How I Homeschool 2nd Grade PT 2: U.S. History & Geography Resources (+ Video)
In PT 1 of this monthly series I showed you a glimpse of all of the subjects I’m teaching, and how I have our workspace set up. If you haven’t seen this post and video yet – click here >> How I Homeschool 2nd Grade: What Subjects I’m Covering & the Workspace PT 1, since it will make today’s post and video make much more sense!
Today I’m going to be going over the U.S. & Geography resources I used to teach our 50 states survey this year. To begin, I’m going to be going over the resources that came as part of our My Father’s World Adventures 2nd Grade Curriculum (this is our 3rd year using MFW as our spine. If you don’t know already we’re eclectic homeschoolers). Then, I’m going to go over the additional supplements I added to cover other subjects for enrichment.
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If you’ve done some research you’ll notice that many curriculums teach world history, US history, or medieval times during the 2nd grade year. For US History, some curriculums span multiple years (at least from my experience when I researched curriculums). I knew this would not work for my children straight away. For instance, Abeka spans more than a couple years of instruction in US studies, whereas others like MFW – cover it in one year in 2nd. Other curriculums like Sonlight cover it during 3rd grade, as does Timberdoodle.
Classical curriculums or communities like Classical Conversations – cover the medieval period (which makes more than total sense btw), in 2nd after learning about Ancient history in 1st. When I sat down to think about what to go with, I decided to go with US history for the following intuitive and logical reasons:
• I’ve found my children learn much more easily when its something they are familiar with. Because we’ve already visited a few states, and they’ve already shown an interest in learning about how the US came to be – it made the most sense to move in this direction vs. the other directions above. Learning also tends to occur much easily with prior knowledge (especially when its semantic or has “meaning”). ( MP Neuro, 2016)
• Second, presenting character and moral lessons through stories during the early years are important. Children and adults love to hear stories, and we’re wired to innately take them in. Because of that, I love introducing positive character qualities, virtues, and lessons – like tenacity, standing up for what we believe in, and perseverance – through stories. Pioneers like Daniel Boone, and Eli Whitney left us so much to glean from – like the risk and reward of being a trail blazer, and having an adventurous spirit. Daniel Boone’s story also showed us the dark side of having too much indulgence, like he did while hunting bison (can lead to personal or the ecosystem’s demise). Here is one of my favorite quotes by him:
• My son expressed more interest in learning about his home country’s history.
Is your son or daughter showing interest in world cultures or affairs instead? Then go based off of their interests! Occam’s Razor baby. If you’re not sure ask them some questions, or just reflect on what can be continued and built upon – from 1st grade. In my son’s case he really wanted to know more about his immediate surroundings and how things came to be. So I followed the breadcrumbs!
• Developing a Gratitude Mindset vs. an Entitlement Mindset. Learning about pioneer life, and the long & arduous process people had to do to create things as simple as soap, and clothing – were things I really wanted to highlight to my children, and reflect on. Modern conveniences can sometimes influence our ability to feel grateful for what we have. I really wanted my children to never lose sight of feeling grateful for all of the small and big blessings in their lives. To do that we read stories of children from the book American Pioneers American Pioneers And Patriots(below). We imagined ourselves as those children, and practiced taking on someone else’s perspective, ideas, or feeling .. empathy; something incredibly important in today’s world.“A nation begins stoic, and dies epicurean.” Will Durant, Historian Click To Tweet
• In 1st grade we learned about all of the US presidents. This priming made it easy to seg-way into US Studies. The US presidents would also be covered once more – and we would be continuing the already established *habit* of learning a list of things (US Presients), so the US states seemed like a new and fun challenge. After about age 11, it becomes much more difficult to learn a language – as well as other skills mentioned by a study done in UCLA (Thompson, 2000).
• My son absolutely loves inventions and American enterprise. Our nation boasts so many examples of entrepreneurship & trailblazing inventions – in so many fields – like medicine. He loved hearing about George Washington Carver A Picture Book of George Washington Carver (Picture Book Biography) and his research in peanuts (a food he had no idea could have so many uses!), and all of the contributions we can be thankful for that came from it.
