Resources for Celebrating President Washington’s Birthday

Back when most Americans saw themselves as citizens first and consumers second, February was known not only for Valentine’s Day, but also for the celebration of the births of two very important men in our country’s history: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

You wouldn’t know this to look around America today. Stores have been trimmed in red, pink and white hearts since five minutes after the Christmas clearance sales ended. But at one time, honoring two of our presidents on their February birthdays was a big priority for Americans.

In recent years, their birthdays have been combined into one shopping event called Presidents’ Day, but we can still celebrate their actual birthdays by teaching our children about George Washington, our first president, and Abraham Lincoln, the president who held the union together. As homeschooling parents, we have the time and opportunity to do this.

To get you started, here’s a list of helpful resources. Most are online, while others can be found in your public library (if necessary, via interlibrary loans). The ages of your children will determine what you choose to use. Keep in mind that even preschoolers can be taught something about these fine men, while teens could surely do with a review. I’ve only listed one good book for each president, as you should be able to find many others at your public library without too much effort.

George Washington (born February 22, 1732)

Official biography at White House Web site:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/gw1.html

Silhouette to print, color and cut out:
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/coloring-pages/presidents-day/george-washington-silhouette.html

Drawing to print and color:
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/coloring-pages/presidents-day/george-washington-sketch.html
(see left side of Web page for several other Washington activities listed under “George Washington Activities & Games”)

Interactive George Washington sites:

PBS’ George Washington Timeline (first of four pages)
http://www.pbs.org/georgewashington/timeline/index.html
Virtual tour of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home:
http://www.mountvernon.org/mansion

Interactive study of famous painting of George Washington:
http://georgewashington.si.edu

Movies to watch:

“The Life of George Washington”
http://www.earlyamerica.com/gwlifemovie2.htm
(free online movie, 35 minutes in three parts)

“George Washington” (1984 mini-series)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086720

Beautiful read-aloud book:
http://www.amazon.com/George-Washington-Ingri-dAulaire/dp/0964380315

Do Kids Need More Time in School?

President Obama recommends  shorter summer vacations for U.S. schoolchildren so they can attend school for more days than they do already, because he believes that they’re at a disadvantage compared to students in other countries.

His Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, says more school hours will “even the playing field” when it comes to comparing our schoolchildren to those in the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, homeschoolers excel with far fewer hours of instruction than most public schoolchildren receive. So is it really more hours of instruction that schoolchildren need?

First off, President Obama’s assertion appears to be inaccurate:

Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school.

“Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here,” Duncan told the AP. “I want to just level the playing field.”

While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it’s not true they all spend more time in school.

Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests – Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).

Apparently children in the countries that outscore ours in math and science attend school for more days per year but fewer hours per year. So the suggestion by Obama and Duncan that a longer school day results in “gains” (test scores, which do not necessarily equal learning) is not backed up by the foreign countries whose kids outscore ours. They actually have shorter school days.

But if you read the entire article, you find that merely educating kids isn’t really the point anyway. Here are your clues:

The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.

Summer is a crucial time for kids, especially poorer kids, because poverty is linked to problems that interfere with learning, such as hunger and less involvement by their parents.

That makes poor children almost totally dependent on their learning experience at school, said Karl Alexander, a sociology professor at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, home of the National Center for Summer Learning.

Aside from improving academic performance, Education Secretary Duncan has a vision of schools as the heart of the community.

Those hours from 3 o’clock to 7 o’clock are times of high anxiety for parents,” Duncan said. “They want their children safe. Families are working one and two and three jobs now to make ends meet and to keep food on the table.”

Do you see it? What we’re talking about here goes way beyond merely educating a child. This is about raising children because their parents have been deemed unable or unwilling. This is about schools becoming publicly subsidized daycare centers for school-age children, even on the weekends.

What it’s not about is how many hours of instruction it takes to educate a child so he can beat the math and science scores of kids in other countries. Homeschoolers have already demonstrated that.

First Sign of Spring: Homeschool Convention Brochures!

Convention season is on the way. It won’t be long before that brochure shows up in the mail box again, offering early bird discounts and listing a stellar line-up of homeschool speakers.

Some homeschoolers avoid conventions, believing that they can learn what they need to know from Web sites, books, magazines and of course, like-minded friends.

Those are all good resources, but there’s an energy found at the convention that you can’t get anywhere else. Being around so many other homeschooling parents is quite invigorating. Some speakers are really encouraging. And having the opportunity to flip through new homeschooling resources for hours is a huge plus.

The homeschool convention makes a good outing for the couple that can get someone to watch their children. My husband went with me a few times, which gave us a really good opportunity to talk about our children and how the homeschooling was going (what our goals were for the kids, etc.) in a way we could never find time for in our daily lives.

There are things you can do to make your homeschool convention experience a fantastic one. Ive experienced many homeschool conventions as an attendee and also as a vendor. You’ll find my tips for a great homeschool convention experience in “Keys to a Successful Homeschool Convention Experience.”

The Current Financial Crisis

The current financial crisis has been coming for a long time, but it’s just over the past few weeks that the media seems to have noticed, and boy, everyone’s noticing now that the stock market has plunged. It’s scary to contemplate the future in light of what we’re finally seeing in the news.

Christians know that God will look out for them, but also that they need to follow His guidance about money and how to handle it. As homeschooling parents, we have ample time and opportunity to share those precepts with our children.

But what we teach is not nearly as compelling to them as how (or whether) we walk our talk. Recently columnist Cal Thomas wrote about how we are to look at money:

Throughout Scripture, people are warned that money is a false G-d that leads to destruction. Wealth is best used when it becomes a river, not a reservoir; when it blesses and encourages others and does not solely feed one’s personal empire.

It’s easy to point to the greedy people who are responsible for the economic troubles our country now faces. But, are we living within our own means? Are we giving to our church, to other areas of need, and to those who need our help? We can talk ourselves blue in the face about how God wants us to handle the money He has given us, but our kids won’t really hear that talk unless it’s accompanied by action.