Curriculum for 3rd Graders Wanting to Learn About the US States

A useful question recently asked in a Facebook group I frequent. Here are the suggestions:

World-geography-games.com and Where the States Got Their Shapes on Netflix. Not curriculum, but fun ways to learn about the states and their locations.

Teachers pay teachers has some good units. That is my go-to when I can’t find something. I love the Art History I got this year.

We have been using these pages and playing games: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/52635889370442935/sent/?sender=52636026803322987&invite_code=4f1fa9c14c0940c796059a917cecc69c

Make sure to check out the Stack the States app!

There’s a 50 states unit in the 9-11 level of Moving Beyond the Page. You can buy just that unit.

We bought a states coloring book that has information about each state also. I can’t remember the name of the book but I found it on Amazon.

We have the stack your states app and the card/board game called scrambled states of America. My almost 7-year-old has learned a few just from a handful of times playing those games.

We used Stack the states too! She loved the challenge of the app and it kept her engaged. No busy work, she didn’t even realize she was learning so much. The retention rate is amazing.

There’s a workbook of close reads from spectrum on each state that I’ve paired with a unit from TPT and biography close reads for both national parks and famous figures in that state. I’m adding tree and bird info and some postcards for writing practice. I’m making a folder for each to do throughout the year as interested.

 

Exposing Our Children to the 2016 Presidential Election

I’m not happy about the number of inappropriate election scandals this year. Elections are a great time for educational experience. Instead, this year the presidential candidates are dead set on insulting each other.

I think a 10-year-old with autism said it best, “ALL politicians lie!”

I think the election is an important issue and I’ve gathered some opinions about how other homeschoolers are approaching the election.

The best way to make the 2016 election a learning experience

I have a older teen, so we’re not hiding the coverage from him. We are talking about realities of life in this time, when everything is potentially recorded, how we expect him to interact with women and fact checking ads.

We have a 10-year-old also. We are grateful he’s not really interested in the news yet. But in 2020, he’ll get the same. We will probably start with the congressional election 2 years earlier.

I love this idea! Put the kids in charge of fact checking! This is a great way for them to learn and hopefully uncover the right information. However, they might begin to learn that even the fact check websites are sometimes biased.

Use Game of Thrones

This is one way to encourage political education!

First, we watched Game of Thrones and discussed political intrigue. Then, I set him loose on internet news sites and let him make his own decision about a presidential pick. Maybe not conventional, but he now has a better grasp of politics than most adults and he has become very interested in politics all the way down to our recent school board elections. (I know, why would a homeschool kid care about the school board, but he did.) I don’t censor what he watches, but I am available for questions and to discuss how what he watches compares to reality and our family morality. This was not my original plan on how to teach politics. He had me at my wits’ end and his is what happened.

Be completely open about it

This is another solution, simply be 100% transparent.

I am completely open about it with my 12 year old daughter. We talk about rape culture, dismissing women, how women are sexualized in advertising and the media. We even read some of the tweet storm of women discussing what happened to them. We then discussed how to handle it when someone tries something like that with her. Don’t be uncomfortable, don’t shrink yourself and smile, loudly say what needs to be said, “get off me! Don’t touch me!” And strike out where you can hurt them. We discuss how no one has the right to touch her…ever.

Starting early on is never a bad idea. My best friend started talking to her boys about the proper way to respect women at an early age.

I discuss it with my 12 yr old granddaughter. I have to be careful, because her parents are on the other political spectrum from me 🙂 I hear their “talking points” when she makes a statement. So, I tell her MY position, explain why I believe what I believe, show her how to research and make informed decisions. And, I try not to throw up at some of her “canned” comments she heard from her parents LOL But, I tell her, it’s MY opinion, and others disagree. I tell her she needs to study, watch, listen, learn for herself. Anything I say, she needs to verify it for herself. I explain about moral values vs religious values – that a religion may have unique values that should be allowed to be practiced personally, but have no place in our laws. That we don’t want to live in a Theocracy and why. We ralk about women’s issues, about why we need to stay true to ourselves, how our culture still demeans women, and that we CAN make a difference if we continue to speak out against misogyny. Anyway, we have good discussions, and hopefully, she will make up her own mind based on truth, not media talking points, or just because someone shouts it louder. She’s smart, inquisitive, and wants to learn and understand. It’s scary thinking that she may decide differently! But, I don’t want a robot, I want her to grow up into a thinking, informed woman. Since I am her teacher, but her parents are her PARENTS, I walk a fine line when I teach her about our government, political process, and political climate!

Nasty ads are hidden everywhere

My youngest is 5 and can read extremely well. So she has picked up a few things here and there. Ads on her favorite YouTube channels can be the worst. At this age, I want to keep her as sheltered as possible. When she does ask questions, I’ll answer them and look up the answers.

