pueblo Dress
  • Headbands
  • Warbonnets
  • Plains Bonnet
  • Bonnet Case
  • Iroquois Headdress
  • Pipe Bone Breastplate
  • Bear Claw Necklace
  • Shell Necklace
  • Shell Gorget
  • Shell Etching
  • Fetish Necklace
  • Seed and Corn Necklace
  • Silver Bracelet
  • Earring Loops
  • Bounty of Beads
  • Face Painting
  • Mud Head Mask
  • False Face Mask
  • Kachina Mask

Song and Dance

  • Musical Rasp
  • Gourd Rattle
  • Turtle Shell Rattle
  • Whale Rattle
  • Drumbeats
  • Bull Roarer


  • Cradleboard
  • Cradle Charms
  • Corncob Doll
  • Hunting Toys (Deer Hat, Spear)
  • Kachina Doll
  • Dog Travois
  • Spinning Top


  • Hubbub
  • Stick Game
  • Bowl Game
  • Throw Sticks
  • Wooden Dice
  • Shell Dice
  • Stick Dice
  • Walnut Shell Game
  • Kainsish
  • Stick Counting Game
  • Hidden Stick Game
  • Hand Game
  • Moccasins Guessing Game
  • Feathered Darts
  • Hoop and Lances
  • Hoop and Darts
  • Buzz
  • Pin and Target
  • Racket Ball
  • Shinny
  • Ball Race
  • Juggling
  • Pokean
  • Standing Cob Game
  • Cat’s Cradle
  • Ring Toss
  • Foot Races


  • Fry Bread
  • Kneel-Down Bread
  • Baked Pumpkin
  • Corn and Pumpkin Stew
  • Wild Rice
  • Corn Soup
  • Hominy
  • Steamed Clover
  • Baked Squash
  • Fried Squash Blossoms
  • Fish Soup
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Popped Corn
  • Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
  • Beef Jerky
  • Fruit Leather
  • Raisins
  • Peanut Butter
  • Maple Sugar Candy
  • Drinks


  • Puzzling Petroglyphs
  • Pictographs
  • Sign Language
  • Totem Poles
  • Sandpainting
  • Winter Count
  • Smoke Signals
  • Story Stick
  • Owner Sticks
  • Birch Bark Transparencies
  • Talking Feather
  • Storytelling
  • Cherokee Alphabet
  • Navajo Code Talkers

African-American Music and Culture

TEXT: Virginia Hamilton, The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales

  • Animal Tales
  • The Real, Extravagant, and Beautiful
  • Tales of the Supernatural
  • Slave Tales of Freedom

TEXT: Velma Maia Thomas, No Man Can Hinder Me: The Journey from Slavery to Emancipation through Song

  • Remember Me: Songs of Africa (Audio: Drumming)
  • The Middle Passages: Songs that Carried Us Over (Audio: Kum Ba Ya)
  • Lord, How Come Me Here: Holding on to Songs of Our African Past (Audio: Lord, How Come We Here?)
  • When the Hammer Rings: Songs of Work (Audio: John Henry)
  • There Must Be a God Somewhere: The Birth of Spirituals (Audio: Balm in Gilead; Ride On, King Jesus)
  • Have You Got Good Religion: Songs of Biblical Stories (Audio: Were You There?)
  • Love Songs: Songs that Made Our Hearts Sing (Audio: Baby in a Guinea-Blue Gown)
  • Everybody Sing: Songs of Community (Audio: Trampin’)
  • Little Sally Walker: Lullabies and Songs of Play (Audio: Little Sally Walker; Mr. Rabbit)
  • And Before I’ll Be a Slave: Songs of Rebellion and Freedom (Audio: Sing Low, Sweet Chariot)
  • Activity: Coded Messages in Spirituals
  • John Brown’s Body: Songs of Our Soldiers (Audio: John Brown’s Body)
  • The Day of Jubilee: Songs of Emancipation (Audio: Down by the Riverside)
  • From Plantation to Palace: Preserving Our Songs (Audio: Fare Ye Well)

TEXT: Doreen Rappaport, No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance

