Former U.S. Ambassador William Stoltzfus Jr. served many years in the Middle East, but it took him two attempts to be able to pass the Foreign Service Officer test. He was quoted in Princeton’s weekly community newsletter, Town Topics, saying, “I was turned down because they felt I didn't know enough about the U.S.!”
That statement makes sense when you consider that Ambassador Stolzfus, a child to Presbyterian missionaries, William and Ethel Stolfzfus, spent his childhood in Syria and Lebanon until he was 15 years old.
“I had fallen really short when asked to name 11 ports on the Mississippi River and other
mysterious questions to someone who grew up in the Middle East,” he told writer Jean
Stratton. “So I studied some American history, and the second time around, I was accepted.”
Families within the Foreign Service are expected to work and live overseas, and their children
get to experience some pretty amazing things throughout their overseas childhood, but there
can be a tradeoff.
American history is often not a course that is available in the host country,
even though it's an important subject that should be taught to American kids—no matter
where they live.
Online supplemental American history courses, such as the ones offered at U.S. History Abroad,
make it easy for parents to provide the American history education that kids are receiving in
These types of program mean foreign service kids can continue to benefit from the unique experiences of living abroad, while still keeping pace with their peers back in the States. So as a FS parent, you truly can support your child’s education and give them the best of both worlds!
For more information, visit www.ushistoryabroad.com.
In August, I held a very special EFM Careers Summit inside the Toolbox for Americans Abroad Facebook Group. I live-chatted with nine speakers to get their advice and stories about how they’ve created and managed careers for themselves while at different posts all over the world! There were so many great takeaways, it’s much too difficult to share it all on one page, so here are a few quick-hit words of wisdom from each of the guest speakers.
Now you can watch or rewatch all of these video interviews, just click HERE!
Moving from one country to another can be stressful and sometimes feel isolating, especially if you’re doing it frequently. It’s important to have a strong community around you to give support, offer a helping hand, and simply provide friendship.
No matter where in the world you are, our Foreign Service community can be a great resource to help you get through life at a new post, but plugging in somewhere new is often easier said than done. And once you do get plugged in, life can get in the way of staying connected. So how do you go about getting and staying involved in your community? Here are five tips I’ve used as I’ve moved with my family from one post to the next:
1. Put yourself out there! I totally understand that if you’re shy, actually taking the step to connect to strangers can seem terrifying; but the truth is, so many other people are looking for a friend and sense of community too--they’re just too afraid to make the first move themselves. Start by connecting where you feel comfortable. It can be as simple as complimenting someone in line while picking up your packages, making small talk with someone at your favorite coffee shop, or planning a play date for your kids. Putting yourself out there may be the most challenging step, but it’s also the most rewarding!
2. Make friends with your Community Liaison Officer (CLO). Ask your CLO for the inside scoop on your post’s community. How have people come together in the past? Are there certain activities that really bring the community together? Is there a community chat on WhatsApp or do people prefer communicating on Facebook? You can even try asking what’s missing in the community. Are people craving a book club but no one’s organized one yet? Be willing to step up and fill a void. Your CLO is a tremendous support system; let them you know what to be involved in the community and/or meet new friends, and they’ll probably get the word out and point you in the right direction.
3. Join the community Facebook group. If there isn’t a group set up for your local post then create one! Use it as a forum to talk about what your family is doing. If you’re taking your kids swimming, ask if other parents want to come along. If you just tried a new restaurant, share your thoughts and ask for additional recommendations.
4. Just say YES! Start saying yes to all the invitations that come your way! This isn’t forever, but when you first arrive at a new post, do your best to attend every get-together, party, play date, CLO Coffee, or other invitation extended to you. You’ll meet new people and showing up for stuff will help you keep tabs on all the community goings-on.
5. Throw a party! Better yet, don’t wait for others to invite you to a party—throw your own! Most people are looking for a sense of community too, they’re just too afraid to make the first move. It doesn’t have to be elaborate either. Love wine? Create a wine club. Into board games? Host a family game night! Or simply bring people together for a barbecue or a potluck.
I like the idea of, what I call, Treats in the Streets. It’s a fun twist on trick or treat! Ask few neighbors to serve a treat (like cookies, lemonade, etc.) and the take turns visiting the different treat stations. The “party” possibilities are endless; do whatever makes you feel most comfortable!
Above all else, remember everyone is new to a post at one point. So don’t stress! It might take a little time to find your community, but I’ll happen. If you put yourself out there and share a friendly smile, you’ll ultimately find the circle that’s right for you!
Want more tips and tricks for making your life in the Foreign Service a bit easer? For an ongoing list of ideas like these, straight to your inbox each week, subscribe to 3-Things.
Once your family makes the decision to join the foreign service and move abroad, it—very obviously—completely changes your life. With every new post comes new opportunities, new challenges, new excitement.
No matter how long you’ve been in the foreign service and living abroad for, you’ll learn there are a few essentials you need to make your life easier.
My family has been a part of the foreign service for more than 9 years (and are currently bidding)! I've found that as new technology, gadgets, entertainment, and life hacks become available, life abroad gets a little easier and easier. Make sure you have these seven essentials with you no matter where you are in the world.
1. Pack a Go Bag At this point, we all know how important it is to have an emergency kit for when disaster strikes. Living abroad in often unstable, unfamiliar, or at the very least, interesting places, it’s even more essential. A natural disaster or even a power outage can leave your family in the lurch if you’re not prepared. Actually putting a Go Bag together can be overwhelming—there are so many “must-have” items. Which do you really need? Which are the best? Let’s Go! Bags takes the hassle out of making your own. You can order a complete kit—with everything from light to food to water to chargers—or make your own from their curated list of supplies. Let’s Go! Bag makes it so easy, so no more excuses for not having one.
2. Learn CPR Here’s another living-abroad essential many of us have neglected or put off. Maybe you think you don’t have the time or won’t be able to handle the stress of having someone’s life on your hands, but a basic knowledge of CPR is truly the difference between life and death. This video from the British Heart Foundation proves it’s not as hard as it looks (and trust me, after watching, you won’t soon forget the technique).
3. Keep Your Kids Safe The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift are two MUST reads for any parent. The Gift of Fear teaches you how to trust your gut to protect yourself in potentially dangerous situations, and Protecting the Gift takes it a step further by sharing practical steps to ensure your children are protected and giving you the tools to keep them safe, no matter their age.
4. Listen to the Expat Happy Hour This awesome podcast—hosted by Sundae Bean, an “intercultural specialist” and expat coach—is dedicated to helping expats adapt and succeed when living abroad. Expat Happy Hour is created to help you solve some of the stickiest challenges related to international life. It’s funny, heartfelt, and helpful, and will get your through tough transitions and help you feel more connected.
5. Stock Up on The Right Gadgets Having the right tech in your pocket will make life abroad so much easier. This solar-powered phone charger ensures you have power, as long as there’s sun. If you don’t already have an Amazon Kindle, then get one! The newest version holds thousands of titles so you’ll never be without something to read. Finally, this non-tech multi-tool is really 10 tools in one; from a driver to tweezers to a bottle opener, you’ll be set for whatever life throws at you.
