19 June 2018

White House Holidays Unit Studies Review

One of the many things that I enjoy about homeschooling my children is the ability to dig into certain topics. Then walk away knowing that you overturned several rocks to really appreciate the rich history behind the topic.

For the last several weeks we have been learning about several of our National Holidays in depth from Silverdale Press LLC and their White House Holidays Unit Studies. I received a digital download PDFs for this review of the Labor Day Unit Study, Veterans Day Unit Study, Thanksgiving Unit Study, Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Study, Christmas Unit Study, Valentine’s Day Unit Study, and the Answer Key to each Unit Study.

White House Holidays Unit Studies is for ages 5 through 18. The unit studies can be used  for all ages together. Their are variations in the elementary grades K-6 and for middle school and high school ages 7-12.  They have some different activities to do separately in every Unit Study. The lessons blend in easily while teaching all ages. The core is basically the same in all of the White House Holidays Unit Studies.

At the beginning of each lesson there is an “Introduction & Overview for Teachers.” 

The first part is a “Learning Outcomes” This breaks down some of the topics that will be taught in that lesson. It also breaks down the different activities for the K-6 and the middle and high school.

The second part is “Materials Needed” The lessons are alphabetized in sections (Part A, Part B, ect...) and also breaks up the lessons. It also lets you know if that section is for all grades or for what grade it is intended for. An example- Part A for the lesson it told me I needed the timeline and map print out. Part B we needed to go examine the artwork for discussion (both for all ages). Part C  I needed to have certain art supplies for an activity for K-6 and it had a separate assignment for the older kids it required primary source document, internet access. It also provided me with the location of the materials.

The third part is the “Lesson Plans” basically information about the lesson. For Lesson 2 it told me to read the lesson 2 out loud. I appreciate that it gave me a heads up that if we look up the original painting online that it may be inappropriate for younger children and that they provided a copy of the painting that is cleaned up in the unit study.

There is a variation in some of the lessons. I’ll give you an ideal what a typical lesson looks like and what we did for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Study.

In lesson 2 we learned about the Brown vs. Board of Education case. My kids thought it was appalling that the Governor of Arkansas ordered the National Guard to surround the high school over nine students just because of the color of their skin. Even when violence occurred outside he turned his head to the situation. To resolve the situation President Eisenhower had to step in and had to deploy troops in what is now known as “Little Rock Arkansas Nine” to keep the students safe during integration despite the Governors’ nasty tactics. President Eisenhower played a huge part in the Civil Rights Movement. The kids read about President Eisenhower signing the Civil War Act of 1957. We also learned how MLK Jr. and the role he had in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We read a small book I had about Rosa Parks to add to this lesson. Next, we looked at Norman Rockwell’s artwork and talked about the pictures and what it implied with what we were learning.

My daughter wanted to do the activity for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. My son is 7th grade and my daughter is 10th grade but, has special needs so we used the K-6 with her. For my son we did a mixture of activities in the both grades levels.

At the end of the lesson my son worked on the timeline for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Study. Both of the kids worked on the map portion. Afterwards we talked about the “Key Terms” which let me see how much of the lesson they retained. In this portion I had my kids explain in their own words the Brown vs. Board of Education, they explain to me the Civil Rights Movement, and they told me what they remembered about NAACP. Afterwards we watched a video on Brown vs. Board of Education, Rosa Parks Bus Boycott, and Little Rock Nine. All the links are provided in the Unit Study.  There were a few more informative videos to watch. We ended the lesson with Part C in which we went over the Eisenhower Video & Document Analysis with 13 questions.

Adding field trips or other books that you want to are very easy to add to the Unit Studies. We visited a sculpture in Wichita for the Dockum Drug Store sit in that happened on July 19, 1958 that was the first sit in that inspired other events throughout the United States for the Civil Rights Movement.

This Unit Study has 5 lessons. The Unit Studies has several hands on activities with crafts, timeline, and a map lesson.  First, you’re given a condensed biography of MLK Jr. early days and what led up to his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. The Unit Study explores how President Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson’s involvement in the early days of the Civil Right Movement. There are several speeches, documents, videos and some of the horrific events that happened.  

We found out that Marin Luther King Day is the only national holiday that is a day of service under the Service Act. We learned about how past presidents have honored and preserved this national holiday.

There are 3 lessons in this Unit Study. It starts explaining what Veterans Day is and that it used to be called Armistice Day. It goes on to explain the history behind this day. There is a brief synopsis around The Great War and some of the events that got America involved. 

We also learned about the Red Poppy flowers you see is on Veterans Day and the history behind it. There are several crafts like making your own Poppy Pin and a craft around Flanders Field poem.

We read about war bounds and how the United States raised money to help support the war efforts. My kids found it intriguing that Americans signed a pledge to save food. How we helped feed the war effort for our troops and allies. My son liked making the posters for this unit study.

The other lessons went on about War World I and the Korean War. We learned about Dwight Eisenhower and his leadership during the two wars. We found out it was President Eisenhower who changed the holiday Armistice Day to Veterans Day as a way to salute American soldiers in all wars. Something new we learned was the three things we should do on this day.  There is a lot of history in this and some documents and speeches. My kids found that President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points Speech was interesting and we spent a lot of time discussing it.

I pulled out some photos of my father’s tours in the Korean War and Vietnam and shared with them some of the stories that he shared with his family.