  • Harriet Wheatley, “My Pa Was Never Slave”; Overview of Slavery; The Story of Olaudah; The Story of Peppel
  • In this unfamiliar land…; The Story of Vina; The Story of Adeline; “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?”
  • The Story of Frederick; The Story of Suzie King Taylor; “Steal Away to Jesus”
  • The Story of Caroline; “Gospel Train”; “Go Down Moses”; The Story of John Scobell; “Many Thousand Gone”; The Story of Booker T. Washington

TEXT, Doreen Rappaport, Free at Last! Stories and Songs of Emancipation

  • “Listen Children”; The Story of Jane Kemper; The Story of Booker T. Washington (continued); “Free at Last”
  • The Story of Harriet Postle; Black activists campaigned…; The Story of John Solomon Lewis; The Story of Ida B. Wells
  • “Incident”; “John Henry”
  • The Story of Booker T. Washington (continued) ; “We Wear the Mask”; “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”; “I, Too, Sing America”
  • The Story of Kenneth Clark; The Story of Thurgood Marshall; “Ain’t I Glad We Got Out of the Wilderness”

TEXT: Doreen Rappaport, Nobody Gonna Turn Me ‘Round: Stories and Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

  • Margaret Walker, “For My People”; historical discussion
  • The Story of Mose Wright; The Story of Rosa Parks; The Story of Jo Ann Robinson
  • The Story of Elizabeth Eckford; The Story of John Lewis; The Story of Diane Nash
  • “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”; historical discussion; “Oh, Freedom”; “We Shall Overcome”
  • The Story of Fannie Lou Hammer; historical discussion; The Story of Sheyann Webb; “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Tun Me ‘Round”

American Folk Art

TEXTS: Richard Panchyk, American Folk Art for Kids with 21 Activities

           William Ketchum, Jr., Grandma Moses: An American Original

           Tovah Martin, Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts

  • The Origins of Folk Art – Art and Civilization; The Emergence of Folk Art; Geography; American Folk Art
  • Folk Painting and Drawing – Academic Painting and Folk Painting; Folk Portraits
  • Activity: Paint a Folk Portrait
  • Folk Painting and Drawing (Continued) – Landscape Paintings; What Makes It a Good Painting; Watercolor, Pastel, and Tempura Paintings
  • Read William Ketchum Jr, Grandma Moses: An American Original
  • Folk Painting and Drawing (Continued) – Maritime Folk Art, Religious Painting; Sketches, Doodles, and Odds and Ends; Calligraphy; Tokens of Love; Silhouettes; Memorial Pictures
  • Activity: Calligraphy Picture Activity: Silhouettes
  • Activity: Reverse Painting on Glass
  • Activity: Make a Shadow Painting
  • Howard Finster
  • The Decorative Arts – Fraktur; Painted Furniture; Rewards of Merit; The Hex Sign; Stencils; Theorem Painting; Stoneware; Other Pottery; Toleware
  • Activity: Make a Hex Sign
  • Activity: Make a Stencil; Folk or Fake?
  • Activity: Create a Paper Cutout
  • Fabric Sewn and Stitched – From Plant to Blanket; Weaving; Basket Weaving; Knitting and Crocheting; Folk Costumes; Lace; Embroidery and Needlepoint; Hooked Rugs; Samplers; Quilts; Rag Dolls
  • The Mennonites and Amish
  • Activity: Design a Quilt
  • Chiseled, Carved, and Hammered – Carved Furniture; Inlaid Wood; Canes and Walking Sticks; Gravestone Folk Art; Decoys; Tramp Art; Whittling, Carving, and Cutting; Models and Miniatures; Pyrography; Scrimshaw; The Little Town that Carved; Weathervanes and Whirligigs; Games and Toys
  • Read Tovah Martin, Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts
  • Elijah Pierce
  • Activity: Make a Scrimshaw
  • The Shakers of Sabbathday Lake
  • Found Objects and Scraps – Trench Art
  • Activity: Make a Memory Box
  • Activity: Recycled Fun
  • Mr. Imagination
  • Activity: Decoupage a Box
  • Public Folk Art – Product Design; Trade Cards and Advertising; Cigar Store Indians (Cigar Store in St Augustine); Trade Signs; Building Signs; Tavern and Inn Signs; Roadside America; Murals, Frescoes, and Building Decorations (Note the murals in Flagler Beach, Cocoa Beach, Ft. Lauderdale)

Our American History curriculum (homeschooling)

Continuing my series on what our lesson plans look like for anyone who is considering homeschooling. This is 4th grade American history.


