American History Supplement Review: U.S.A Constitution Activity Book
Traditional methods for teaching include lectures, textbooks, and living literature. Homeschoolers often use more hands-on methods, too, with craft projects. Since my oldest prefers interactive learning methods, I was excited to find this workbook full of fun puzzles and activities related to the U.S. Constitution and the history surrounding it.
How It’s Set Up
U.S.A Constitution Activity Book has 33 puzzles and activities related to the U.S. Constitution and the history surrounding it, with an answer key at the book of the workbook. Each activity is introduced with information about a topic of historical significance. The activities and puzzles themselves include mazes, word searches, spot-the-difference pictures, word puzzles, etc.
Teacher prep will depend on how you want to use U.S.A Constitution Activity Book. We’re using it as a fun diversion from our typical American history studies, so my son is pretty much starting on the first page and doing the pages in sequential order. But you can use it as a resource in a more thoughtful way by assigning pages as the topics on those pages are covered in your regular history studies. For example, you may want to assign page 9 when learning about states ratifying the Constitution.
How much time a student spends on this workbook will depend on the difficulty level of the particular puzzle the student is working on. Most puzzles are pretty straightforward and will take less than 10 minutes to complete, but a few of the word puzzles may take a bit longer.
To whom would I recommend U.S.A Constitution Activity Book?
Students that do well with Interactive learning methods since this is an activity book.
Students that prefer to learn in an Independent way.
Students that love puzzles and games.
Students reading on at least a fourth-grade reading level.
I would NOT recommend to…
Students that do not learn well with Interactive learning methods.
Students that do not enjoy puzzles and games.
Students that are not fluent readers.
My Best Tips for Using U.S.A Constitution Activity Book
I find it helpful to check in with my student after he completes his activity page for the day. I check for understanding by having him read the activity introduction aloud and asking him what the activity/puzzle revealed to him.
Know why you’re using this workbook. Since we use U.S.A Constitution Activity Book to learn about history, and not necessarily to work on critical thinking skills, I help my son if he’s struggling with an activity.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about U.S.A Constitution Activity Book
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I’m using Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles, published by Scholastic, with my soon-to-be fifth grader. I chose it for some fun handwriting practice during the summer, but we may continue with it next school year.
Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles Review
Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles takes a novel approach to handwriting practice. Rather than practicing handwriting with dry source material, students write jokes and riddles in cursive. Since I have three boys that love a good joke, I knew that my oldest would love sharing new jokes with his brothers.
How It’s Set Up
Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles has 42 practice pages. The first two practice pages give the student an opportunity to practice writing the alphabet, first uppercase then lowercase letters. There isn’t any instruction about how to form the letters, other than arrows to serve as a reminder. So this workbook assumes that the student has learned how to write in cursive already and just needs some practice.
Since there can be differences in how cursive letters are formed (ex, the letters F and T), it’s important to note if letter formation reflects what the student has learned in the past. Since my son learned a different way to form some letters, I gave him the option to continue writing the way he learned, or try out the new letter formations. He chose to stick with what he learned in the past.
All practice pages other than the alphabet pages have the same setup:
the top half gives the opportunity to practice writing words from that page’s joke/riddle (written in its entirety below the practice words)
the bottom half has lines for the student to write the joke/riddle
the margin gives handwriting tips for the student and a bonus joke/riddle
A blank page at the end of the workbook allows the student to add his own jokes/riddles.
Students have the option to create their own joke booklet when the workbook is completed (instructions at the front of the book). A dashed line between the top and bottom portions of each page shows where to cut.
You may want to decide how you want to scheduleCursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles. I have my son use it about four times a week. He writes the practice words on a practice page one day, and then writes out the joke the next day. Other options for using this workbook include:
having the student do one practice page per day
allowing the student to work out of it as much as he likes per handwriting session
rotating it with another handwriting workbook or copywork
How much time a student spends on this will depend on how you use it. The way we use it, it takes my son less than 10 minutes a day.
To whom would I recommend Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles?
Students that have previously learned how to write in cursive and just need practice.
Students that love jokes!
I would NOT recommend to…
Students that need instruction on how to form cursive letters.
My Best Tips for Using Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles
Keep it fun. Don’t require too much in one day
If your student learned how to form cursive letters in a different way than shown in this workbook, and you are allowing them to continue with the way that they’ve learned previosly, provide a handwriting guide showing the familiar cursive letters so that your student doesn’t get confused.