6. Get Some Helpful Travel Tech Whether you’re into researching your next trip or hate the idea of looking up places, there’s a travel app for you. TripIt helps you organize and access all your travel bookings in one place (offline too!). On the other hand, Inspirock does all the planning for you, building an itinerary with tons of carefully curated attractions to match her personal preferences. Of course, you’ll want to capture all your amazing travel moments, and for that, there’s Flytographer, which sets you up with a local photographer at more than 300 destinations across the world.
7. Hack Your Foreign Service Life There are a ton of benefits to living abroad, but if you don’t know the hacks that’ll make your life easier, you’re missing out! Download 40 Hacks for Life in the Foreign Service and see what a huge impact it makes! I know it’ll save you so much time, money, and stress! www.ushistoryabroad.com/hacks
We'd been out of the country for four years and wanted our kids to review and learn American history before returning. I was anxious about their re-entry experience, but U.S. History Abroad's courses brought surprising excitement from my kids about moving back.
When we arrived, [to D.C.] a museum volunteer commented at how knowledgable my kids were about the American Revolution! That was a proud mama moment for sure.
If I had know how short & sweet these history lessons were, I wouldn't have put off enrolling in them. Don't wait until the year before you move back to the States if you can help it. It turned out to be fine-- the kids just took two courses this year to get caught up, but they enjoyed it so much, I wish they could've taken their time."
Click >>HERE<< to read more testimonials from parents and students.
If your child is a new student at school this year or has had a tough time adjusting in the past, then you’ll want to implement the 11 tips below to set the stage for a successful year ahead.
We parents know that the Foreign Service lifestyle provides many benefits for our children. It also comes with challenges that can be heartbreaking to witness, especially if you don’t know how to help.
Think about how you would feel if you had to go into the office every day to a job where you felt unqualified, unprepared, or isolated. You would hate it and probably not succeed for very long. Following the tips below will ensure that the groundwork is in place for our kids to shine and feel proud of themselves!
1. Meet the Teachers
Parent-teacher conferences are nice, but don’t wait until you’re invited to meet the teacher. Not every school has them and sometimes they occur several months into the school year, which is too late. Instead, schedule 20-30 minutes before or after school for an introductory meeting with the teacher. You will show the teacher that you are an involved parent that cares about your child’s progress. You should also use this time to discuss unique or specific circumstances with the teacher. Is your child an introvert? Do they have learning differences? Are there any family matters that would affect your child’s focus?
2. Get Involved with the School
Commit to volunteering at least 1-2 hours a month at the school. If parents are not allowed in the classroom then ask if you can assist in the library or with special projects, performances, or school events. Most schools have a parent association that you can join. Your kids will notice that their education is important to you.
3. Encourage Reading at Home
Readers tend to be more creative, open to new ideas, and do better in school. Also, when kids are reading a good book, they can relax and de-stress. Audiobooks count too! Here’s a list of some great American classics to listen to.
4. Emphasize Friendships
Help kids connect with at least one other person in their classroom. If your child is shy, they may need your help! Offer to host a make-your-own-pizza party, a create an ice cream sundae bar, or a sugar cookie decorating party for your child and a few friends. Repeat until your child has at least one friend that they look forward to laughing and talking with at school.
5. Fill the Gaps
One of the most frustrating parts about constantly moving is the inconsistency of curriculum. Here’s an example; The old school didn’t teach multiplication until 4th grade, but the new school teaches it in 3rd. SOOO, when you get to post, your 4th grader is now “a year behind” in math. What about U.S. History? Most International schools don’t teach it all, but your child will certainly need it if a domestic post is in your future, or if your kid intends to take the ACT and SAT to get into college.
U.S. History Abroad provides online American history courses for expat kids. The lessons are self- paced so students can fit them in on a weekday afternoon, a weekend, or a summer break. This year, students get a $150 Amazon gift card to purchase their choice of recommended books and games.
6. Fuel the Brain
The daily grind of a typical school day can get pretty boring, pretty fast, BUT meals don’t have to be mundane. Here is a link to some yummy (some funny) breakfast and snack ideas that are sure to boost alertness and memory.
7. Talk (and listen)
If you’ve ever asked your child “How was school today?” and they responded with “Fine.” or “Good.” then you’re asking the wrong question. Try asking questions that elicit full sentences and result in interesting conversation like:
It’s also fun to ask kids to rate the school day on a scale of 1-5 on a daily basis.
8. Define Success
It’s important to talk with kids at the beginning of the school year to communicate what is expected of them. It’s equally important for them to be able to express to you what their goals for the year are. The point is, success is not just getting top grades. For some kids it means trying new things that are difficult for them (speaking up in class, learning a new language, trying a new sport/instrument). Other ideas to define success are turning in homework on time (without nagging), packing healthy lunches, maintaining friendships, or waking up on time/by themselves.
9. Get Equipped
Start the school year off right with the proper school supplies. Some schools will send a list of required items that you can buy on the local economy or order from Amazon. If not, here is a list that you can download
10. Encourage More Sleep
Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic founder, Mandy Gurney, says that in general, children need to get more sleep. Here is her guidance:
You can set a reminder alarm 45 minutes before bedtime to help kids remember to start winding down their day and get into bed.
11. Protect Family Time
Older children may try to slink off with their phones or tablets, but research shows that teens who spend more time with their parents have higher self-esteem & self- confidence. Eat dinner together! Declare Friday nights (or Sunday afternoons) family game time or watch a movie together. Bribe kids to chat about current events with you by serving them dessert, lots of it.
I'm so excited to announce the kick-off of this year's Summer Reading Program for Foreign Service (FS) Kids!
As a mom to three FS kids, I know how important it is to keep some cultural traditions going, even while living abroad.
I loved participating in our library's summer reading program as a child and have thankfully passed on that enthusiasm to my kiddos as well.
BUT... there are no programs like this overseas.
So, I just created one.
Now FS kids living outside of the U.S. can experience this famous American tradition!
Read 8 books and get 1 Free!
Join NOW to get your reading chart and age appropriate book suggestions!
No matter where you are in the world, you and your family are probably already making plans to celebrate Memorial Day. From BBQs to family time there are so many ways to spend the holiday.
There’s a good chance your post has some activities planned, such as participating in the National Moment of Remembrance. While the President or Vice President lay a wreath on soldiers' graves in Arlington National Cemetery each Memorial Day, he’ll also issue a Presidential Proclamation and Prayer for Peace at 3 p.m. local time. You can read the Prayer for Peace online with your children and then try out one of these Memorial Day crafts to get your kids in the patriotic spirit.
History of Memorial Day
Today, Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May; it honors all the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. The holiday got its start in the years following the Civil War and was originally known as Decoration Day.
After the Civil War, which claimed an estimated 500,00 lives—more than any conflict in our nation’s history—Americans began holding springtime memorials for the fallen soldiers. Their tributes included decorating the graves of soldiers and reciting prayers.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, called for a nationwide day of remembrance; this would later be known as Decoration Day. He declared, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.”
The first Decoration Day was celebrated with a speech from General James Garfield at Arlington National Cemetery. More than 5,000 people gathered and decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington.
By 1890, most Northern states had made Decoration Day, an official holiday. However, Southern states, honored their soldiers on different days. It wasn’t until after World War I that the United States moved from honoring just the soldiers of the Civil War to honoring the military personnel who died in all wars.