Three lessons are in the Labor Day Unit Study. My kids couldn’t imagine working in sweatshops and living the way many families did over a hundred years ago. The first lesson we dug into Eleanor Roosevelt and the Child Labor Laws.

I read to the kids about how children had horrid conditions to work and live in. Even adults worked and lived in surreal conditions. We read about how the first Labor Day came to be and what it was like. We liked learning about the first Labor Day parade. Throughout the study the kids got introduced to unions and strikes. We read many documents and accounts from varies individuals.

We were really inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt and all she did. What an inspirational lady.

Most of the activities are making posters and looking at photos and documents.

In this 5 lesson study you are going to learn about why and how the pilgrims came to the New World. You are introduced to several historical events like the signing of the Mayflower Compact. There are several letters from William Bradford to read and contemplate.

In lesson 2 you find out some historical Harvest Festivals both pagan and Biblical traditions.  A favorite hymn is read, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” and you will read George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation. Many of the founders are spoken about from the Declaration of Independence and other crucial historical events. Vocabulary words are highlighted in this lesson and several others to make sure you understand the meaning of the words.

In lesson 3 we learned something new about Thanksgiving and how a young lady Sarah Josepha (she wrote, “Mary had a Little Lamb”)who used her talent as a writer to share Thanksgiving in books and articles for four decades until some states acknowledges “Thanksgiving Day”. She persuaded President Lincoln to declare it a national holiday.

In the other lessons the kids liked learning how the “Turkey Pardon” came into being. There are several recipes from the White House that look tasty. We didn’t make any of the recipes and will save for another time.

I didn’t use the other 2 unit studies with my kids because as a family we don’t celebrate these holidays. We celebrate Jesus birth during The Feast of Tabernacle. I read through the Unit Studies myself.  

This Unit Study has a lot of hands on activities with a total of 24 activities and 4 lessons. This is a great study to work on throughout December leading up to Christmas. If you start the first day of the month you can do one activity everyday leading up to December 24th. This is an all in one study that includes literature, history, government, art, music, and other subjects.

Each lesson is focused on a historical White House Theme, and how Christmas was celebrated by four different presidents’ families. I found it interesting that some of the traditions that one presidents family has been passed down to other generations of presidents. You are going to take a journey with Jacqueline Kennedy and learn about the White House Crèche. This particular tradition has been passed down since. The First Lady loved music and had a nutcracker theme for Christmas time and highlights another presidential family had the same theme.

The Next Lesson is Betty Ford who was in the White House at a difficult economic time in history and her focus was to show others that you could still make Christmas special despite the hard times by being thrifty. She had ornaments that could be made out of acorns, pine cones, paper, and other material to give the theme of folk art from the early Colonial Days. Some of the activities include a tradition still done today is the cranberry tree. You can make popcorn garland, and several other crafts and recipes.

The other lessons are centered on Barbara Brush and Michelle Obama’s Christmas themes.

The Christmas Unit Study should be real appealing to many families who like to make the month of December special. It has a lot of variety of information, crafts, recipes, videos, and articles.

The Valentine’s Day Unit Study has 5 lessons. This unit has poetry, literature, writing, history, government, and baking. One thing that I found in this study which I would have loved to see it available in all the Unit Studies was that it broke down a description and how to credit it for high school credits.

The Unit Study starts out explaining the history of Valentine’s Day from the pagan Roman roots to St. Valentine who became a Christian martyr. Love Letters from John and Abigail Adams and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The letters are very intriguing and have quite a few topics in the letters. It’s filled with a rich history of our nation and the men and women at the White House. There are several crafts from making your own old paper and several videos to watch.

Then next section is on two weddings of president who where in the White House John and Julie Tyler and Grover and Frances Folsom Cleveland. It has some interesting facts about the individuals. Each one is filled with the history of the individuals.

The last lesson is on the Valentine Tour of the White House in 1962 from Jacqueline Kennedy. I learned something new and never knew the real history behind Jacqueline Kennedy refurbishing the White House and finding all the historical treasures. Wow, is all I can say. There are some recipes, videos, and intriguing documents to analyze.

The Valentine’s Day Unit Study is something I could easily adapt to use in my homeschool without compromising our beliefs. We could omit some crafts and a few things. It has a lot of amazing content in it. I was really impressed and surprised with the wealth of interesting historical information involved in The Valentine’s Day Unit Study.

Answer Key

The Answer Key in all the Unit Studies are laid out the same. All of them are only a few pages long. Basically, it’s on the questions and has the answers to grade your student’s answers. The majority of them are centered on the older 7-12 grades. It helps you to have all the answers in one place rather than having to look up the questions yourself.

Final Thoughts:

Wow, we have really enjoyed doing several of the White House Holidays Unit Studies.  We have been doing lessons 4 days a week on summer break and my kids haven’t complained. These are really nice Unit Studies. I plan on going back over them again in the future. It will be interesting to see how much information my kids retained. Both seemed to really enjoy these and I suspect they will remember a lot. We were able to finish all the Unit Studies other than the two that I mentioned we didn’t do together.

We did several crafts throughout the Unit Study. I decided to do the questions orally rather than having my kids write down the questions.

I have used a lot of Unit Studies in the past and I was really impressed with all the research put into this. I like that it can be used with all ages easily. I love learning new things with my kids and I learned a lot of things I never knew about our National Holidays.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing White House Holidays Unit Studies and another curriculum from Silverdale Press LLC, Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric. So hop on over to their blogs to read them.


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