If you like the idea of making handwriting practice more fun for your child but don’t love the content of this workbook, use books in your home library to create your own handwriting curriculum. Focus on books that delight your student, and choose sentences or very short passages. Maybe underline words for them to practice, create copywork forms using a cursive font, or handwrite into a notebook for your student to copy.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles
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Bob Books are a series of sets of phonics readers. I’ve purchased and used five sets of these readers in our homeschool, currently with my youngest.
Bob Books Review
Bob Books have been a fun addition to our homeschool as a supplement to our phonics curriculum. While each reader is short, simple, with usually only one color to a page (besides black and white), the stories are silly and short enough to become favorites with kids. The short stories allow even a beginning reader to easily read an entire book in one sitting, which has thrilled my kids and increased their confidence. I often hear, “I want to read another!” from my newest reader.
Each set comes with:
a varying number of brief, paperback readers (possibly 8, 10, 12)
a parent guide that gives tips for teaching your child to read
and some sets include an additional resource, like flash cards or puzzles.
Teacher prep consists of choosing the box set appropriate to your student’s reading level. For help in this regard, refer to the back of the box – you’ll find available box sets listed in order. You’ll sometimes find even more specific information, like an “Appeals to” suggestion for grade (ex. “Appeals to Pre-K-1st Graders”) and a suggested reading level (ex. “Reading Level Kindergarten”).
Since we use Bob Books as a supplement to our phonics curriculum, we usually read just one book a day, which take less than five minutes. Sometimes we extend reading time by discussing words that rhyme, reading comprehension questions, etc.
Students that love the Written Word but aren’t yet fluent readers will likely love Bob Books and feel so accomplished when they can read an entire book!
Students that prefer Independent activities will enjoy these readers on their own, possibly after having read each reader with a parent.
I would NOT recommend to…
Students that are highly Visual may not love the simple aesthetic of Bob Books, although the charming pictures may make up for the simplicity.
My Best Tips for Using Bob Books
The simplicity of each reader may tempt you into rushing through each book with your child. But remembr that, while the readers may look like pamphlets to us as adults, to your child each reader is a REAL BOOK. So treat them like real books. Allow your student to read it through slowly and to have fun with it. Talk about the characters. Ask your child what they think will happen next. Discuss how much you both liked, or disliked, the story.
You guys, how is it possible that March has snuck up on me? Most years it feels like I sneeze and February is over. But this February was tough for me. I was sick for much of the month and an abundance of rain made us all a bit stir crazy.
What’s a girl to do? Think of my favorite things, of course! Let’s turn this frown upside-down and think of the positives!
1 Cozy Cardigan | 2 Butter Dish | 3 The Bible Project | 4 Apple TV | 5On Reading Well | 6 Homeschool Planning System | 7 Sour Cream Enchiladas | 8 Dip Powder Manicures | 9 My Husband’s Humor!
February Favorites 2019
1. Favorite Clothing Item – Cozy Cardigan
Winter illness begs for warm comfort. This cozy cardigan was up for the job! It was a Christmas gift from my parents and is perfect for a casual comfy vibe when going out-and-about. And since I’m vertically challenged, it’s long on me so is equally perfect for when I’m sitting by the fire in my jammies.
2. Favorite Kitchen Tool – Butter Dish
It may seem strange to wax poetic about a butter dish, but this is a real MVP in our kitchen. We use Kerrygold butter, which is an odd size, but this butter dish holds it perfectly with room to spare. I keep it on the counter near the toaster, and this style butter dish keeps the mess to a minimum if my kids decide to butter their own bagels in the morning. And since the butter stays soft, I can quickly whip up grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. What can I say…when I’m sick, I have a warm place in my heart for anything that makes life easier.
3. Favorite Infotainment – The Bible Project
The kids and I have been watching Bible Project videos in the morning during breakfast, and they are FASCINATING. So good. They’re targeted to adults (and believe me, I’ve learned a lot), but my kids ask to watch them, too. The whole idea of combining in-depth Biblical studies with comic-book-style art is genius.
4. Favorite Tech – Apple TV
We watch The Bible Project via their app on the Apple TV. I originally purchased an Apple TV so that I could mirror my MacBook or iPad to a TV screen, but it’s become a piece of tech that I use every day. I use it to play music I’ve purchased in iTunes; to watch PBS Kids, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Videos, and Vudu; and I even love the screen saver that displays my favorite photos that I have stored in the cloud.
5. Favorite Read – On Reading Well
I purchased On Reading Well on a whim when I was browsing in a bookstore and promptly dropped it in my reading basket. I was curious about the topic and thought it would be a quick read. Instead, I’ve been so entranced by the author’s writing style, word usage, and content that I haven’t even made it out of the introduction yet! I’m now determined to take it very slow with this one and have enjoyed re-reading sections over several days until I feel like I’m ready to move on.