In 1968, nearly a century after the holiday was first introduced, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, rather than May 30, giving federal employees a three-day weekend. You might even say that it also cemented the holiday as the unofficial start to summer, mixing the day of observance and reflection with lighthearted fun.
Memorial Day Craft Ideas
These crafts can be completed by kids of all ages but feel free to modify the steps to fit your child’s capabilities.
Patriotic Jar Candle
Your child can get creative with this craft! There are several ways to make this Memorial Day jar candle. They can paint on a design or roll it in embellishments to make it their own!
Red, White, and Blue Parfait
This “craft” also offers several iterations. You can make it as healthy as you want it and allow your kids to choose their favorite fruits to add to it.
Stars and Stripes Kite
You can make this as a kite and let your kid try and get it airborne, or make it into a pennant and use it to decorate your home or kid’s room.
How are you spending Memorial Day this year? Share your plans in the comments below! And if you make any of these crafts, share photos of your kids’ finished product with me on Facebook or tag U.S. History Abroad on Instagram.
If you’re like a lot of families abroad (and even back home in the U.S.) then dinner is probably pretty chaotic. You’ve just finished cooking, your spouse still isn’t home from work, one kid is at a friend’s house, the other is grumbling about homework…it’s a challenge to get everyone to the dinner table at the same time to enjoy a meal together.
When you pull your family away from their friends, electronics, toys, or even work, dinner can feel more like a chore than quality time together.
The CRAZY DINNER changes all of that.
One of my dearest friends from our 2-year assignment to Moscow introduced me to CRAZY DINNERS and they've been a hit in our house ever since!
We've discussed picky eaters and incorporating American history in your meal time, but this meal is all about FUN. It brings chaos to the dinner table in all the right ways.
You can have a Crazy Dinner with just your family, or invite another family over to take part in the silliness too. The more people, the more crazy.
All you need to make this happen is to empty out your kitchen, get a little creative, and be willing to look a little ridiculous.
The first time we tried a Crazy Dinner at my house, my family thought I was crazy! But since then, I can’t even count how many times my kids have asked that we do it again. That’s the beauty of a Crazy Dinner—not only is it fun, but you can do it over and over again and it’ll never get old.
You’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about. I wrote out the full instructions and provided a few recipes to try out, so you can have your own Crazy Dinner with your family. Check it out by clicking the link below.
No matter how many times you’ve moved across the globe, a new post comes with its own unique challenges and excitement. You know that with every brand-new country, comes new adjustments.
Our saving grace from the anxiety of a new move, most of the time, comes from a CLO or sponsor. As we get more posts and countries under our belts, we might forget or take for granted just how awesome sponsors are, but think back to your very first time abroad, how much hand-holding and comforting did you need?
I’m hoping you’ve all been fortunate enough to have at least one amazing sponsor. Some of us have had not-so-stellar sponsors too, and boy, what a difference it makes! While some posts do offer sponsor guidelines, we know that going slightly above and beyond those makes for a great community sponsor. I tapped a few people in our foreign service community (and added my own experience) to find out some of the actions and special touches their sponsor took to make their transition to their new post a lot easier—that way if you get tapped to sponsor a family, you’ll know how to take your welcome to the next level.
How to Be a Good Community Sponsor
First and foremost, as a community sponsor, your role is to make your sponsoree feel welcome at their new post. Not every family will have the same needs, but here are some general ideas and ways to help them out.
1. Answer all of your sponsoree’s questions—to the best of your ability and without any eyerolling.
A family on their first tour will have a ton of questions. Do they have shampoo there or should I pack my own? Will there be internet? How do I get around the city? Can I bring my cat? What are the best schooling options? (Don’t forget to give U.S. History Abroad a shout out with this question! Especially since your kids can study together and form their own relationships, making them feel more at home.) You may also encounter families who have been in the foreign service for decades, and only have logistical questions. Even if there’s nothing important to discuss, it’s helpful to talk with somebody already at post. Offer as many answers as you can either way, and do so with a smile.
2. Talk up your post.
You might be in a bustling city in China with faulty internet connections, a quaint town just outside a history city in Europe, or in the middle of Malawi, where your closes neighbors are a family of mosquitoes—it doesn’t matter, talk your post up. Yes, answer all your sponsoree’s questions honestly, but remember, they probably already have some reservations and anxiety about moving somewhere new. You’ve got to be their cheerleader and moral support. There’s a silver lining to every post; helping them find it before arrival will make them feel a little more at ease and excited for what’s ahead.
3. Have a meal ready upon your sponsoree’s arrival.
As you probably remember, after a day (or sometimes several days) of travel, all you want is a cozy bed and some warm food. A good sponsor knows that a hot meal can do wonders for welcoming a new family to post. When you’re talking to your sponsoree, find out if anyone in their family has food sensitivities or allergies. Here are three make-ahead, freezer-friend, pop-in-the-oven-and-done recipes to bring over.
4. Fill up their fridge.
The day before or morning of your sponsoree’s arrival hit up your local grocery store and fill up their fridge. Ask them for a grocery list and get as many of the items as possible, that way they don’t need to feel frantic because there’s nothing for breakfast and they have no clue where to shop.
5. Put together—and unpack—a “welcome kit.”
Typically, a welcome kit consists of household necessities like silverware, coffee maker, toaster, dishes, towels, and the like. When your sponsoree’s family gets to their new post, they’re already going to have to do a lot of unpacking, so help them out by putting away some of these items. Obviously, don’t open any packages without permission, but getting their home ready with these items will help them to settle in a lot quicker. If you know that cash is a necessity at your post, lend your sponsoree a few bills of the local currency, that way they’ll be able to get by for a few days before going to the embassy cashier.
6. Make their house a home.
You can take unpacking the welcome kit a step further by setting up their home to make it cozy and inviting the minute they step in. Make their beds (find out what bed linen goes where beforehand), and leave a thoughtful gift like a candle or fresh flowers. Even something like making sure their internet is set up, will make them feel more at home.
Consider buying flowers, a bowl of fruit, or some small welcoming gift to make it feel more homey. (Other examples: A friend of mine likes to buy a nice kitchen towel and I like to make a sleep spray out of my essential oils.
7. Give them a tour of the city.
Give everyone the chance to get settled (and some sleep), then offer to take your sponsoree and their family around the neighborhood. Point out important landmarks and places, including grocery stores, parks, banks, schools, and anything else they’re curious about.
8. Make sure your sponsoree’s kids feel at home too.
Whether they’ve been around to a few posts or are fresh-faced and wide-eyed, there’s a good chance your sponsoree didn’t pack as many toys as their kids would have liked. If you have children around the same age as your sponsoree’s family, lend them a few toys, games, and books to until the rest of their stuff arrives. You might also want to take your kids over and introduce them, that way they’ll have some familiar faces to say hello to.
9. Help out with the kids.
There are a lot of errands and responsibilities that need to be taken care of once you get to post. Visits to the embassy to fill out paperwork or grab packages can end up taking longer and being more stressful than expected. If you can, arrange for playdates or to watch your sponsoree’s children when they have to go take care of business. (They might even return the favor once things calm down.)
10. Stay connected.
Continue to reach out to your sponsoree as they settle in. They’re not going to be completely acclimated to their new post in the first day, so remind them that they can still turn to you with any questions and that you’re still there to help.
