Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Last Teenager

On December 4th, 2010, AH became a teenager!

AH celebrated with friends by hosting a sleep-over

The next day we celebrated as a family with a dinner chosen by the birthday boy.

Big brother made the trip home to celebrate!

Big Sis and MB watch as AH tries to blow out his candles.
Happy 13th Birthday, AH!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Unplanned Learning

A few months ago I signed up at C-SPAN's website to receive a free presidential poster.  It came to our house and I promptly put it in my "I'll get to this later" pile.  I completely forgot about it until I was cleaning off my desk a month later.  I opened it up and it was HUGE.  What was I going to do with this very large poster?  I was tempted to give it away. I folded it up and brought it down to the kitchen where AH was hanging out.  I showed him the poster and started unfolding it.  He was fascinated!  We laid it out on the kitchen floor and sat looking at all the information at our fingertips.  Not only did it include a list of presidents, but when they were born, other public service posts they had held, military service, what party they belonged to, America's population along the timeline, technology, supreme court rulings, constitutional amendments, and more!  We must have spent a good 45 minutes just looking and talking.  I wouldn't have considered this part of our "school day", but AH loved it so I couldn't just give this goldmine away.  It needed to be up, on display, somewhere we spend a lot of time.  Hmmmm....

The poster on our kitchen wall.

You wouldn't believe what we have done with this poster.  During dinner AH has taken to quizzing us on our presidential trivia (I am the worst!) and asking to be quizzed.  One day during breakfast he wondered just how many years of military service had been served by our presidents altogether.  He not only added all the years up, but then decided to make a chart with this information.  He found this exercise so interesting that it led to a series of charts that now grace the wall above the poster: Presidential states, birthdays, political parties, and more.

Years of military service.  No, Eisenhower did not serve the most years.

Presidential parties

Presidential birthday months
None of this has been planned.  It is AH's continuing interest in this poster and subject matter that has made learning history, social studies, and government so easy and so much fun.  He blew me away last week when he listed the first 8 presidents in order.  I asked if he could list all of them. He needed only one hint (he forgot LBJ).  I was reminded that learning occurs when you can take advantage of an interest and encourage a spark of curiosity to become a flame!

My kitchen won't win any decorating awards, but we sure have fun!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


We don't often go on vacation or travel, so when my husband suggested visiting his sister and her family in San Antonio, Texas for Thanksgiving I was ecstatic!  It had been 5 years since we were there and that time was busy with wedding bells and all the activity which surround such events.  AH was pretty excited, too.  He and his cousin, CN, are very close.  Whether it's been a couple of months or a year, they seem to be able to pick up where they leave off.  Visiting San Antonio also gave me inspiration for a unit study we completed before we left: The Alamo, of course!  AH had been there before, but was 2 or 3 years old at the time.  Here was the perfect opportunity to study some history and to reinforce that learning with an exciting field trip that included a plane ride!

I found some wonderful resources to use in our unit study:
Inside the Alamo by Jim Murphy
A phenomenal resource! I checked out 7 or 8 books on the subject, but this became our main guide through the unit study. We simply read one or two chapters each day and discussed the subject matter.  There are anecdotes, sidebars, maps and beautiful photographs and sketches which enhance the story.  The history is so thorough, I didn't feel the need to use any other book beside the one listed below.  As I was looking up the link to the book, I found a short study guide to the book.  I didn't use it but wanted to link to it for your convenience.
The Alamo website
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas have done an amazing job on this website.  There are facts, activity pages and curriculum, so I encourage you to explore this rich website.  Unfortunately there are several broken links but there are many other resources on the site.   Here are the resources we enjoyed:
Lesson plan for 4th grade
Lesson plan for 7th grade
Each of these extensive lesson plans has worksheets, coloring pages, a time-line, a map, diagrams of the Alamo and puzzles.
If you find that you can visit the Alamo, they have a history hunt list, a patch program and a young courier program for kids to complete.  AH wasn't interested in completing these, so I have no idea whether they are worth it or not.
Susanna of the Alamo by John Jakes
My 12 year old boy didn't enjoy this as much since it is written for a younger audience, but it did have a woman's perspective that I wanted to bring to the study.  We often hear that no one survived the Alamo, but women, children and slaves did survive and this book explores why Santa Anna released these few.

This had to be one of the simplest unit studies we've done.  AH didn't want to put together a poster or a power point presentation as we usually do, so we simply read, discussed and did the activity sheets. I did put together some "trading cards" with pictures of key men and women of this time period.  On the back, AH then wrote 3 interesting facts about each person.  I will upload the templates in the future since am finding it difficult to do right now. Of course, the big event was visiting the site of the battle.  Since photography isn't allowed within the Alamo, we don't have too many pictures to show you.  But here is what we have:

Our whole family in front of the Alamo.

We stopped by the Alamo on a Segway tour of downtown San Antonio.

San Fernando Cathedral where Santa Anna would climb to the top (of the old section, not visible) and survey his troops and the Alamo.

CN (left), Doug (AH's dad) and AH (right) enjoy a game of Balderdash with the family