6. Favorite Homeschool Help – My Planning System
I promise you that this isn’t a shameless plug for my own blog content and videos…I’m genuinely so grateful to find a system that works for us! Since I do so much of my lesson planning way ahead (via Homeschool Planet) and set up a workbox system that gives my kids independence in getting their work done, days that Mommy is running at way less than 100% aren’t completely wasted, and getting ready for the next day requires little effort from me.
7. Favorite Recipe – Sour Cream Enchiladas
Another book that I added to my reading basket on a whim was the Magnolia Table cookbook. I enjoy reading a couple of recipes a few times a month, along with the beautiful pictures and little peeks into life with the Gaines family. Many of the recipes are what I would call semi-homemade, which is perfect for a busy mom that still wants to feed her family well. I’ve tried several recipes and my kids have loved them all, which is saying a lot because my kids are not shy about proclaiming their discontent (“This is disgusting,” is something that I’ve heard way too often at the dinner table, and yes, we’re working on kindness and gratitude because wow). The big hit this month was the Sour Cream Enchiladas recipe. Even I tucked into a couple of helpings, and I’m not a big enchilada fan.
8. Favorite Self-Care – Dip Manicure
When I was single and care-free, I spent many an hour in the nail salon. Having perfect fingers and toes seemed like a necessity, and I enjoyed the pampering. But once I started birthing babies, my salon visits greatly diminished and I didn’t care about manicures anymore. I didn’t want to spend the little bit of free time I had at a nail salon, and just wanted to keep my nails cut short so that I could do All The Things.
Now that my youngest is four years old, I feel like I can breathe again. I started caring about how my hands look, but nail polish, nail stickers, and even shellac couldn’t withstand the abuse I put my hands through every day. I was so happy to learn that the nail industry has come a long way in the ten years since I’ve received regular manicures and introduced dip powders. It’s AMAZING. There are so many colors to choose from (I’m currently sporting a pinky-beige sparkly color – N16 if you care), and even the slip of a knife hasn’t ruined my manicure. I’m officially a fan.
9. Favorite End-of-the-Day Treat – My Husband’s Humor
When I was single (and I was single for a long time, didn’t marry until I was 33), I assumed that I would marry someone with a personality similar to my own. Thankfully, I eventually realized that marrying someone like me would be the most boring thing! I decided that I would much prefer marrying someone the opposite of me – silly, goofy, fun.
Enter my husband. 🙂
He’s such a goober. Makes us smile every day. Knowing that it has been a tough month for me, he’s been so good about being cute and silly at the end of the day, even when he’s had a long day, too. The maxim that opposites attract has certainly been true in our case.
Aaaaaahh, it was such good medicine to reflect on the positive aspects of the past month. May March be full of joy and positivity for you and me both!
If you’ve seen my current Homeschool Curriculum Choices video, you already know that I’ve struggled with my choice for homeschool history curriculum this year. We began the year in experimental mode, trying a couple of things to see what sticks, but generally hoping that we could study American History as a group (with kids in 4th grade, 1st grade, and pre-k) in a low-pressure and enjoyable way.
We’ve had some successes and a couple of…well, not exactly failures, but things that were not as successful as I’d hoped. The thing that surprised me the most was how emotional I’ve been over the study of history. But I’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s look at some specifics.
Homeschooling with Minecraft
My boys love Minecraft, and my oldest has been begging me to work Minecraft more into homeschooling, so I decided to give Minecraft Homeschool a go via Skrafty.
Skrafty for Homeschool History
Skrafty has a number of areas available for study, but we decided to focus on just the U.S. History portion. I planned for my son to work through the lessons once a week, and expected it to be pretty hands-off for me. I was hoping that it would work well as a supplemental learning activity.
In general, I was pretty impressed. Each unit had six or so lessons, with a written portion and a video. The students completed quizzes (sometimes for each lesson) and were given a Minecraft build assignment for each lesson, as well.
Struggles with Skrafty
And here’s where we get to my struggles with the website. My son usually needed some sort of reference picture to create his builds. I don’t let my kids Google (that’s a whole other issue), and we didn’t have a lot of reference books (something I hope to rectify in the future). So he needed help from me to find the reference pictures. I’m more than happy to help him, but didn’t love that it was last-minute help since there was no way (that I know of) for me to see what topic each lesson would cover in advance. So he would read/watch the lesson, then needed me to get started on the build, interrupting whatever I was doing. Not the hands-off experience that I’d hoped for.
