We’re not American, yet I was interested in reviewing the White House Holidays Unit Studies by Silverdale Press LLC…why would that be? Read on to find out more about my aim behind this and what the unit studies contained.
What’s Included In the White House Holidays
Each of the unit studies are available as separate purchases; however, we received all 6 downloadable PDF holiday studies:
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Valentine’s Day
- Labor Day
- Veterans Day
Each of these unit studies consists of between 3 and 5 lessons, and each lesson can be completed between approximately 60 and 90 minutes, although depending on the projects included, it may take less time being in a homeschool environment as opposed to a classroom setting.
Each of the unit studies have two parts; one is for elementary students (K-6), while the other is for those from grades 7-12. This means that you could use the same product for multiple ages in the same family, which is a wonderful thing! It also means that if your children are bordering between one level and the next, you can decide which areas they should complete for each lesson.
For the purposes of our homeschool and this review, we used the elementary portions of the units; we may return to them again in a few years and use the next level with the children and update you then, as I think revisiting some of these holidays for a deeper understanding would be a good thing.
Why Are We Studying American Holidays?
As I mentioned earlier, we are not American; I was born and raised in Canada and I’m now raising our children in Northern Ireland (UK). So why would I want my children to learn about White House Holidays? There are a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that many holidays are similar between Canada and the States, such as Thanksgiving and Labour Day, and they are not holidays that are recognised in the United Kingdom, but I think they are important. We celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving each year, and I always mention when it is Labour Day as well. I wanted my children to know more about the origin of these holidays so it is more than just a big meal for them.
Secondly, both the USA and the UK celebrate Veteran’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas, to different extents and it’s interesting for the children to learn more about the holidays, and sometimes learning from a different perspective can result in more understanding of different cultures and beliefs.
How We Used The White House Holidays Unit Studies
We did roughly one unit study a week during the review period. Sometimes we would do the reading one day and then the kids would work on the projects the following day, while at other times they completed a whole lesson or two in one day if they were excited about it. There’s a lot of flexibility with these unit studies, which I really appreciate.
The Thanksgiving unit study goes back to the first thanksgiving and the English settlers arriving and becoming friendly with the natives peoples of what was the New Land at that time. It continues up through time with Presidents making proclamations each year until an official holiday was created. It was interesting to note that the date chosen was based on shop owners wanting to get the most sales in before Christmas…some things really don’t change with time! And finally…I have discovered what the Turkey Pardon is – I’ve heard it mentioned before but didn’t know what it related to.
One of the activities for this unit was to make poster collages with things students are thankful for under the headings of Freedom, Peace, and Provision. I have, unfortunately misplaced the posters the children made for this, but I will share them as soon as that famous safe spot has been revealed.
Labor Day isn’t just all about trade unions, although that was a big part of it; but the abolition of child labour for long hours each day, six days a week, was important. It provided a way to better health, education, and a happier childhood. We compared the images and discussions in this unit to how life was here in the United Kingdom during Victorian times and how life is today.
One of the projects in this unit was to make protest posters, and my children went on their own little march. Just in case the neighbours didn’t think we’re weird enough, there are our kids outside marching and shouting for the end of child labour…until I told them to come in and finish their chores (!).
Veterans Day is essentially the same as Remembrance Day in Canada, and Remembrance Sunday here in the UK. It’s a time to honour those who fought not just in the World Wars, but every conflict. What was life like during the World Wars? Examine the posters of the time and learn about rations.
The children made paper poppy pins for one of their activities, and then copied out In Flanders Fields, by fellow Canadian, John McCrae. It’s interesting to note that there is a road in town called McCrea, and at the end of it stands some old concrete lookout buildings that watched for German bombers coming across the Irish Sea and up Belfast Lough. Then they each drew a picture of the images the poem brought to them.
The children also read a library book about what life in England was like for children during WWII and how they were often separated from their families for years. We also took a walk to look over a wall to see a bomb shelter in town that still stands; this made it more real to them. Tristan and I also attended a dedication of a sculpture dedicated to those who lost their lives in WWI and WWII from the town.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I really enjoyed learning more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the many events that preceded and aligned his courage and determination to take a stand against discrimination while in a position of influence. His actions spoke louder than words and are still inspiring many people from many backgrounds today.
I am raising my children to see equality as a right, not a privilege of your ethnicity, religion, or social status (here in the UK we’re celebrating 100 years of women’s right to vote this month), and Martin Luther King Jr.’s dedication inspiration is a good lesson to learn. To compliment this unit we are participating in EqualiTeas that is supported by the UK government, and talking about why in our own small town there are people who are scared of those who are different from themselves.
We are currently working on the Valentine’s Day unit and reading some of the love poems sent between presidents and First Ladies. There’s a lot more reading involved that with the previous units they’ve done; it’s interesting to see how long some of the presidents were away from their wives during their time in office.
One of the projects in this unit is to either write your own love letter or copy one, which is the route my children took, quoting their favourite author. Then they used the processes provided to age it. You definitely need a responsible adult while doing this…and a pan of water, too to put out any smoldering edges that may reignite. You want to fire up some passion…not the whole house!
We have not yet done the Christmas unit, but are looking forward to starting it nearer to December as there are 24 projects with this unit!
I will be honest (of course), and say that I wasn’t sure if these unit studies would be a good fit for us. However, it has been quite interesting learning about holidays from a different perspective; for as similar as Canada and the States are, there are indeed many differences, and add in the fact my children are growing up in Northern Ireland, I did wonder if they would find the units relevant.
Indeed, we have all learned new things. Of course, we all love to learn about history and cultures and how they are woven into current life, and this is essentially how we have used these units. My children are currently in grades 2 and 4 so we didn’t go into every aspect of every question (mainly things like writing out the timelines), but we did verbally discuss the rest of the questions and complete at least a couple of the activities from each unit. As I mentioned earlier, I would like the children to use these unit studies again when they’re a few years older and do the upper level questions and activities.
We enjoyed our time together reading the text and learning about the characters that formed the US as it is now known. With so many events going on right now, it’s important to see how far society has come so that we don’t become discouraged, but rather gain the courage to make the changes still needed. I really like that the realities of life at the time are presented in an age-appropriate manner, but that a big theme (whether intentional or not) woven throughout is that courage and dignity are to be respected and should be used to improve the lives of others, as well as not forgetting about the past.
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