Tag Archives: homeschool

Special Days and Biographies

I’ve been asked several times, “How exactly do you teach from your Special Days lists?”  The answer to that comes in multi-parts, but usually starts with “Biographies, lots of biographies!”

Every Special Days list includes birthdays of famous people throughout history.  I’ll ask the boys what they know about that author/artist/scientist/historical figure/religious leader.  If they are not familiar with him/her, we’ll do biography study!  Some days we only have a brief discussion about the person, or a review if we had studied him or her in the past couple of years.  Other days we will go more in depth and I’ll include reading resources, videos, and quotes into the lessons.  Some biography studies can be finished in a couple of hours.  Some biography studies catch a bigger interest and I won’t stop the study until that interest is satisfied, even if it means having to cancel my other special days lesson plans for a week or more.  Whoever we miss, we can try to catch next year or the year after when their special day happens again.

This past school year we started notebooking some of our biography studies and plan to continue with this for the upcoming school year.   We arranged the pages in a timeline order and as the notebooks fill up, we can start a new one.  However, the boys prefer projects over notebooking, so we’ll do some of each.

Below is my “go-to” resource list for online resources for biographies, how-to’s, and notebooking printables.  Also, our local library has a wonderful collection of biographies and Youtube has many video biographies suitable for children and youths, so don’t forget to check those when you are looking for resources.

Biography Project Ideas 

Lesson Plans for 6 sessions of the “Writer’s Workshop  – The Biographical Sketch” http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/writers-workshop-biographical-sketch-1039.html?tab=4#session1

How to Write a Biography  –                                                           http://www.howtowriteabiography.org/

100+ Biographies and Printables (These are short and written for younger readers, however older students will find these helpful as a starting place when researching a historical person.  Also the printables are a useful for work samples for portfolios or history based notebooks)   http://gardenofpraise.com/leaders.htm

Artists Biographies  –                                                                 http://www.vangoghgallery.com/artistbios/

Composer Biographies with Music Selections                                   http://www.classicsforkids.com/

Kid Safe Scientist Biographies Resources-                                                   http://www.kidtopia.info/science_biography.html

President Biographies Resources  –https://stilllearningsomethingnew.com/2014/02/14/resources-for-presidents-day/

Church Leaders, Missionaries, Hymn Writers, and Evangelists Biographies  http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/index.html

Kid Safe Online Encyclopedia  –            http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies

1000’s of Biography E-books to download or read online  http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Biographies_%28Bookshelf%29#Pierre_Abelard

When we write biographies, we generally include the person’s birth and death dates, where they were from, a childhood fact or two, and their accomplishments as adults including spouse and children.  We will usually add a quote to the notebooking page, too.

Biography Notebooking Printables from The Notebooking Fairy

Author

Scientist

Artist  

Composer

Presidents

Timeline Facts

For Any Person 

Missionaries  (from the Proverbial Homemaker)

Composers (from Homeschool Giveaways)

Portraits of Historical Figures (public domain)  for when we want a photo to print off for the notebooking page                                                   http://www.lib.utexas.edu/exhibits/portraits/index.html

Sometimes we’ll look over a history timeline to get the idea of what was going on in the world during our subject’s life.                                                             https://www.factmonster.com/us/timeline-archive

In accordance with my state’s homeschooling regulations, I keep a daily subject checklist.  On biography days I will check off the relevant History/Science/Art/Music and Reading Comprehension boxes. And, if we made a notebooking page I’ll check off Composition and Penmanship, too.  Don’t you just love it when one topic can cover multiple subjects!

And every now and then we’ll bake and decorate a birthday cake because …

I’d love to hear how you go about biography studies!  Please share about them in the comments.

(This post is actually ‘Part 2’ of a series in which I’m explaining how my family learns across the curriculum with topics selected from the Special Days list.  For the series introduction click here.)

betty jo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Days and the Evolution of Morning Calendar Time

 

Like many other homeschooling families and classrooms worldwide, we used the calendar as part of our early learning activities.   Calendars are the best way to learn the name of the months and days of the week.  Counting down to holidays and birthdays were some of our earliest math lessons. “Morning Calendar Time” was often the highlight of our homeschooling day.  When we started calendar learning with our second child, we added a few things for our oldest, such as the month’s name origin, gemstone, and prominent constellations.  And, this type of calendar learning continued on through the preschool years of children three, four, and five.  Cross curricular and multi- level unit studies of seasons and holidays were extensions from that “Morning Calendar Time” and were something we all looked forward to as we would break from our regular learning.

Then one August morning,  Joshua (child #4) was rather distraught about the lack of a family birthday or holiday being on our calendar.  Our local homeschool support group did not have a party or field trip scheduled for August either. He was so disappointed. There was nothing “special” to look forward to.   His unhappiness was contagious.

At that time, the older children were working on a study of the Middle Ages so we began adding the birthdates of the people we were learning about to the calendar. Then one day, we stumbled upon a food calendar so we added food days to our calendar (and often to our shopping list and menu) and nutrition studies to our schooling.

In September of the next year, we learned that there was a “Talk Like a Pirate Day”! Of course we added that to our calendar and lesson plans. Soon we were discovering odd and unusual holidays for every month. No longer was Joshua going to be sad during morning calendar time because there weren’t special days. In fact, we had collected so many special days, the wall calendar didn’t have enough room for us to accommodate them all! Thus, a Special Days list was started!

The following year we were focusing our studies on US History.  We added presidents, explorers, and patriots birthdays and statehood anniversaries to our list. We also included the opening and dedication dates of state parks and monuments. War related dates were put on the list as well. The following year as we were learning about world cultures and religions, we were able to add their holidays to our special days collection.

A friend, knowing our building interest of  calendar studies, gifted us with an educational activity book that was based off of authors, artists, and composer birthdays. The book also listed the dates for invention patents and historical events.  Yes, you guessed it!  Many of those dates were put on our list!

It was never my intention to turn our Morning Calendar time into a full curriculum, but that is what  happened. Every month offers so many holidays, famous persons birthdays, foods, statehood anniversaries, historic and scientific anniversaries,  foreign nations heritages observances, health related observances,  wildlife  and conservation awareness days, arts, music, and physical activities that we’ve been able to learn more than enough to cover nearly all of our core subjects and elective studies!  Some days we’re even able to incorporate a math lesson with the special day!

This upcoming school year will be our 4th year of having nearly all of our learning coming from the calendar!  We are not even close to exhausting the educational possibilities based on the monthly Special Days lists. And, we are still making it longer! Starting  July, 2017, the updated Special Days lists will included foreign country Independence Days and National Days.

The current month’s Special Days list and resource collections are always accessible from the right side bar of my blog page. Other months can be found by an archive search or search bar (also in the right margin). The lists are updated often.

Along with my friend, Fran from Funschooling, I hostess a Facebook group based on fun learning activities for seasonal themes and special days. You can request to join Fun Days Homeschooling Co-op here. We’d love to have you!

“How do you make your Special Days lists your curriculum?” is a question I hear often.  I’m planning a blog series, “Special Days and …” to answer that “how” question for each subject along with  resources and ideas.

I have co-authored an Activity Companion for learning with August’s Special Days and the September and October Activity Companions are in the works.

How do you use the Special Days list in your classroom or homeschool?  I’m looking forward to your responses!  And, if you have questions, let me have those too!

betty jo