Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Busy Learning: Incorporating History into Bedtime Stories

A major downside to not being in our house, is that most of our books are boxed up :(  Another one is that we don't have residency in our town yet, so we cannot get library cards to check out books.  Oftentimes, two of my sons will ask me for a story from my mouth (one that is not written in a book).  It is not always easy to come up with a made up story for them, sometimes they get downright silly, so it occurred to me last night to start using stories from history as their "bedtime stories from my mouth".

Since it was Independence Day yesterday, my story was about the first Independence Day.  I started off the story by saying "235 years ago..".  I talked about the Declaration of Independence, parts of the American Revolution, some of the presidents, the Statue of Liberty, and we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance together.  As I was talking to them, I could not remember many of the battles or events that took place during this time.  I could remember the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere, and Sam Adams, but there were a lot of things that seemed to slip my mind.  OK- this was a major reality check for me- I DO NOT WANT TO NOT BE SMARTER THAN A FIFTH GRADER!!!!  Lucky for me, none of my kids are in fifth grade yet ;) I am totally going today to buy a book on the American Revolution for my kids and I to read together.

During my story, I would periodically stop and do a pop quiz.  I would choose one of the kids and ask them a question about something I just said.  For example, when we were talking about presidents, I stopped and asked my 6 year old the name of the first president (he said "Grampa")- this caused big laughs!  For the Statue of Liberty, the questions were:  Which country gave it to America?, What is on her head?, Where is she?, and What is in her hands? (most of this they know actually from watching Little Einsteins).  They were all begging me to have a turn, there were no prizes obviously, but I think they liked the chance to share their knowledge and for the attention of being chosen.

Another thing that I decided to do to drag out the story, was to stop and ask the kids the definition of words I was saying.  For example:

Me:  What does decision mean?
Addison:  It means when you are playing rock, paper, scissors, and you get to choose.
Nathaniel:  It's when you vote.
Me:  It's when a choice needs to be made, whether by one or many people.  The choice can be achieved in many ways, by an individual choosing one way or another or by a group voting on their choice and the most votes winning.  
Nathaniel:  Like when we vote on what to have for dinner.

Have you ever realized how hard it can be to define a word without using another form of the word in the definition?  Another word we talked about was Independence.  I have begun to realize how many words my kids know how to use properly in a sentence, but do not know how to relay it's meaning when asked.

One of my favorite activities we did for school this year was "Word A Day"- I feel it is so important for kids to know how to define a word and use it in a sentence that they constructed themselves.  That book and activity deserves its own post, another day.

So, if you're looking for something different for bedtime, try incorporating a story from history.  You can even make it slightly fictional and have your child be in the story- kids just love to hear stories about themselves.  You could even read or sing from the dictionary.

Not only did the bedtime story last night open up a whole slew of bedtime story possibilities for the rest of the week about American History, it gave me a great field trip idea.  We are heading back to Massachusetts this week, and guess what is there? - The Freedom Trail!!  My seven year old is so pumped to go walk along it and I have to admit, I've never been on it in my entire life of living so close.

And, as part of our Summer Thrills Challenge (to be posted tomorrow), we are totally dropping tea bags in Boston Harbor, for our own Tea Party.

Do you live near a historical place that you've never visited or brought your kids to?  Incorporate it into a bedtime story and create a field trip- one less day of hearing "I'm bored" for you!

Happy story telling!!!

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