Another problem I had with the builds was that not all assignments were a great fit for a Minecraft build. For example, building an Iroquois village is pretty straight-forward and doable. But some assignments, like showcasing events in an explorers life, were, I felt, too ambiguous for a younger child. And even some of the suggestions, like building a statue of an explorer, were too difficult and advanced for even my very knowledgeable Minecraft builder.
The bottom line is that some assignments just really weren’t fun. Since we were doing this specifically for fun, I decided to forego the U.S. History portion of Minecraft Homeschool for the time being. It probably would have been better-used by an older, more independent student, or as the ONLY history (not a supplement).
Our Other History Resources
When I’m putting together a learning unit for my kids, I try to get a variety of resources that cover the same general information. I find that covering the same information in different ways helps the learning to stick better with my kids.
Because I have a love affair with spreadsheets, I put together a handy-dandy spreadsheet to keep track of resources I come across. In my spreadsheet, I have columns for videos, reference resources, read-alouds, independent or guided reading, and a miscellaneous column for fun activities (activity books, lapbooks, Minecraft, etc). I enter items into the spreadsheet if they’re a possibility for us, but we won’t end up doing everything.
Favorite Resources So Far
Some of our favorite resources so far have been:
What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know (and others in this series) – I’m using the American History portions of these books for their historical summaries. The summaries are written perfectly for children, so I like to read from these books as we enter a new topic.
Sticker Fun History – My kids LOVE this book. It’s cute and funny and very informative. We used pages from the explorers portion of this book this year.
Encounter (Jane Yolen) – This picture book shook me up. It looks at Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World through the eyes of a Taino boy. As someone that most likely has Taino blood, I really wanted to share this other point of view with my children.
A Lion to Guard Us (Clyde Robert Bulla) – I love his books. They’re appropriate for children without being cartoonish or dumbing down truth.
Pilgrim Cat (Peacock, Carol) – A fun picture book about a fictional stray cat’s participation in events on the Mayflower and beyond.
William’s House (Howard, Ginger) – We loved this picture book that shows, in story form, how a new environment affected architecture in the New World.
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims (Bulla, Clyde Robert) – This book made me go online and read more about Squanto! So good.
Finding Providence (Avi) – It was so interesting to me to see that, even as people were fleeing to the New World for religious freedom, human nature took over and those that were fleeing persecution were making the same mistakes as their persecutors.
The Sign of the Beaver (Speare, Elizabeth George) – This has been such an interesting book, both about the way of life back then, and the responsibilities that even a 12-year-old boy had. We did have discussions about terms that were used back then (“Indian” and “savage”) and why those terms are incorrect. To be clear, I didn’t feel that the book was disrespectful at all, but I just wanted to be sure that my kids understood.
Using History Read-Alouds
For read-alouds, I’m using both picture books and novels. When I’m reading from a novel, I’ve found that I need to keep the kids’ hands busy as they’re listening. (If you follow me on Instagram, you know that the struggle is real.) I generally let my preschooler run in and out during the reading if he’s especially antsy. But in an effort to quell the chaos, I’ve collected a list of activities for us to try…and I’m sharing it with you because I care. 🙂 Just click the image below and you can download it for free!
Struggles with Homeschool History Curriculum
And now we’ve arrived at the emotional part of my experience with teaching history this year.
When I first started researching curriculum possibilities for early American History, my main concern was the dumbing down and even altering of facts in order to make history lessons appropriate for children.
For example, historical figures like Benjamin Franklin tend to be presented as harmless, bumbling geniuses. The truth is that he was probably a dirty old man! And how about Pocahontas? After doing my own reading about that poor young woman’s life and the ways that she was used and abused, I was LIVID that there is any other narrative.
And no, I don’t want to share all of that with my kids just yet. Young children are not emotionally equipped to hear all the negative things, some of the really worsts truths out there. So I’m not saying that all that should be presented to children. But do we have to stray so far from the truth? I was determined to study history with my children in a way that would preserve truth while presenting only age-appropriate information.
And as a Christian – not a cultural Christian, not a social Christian, but a born-again, Jesus-loving, Bible-believing Christian – I was also interested in teaching history from a Christian world view. But even that desire had its problems.
The biggest issue I see is that some sources interpret history by claiming to know the mind of God. Specifically, there’s a theory that God intended for the “New World” to be “discovered” at that exact moment in history, specifically by Christopher Columbus. Much is made about the name “Christopher” meaning “Christ-bearer.” He’s portrayed as a hero that was brave enough to follow God’s will and bring the message of Christ across the world.