Abeka, The History of Our United States from a Christian Perspective

Various Non-Fiction Children’s Books (noted below – there are a lot)

Age of Exploration and First Settlements

  • Introductory discussion – What distinguishes the American experiment from other countries
  • Read Chapter One – Europe: Where the New World Began; Columbus Discovers America
  • Chapter One, continued – North America is Claimed for England; America Gets Its Name; Did Anyone Ever Find a Sea Route to the Indies; A New Ocean is Formed; Ponce de Leon Explores Florida
  • Read Chapter Two – Spain: The Conquest of Mexico; France: Cartier Explores the New World
  • Chapter Two, continued – Spain: Coronado’s Search for the Seven Cities of Cibola; Spain: DeSoto Discovers the Mississippi; England: Drake the Dragon; France: The First French Settlement in the New World
  • Field Trip: St. Augustine Colonial Quarter

Native American History and Culture

  • Read Chapter Three – The Differences in American Indians; Indian Games; Indian Way of Life Changes; Missionaries to the Native Americans
  • Read Marie and Douglas Gorsline, North American Indians
  • Read Ellen Levine, If You Lived with the Iroquois
  • Read Peter and Connie Roop, If You Lived with the Cherokee
  • Read Ann McGovern, If You Lived with the Sioux Indians
  • Read Geraldine Woods, The Navajo
  • Read Bill Martin and John Archambault, Knots on a Counting Rope
  • Read E.K. Caldwell, Bear
  • Read Jonathan London, Fire Race: A Karuk Coyote Tale
  • Read Tim Jessell, Amorak
  • Read North American Indian (DK)

The Colonial Period

  • Read Chapter Four – Planting a Colony; England and the Bible; The Lost Colony
  • Chapter Four, continued – Jamestown: The First Lasting English Colony
  • Read Joyce Milton, Pocahontas: An American Princess
  • Chapter Four, continued – The Pilgrims: Lovers of Religious Freedom
  • Read Ann McGovern, If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620
  • Read Chapter Five – Settling the North; The Massachusetts Bay Colony; The Puritans; Governor John Winthrop: Rhode Island and Roger Williams; New Hampshire; Connecticut
  • Read Avi, Finding Providence: The Story of Roger Williams
  • Read Chapter Six – New York; Delaware; New Jersey
  • Chapter Six, continued – Pennsylvania and the Quakers
  • Chapter Six, continued – Virginia; Maryland; The Carolinas; Georgia: England’s Last Colony; Many People, One Land
  • Chapter Seven – A Picture of Colonial Life
  • Read Ann McGovern, If You Lived in Colonial Times
  • Read Barbara Brenner, If You Lived in Williamsburg in Colonial Times
  • Introductory discussion – What was the “Great Awakening” and how did it shape American culture?
  • Read Chapter Seven – Jonathan Edwards: A Great Puritan Preacher; John Wesley: Founder of the Methodist Church; George Whitefield: The Great Evangelist to America; Missionary Work in America
  • Read Chapter Nine – New France and Its Colonies; The Differences between French and American Colonies; The French and English Become Enemies
  • Chapter Nine, continued – The French and Indian War and Its Historical Significance

The American Revolution and Basic Civics

  • Read Chapter Ten – Thirteen English Colonies in America; The American Colonies Demand their Rights as Englishmen; Stamp Act; More Problems
  • Chapter Ten, continued – The Colonists Speak Out; New Taxes; The Boston Massacre; The Boston Tea Party
  • Chapter Ten, continued – The Revolutionary War Begins; The Colonists Prepare to Fight; The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
  • Read Esther Forbes, America’s Paul Revere
  • Read “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Chapter Ten, continued – The Second Continental Congress; The Battle for Bunker Hill; Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys; More Decisions
  • Chapter Ten, continued – The Declaration of Independence
  • Read the Declaration of Independence
  • Read James Cross Giblin, Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biography
  • Chapter Ten, continued – The War Continues; The Colonial Army in New York City; Patriots Who Risked Their Lives; The Colonial Army at Trenton, New Jersey; A Flag for Our Country
  • Chapter Ten, continued: The Colonial Army at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; The War on the Frontier; A New Navy; The War in the South; Victory at Yorktown, October 1781; Treaty of Paris
  • Read, Kay Moore, If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution
  • Read Chapter Eleven – After the War for Independence; The Articles of Confederation; The Constitution of the United States; A Brand-New Government
  • Read Elizabeth Levy, If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution
  • Read Syl Sobel, How the US Government Works
  • Read Elissa Grodin, D is for Democracy: A Citizen’s Alphabet
  • Chapter Eleven, continued – The New Republic; An Election; A New Capital
  • Read Ruth Belov Gross, If You Grew Up with George Washington