• My son is fascinated with US restaurants! Like most children, my son loves to point out restaurant signs. As a result it only made sense that he would really enjoy learning about their start. He also likes to help around the kitchen peeling potatoes, and so on– so state specific recipes just naturally seemed like a great way to make learning fun and alive for him. My son is also very interested in farming, animals, and learning about where the nation’s food comes from (if you don’t grow it your own), and so it was so interesting to him.
• Unit Studies are an easy way to plan for the learning year. Kids love order, routine, and consistency (part of the reason why I homeschool all year ). I love that my kids get to see a continuity tieing into most of their subjects. By incorporating unit studies – it reinforces a different aspect of what we’re learning.
Studying the 50 states provides a year’s worth of material in a continuous and engaging story. In this year’s US Survey I was able to tie in: writing, logic, penmanship, language arts, literature, geography, art, history, character, and culinary skills. Every subject made sense because it all fell under the one common theme of the US. It made planning so easy too!
Now that you know the driving factors behind why we chose to go with US studies vs. other options.. go and jot down your reasons too! Having a list to refer back to during the hard days or when doubts try to creep up – is a great way to re-align, re-focus, and power back up!
While we’ve been using MFW as our spine for the past 3 years, I’ve supplemented heavily depending on my family’s needs or where I desired more rigor (ie. especially math, since we have far-out deep domain expertise in this area in our home because of my hubs engineering background). I’ve loved that MFW includes weekly bible verses with spiritual values, and accompanying copy work – as well as units, history, and very thorough reading lists – in the back of the Teacher’s Manual to extend learning. (I hardly used this resource this year, since I found the weekly resources were more than enough as you’ll see later in today’s video below).
All that to say, I’m very happy with most of the curriculum, but I did add in and omit a few things like their art, science, music appreciation and spelling recommendations. So if you’re looking for a review on those I won’t be covering that. But you can however find them on the MFW Website.
We used the below history resources with the exception of the timeline cut outs that I’m planning to incorporate next year, once my daughter does 2nd grade (my son is tagging along for 3rd with some beefing up of materials).
1. State Worksheets and State Map (published by MFW ) – These coloring worksheets for each state had fantastic & extensive facts on the back. The child learns about each state flag by placing a state sticker on the front. There’s also a US coloring Map – the child fills out with the state abbreviation, each time they learn about a new state. I can’t tell you enough how great this is to visually see how the states formed, and how westward expansion occurred.
2. American Pioneers And Patriotsby Christian Liberty Press– I already mentioned these excellent stories of children growing up in the time period briefly up top. Just make sure you don’t read too many of them in one sitting!
3. The Story of the U.S. published by MFW – this book has extensive historical facts of figures like Abraham Lincoln. I find it to be more on a 3rd or even 4th grade level, and best to be read aloud. I supplemented with picture books for some of the characters during our bed time story reading – to make the character’s story come alive a bit more.
4. Red, White, and Blue: The Story of the American Flag (Penguin Young Readers, Level 3)
This level 3 reader does a great job of covering the history of how the US flag came to be.
5. Patriotic Songs CD (see more below under audio resources).
8. Additional Book Reading Lists, MFW Teacher’s Manual. (Stay tuned for a video going over the TM). I didn’t use many of the recommendations from here, but they’re great to have on hand if you have an avid reader or you’re desiring more.
I used a variety of methods to help teach US geography and mapping skills before we actually started to teach 2nd grade. During our down time or throughout the summer, I helped prime the brain for learning by using puzzles and games casually during our family game night. There are so many studies that show the benefits of learning through games, and we’ve witnessed these first hand through the use of games for math. Because of that it only made sense that we use the same approach in teaching other subjects.
The first thing we purchased:
Kids Guide to the United States – Atlas, Puzzle and CD Rom
I have yet to encounter a better trio of materials than this kit. Unfortunately it is out of print, but still available sparingly on ebay . It includes a fun extra large floor puzzle, a large atlas (your emergent reader can try to read parts of this), a wall map, and interactive CD Rom.