I wanted to add.. it’s been a good conversation starter with my teen about certain issues.

What happens when you don’t have cable?

We don’t have cable but the kids hear a little here or there. Thanks to my MIL, my 10 and 13 year olds got an earful about Trump v Clinton. Good opportunity talk. It goes something like this:

People have different opinions on different things. People will try to make it seem like their guy/gal is a savior, and the other guy is a devil. In reality they all have shortcomings. Why? (they answer with jokes and reasonable answers.) The candidates are humans, and we know the only perfect person was Jesus, and he was smart enough to not want to get into politics! (That’s our point of view.)

Some people think X or Y about Z. You can see why they think that, because blah, blah, blah. But on the other hand, blah, blah, blah. People’s experiences and who they listen to influence what the believe. People don’t even agree on what the government should be in charge of. (We sidetrack for a minute here on the Constitution.)

Then they ask what I believe on a couple of things, I tell them in basic terms and then tell them why. We should always know WHY we believe something so that we can better state why our opinion is valid. Sometimes talking to people who you disagree with will teach you something you didn’t know. (Rare with adults but possible!) Sometimes we need to learn more about a topic to have a better opinion.

I always make sure to say that not everyone agrees, but that’s OK as long as we can be kind to one another. God loves everyone so we should too. (Derailment of conversation when 10 year old parrots some of Nana’s lovely opinions.) I then ban them from stating political opinions, but encourage them to either ask questions of why to people they think this or that (for the sake of not actually banning political conversations, which I wish I could do a little.)

 

How Secular Homeschoolers Should Teach Religion

Before I’m judged for using “teach religion” in the title I want to make something very clear. I’m a secular homeschooler. But that does not mean I am not open-minded. I am an inclusive homeschooler. What I mean is that I am willing to consider any type of resource, curriculum, advice, co-ops, and so on if I believe it might be the best available. I’m also unwilling to teach a narrow worldview or shield my children from religion — just as some religious homeschoolers attempt to shield their children from the secular world.

Religion heavily influences society

There is no getting around it, religion permeates our society. This is an election year, so we really get the full dose. We may have a separation of church and state, but that doesn’t mean that religion isn’t fully involved.

Although ‘statistically’ the number may be dwindling, most people in the United States hold a religious belief. Even if some of these polling sites are biased, the number is large.

I’m sure some secular homeschoolers believe that ‘religious education’ is completely unnecessary as an aspect of their homeschool. Maybe it can just be handled under the ‘parenting’ category.  I disagree. I think that is a little unrealistic considering the weight and influence that religion had on the past. History will always be infused with religion. And, from a literal and somewhat philosophical standpoint, everything that we learn is history. Everything we know is from the past. Religion influenced science, literature, politics, and wars. It was the leading proponent of education.

Most secular families that I know have religious family members. I exalt respect as one of the highest virtues. Personally, I would never, ever want to shame a member of my family.

Religion is all around us

Religion is on our money. Religion is in the Pledge of Allegiance. People exclaim “bless you,” after a sneeze. You can find it on mottos, in schools, pop songs, bumper stickers, and so on. “God” is literally part of our cultural language.

I think we should be reserved in our approach to addressing such issues. Personally, I would never want to raise angry children that push back on all things religion. But that is a risk I see when we want to quickly explain or dismiss such matters.

Most readers probably agree with me at this point. I don’t think I’ve said anything too terribly controversial. Nevertheless, I don’t think that many of the secular homeschoolers I have met devoted enough curriculum ‘time’ to religion. Of course, we do not want curriculum that is filled with Bible verses. We don’t want information distorted to favor one religious worldview. And, worst of all, the possibility for complete misinformation. But I think we should be spending plenty of time making sure that our children truly understand religion. There is a reason that religion and culture is a very common ‘introductory’ class that many colleges suggest for freshmen students.

You have a very rare opportunity

humanism

I won’t discuss my reasons for homeschooling in depth. But, one reason that I homeschool is the humanist aspect. (So much value is lost in public schools. So many opportunities, wasted. The structure and method are so confining and do so little justice to our rich history.) And your ‘rare’ opportunity is the ability to teach religion without religious interference.

Maybe I should have started this post with the question, “what is religious education?” I believe that if someone is religiously educated they received ‘training’ or ‘introduction’ to all religions. People in the United States so quickly assume that ‘religious education’ means Christian textbooks. It could not be farther from the truth.

Religion (generally) gets in the way of religious education

You have the rare opportunity to really teach religion. When a religious person teaches religion, they teach religion from their angle. Religion starts with their religion and moves forward. In religious education, children are always either taught one belief system, or they aren’t really learning anything. Beneficial, rich, and wholesome religious education includes many religious, cultural, and historical perspectives.

