I must preface this entry by stating that I feel rather spoiled to be living less than 10 miles away from where the father of our country once resided. The grounds of Mount Vernon are beautiful and I love that I can take my son to actually experience history on days such as this, George Washington’s 285th birthday. In celebration of his birthday, tours of the estate are free today. We chose to attend the festivities (with free admission) last Monday for President’s Day since Lil’ Man has school today. If you ever plan to visit the estate on a free admission day, be sure to arrive well before opening. We had some obligations to attend to in the morning and did not get there until after 1 pm. You would have thought we had arrived at Disneyland in the middle of summer! We searched for parking for almost an hour before admitting defeat and parking a mile away at a nearby park. We entered the grounds a little after 3 pm and the first available time slot for a house tour was 7:15 pm. With a 4 year old in tow, we opted out of the tour and chose to enjoy the rest of the grounds.
Unfortunately, we missed the special events that had been organized for that day such as a military demonstration and birthday card making for the kids. We actually spent quite a bit of time in the learning center which I had not yet had the opportunity to peruse despite visiting the estate multiple times. Even with a concentration in history, I managed to learn quite a few new things about Washington. For example, Washington never let the sun catch him in bed. As a farmer, he always rose and set about to work before sunrise.
Last night, we asked Lil’ Man if he knew the significance of the estate we visited and who George Washington was (as well as his importance). Although we have discussed this before, it is quite difficult for a 4 year old to retain and recall this information (especially one like ours who seems to dedicate most of his long-term memory to storing information on hundreds of Pokemon and their evolutionary forms). To help Lil’ Man out, I created a book about George Washington with fill-in the blanks for him to complete. We read about George Washington in Ken Burns’ Grover Cleveland, Again!: A Treasury of American Presidents. (Quick geeky librarian brag moment: we picked up the book at the National Book Fair in D.C. and met Ken Burns. Just another awesome thing about living here!)
To be honest, I didn’t exactly gear this activity for Lil’ Man’s current grade level. Instead, it would be best geared towards those in second/third grade. I wanted to create something that introduced the idea of using expository texts to gather information and find answers. Right now this is well beyond Lil’ Man’s ability, but I figure what harm does it do to introduce it to him early? With some heavy hand-holding on my part, we read the booklet I created together and searched for answers in our text. It took some extra encouragement to get him to illustrate his pages. We discussed how pictures help us retain information and aid him in figuring out the text (context clues) in his leveled readers and BOB books.
If you are interested in completing the booklet with your children, you can download the booklet. The answers are as follows:
- page 1: president
- page 2: Virginia
- page 3: Martha
- page 4: school
- page 5: farmer
- page 6: 67
- page 7: $1/one dollar
Encourage children to create illustrations that support the text. Remind them that stick figures are okay! 🙂
With older children, this activity would be an excellent opportunity to practice their research skills. You can use the following resources:
- Google: The pros of conducting an Internet search is that it is widely accessible and yields immediate results. However, it leads to the challenge of combing through the results and finding reputable sources. Wikipedia is almost always one of the first search results and therefore the one kids will often go to first, not knowing that it may contain unverified (sometimes inaccurate) information.
- Databases: If you are going to look for online materials, I recommend sticking to your school or public library databases. The databases have been carefully evaluated and curated by the librarian.
- Public Library: In this modern age in which we are able to access information immediately via the Internet, we often seek to avoid going down to the library. However, libraries are a valuable resource and a librarian would be more than happy to guide your child through the search process. If you choose to first search the catalog from home before heading over to the library, I recommend the following strategies:
- have children limit their search to a specific type of reading material (e.g., book)
- limit the search to materials in their reading level
- be concise in your search terms (e.g., don’t enter “books on George Washington” in the search field)
The example below is a subject search which yielded a result of seven books within this particular school’s library.