They also have a World Guide in the same bundle I’m saving for world history (when you find something truly good jump on it!). I love this kit so much as a gentle introduction to how to read an atlas, and to show how they differ to wall maps. Young siblings can join in on the map (preschoolers or younger children eager to partake!); the pieces are large and thick enough for small hands. The kit also brings a durable, glossy, and water-proof wall map you can hang up. There are stickers inside the atlas you can place on the wall map. Although I planned to use the sticker map, unfortunately they did not adhere well. To circumvent this problem you can use dry erase markers to label the state initials, OR print out the state names and hang them up with Velcro after laminating them (you can see the map in Video 1).
Here are some of the other state themed games we own and actively use on game night to reinforce learning.
Game Schooling for United States Geography is a phenomenal way to make things fun while committing things to memory!
In this fun series each state has their own personality. The story touches upon the value of being grateful for who we are, and valuing where we’ve been planted (geographically and where you are in your family!). The game provides clues on who a state may be (you’ll have to read aloud the descriptions for this one if you don’t have a very fluent reader yet).
Eeboo United States Bingo
This game goes so nicely with the United States cook book I mention below, it goes into detail describing each states’ natural resources. This game also really helped my son cement what each state is known for, and which crops and natural resources are found where in the US – in a visual way (very geared towards visual and kinesthetic learners). I purchased my copy at Barnes & Noble for $5 last year during a red dot sale. You can also find it on Amazon for around $15 (click the picture above). I see this staying in our board game collection until we circle back to US history in the years to come.
State Information Supplements
I found this wonderful US States booklet at Target Dollar Spot last year (see it in the video below). Each state has a “snippet” space for writing out each states’ name twice (MFW worksheets don’t have the capital name stated), so I have my son – write it in by looking at it from here. My son struggled with finding the state flag in the sticker sheet (they’re all together so it takes quite a bit if you don’t know what you’re looking for) – so I had him look at the state flag on the snippet sheet first, and then had him search for it on the sheet.
I cut all of the snippets out and held them together with a clip since they’re double sided. I numbered them from 1-50, and put 5 of them in order per week, to avoid having to sort through them every day.
The Rourke Guide to State Symbols: Birds
MFW includes this Birds, Nests & Eggs (Take Along Guides) bird fact book which was great but doesn’t cover all of the state birds. My son was very bummed about it – so I was so happy to find this Rourke Bird Fact Book on Amazon (it’s currently out of print, but there are copies available on Amazon). It provides the scientific name for the bird (which goes wonderfully with out science curriculum below), and also has a few sentences describing the bird, along with a pretty color picture that my son enjoyed using as a reference when coloring in the black and white bird on the MFW state sheet.
Though I plan on investing in a complete birding guide in the future to take with us on nature walks, or bird watching at the park – this book is a great simple, and digestible introduction to all of the state birds.
United States Cook Book
I had no idea that this cook book was recommended for the upper years of the MFW curriculum cycles. But am so glad I bought it. It’s very age appropriate for 7-9 years olds after going over it this year. My son is a picky eater and has really opened up to “trying” new recipes thanks to this book. We tried as many recipes as we could from here
Another thing that I love about this book is, that it provides more information on the crops grown in each state, as well as a few paragraphs of state info – many of which we did not hear elsewhere (I only covered factoids that were not already mentioned). I also included the typical festivals held each year. Cooking together really helps you bond with your child if you feel disconnected, or are having lots of power struggles which is a huge blessing.
Planning Tip: Make sure to plan for the recipes each week and the kind of meal it’s best for. For instance, if you don’t usually meal prep on a weekly basis, consider doing this for this year – so that you know which recipes you need to plan and shop for. For instance, I tried shopping for 2 weeks worth at a time.
The beginning of the cook book touches on the anatomy of a typical Americn kitchen and what you can typically find in it, along with descriptions of the most common objects. I love love love this since I found it’s an excellent introduction to home economics & food preparation for the early years. I would also take the opportunity to go over any kitchen safety things related to : where the fire extinguisher is, how to turn on a stove burner (shut it off it you have a gas range and cant see the flame!), as well as how to properly store food, knife safety etc.
I’m so excited to try this Homeschool Kitchen Life Skills course for kids. You can find it HERE. This is a great next step (like in our case), or a compliment to the cooking you’ll be doing this year. I think cooking skills lose the fear factor the kitchen can bring – if you start in early childhood (with adult supervision, always!). I really love that it’s geared towards the unique environment of homeschooling too. I’m very excited to try it.