I question all of this.
How do we know that it wasn’t within God’s will for the “New World” to be populated by people (other than those that we now call Native Americans) at an earlier point in history, or even later? I suppose it depends on an individual’s view of free will, but I personally believe that God gives us free will and freedom in exploration. Regardless, I can’t know for sure because I can’t fully know the mind of God.
But even if I accept the premise that God determined exactly when Europeans would “discover” the “New World” and determined that Christopher Columbus would be the man to do it, does it also follow that he deserves hero worship? The answer is an emphatic no! Even if Columbus was God’s chosen instrument, that does not mean that Columbus was a perfect man or that we should gloss over the terrible things he did or the greed that motivated him.
I think that one of the best reasons to study history is to allow the lessons of the past to inform our current and future decisions, as well as the way we see current events, both individually and corporately. In order to do that, we need to recognize that people are complicated, a mixture of good and bad. Consequently, nobody makes the right decision all of the time. Sometimes people make bad decisions, learn from them, and make better decisions. And sometimes good decisions are made by people living out some negative things.
I also want my children to understand that imperfect people can have a great impact on millions of people in the present and the future.
That is a message of both hope and caution to my children.
The hopeful message is that the decisions they make and the service they do can have a great, positive impact.
The cautionary message is that doing something good and impactful doesn’t excuse or wipe away poor choices. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about forgiveness. Yes, we should forgive and hope for forgiveness from other people. But the end does not justify the means. Choices have consequences that are not reversed just because we have a change of heart or did something “good.”
I believe that presenting historical figures in a nation’s history in a more honest way makes them, and their choices (good or bad), more relevant to our children.
Phew! Like I said, I had a lot of emotions, as well as thoughts and ponderings, on this subject. I’m feeling very “extra” right now! I hope that this review of our hits and misses so far this year was helpful! And please be on the lookout for more updates of our year…
At two years old, my youngest has given us quite the adventure during homeschool (or any other) hours. Last year, any old toy entertained Gabriel happily, but these past few months he has become a whirlwind of mischief and destruction. And there’s no shame in his game – when it comes to correction, my littlest one is all “YOLO!” and “No Regrets!”
When homeschooling goes awry. This angelic-looking boy right here is giving me more gray hairs…
I kid you not, just a couple of hours after writing the words above, I discovered the playroom TV looking like this:
Which is leaving me feeling like this:
Nobody took the blame for the state of our soon-to-be-trashed TV, but if I were a betting woman, I’d say the curly-haired cherub is at fault. Even before the TV was destroyed, I knew I would need to up my Toddler Entertainment game. So I did a few things:
I divested the schoolroom of random toys and tried to replace them with toys and activities with some educational merit. We already had educational toys/activities that I used with my preschooler, but I also browsed Timberdoodle, Mardel, and Amazon for ideas for toddler-specific items.
I purposed to do an educational activity in the schoolroom with Gabe most days. Besides the joy of having some one-on-one time together and filling up his love tank, he might actually learn something! And he is eager to do “schoolwork” just like his brothers, so who am I to hold him back? I don’t usually have planned activities for him, but instead let him take the lead and tell me what he wants to play with.
I made a short list of focus areas for Gabriel for this school year, just like I did for his older brothers. The list includes identifying colors, one-to-one correspondence (he could already count), maintaining his ability to identify letters, and strengthening fine motor skills. So if Gabe chooses to play with blocks, for example, I’ll ask him to identify colors or set aside a few and ask him to count them. He then practices building towers (strengthening those fine motor skills). We spend probably less than two minutes doing that kind of thing each day, but it adds up and he’s already learned a lot this year.
I feel like this little plan has helped out, but I’m not gonna lie, Gabriel is still Two and feeling all of his Two-Year-Oldness. But I can’t imagine what it would be like if I didn’t have any plan for directing his abundant energy.
In the video below, I’ve shared some of our favorite educational toys and activities so far. In an ironic twist, I mention in the video (which I filmed days ago) the possibility that my little angel will throw a toy and break a TV. Oh irony, thy name is Gabriel.
I hope that you find this video helpful, and please share in the comments if you have any suggestions for productive ways to keep my little hurricane busy! 🙂
Once upon a time, I was a single woman with an engineering career (Bachelor of Computer Engineering, Summa Cum Laude, University Honors Scholar, National Merit Scholar) and a lot of time to myself. Read More...