Manifest Destiny and Its Consequences

  • Read Chapter Twelve: America Pushes Farther West; Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Road; Settling the Northwest Territory; The Land Ordinances
  • Chapter Twelve, continued: The United States Doubles in Size; The Louisiana Territory; The War of 1812 and Its Historical Significance; Our National Anthem
  • Read Joyce Milton, Sacajawea: Her True Story
  • Chapter Twelve, continued: The Purchase of Florida; The Second Great Awakening
  • Chapter Twelve, continued: The United States Gains the Southwest; Texas Decides to Fight for Independence: The Alamo; War with Mexico; The Gadsden Purchase
  • Read Elaine Landau, The Alamo: Would You Join the Fight?
  • Chapter Twelve, continued: The Great Rush to California; The Oregon Territory; An Education System Evolves
  • Read Joseph Bruchac, The Trail of Tears; discuss how forcefully relocating Native Americans was a destructive aspect of settling the former colonies and new territories


  • Read Ellen Levine, If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon
  • How It All Began
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – Mapping the Way
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – The Decision to Go West
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – Wagon Trains
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – Hardships on the Trail
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – Popular Routes
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – The Transcontinental Railroad
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – Building Homes
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – Frontier Farming and Food
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – At Home and At School
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – Fun and Holidays
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – Cowboys and Indians
  • Rachel Dickinson, Great Pioneer Projects – Documenting the West
  • Play the Oregon Trail board game
  • Read Tod Cody, The Cowboy’s Handbook: How to Become a Hero of the Wild West
  • DK Eyewitness Books, The Wild West
  • Read Bree Burns, Sitting Bull and Other Legendary Native American Chiefs

Slavery in America

  • Read Chapter Thirteen – The North with Slavery; The South with Slavery; Troubled Times
  • Read Patricia McKissack, Amistad: The Story of a Slave Ship
  • Read Anne Kamma, If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America
  • Somersett
    • Quaker Protest
    • A Prince
    • A Vanished Slave and His Return
    • A Kidnapped Child
    • Jenny Slew
  • Read Virginia Hamilton, Many Thousand Gone: African-Americans from Slavery to Freedom – Part Two
    • Elizabeth Freeman
    • The Right of Chloe
    • Advertisements
    • Th Gabriel Prosser Uprising
    • Josiah Henson, Running-Away and Guide
    • A Slave
    • The Nat Turner Rebellion
    • Some Conductors on the Underground Railroad
    • Eliza
    • Isabella, Sojourner
    • The Captain of the Pearl
    • Solomon Northrup
    • Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey
    • The Brave Conductor
    • “All Right, Sir!”
  • Read Virginia Hamilton, Many Thousand Gone: African-Americans from Slavery to Freedom – Part Three
    • Anthony Burns
    • A Mother’s Despair
    • A Slave from Missouri
    • A Kentucky Runaway
    • Alexander Ross, Down from Canada
    • Jackson, of Alabama
    • Wisdom
    • An Unnamed Fugitive
    • Three Fugitives
    • Exodus
    • Proclamation
    • Deliverance
    • The Tide of Freedom
  • Read Ellen Levine, If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad
  • Read Monica Kulling, Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman
  • Read Marie Bradbury, More than Anything Else

