Remember that song? “Don’t know much about history…don’t know much biology”…turns out that guy didn’t know much about anything, but in writing the post about my daughter thinking she’s Danish, it dawned on me that she really didn’t know that much about US History. Although, she probably has biology and ecology and zoology and a bunch of other “-ologies” covered much better than I ever will.
Granted, she’s four, so it’s not as though I’m looking for her to be a historian, but in thinking about the conversation we were having around Facebook and otherwise about some of the feelings she was going through, I started to wonder if I should be bringing in a little more for her myself. Part of it is a question of individual knowledge – I’m a political science and international relations buff by background so I inherently think history is important. But there’s also a collective knowledge portion, a feeling of belonging to a particular history or community. Just because we don’t live in the US, doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t have that sense of history from there.
That feeling, plus the requirements on our kids for when they do return to kids, is exactly why Alix Bryant, a fellow foreign service mom started something called US History Abroad. It targets kids from kindergarten level onwards who aren’t living in the US but have a need to know a little bit more about who we are and the historical background we come from. While our own tot is still a bit young this year, it got me to thinking how we might start to think about her education in the future and thought it might help any other fellow third culture US parents out there and I wanted to share a few thoughts in a little interview with Alix.
Why did you start this program, US History Abroad?
I homeschool my own three children, so it was not uncommon for other parents in our expat community to ask me to recommend American history resources for their children. I would get excited and come up with a list of books, websites with videos, activities, and other ideas to make history exciting for their kids! Ultimately though, the parents would politely decline, saying that it was too much work to administer on their own.
I know that parents do not want their children to miss out on the fun of learning about American history just because we are living abroad and they certainly do not want their children to return to the States behind their peers on this subject either.
So, I poured over the Fairfax County standards of learning guidelines for American history and then developed the material into fun, age appropriate lessons to be taken over the course of a school year.
Wait – there are gifts when you learn history?
I want kids to associate the feeling of joy when they think about American history, which is why when you register your child for a course at U.S. History Abroad, they have a choice of a free American Girl Doll, a White House Lego set, or an Amazon Gift card. They also receive a goody-box that includes a few treats and other surprises.
How does this all work?
The courses are designed so that students take one lesson a week throughout the school year. Each lesson takes about 45 minutes to complete. The day of the week and time that the lessons are completed are up to the student. You do not have to rush home to log into a computer class at any specific time. Classes begin in September so parents should register their children NOW to ensure that the course-readers arrive in the mail in time!
Rumor has it these are reimbursable – who could qualify?
Currently, the DSSR section 276.9 addresses the use of the supplemental education allowance. There is money set aside to reimburse State Department employees who want to make sure that their children do not forgo American history lessons just because they are living abroad. The FAQ section provides a link to a sample letter requesting reimbursement from your FMO, all you have to do is attach the receipt and insert your child’s name.
What’s your favorite part of US History to teach to your own kids?
My kids really enjoy learning about the US Judicial System, especially the section of the lessons where they read about a court case, and based on what they learned, they get to be judge and guess the actual verdict. They also love learning patriotic songs and I, in turn, love it when I catch them singing on their own outside of our “class time”.
If a bit of US History, interests you and you have kids from kindergarten on up, visit US History Abroad – and let them know we sent you! 😉