Sunday, February 20, 2011

Presidents Day

Recently in our homeschool studies, our reading book had a couple pages devoted to a list of the U.S. Presidents. Since today is President's Day and the boys are loudly wailing their lamentations over having to still attend classes when the rest of the school-age population is living free and easy, I thought I'd tell you about our little presidential lesson.

First we discussed which of the presidents they were familiar with and then I had them each choose the name of a president of which they hadn't heard. I wanted them to look up the name they chose, read about the president and give a little oral report. The main difference in how this exercise was carried out and how I would have done it at their age is that we didn't use an Encyclopedia Britannica.

We used the internet.

What has happened to all the millions of encyclopedia's in the world I would just like to know.

Peter immediately chose the name of Calvin Coolidge. He thought it was amazing that there was a president named Calvin. His current favorite reading material is Calvin and Hobbes. (Classical homeschoolers reading Chaucer and Shakespeare?- We are not.) He thought a president named Calvin had to be a fun president.

Samuel chose the president named James Garfield. I'll let you extrapolate why he chose it.

It turns out these two presidents were interesting. We found this great little website with a page and photo for each president. The reading material was only slightly beyond the boys' abilities but with my help they learned some memorable facts about the men's lives.

Calvin Coolidge started out as the vice president for Warren G. Harding. He was sworn in as president when Harding suffered a heart attack and died suddenly. At the time Coolidge was visiting his parents' family home in Vermont. Coolidge was sworn into office in the middle of the night with his own father presiding and his hand on the family Bible.

He was later sworn in again in Washington when there was a question as to the validity of the oath conducted by a notary public. 

James Garfield was a Union army general during the Civil War when Ohioans elected him to congressional office and continued to re-elect him for eighteen more years. His term as U.S. President was cut short in the first year when he was shot in a railroad station. He suffered with his wound for two months. Samuel was interested to read that Alexander Graham Bell used a device to try to locate the bullet but was unsuccessful. Consequently, Garfield eventually died from infection and internal hemorrhage.

In honor of President's Day we will read about a few more of the men that have occupied this highest office in our nation. My goal is simply to acquaint my eight year old and ten year old boys with the names and official terms (oath of office, inauguration, four year terms, etc.) as an elementary civics lesson.

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