Friday, April 20, 2018

Biography of Abraham Lincoln

My Thursday afternoon Science Club has moved into "Local History & Geography" and we are having a great time exploring life during the Civil War. One of the things that was in that suitcase of artifacts we checked out from the local library was tooth powder, so I got a jar of modern-day tooth powder from My Magic Mud. I bought a pack of new toothbrushes, each child chose a different colored one, and we had great fun brushing our teeth!

The tooth powder has just four ingredients: activated coconut shell charcoal, calcium bentonite clay, organic orange peel extract, organic mint extract.

It makes your mouth black while you're brushing, which is super fun. I thought it would be weird but, surprisingly, it has no taste at all!

After brushing our teeth in a Civil War era way, it was time for Handwork. I had a lot of text that I wanted to read to the group and so I decided that everyone could choose a handwork project to do while they listened. After all, in Civil War times, people knitted, hand sewed, and wove all the time. One student was already knitting a lamb pattern, so he worked some more on that. One boy started weaving a potholder for the first time. Two girls went straight over to my basket of fabric scraps, which lives in the clssroom all the time under the chalkboard, and chose pieces of fabric and started to make themselves little purses. They also got the pincushion, sewing scissors, and thread. Everyone was excited to have time for their projects!

We already knew that tensions were rising in the young United States (USKids History: Book of the American Civil War, page 25 "The North Wasn't Threatened" and "No Slaves Here") but my group needed to understand how our government works to understand the big picture even better.

I started by explaining the three branches of our government as laid out by the U.S. Constitution. I explained that the citizens of this new country wanted to make sure they never ended up with a king again, so they set up checks & balances on power. The President is the Executive branch, Congress is the Legislative branch, and the Supreme Court is the Judicial branch. Congress represents the people. Then I asked them, if you were setting up a brand new country and you wanted to make sure the regular people were represented, and you wanted it to be fair, would you have each state have the same number of representatives or have it be based on population, with bigger states getting more representatives? Two in the group said they would do it the first way and two said they would do it the second. And I told them that the men who set up the Constitution argued about this a long time and finally decided to do BOTH! Each state sends 2 people to the Senate, but the number of reps in the House of Representatives is based on population. That, the founding fathers decided, would be the most fair thing to do.

Next I showed my group an article from the Sunday, April 15th issue of The Southern Illinoisan newspaper which relates to this. It isn't only a back-then issue. It's a right-now issue. The article is called "Illinois may lose seat in Congress" and I didn't read it aloud but we talked about how the Constitution says a Census must be done every 10 years, in order to keep the number of representatives based on population accurate. The next Census is in 2020 and analysts already believe Illinois will lose a seat in Congress. We have 18, so if there are 2 Senators that means we currently have 16 Representatives. I wrote this up on the board.

Then I read "Lopsided Laws" and "Almost All Men (and No Women)" from page 26 of USKids History: Book of the American Civil War. We looked at the map "A Nation Divided, 1861" on page 51, and I explained secession. We read "The Not So United States" and "We Must Not Be Enemies" on page 50.

We talked about how famous and universally well-loved Lincoln is today, and how that wasn't always the case. What a difficult situation he inherited when he became President! I showed them another article, also in last Sunday's paper, called "Lincoln's Tomb a place to honor 16th president" with a picture of children rubbing the statue of Lincoln's nose. The group asked me how long the Civil War lasted, so I read them "The Final Toll" from page 66 of USKids History: Book of the American Civil War. And then we began the D'Aulaire's book Abraham Lincoln.

It took me from 4:35 to 5:25 pm to read this aloud (50 minutes). I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get through this whole thing but when I said we would start the book with when he turned 21, the group insisted that I read it all, starting with his birth. They didn't want me to skip any of it!

With our last few minutes we discussed his death (which isn't covered in the book) by reading page 87, "The Nation Mourns" in USKids History: Book of the American Civil War. Then I told them I wanted to arrange some field trips -- for example, some of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates occured around here -- and told them to start looking out for historical markers which might be of interest. And, I reminded them that there is a Illinois Bicentennial newspaper article series right now, since this year is the 200 year anniversary of Illinois becoming a state, and so if they get the local paper they should look for some of these history articles. And I shared with them some of the highlights of one more article from last Sunday's paper, which was a fascinating story called "Whisky foiled raid on Lincoln's tomb."

It was a lot of content but it was a great session and it felt balanced to them because they were working with their hands while we chatted.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

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