White House Holidays Unit Studies (My Review)
The creator of these unit studies, Jill Hummer, has done a fantastic job of digging deep into the history of each holiday and sharing this information in a way that kids of all ages can relate to. Each one also begins with an outline and lesson plan for teachers that makes it easy for you to understand and plan for your homeschool day.
There are a number of studies in the White House Holidays set, each with activities for K-6 and 7-12. This is fantastic for families who like to have all their kids work on the same unit at the same time. Included are:
- Veterans Day Unit Study
- Valentine’s Day Unit Study
- Thanksgiving Unit Study
- Labor Day Unit Study
- Christmas Unit Study
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Study
We decided to focus our attention on two of these topics, Labor Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Studies (and we are looking forward to getting into the others as well!)
We began with the Labor Day Unit Study since we were attending a labor conference with my husband. This provided an opportunity for EJ to talk to people involved in the labor movement and ask questions about how things are now in comparison to how they were when Labor Day was first celebrated.
The unit began with information about child labor. Jill has included photos, each with a series of questions, to help younger children understand. I found this layout really helped EJ put himself in the place of the children, helping him to realize how hard life would have been like back in those days before labor laws.
We learned about the role that Eleonor Roosevelt played in helping these poor children and their families through her work with the National Consumers League and throughout the rest of her life, including when she was First Lady.
After this we moved on to the first Labor Day. Being able to speak with union leaders at our conference added to the learning (EJ liked being able to explain to them what he had learned from the unit study as well and was tickled when he knew about something that they didn’t!) He also had fun recreating posters from that very important day and decorating one of the meeting rooms with them.
Imagine EJ’s surprise when he found out that The Great Strike that had shut down all of the transportation in the United States began as a railway strike and here he was at a railway labor conference. He was excited to ask his Papa and others if they thought they could shut down a whole country and make the Prime Minister create a holiday just for them (we’re from Canada so we have a prime minister instead of a president).
The older age/grade group works through the same topics but do more in each area. This uni study is flexible enough that you could easily do it more than once and do different activities each time, adding more words than pictures (as suggested) for your older students.
Next, we chose to work on the Martin Luther King Jr. Unit Study. This made sense since we had already been talking about fairness and equality among all people and who better to represent that than Dr. King.
We began by learning about Dr. King’s childhood and how his mother, Alberta, told her son he was as good as anyone else (we live in Alberta so EJ says it’s easy to remember her name!)
When we read about how the young Martin was no longer allowed to play with his friend once they began school simply because Martin they did not have the same color of skin, EJ felt sad and said he would not like it if he couldn’t play with his friends and cousins anymore because of something silly like that.
AS we continued into our lessons EJ was glad to learn more about great men like Mahatma Ghandi and how learning about him helped Dr. King understand how he could share Jesus’s commands to love one another and help make the world a better place.
I really liked how Jill interspersed photos and words throughout the lessons helping EJ relate to Dr. King and the others he was learning about. This is so important, especially for a child with ADHD and dyslexia who is very visual and likes to learn things this way.
I also liked that she has included video and other resources to continue bringing the learning to life. After watching the video about Plessy v Ferguson we found others that were related to the lesson and continued to discover more about this famous (and troubling) civil rights case.
Moving on to the Brown v Board of Education lesson we again found videos and other resources to help explain why it was necessary for Black families to take their fight to court. We have had the opportunity to visit the school in Kansas that has now been turned into a national historic site run by the parks service and been able to see what it would have looked like to have separate water fountains and other things so this lesson added to the experience.
One of the fun activities was taking items and sorting them by color. EJ chose to use building blocks and kept all shades of each color together. It was easy to see there were differences in the blocks and many ways to separate them but color was the one this was based on during segregation.
There is so much more in this unit study, including learning about Rosa Parks and the Little Rock high school students (EJ couldn’t believe this had all happened since we have visited Little Rock and he said the people were very nice there).
All of the materials in this unit study are top notch and, as I said before, geared to kids learning about these important topics. There is one section though about the famous Norman Rockwell painting of Ruby Bridges being escorted into her school by federal marshalls because of all the threats made. The painting is shown and does contain a word that none of us would consider using today so parents may want to speak with their child about it before viewing it with them.
EJ was happy to see Ruby meeting with President Obama in front of the picture, he says she looks very nice and he is sure she is still brave like she was when she was little.
There is so much material to cover in this unit study, I hope I have allowed you to see how this could make an excellent addition to your homeschool learning like it has been for ours.
I’ll close with EJ’s favorite picture from this unit study, he says this is how kids should be, happy and all playing together!
You will also find reviews of their Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers that looks really good too!