Discover America State by State – Picture Books
These books were an add-on when we were already quite into the curriculum (December). Although I really enjoyed the Which Way USA activity books as a reward after a lesson, and as part of our logic this year – my son really craved the vivid pictures of pictures books (fond memories from K and 1st). Although we were still reading them during bedtime, most of the read-alouds had no pictures or black and white pictures. At this age I’ve noticed children still love picture books and don’t want to feel “rushed” to move onto bigger books (I think my son started to realize he’s growing up and wants to be a kid forever too – which played into this).
These books are so well made and vibrant! They’re beautifully illustrated with short facts for each state in an A through Z fashion (wonderful for younger siblings joining in on the couch or during nighttime reading). It also has longer paragraphs embedded on the side – for older readers.
If you have a reluctant student (or you’re more formal than relaxed, like we are.. ), multiple aged children, or a child who really likes the format of casual storybooks – these are perfect.
Highlights Which Way USA- Map and Activity Books
A very kind homeschooling mom gifted the entire older retired series to me –Which Way USA? Set of 50 States, Book and Mapabout 6 months before we started 2nd grade (you can see up top). I really wanted to have a copy for my daughter to do also when she eventually covered 2nd – so I ordered the updated version below to collect, that had a few key and notable differences in case you’re debating which to get.
A) The format is a bit different, and there are different characters.
B) The facts are slightly different (factoids and population numbers).
c) The new version includes a fun key fob. There are also license plates you can add to the key fob once you’re done visiting the state. (My son LOVED that it resembled car keys! ).
Although there are differences between the two versions – they were both rich in info and luckily in history there isn’t much of a change (aside from population numbers etc). So that‘s something to consider.
Each state also includes a foldable state map I kept nestled away in a back pocket of the activity book. I went over any key landmarks and then hung the map on a wall in our homeschool room. My son loved going over the state map with my husband when he arrived from work, or any visitors willing to listen! He really enjoys teaching, (which is also a great way to reinforce learning).
Ordering Tip: If you want to have all of the states in hand when you begin 2nd grade, plan to order them at least 9 months in advance to allow enough time for them arrive.
Another similar resource with some hands on activities and figures is Little Passports. (Click the picture to check them out).
I opted not to use them this time around because I really needed 2 sets (thankfully I already had one!). But if you have a kinesthetic learner or a child who might really be motivated for more hands on toys/elements – then this monthly subscription box might be great fit for you. I’m planning to use their World History boxes once we make it to world history in 3rd/4th grade! I actually had this program on my radar before I found out about Which Way USA, so if you end up using it let me know in a comment how you end up liking it!
I found the most amazing postcard exchange online and was able to collect most of the state cards from other local state families. The perspective and information that they gave was one of a kind! Although the information in the books we read was thorough and wonderful – there’s something special about getting mail from another family learning about US geography just like you are. My son and daughter loved seeing the cards roll in with their names printed on the front (kids love getting mail!). I then bound them with a rubberand (you can also hole punch them and hang them on a metal ring..).
You can join the group I used on Facebook HERE. Spots fill up quickly! So join in ahead of time if you want to get all of the cards in on time. The group is free to join, but the guidelines are very firm on sending them out on a preset schedule – so just make sure you understand and read everything before you can you commit. If you want some tips on how I streamlined postcards – let me know in a comment. I joined the group about 6 month before we started 2nd.
When Did I Cover the Postcards?
We went over them AFTER the US warm up (the Target Dollarspot mini worksheet) and the US map worksheet. BEFORE the MFW US Map worksheet (stay tuned for next month’s video where I’ll be recording an entire, fast motion, “day in the life” of my 2nd Grade homeschool day where this will make more sense. Make sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss it!
MFW recommends a trio of Usbourne Science books that – while very accurate and fun, just felt too disjointed from the unit things we were covering. I purchased this curriculum on a MFW Used Curriculum Re-sell group (email me if you’re interested in the link for it). Because of that I don’t have the science curriculum to show you – you can click over to the MFW Books Website to see what’s included in a complete curriculum HERE.