Continuing to reach out over the first several weeks, rather than the obligatory one trip to the grocery store and done. Making it a point to introduce the new family around, especially the EFM, who doesn’t meet people at the office. – Deborah S.
How to Show Your Appreciation by Being a Good Sponsoree
The best way to say thank you to a great sponsor is by being a great sponsoree.
1. Keep them informed.
Your sponsor will obviously need to know your flight details, but let them know how much you’re traveling with too. Five pieces of luggage, an animal crate, and two car seats probably won’t fit in a standard car. Help them help you by providing as much info as necessary, and answer any questions they may have as well.
2. Pay them back ASAP.
Don’t make it awkward! Your sponsor has hopefully gone above and beyond to purchase the groceries and household items you requested, so make sure you pay them back as soon as you can. Venmo, Paypal, and Zelle make it super easy, so no excuses here.
3. Bring a gift from the U.S. (or whatever country you’re traveling from).
While we wait for Trader Joe’s to start shipping internationally, take advantage of the items you can only get at home and bring some of those treasures over to your sponsor. Ask them if there’s anything—food, supplies, beauty products, etc.—that they miss and would love to have. It’s a small gesture, but it can have a huge impact on showing your appreciation.
Have you ever had a sponsor who completely exceeded your expectations? What did they do? Share your advice, tips, and stories in the comments below!
I get so excited hearing about expat kids really getting into learning their U.S. history. It was one of my favorite subjects growing up, and I think there are so many more resources available today to help kids learn in a fun way.
Of course, one prominent subject in U.S. history is geography. We touch on it in American History Course B, which is available to students in K-2nd grade, but if students aren’t regularly practicing their geography skills they can literally get lost during other U.S. history lessons.
With 50 states, it’s easy to forget where each one is located, let alone facts about the state or each state’s capital. Think about it. Could you point out New Hampshire on a map?
Because U.S. geography is so important, I wanted to round up a bunch of apps, activities, and toys that would make it fun for your student to learn. Here are 10 (almost all of which you can find on Amazon) that’ll make learning geography less of a lesson, and more of a game.
2. Learn & Climb Electronic Kids Map of the United States
Your child can explore the country with the Learn & Climb Electronic Kids Map. It’s designed with bright illustrations that make learning geography interactive and fun. When children press on a state, the map’s push-to-talk system shares one of more than 500 interesting facts. This toy gives them the opportunity to learn about all 50 U.S. states, capital cities, climates, fun facts, and quizzes.
3. Map of The United States Geography Puzzle
This U.S. geography puzzle can help your child learn the nation’s 50 states by name, capital city, shape, location, and even nickname. The puzzle includes 70 double-sided pieces that are shaped like each state and have each one’s nickname printed on the back. With fun illustrations, this puzzle is an engaging and unique way to start learn U.S. geography!
5. GeoCards USA
If your child learns well with flashcards, then get them GeoCards USA. The set comes with 50 jumbo-sized cards and instructions for five different card games. Each card has the state on one side and the capital on the other; they also include information on the state’s population and land area.
6. U.S. Geography by Mindsnacks
Fair warning: your kids might find this geography app a little addictive. It seems to cover just about every geography fact you could want to know about the United States, including landforms, state capitals, mottos, famous citizens, and state histories. With eight games, the app is perfect for geography learners of any level. Students will gain a full understanding of the country—geographically and beyond—as well as their place in it.
8. States and Capitals Flash Cards with Workbooks and Worksheets
This learning set will prepare your child for every U.S. geography quiz they’ll ever face. It comes with two sets of 50 flash cards; one set includes the 50 states and capitals, the other has more advanced facts. On top of that, your child can complete workbook exercises, maps, and quizzes to test their knowledge.
9. Educational Trivia Card Game - Professor Noggin's Card Games
The Professor Noggins card series encourages kids to learn interesting facts about their favorite subjects—like U.S. geography! The game cards combine trivia, true or false statements, and multiple-choice questions. Players collect cards by answering questions; the one with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner. (The series also includes History of the United States and Presidents of the United States card games.)
Let me know in the comments below if you have any tools you’ve found helpful for teaching geography!
If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter yet, do it now! Email subscribers got a whole new list with completely different games—plus tools, songs, and activities to teach geography. (As a subscriber you’ll get extra bonuses and exclusive news or promos that I won’t be posting here, so don’t miss out!)
Food is the most underrated and overlooked approach to teaching U.S. history. After all, if you think about it, cooking is a life skill that has been passed down from generation to generation, beginning with our ancient ancestors, and of course coming into the modern history of our country.
When you really start digging into it, you’ll find that food is everywhere in American history:
You can trace a line of bread crumbs, if you will, through every major era in American history. It’s with us as we immigrate, emigrate, and migrate. Food is a part of our celebrations. Every bite we eat has a long history behind it.
Eating captures students’ attention and while it’s so prevalent in our lives, it’s very rarely used. So, here’s a quick lesson (and recipe) to share with your children to make U.S. history a little more digestible.
Setting a Table for the Past
Thanks to technology, we can now access tons of historical American cookbooks digitally. If you really want to dive in and explore the meals of early Americans, you can check out Michigan State University’s Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. They’ve digitized dozens of rare books cookbooks and recipes dating back to the 18th Century.
Just keep in mind—if you’re planning on trying out a recipe for yourself, it could take a little converting, maneuvering, and guess work since (as you’ll find out), early American recipes didn’t use the same measurements that we now do.
One of the advantages of these kinds of primary sources discovering the details of what our predecessors used to eat. Lungs, brains, oyster ice cream, turtle soup, and pepper cakes will probably make your children laugh, but it gives them insight into how different dinner tables looked compared to today.
If you pay close enough attention, you’ll see how recipes and tastes change over time due to different influences (like immigration, technology, health regulations, and fads).
What is “American Cuisine”?
Knowing how much American tastes have changed brings up the questions: What is American cuisine?
American food reflects the history of the U.S.; it reflects the way our country has changed. It has welcomes Native American, European, African, and Asian influences as far as cooking methods and ingredients. Our cuisine is a blend of many lands, regions, and people:
In truth, many—if not all—of the dishes we consider to be American, actually aren’t. Even the “all-American apple pie” has foreign beginnings, since pies came over from England along with the early colonists.
Of course, the foods that are the foundations of American cuisine—turkey, pumpkin, corn, and cranberries—do have native origins. We know the Pilgrims lived off of corn, beans, squash, and game, but that was largely because Indigenous Peoples of America taught them how to hunt, cultivate, and prepare those foods. They shared their heritage and knowledge, which really embodies what American cuisine is all about.
A Recipe to Celebrate American History
CNN Travel attempted to narrow down the greatest American food dishes in a 2017 article. What was number one? Thanksgiving dinner!
While that can be interpreted many ways—from tofurkey to macaroni and cheese to oysters to green bean casserole to candied yams—one dish that always seems to make its way to the Thanksgiving table is pumpkin pie!
Here’s a quick recipe we pulled from Allrecipes; it’s simple enough to whip up with your children and get them involved in the kitchen. (And don’t worry, you can find many of these ingredients on Amazon.)
You can learn about the eras that defined American cuisine registering for a U.S. History Abroad course. (Sign up for our Newsletter to get notified when registration for the new school year opens!)
What’s your favorite American food? Share it in the comments below!