You have the unique opportunity to teach these things without the emotional ties. You can celebrate all the religious holidays. They can all be learning experiences. There is so much to learn from religion.

Think of all the field trips

Think of all the wonderful field trip opportunities you have! Every major religion near you will likely be open to giving you a tour. When you teach religion to your children you will be able to identify some people (in public) as being religiously affiliated based on their clothes and symbols. You’ll be able to appreciate religious landmarks. The list goes on and on.

Respect their fun learning experience

Events with religious ties can be fun! Bible stories can be fun! Some of the most beautiful artwork is religious. There is no need to be a ‘downer’ when your child has the opportunity to enjoy a religiously themed event, or to appreciate a masterpiece, or to listen to a new tale.

Do the subjects their rightful justice

inside-philosophy

You might have been raised in a secular house. Or, you might have a religious background. If you are not educated in a spectrum of religions it would be a shame if your ‘lack of experience’ was a buzzkill. When you get the opportunity to tell/teach your children the story of Siddhartha, don’t half-ass it because you don’t believe it, or don’t understand it. When your child encounters the creation tale or another biblical story, greet it with enthusiasm. Some atheists claim that religion is no different than Santa Claus.

Some atheists claim that religion is no different than Santa Claus. For a multitude of reasons, I would disagree. Nevertheless, would you kill a child’s joy of believing in Santa or the Tooth Fairy just because you didn’t have faith in it?

Faith is never the problem

Something to keep in mind — faith itself is never the problem. Faith is an outward or inward projection of a belief. We all have beliefs and we all have faith. If we may dive much deeper into the philosophical trenches for a moment, we cannot function without faith. We cannot prove in the strong sense of the word. We lack control over most aspects of our lives. Don’t let your seemingly autonomous life convince you otherwise. On faith and layers of empirical experience you expect that when you go to sleep tonight that the sun will greet you in the morning. You embrace each day with faith that your partner will stay faithful to you. You place a great deal of faith into our currency. If someone questions you, you understand that our little slips of paper aren’t actually ‘backed’ by anything. And, even if they were, we still use that paper symbol in faith that it will continue to hold its value.

Faith is never the issue.

Your children will eventually have friends that are religious. Those religious friends can do amazing things for this world — for your life and your child’s life. Just because they have faith in a higher power does not undermine their positive actions in this world.

Religion is as unique as our DNA

jesusI do not, for a moment, believe that religion is categorized into groups or denominations. No two people interpret literature the same way. No two people interpret the Bible the same way. No two people have identical emotional reactions to the latest blockbuster. And no two people have the same emotional pulls from a religious service. No two people can imagine the same crucifixion of Christ just like no two people can wrap their consciousness around nirvana.

Just because we know The Name Of their religion does not mean we know their beliefs

As secular educators, we have a choice. We can dismiss religion into its categories and denominations. Or we can treat religion for what it is. We cannot see the heart until we know someone.

If you are an atheist, you will explain your beliefs to your children. You will explain to them why you oppose the belief in God. It is completely within your power to convey this in specific or general terms. I would offer a plea — be as specific as you can about what it is that you oppose. And for the sake of your child’s education, be as neutral about other issues as you can.

The vast majority of atheists oppose the actions that are the result of blind faith. Most do not oppose the existence of faith itself. In the formative years of your child’s development, these are fine lines.

Teach ‘local,’ American religion well (the first time)

I believe one of the biggest mistakes a secular homeschooler can make is flippantly dismissing religion. Especially the ‘local’ religion. Ultimately, children will have questions. If you want your children to ask you these questions, I think that it is important to have first built a foundation of trust.

I think that a solid understanding of religion can also help our children relate to their peers and colleagues. It is difficult to understand human actions and reasonings if we can’t put ourselves in their shoes. I know so many conservative evangelicals. Luckily, I understand them. I know their “why” and I’m not surprised by their actions.

In conclusion

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that I am not trying to tell you how to raise your child. There is undoubtedly a large dose of implicit parenting and judgment that accompanies this post about teaching religion in secular homeschools. I want to drop one of my favorite lectures here, Let’s teach religion — all religion — in schools – by Dan Dennett. This post wasn’t directly influenced by his talk, but as I read over the final paragraphs I believe it is more than fitting.


In the next few weeks, I am going to start a series on teaching American Christianity to your kids. This is not the rich and full religious education that I have been advocating in this post. What I will be writing about in the next days and weeks is for high school students, potentially middle school. I’ll reference books, but not textbooks or curriculums. This isn’t  a ‘brand’ or anything of that sort. This is my ‘hand-made’ curriculum / lesson plans for teaching the big picture of American Christianity.