The Civil War

  • Chapter Thirteen, continued – The Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation
  • Chapter Thirteen, continued – The Battles in the Civil War
  • Read Ann Turner, Drummer Boy: Marching to the Civil War
  • Read Kate Boehm-Jerome, Civil War Sub: The Mystery of the Hanley
  • Read Patrick O’Brien, Duel of the Ironclads: The Monitor vs The Virginia
  • Read Jean Fritz, Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln: The Story of the Gettysburg Address
  • Read D’Aulaires’ Abraham Lincoln
  • Read Ann McGovern, If You Grew Up with Abraham Lincoln
  • Chapter 13, continued – The Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln
  • Read Stephen Krensky, A Man for All Seasons: The Life of George Washington Carver; discuss what life was like for former slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation, opportunities and problems

Reconstruction and the Gilded Age

  • Read Chapter Fourteen – Rebuilding the South and The Last Frontier
  • Chapter Fourteen, continued – Indian Reservations; Railroads; The Homestead Act; The Oklahoma Land Rush; Cyrus McCormick
  • Read Chapter Fifteen – Immigration
  • Read Ellen Levine, If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island
  • Read Elvira Woodruff, The Memory Coat
  • Read Amy Hest, When Jessie Came Across the Sea
  • Read Russell Freedman, Immigrant Kids
  • Discussion – Immigrants in our own family from Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland; Catholic heritage brought with them
  • Read R. Conrad Stein, The Story of the Erie Canal; discuss the role immigrant labor played in massive public works projects like canals and railroads
  • Chapter Fifteen, continued – Steel and Oil; Famous American Inventors
  • Field Trip – John D. Rockefeller’s House in Ormond Beach
  • Read George Shea, First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers
  • Read Chapter Sixteen – Alaska and Hawaii
  • Watch “The Great Alaskan Race”; discuss the origins of the Iditarod
  • Chapter Sixteen, continued – The Spanish-American War and the Rough Riders; The Panama Canal
  • Read Chapter Seventeen – World War I
  • Chapter Seventeen, continued – The Roaring Twenties
  • Documentary on the Roaring Twenties
  • Chapter Seventeen, continued – The Great Depression
  • Read Steven Otfinoski, The Great Depression
  • Read Don Nardo, Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression

The World Wars and Modern American History

  • Chapter Seventeen, continued – The World Between the Wars; The Rise of Communism, Fascism, and Nazism
  • Read Angela Gluck Wood, Holocaust: The Events and Their Impact on Real People; DVD of Holocaust Survivors’ Stories
  • Read Michelle McCann, Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen
  • Chapter Seventeen, continued – World War II Begins; The United States Builds Its Armed Forces; Germany Attacks England; Hitler Surprises the Russians; Three Wars in One
  • Chapter Seventeen, continued – The Attack on Pearl Harbor
  • Read Shelley Tanaka, Attack on Pearl Harbor: The True Story of The Day America Entered World War II
  • Watch “Midway” movie about the war in the Pacific
  • Read Shelley Tanaka, D-Day: A Day that Changed America; discuss great-grandfather’s role in storming Normandy
  • Chapter Seventeen, continued – Victory Comes at Last; Continuing World Problems; Berlin is Divided; the Korean War; discuss family members who served in Korea
  • Chapter Eighteen – Freedom and Opportunity for All Americans
  • Read Robert Coles, The Story of Ruby Bridges
  • Read Ellen Levine, If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King
  • Read Philip Caputo, 10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War
  • Read Vietnam War (DK); discuss experiences of Vietnam veterans in the family
  • Read Judy Donnelly, Moonwalk: The First Trip to the Moon
  • Read James Buckley Jr., Home Address: ISS, International Space Station
  • Field Trip: Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral
  • Read Mitch Frank, Understanding September 11th: Answering Questions about the Attack on America
  • Reflections on what we’ve learned about our country

Unit on Florida History

  • Abeka, My State Notebook (research project)

TEXT: Abeka, Geography Teaching Maps

  • The World, Charts 1-2
  • North America – Physical Map, Charts 3-4
  • North America – Political Map, Charts 5-6
  • Early Settlements, Charts 7-8
  • The 13 Original Colonies, Charts 9-10
  • Our Nation Grows, Charts 11-12
  • Landforms, Charts 13-14
  • United States – Political, Charts 15-16

TEXT: Abeka, The History of Our United States, Geography / Maps and Reviews

TEXT: Kate Siber, National Parks of the USA

  • East
  • Central
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Southwest
  • West
  • Alaska and Tropics

Jason Chin, The Grand Canyon

Susan, Goodman, On this Spot: An Expedition through Time