It’s been almost four years since “Hamilton” premiered on Broadway and the country is still obsessed with the play. At a White House event in 2016, Michelle Obama said it was “the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.” It also won a Pulitzer Prize for drama and 11 Tony Awards.
What’s more, if anything, “Hamilton” makes U.S. history cool. It tells the story of the American Revolution and the founding fathers, but in a way that goes beyond textbooks or even interactive online courses.
It’s an inventive musical; the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, describes it as “America then, told by America now.” That may be one of the reasons it uses rap and hip hop to tell the story of young America—it’s really resonating with younger generations and getting them interested in history.
Even those who haven’t seen it yet jam along to the soundtrack. With 46 songs featured in the play—or nearly two and a half hours of melodies—listening to the entire soundtrack can take some commitment. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of my 10 favorite songs. Trust me, these are so good, you’ll want to add them all to your favorite playlist.
This song opens the entire show and introduces the titular character—Alexander Hamilton—as well as many of the other main players like Aaron Burr and George Washington. It also provides the relevant history of Hamilton’s childhood and brings us up to speed on the events about to unfold. The song is epic and sets the tone for the rest of the show (and soundtrack).
Best lyrics: My name is Alexander Hamilton / And there's a million thing I haven't done /
But just you wait
“My Shot” gives us a clue into exactly what Alexander Hamilton is fighting for—a shot to prove himself. This song to Lin-Manuel Miranda a year to write, so it’s no wonder this is one of the most popular from the soundtrack.
Best lyrics: Hey yo, I’m just like my country / I’m young, scrappy and hungry / And I’m not throwing away my shot
The Schuyler Sisters
The fifth song of the musical introduces the characters Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy Schuyler. These women play a crucial role in the show and this song—which has the melody and feel of a ‘90s R&B song—brings some energetic girl power to the soundtrack.
Best lyrics: You want a revolution? I want a revelation / So listen to my declaration: / "We hold these truths to be self-evident / That all men are created equal" / And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'm ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!
Right Hand Man
This is a definite pump-up song if there ever was one. Right Hand Man introduces George Washington, and pushes Hamilton into the larger spotlight as he continues to chase his “shot” (as Washington’s right-hand man. If you really listen to the song, you’ll see that it shares a message of adjusting to opportunities and seizing moments. Pair that with a heavy bass and motivating beat, and you have the perfect tune to start your day with or hit the gym to.
Best lyrics: It’s alright, you want to fight, you’ve got a hunger / I was just like you when I was younger
With “Helpless,” there is so much storytelling in such a short amount of time. and it’s brilliant. It teaches us about Hamilton’s courtship and marriage to his wife Eliza, from her perspective. It’s an upbeat love song that also gives us some slight insight into classes in America during the time of the revolution.
Best lyrics: Look into your eyes (Oh, look at those eyes) / And the sky's the limit / I'm helpless
Wait for It
In this song, Aaron Burr wrestles with questions of life, death, and love. In the show, Burr plays the villain, but this song humanizes him in a way many history books do not. He’s the polar opposite of Hamilton’s character and this song ends up being the perfect antithesis to “My Shot.” It’s a beautiful, emotional ballad that slows things down in a powerful way.
Best lyrics: My mother was a genius / My father commanded respect / When they died they left no instructions / Just a legacy to protect
Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
“Yorktown” is one of the most epic songs on the soundtrack. It chronicles the last major battle of the Revolutionary War—the Battle of Yorktown—and sets the scene for the largest moment of triumph for our heroes. The song has a great beat, fun lyrics, and tons of energy.
Best lyrics: We gotta go, gotta get the job done / Gotta start a new nation, gotta meet my son!
This song has such a fun, infectious beat and always gets stuck in my head every time I hear it. As far as the play goes, this song is key in plot development; it narrates the story of Hamilton's life from the end of the Revolutionary War to his promotion to Secretary of the Treasury.
Best lyrics: Burr, we studied and we fought and we killed / For the notion of a nation we now get to build / For once in your life, take a stand with pride
The Room Where It Happens
This song tells the story of the Compromise of 1790 from Aaron Burr’s point of view. As we know, this compromise was made behind closed doors, solely between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, so the fact that we get it from Burr’s perspective more so gives us a glimpse of his motivation (“I wanna be in the room where it happens). Its beat is super catchy and energetic…and it includes a banjo!
Best lyrics: In God we trust / But we'll never really know what got discussed / Click-boom then it happened / And no one else was in the room where it happened
It’s Quiet Uptown
In this song, Alexander and Eliza Hamilton are grieving after death of their son. The show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, having never lost a child, reflects on the changes this event made in Hamilton’s life instead of trying to explain what that grief feels like. The song is beautiful, devastating, and powerful. The cast even cried and production team even cried while hearing it, and it’ll probably move you too.
Best lyrics: I spend hours in the garden / I walk alone to the store / And it’s quiet uptown / I never liked the quiet before
What’s your favorite “Hamilton” song? Comment below and let us know!
Don’t forget to sign up to be notified when U.S. History Abroad registration opens; there are courses on the American Revolution for students from kindergarten up to eighth grade!
I get frantic emails about this topic all the time.
"Help! I volunteered to talk to the kids at my child's school about America-- what should I say?"
"Do you have ideas on how to make my presentation interesting and FUN for kids?"
What an honor it is to be able to showcase our country's history, culture, and highlights! Just download this FREE pdf and you'll have your presentation ready in no time.
I've created 12 prompts that you can pick and choose from to create an amazing presentation. Once you get this goody in your hands, you can talk about subjects like...
If you have a picky eater at home, you aren’t alone. Nearly 50 percent of parents would say one of their children is a picky eater—and it can be even more difficult when you’re trying to introduce new or “strange” foods from your local post.
While U.S. History Abroad is all about giving your child fun and engaging American history courses, I know that there is so much more to their education—sometimes it’s the food on their plates!
Living at a new post comes with a lot of changes, their diets might be one of them. Not every child is going to be willing to try harees in Oman, or kimchi in Korea. I remember trying to get my youngest to eat Borscht in Russia, it was no easy feat!
Here are some of the things I’ve felt helpful (and a few tips I’ve picked up from around the internet) in reducing some mealtime stress and getting your picky eater to try something new.
Acknowledge their independence
Depending on your child’s age, you might see her try to assert her independence a bit more. Saying no to food is one of the ways she might be doing it, and that’s perfectly normal developmental behavior. Instead of forcing her to eat something she’s saying no to, allow her the freedom to make some of her own food choices. If you know you’ll be serving a new food item for dinner, let her to choose the side so she feels like she’s still making her own decisions.
Get them involved in the kitchen
Sharing the meal-prep responsibilities with your kids will give them a more positive attitude toward the foods they’re going to eat. More than likely, they’ll be proud of the work they did in the kitchen and be more willing to eat it once it’s on the plate.
It’s easier to get a child to taste a new food, rather than eat it. Big portions can be overwhelming, so start small. You can encourage him to try a different food by giving him a small portion and saying something like, “This should be easy! Just two (or three) bites and you’re done!” As you serve the new food more and more, you can increase the serving amount. Plus, if he happens to like it, he can always as for seconds.
Typically, it takes kids about 10-15 tries before they accept a new food. That’s a lot! And it’ll require some patience. Keep offering the new dish (in small portions, of course) until you wear them down.
Scale back on snacks
If your child is hungry when it comes time for dinner (or breakfast or lunch), then he’ll be less likely to resist the food that’s on his plate. Limit the snacks and drinks throughout the day on days when you know you’ll be serving something different. He’ll be more receptive to trying a new food if he’s truly hungry when it’s time to eat.
Offer non-food rewards
Using non-food rewards, like stickers or “points,” can go a long way in motivating your child to try new foods. Even something as simple as praising her for being adventurous can help change her attitude about a food she said she disliked or wouldn’t try.
Eat with them
Sometimes the best way to get kids to do something is leading by example. Make sure you’re sitting down and eating with your children when you’re serving a new food. You can’t expect them to eat something if you won’t!
Invite over an adventurous eater
While it’s important to model how you want your child to eat, no one can have a bigger influence on him than his friends. If he has any friends who grew up in your post country, then invite them over when you’re serving up a local cuisine. If your child sees his friend chowing down, he’ll be less afraid of the new food and more willing to try it. After all, if his friends like it, it can’t be all that bad.
Let them use all their senses
This one is difficult for most parents, but hear me out. The more familiar a child gets with his food, the better chance you have at getting him to eat it. Suppress you gag reflex and let him play with his food a little—if he sniffs it, breaks it apart, or shuffles it around his plate, at least he’s getting used to it.
One thing at a time
Serve only one new food item at a time. You can pair the new food up with one or two other items you know she loves and that she’ll eat. This makes the plate less scary and the new food more approachable.
Rotate new foods
Sometimes you just have to train your kid to try new foods. Get her into the habit of eating something different every day. Offer a new item today, but let her know she can have an old favorite tomorrow. The day after that, she can choose what she’ll eat, then you’ll go back to the new food on the next day. This keeps her away from building inflexible eating habits and getting too comfortable with specific foods.
Make it fun
You’ve probably noticed, kids like to have fun! Trying making the new food seem fun and exciting, rather than scary or weird. If there’s no way to jazz up the dish, then make the meal feel lighthearted. Keep a conversation going by asking them questions or telling funny stories; if your child is having fun at the table, they might not even notice what’s on their plate.
How do you get your child to try new foods? Comment below or share your tips with me (and the rest of our U.S. History Abroad community) on Facebook!
Marshall’s discovery fueled the largest migration in United States history. The promise of wealth drew hundreds of thousands of people to California. It spurred the U.S. economy and even lead to seemingly impossible things that would forever shape the face of America, like a cross-country railroad line.
California Before the Rush
In 1846, the United States and Mexico were at war for control of the land around California and the West Coast. At the time, California was under the loose control of the Mexican government and only had a population of about 6,500 “Californios” (people of Spanish and Mexican decent) 150,000 Native Americans, and just 700 foreigners (mostly Americans).
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848, two years after the war had started. The treaty formally ended the war and gave control of California over to the U.S. At the time, neither country knew that gold had been discovered in California just a couple weeks prior.
The Crowds Rush In
The news about the gold first reached areas near Coloma, like San Francisco. It then traveled to areas which had the easiest access to the California coast, such as the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawaii), Oregon, and Mexico. In some cases, the news traveled as far south as Chile and Peru, and as far west as China! People from all these places made their way to find gold before America’s East Coast had any clue what was going on.
East Coast newspapers first started reporting about the discovery of gold in mid-summer 1848, but editors and readers were skeptical. It wasn’t until President James K. Polk cited a military report in his State of the Union address on December 5, 1848 that Americans everywhere caught the gold bug.
With the news of gold reaching coast to coast—and even across continents—the crowds followed. Around 6,000 people rushed to California in 1848, just a year later, in 1849 around 90,000 people made their way to the golden state. Today, we know these migrants as the “Forty-niners.”
Gold proved to have a huge payoff for those who were lucky enough to find it. More than $10 million worth of gold was found in 1849, $41 million in 1850, $75 million in 1851, and $81 million in 1852. That’s more than $200 million worth of gold in just four years!
After that, the amount miners were finding began to decline, and eventually leveled off to about $45 million a year beginning in 1857.
To get rich in the gold rush, miners needed luck. However, the people who didn’t need luck to make money were business owners. The thousands of people who came to California in search of gold needed supplies like mining pans, shovels, picks, as well as goods like food, tents, lamps, and coffee. The store owners and businesses that sold these types of supplies often became wealthier than any of the miners.
Gold Loses Its “Glitter”
As more and more people came to California, there was less and less gold to go around. Competition began to grow rapidly. Surface gold began to disappear, and miners had to join large mining companies to reach the gold below ground, which was more of a wage labor job with a less enticing payoff.
A growing population often leads to a growing crime rate. The American miners became very aggressive and territorial when it came to their land, and would sometimes use violent tactics to protect it. Near the end of the rush, 120,000 Native Americans had died due to diseases, starvation, and homicide.
With gold losing its appeal, the boomtowns that were home to the mining populations became abandoned ghost towns. Miners either returned to their homes and families, or moved on to the next area to search for gold there.
Get in on the Gold Rush
The California gold rush might be over, but your child can still experience the thrill of finding treasure, just like the miners did in the late-1840s.
Visit: There are many “ghost towns” throughout California that families can visit and explore. One example is Bodie, California, which is a State Historic Park. Today town is a popular tourist attraction and visitors can walk the streets, go on a tour, and check out the museum.
Do: One of the ways miners used to find gold was by panning. The Discover with Dr. Cool, Pan for Gold Science Kit is a hands-on activity that lets your child become a real prospector and they test their luck in finding their own gold.
Read: If this topic really interests you child, you can let them explore more and hear the stories of actual miners. What Was the Gold Rush? includes illustrations and photos that bring the gold rush to life.
Looking for more ideas for bringing American history to life for your child? Make sure you sign up for our newsletter and like us on Facebook so you don’t miss a thing!
I know, it's still mid-January, but as YOU know, in the Foreign Service life, you gotta plan early.
No worries, I got ya covered and you're gonna knock this Valentine's Day outta the park!
Imagine this-- It's the second week of February and your child's International school sends a last minute notice announcing that "Yes! Valentine's are allowed to be exchanged this year." You smile smugly to yourself because you're on it this year for the first time in, well, that doesn't matter, does it?
I've created EIGHT amazing All-American-U.S.-History-themed Valentine's Day cards for you to download and *print. I even have the links where you can order the corresponding goodies that go with. OH YEAH, prepare to win Valentine's day. At least with the kid-crowd. (You're on your own with what you plan for your spouse!)
I won't lie, to pull this off you should get started right away. As in NOW!
1. Start by >>CLICKING HERE<< to download the Valentine's cards.
2. Place your order from Amazon prints
> Choose "Prints" or "Standard Prints"
> Upload the Valentine Cards
> Select the images that you want and click the "Add to Project" button.
> Determine how many cards you'll need & then choose the 8x10 option. (I like a matte finish, but you really can't go wrong with glossy either.)
> Click "Add to Cart"
> If you order NOW, as I suggested, then you'll qualify for free shipping.
Arrow pencil toppers & pencils (Not throwin' away my shot)
Swedish Fish (fish in the Delaware)
Heart straws (trickle down...)
Frosted Flakes, because they're GREAT!
Immigration is an issue that is top of mind right now in the U.S., but it's not a new issue. The United States of America is a nation of immigrants and unless you are Native American, you probably have immigrant roots. Exciting!
Our students learn about immigration throughout their lessons. For example, when they are introduced to events such as the California Gold Rush (which drew immigrants from Asia and Europe), or when they learn about Ellis Island and the millions of immigrants who came to our country from all over the world. Lessons touch on reasons why people emigrate (war, famine, etc.) and the rights and responsibilities of America's citizens.
Immigration has always been a part of our country's history and it's always been a controversial topic.
Here are some books that will assist you in creating conversation starters with your kiddos. I suggest reading them together and then asking "How is your life similar or different to the child in this book?"
TIP: Click this link to put all the books in your Amazon cart, then delete the ones you don't want.
* I'm a proud affiliate of Amazon. If you use this link, I may earn a small commission.
Foreign service students have the wonderful opportunity to gain new perspectives and insights—specifically in regards to history, civics, and government—while living abroad. They’re gifted a chance to experience and explore different countries and cultures all over the world.
However, it’s important to give them context for where they came from—and studying U.S. history can help them in so many ways. While international schools can provide excellent education options for children, they typically do not cover U.S. history in a way that will leave them with a sufficient understanding of how our nation was formed and everything that has happened in the nearly 250 years since.
Learning U.S. history is so much more than just memorizing dates, facts, and characters. Here are 10 ways studying U.S. history actually helps your student in the long run.
1. Shows them what sets America apart from other countries
U.S. history provides a solid foundation for understanding what indeed makes the United States so special. America was founded by rebels, and has developed into an economic and military powerhouse. More than that, it’s become a beacon of freedom for so many people all over the world. Learning about how the nation got its start and how it came to be what it is today can only be discovered through the lens of a U.S. history class.
2. Gives your child a sense of where they came from
Some kids have only known life abroad and they have little knowledge or connection to life in the U.S. Learning American history can help kids understand where they come from and provide them with a sense of identity. It’ll help them appreciate the sacrifices and struggles of their ancestors and even help them develop a sense of patriotism and pride in their country. An international or local education may give them a greater sense of the history of the world—which is important as well—but U.S. history shows your student where they fit into it all.
3. Helps them appreciate their surroundings while abroad
The United States is a melting pot of cultures. As children learn more about how the nation came to be—and the diverse cultures and people who made it so—they’ll cultivate an appreciation for whatever country they currently call home. Living abroad while studying U.S. history is a unique opportunity for children to connect to the subject on a completely different level.
4. Strengthens qualities like compassion and empathy
Chances are, living in a foreign country has already opened your child’s eyes to different cultures. They see how different the world is and how unique each person they meet can be—history classes just broaden that awareness. Discovering the hardships and sacrifices other people endured—even just within the context of U.S. history—can help children develop compassion, tolerance, and empathy in new ways.
5. Helps them learn from past mistakes
There’s a well-known quote by author and philosopher George Santayana that reads, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It is important for students to know how our country got to the point it’s at today. When they learn about the some of the atrocities committed throughout history, they can use the empathy they’re developing to look for ways to avoid situations like that from occurring again. U.S. history teaches them that the American government is nimble and malleable enough so that as they continue to learn from the mistakes of the past, they have the power to shape the future and make it better.
6. Helps them understand how cultures evolve
The U.S., although still a relatively young nation, has seen many eras and ages. History classes show students how society and culture change and evolve over time and how much one generation can affect the next.
7. Keeps them up-to-date on school standards back home
Enrolling your child in U.S. history classes while they’re abroad means they won’t miss a beat when it comes to keeping up with their classmates back home. Typically, the education systems abroad focus on world history, and while this is a solid foundation, American schools still concentrate on U.S.-centric history. A supplemental course that covers U.S. history, keeps students up-to-date with the history standards back in the U.S., so when it comes time to move back, they’ll be caught up and on track without any issues.
8. Sets them up for college
While it may seem a little early to be thinking about sending your first grader (or even your eighth grader) off to college, it’s something that will likely happen before you know it. With a U.S. history course, especially one taught in an online format, your student is learning skills that they’ll be able to take with them once they enroll in a university. Colleges are offering more and more online courses, so when it comes time for your student to begin taking classes in this format, it won’t feel foreign to them and they’ll already be ahead of their peers. Taking additional, supplemental classes, like those we offer at U.S. History Abroad, also prepares them for a more strenuous workload and gives them the time management and independent learning skills needed to succeed in higher education.
9. Helps them develop critical thinking skills
Reading and analyzing historical documents teaches children to become careful readers. What rights do the First Amendment really give U.S. citizens? How important is propaganda when it comes to war? Learning U.S. history gives students a chance to become skeptical of biases and independent thinkers.
10. Put things into perspective
History is still happening. Studying history shows students that society is not dormant; it’s constantly changing and can be influenced by so many factors. It helps them to question and understand why things change, who propels those changes, and what comes from those changes. Learning about U.S. history, while keeping up with current events, can put today’s world and happenings into perspective.
Ultimately, the value of learning U.S. history—no matter where you are in the world—is immeasurable. Start perusing the many different courses we offer and sign up for our newsletter to be alerted when registration for the new school year opens!
Many people have heard of the Wright brothers and know they are credited with inventing and successfully flying the world’s first airplane! It’s an incredible piece of American history that has shaped the way the entire world travels.
On Dec. 17 we recognize their achievements and celebrate the anniversary of Orville and Wilbur’s first flight in 1903. Their story is often a quick blip in history classes and textbooks, we want to take a little bit of time and share how that first powered flight came to be.
The History of the Wright Brothers
Wilbur and Orville Wright were American inventors and are known to be the leading pioneers of aviation as we know it today. On Dec. 17, 1903, they achieved the first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight. While this was unbelievable on its own, they outdid their own accomplishment by building and flying the first fully practical airplane just two years later.
Wilber and Orville both showed an interest in mechanics and engineering from an early age. Part of a family of five children, the two grew up as playmates and best friends. Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867, near Millville, Indiana; Orville Wright, was born in 1871.
Their father, Milton Wright was a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and his preaching frequently took him on the road. On his returns, he’d often bring the boys small toys. One of these toys—a small model helicopter made of cork, bamboo and paper, and powered by a rubber band—is considered to be the spark that ignited their lifelong love of aeronautics and flying.
Life before flight
When they were younger, the Wright brothers helped their father edit a journal called the Religious Telescope. After a few years, they left the journal to start their own weekly newspaper, the West Side News.
Always inclined towards mechanics, Wilbur and Orville opened their own bike shop in 1892, at the height of the bicycles craze that was sweeping the country. It’s here—fixing bicycles and selling their own designs—where they gained the skills needed to later invent a working airplane.
Working with these different mechanical projects, like bicycles and printing presses, and following the scientific research of German aviator Otto Lilienthal, inspired the brothers to start their own experiments in flight. When Lilienthal died in a glider plane accident in 1896, the made the decision that it was time to develop their own successful design and moved to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, which is known for its strong winds.
Wilbur and Orville began by observing how birds angled their wings for balance and control. Armed with this information, they set out to develop a concept they called “wing warping,” which led to their design for airplane wings. After adding a moveable rudder, which gave them better control, the brothers found the magic formula that gave them flight.
On Dec. 17, 1903 the Wright brothers made the first free flight of a power-driven, heavier-than-air airplane. Wilbur piloted the craft for 59 seconds, at an elevation of 852 feet.
Though they were not the first to build an aircraft, the Wright brothers did invent the three-axis control, which made a fixed-wing powered flight possible. In fact, their first patent—821,393—was not for a “flying machine,” but rather, the aerodynamic controls that manipulated the machine’s surfaces. With this breakthrough, a pilot could steer the plane effectively and maintain equilibrium throughout its flight.
Despite the fact that the Wright brothers found success in the air, there were people throughout the country that preferred to see them grounded. The media and other aviation experts were hesitant to believe the Wilbur and Orville’s claims of flight, and as a result, Wilbur took off to Europe, where he hoped to (and did) find a more receptive audience.
The move proved successful; Wilbur began giving many public flights to journalists, government officials, and society’s elite. In 1909, Orville joined his brother in Europe and the two began selling their airplanes. Shortly after, they returned to the U.S. where they finally found fame and wealth due to their incredible invention.
Make Your Own Airplane at Home
Your child might not have access to all the tools and heavy machinery needed to build their own airplane, but they can still celebrate this monumental anniversary by creating their own paper airplanes! Here’s how to do it.
As you’re making these paper airplanes with your child, share the history of flight with them—you never know, you might just inspire a lifelong love of aeronautics or engineering as well! Don’t forget to share your photos of their creations with us on Facebook!
This is our family's seventh year homeschooling and to be honest, it might be our last... I'll save my thoughts on that for another time, because today I want to share what I LOVE about homeschooling this time of year-- story time by the fireplace, complete with big mugs filled with hot chocolate and WAAAAAAAAY too much whipped cream!!
We've discovered a fun podcast that I think your kids will quickly become obsessed with too!
In The Radio Adventure of Dr. Floyd, we laugh as we listen (in the style of old-time radio) to how Dr. Floyd plans to fend off his nemesis Dr. Steve while learning about history in the process.
Try these EPISODES: "Bulls & Bears!" where Dr. Grant gets a little nervous about news of animals on Wall Street.
Or, "Voice of the Revolution!" where Dr. Steve tries to swipe Patrick Henry's 'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death' speech.
Looking for Christmas-themed episodes? Listen to: "Twas the Night Before Floyd!" or "How Dr. Steve Stole Christmas!"
You can listen on iTunes or Stitcher.
I'd love to hear how your family connects during the busy holiday season. Board games? Dance parties in the kitchen? Christmas karaoke?
Are you in the holiday spirit yet? Some places are more festive than others-- for example, when we lived in Russia, I was feelin' it by mid-October, but to be honest, it never felt like Christmas during our time in Morocco...
So, if YOUR FAMILY needs a boost, I've made a list of my very favorite things-- books!
Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders will enjoy:
The Jolly Postman
A Christmas Carol
The Night Before Christmas
3rd, 4th, and 5th graders should take a look at:
The Family Under the Bridge
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Last Holiday Concert
Jake & The Gingerbread Wars
6th, 7th, and 8th graders can immerse themselves in
these American Christmas classics:
Gift of the Magi
A Christmas Story
I wouldn't want to leave out High school/Adult readers:
Mr. Dickens and His Carol
Christmas in America
Christmas 1945: The Greatest Celebration in American History
AND if you're looking for a new Christmas movie to add to your family's must-watch list, check out The Man Who Invented Christmas. You're welcome!
If you or your kiddos are bookworms like we are and have already read through this list, shoot me an email and I'll send you more suggestions directly to your inbox!
We are only a week away from opening up registration for the school year. Remember, I’ve been saying that we’re mixing things up for our 5th year in business and here is one of the big changes. As a result from your survey input, we have eliminated the standard box of books the we sent each child for their course and instead have replaced it with a age appropriate suggestions for books, games, and activities and a $150 Amazon gift card.
I love this new model because it eliminates your household from receiving duplicate materials! Or, you can purchase only the digital versions of the books if you like to really save space! You get to pick which items you want or you can even choose something that’s not even on the list. And trust me, $150 will buy a lot of books!
So, seriously, mark your calendar, put a reminder in your phone, sign up to get notified, or whatever you have to do to remember to register on August 29th.
I’m going to give you a sneak peak of the suggested purchases for each course. The lists are too fun not to share! So, click download to view this this gift guide pdf.
We have touched on a lot of topics over the summer. Educational apps, American idioms, U.S. Presidents, All-American movies and audiobooks, Colonial and American Revolutionary history, and U.S. Civics. Do you know what we haven’t looked at? U.S. geography and famous attractions!
I’ve put together a fun game that you can play with your kids. It works like this.
* Use the button below to print out the question and answer cards.
* Each card has ten clues on it listed from hardest to easiest.
* One person will read the card and the others will try to guess the answer before anyone else. BUT, if you guess incorrectly, you are out for that round.
* If you are the first to guess correctly then you get to hold onto that card.
* The person with the most cards at the end, wins!
I am a tourist attraction...
I am on an island...
In the American Civil War, I was a military barracks...
My name means “pelican” in Spanish...
In 1933, I became a federal penitentiary....
I have been the setting for many movies...
My nickname is “The Rock.”...
Al Capone and the Birdman spent some time here...
I was “liberated” twice by a group of Native Americans...
Where am I?
If you guessed Alcatraz before anyone else, then you would win the card!
Simple and fun, right? So go ahead and download your free printable and you can start playing right away!
I can honestly say that I have the BEST job. I get to interact with kids and parents who value the importance of keeping up with American history studies while living overseas.
If you haven’t already, read the blog post where I point to an article about a former Ambassador who talks about how he spent his childhood overseas, but was turned down form the Foreign Service twice because they felt he didn’t know enough about the U.S.
However, we live in age where our kids can keep up with their U.S. History studies with online lessons! I created these courses specifically for Foreign Service kids and have included all of the components required by the Fairfax County Schools standards of learning.
The lessons were designed for students to spend about 30-45 minutes one time a week to complete over the course of a school year. Check out the testimonials page to see what students have to say about the lessons. The say the funniest things and give rave reviews!
Well, I have rave reviews for the amount of effort and enthusiasm that my students put into each lesson. As I’ve said before, these kids are already so busy and involved with their school, community, and extra-curricular programs, but they are still willing to take on the extra responsibility of keeping up with American history! Good job to the all of my students and I also want to give a shout out to the PARENTS who are ensuring that our Foreign Service kids are excelling in this lifestyle.
As you know, I offer a lot of freebies and bonuses to my students, but here’s something for all of you supportive parents-- I want to treat you to a Starbucks coffee today! We, as parents of Third Culture Kids are all in this together. We're all working hard to make sure that our kids turn out “normal” at the end of this adventure. So, to honor you and show my gratitude for your service and commitment to our children, please, if you are in the U.S. (and I’m hoping that the timing of this will mean that many of you are either on R&R or Home Leave in the U.S…) but if you are in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, Australia, or Mexico today, then go get a #CoffeonUSHistoryAbroad!
You’ll find the barcode over in the FS Bidding Tools Facebook Group which is a place for all members of the Foreign Service Community to discuss overseas schools, post morale, EFM employment, and much more. If you haven’t joined, request to do so NOW because this gift expires Thursday night.
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