As a result, I decided to go with Apologia’s Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day — Young Explorers Series (Young Explorer (Apologia Educational Ministries))Science Curriculum with an accompanying “Charlotte Mason” Inspired Junior notebook Zoology 1 Junior Notebooking Journal: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (Young Explorer Series), tailored for the elementary age group (they also have an older aged notebook wonderful for multi-aged kids. My son lovesss this notebook and curriculum so much! It ties in nicely with the US bird books I mentioned up top.
The text is also wonderful for gifted, asynchronous, deep domain digging kids. My son loves to dig deep into concepts he enjoys – so texts like this that are higher up than his current level, allows me to have more detailed information on hand (rather than telling him we’ll research it or look up in a book later). I usually highlight what I want to cover from the text (since the information is pretty thorough), and if he desires more – I then read more. So far I’ve read all of the material to him because he IS very interested. I definitely see us circling back to this curriculum in the later grades.
If we can’t get to science during our normal formal learning time, the book is written in such a nice narrative that we can easily take it to the park to read, or get to it during bedtime. The experiments are also very easy to do, using mostly everyday kitchen or household materials. My husband loves contributing to this portion after dinner – since he really loves science, and it doubles as bonding time with the kids!
Homeschool Tip: Find a couple of ways to incorporate dad into your homeschool life (each day or once a week). It not only helps him to feel included, having your spouse understand what you’re doing really helps your bond and the health of your mutual homeschooling outlook.
When We Introduced Science This Year
I started this curriculum once we completed the MFW Language Arts and Draw Write Now writing activities around mid year. We do science during the 2nd half of the year (spring when most birds are out anyway), and continue through the summer. Next year, I plan on possibly switching or doing as an addition to this – Apologia’s Botany since my daughter loves flowers
There are 2 wonderful Netflix documentaries that compliment this curriculum very well: Animal Homes and The Life Of Birds. You can also purchase the DVDs on Amazon if you don’t have Netflix, and are like me – who enjoys saving their own hard copy for future reference of great shows. Click on the pictures below to view them:
Independent Work: Art, Penmanship, Cursive, Logic
Independent work (or what PS or Private Educators like to call “busy work”), can really help your homeschool run smoothly when teaching multiple aged children. When you need to go over material that’s very specific to your child (I’ve found reading, math and writing are big ones), indepent work lets the child feel productive while you teach another child – but most importantly it gives them a taste of how it feels to learn things on their own, which helps with growing in the direction of independent learning (the goal of this entire gig).
Draw Write Now
Can I tell you how much I love this curriculum for 2nd grade?! In 2nd, I used Books 1, 2, 3 and 5 using a PDF schedule you can download by visiting the resources section of THIS MFW Facebook Group.
What I LOVE most about this curriculum is that it combines, art, copywork, and history all in one engaging sweep. Seriously. If you have a reluctant writer like I do -(moms of boys I know you can commiserate with me here!), you will love these books.
US History Mazes (logic)
I found this wonderful United States Maze Craze (Dover Children’s Activity Books)by Dover Publications on Amazon, it’s a nice warm up before we begin our study, or as independent work while my daughter is doing her lessons with me (we alternate weeks on who goes first, you can see more in Video 1). I love that it has fun drawings of important landmarks on the margins. My daughter uses the Ancient maze book in1st grade (stay tuned for my 1st grade videos once I’m done with this 2nd grade series in case you’re interested in info on how I Homeschooled this grade).Mazes are a great way to help with eye tracking, planning and problem solving. How I Homeschool 2nd… Click To Tweet
Audio & Video Resources
Learn Our History DVDS
This DVD subscription program was wonderful to play in the car or during downtime during the week. Created by Mike Huckebee they go over various parts of history and the election process. It was a wonderful aide to help explain the workings of the government, and elections. We ended up getting 9 dvds, and then canceled our subscription (you can cancel any time). You can see the 9 we have in today’s video below.
This cartoon style DVD Liberty’s Kids – The Complete Series comes with all of the episodes in one convenient place. I originally attempted to view and weave together the free episodes on Youtube (save your sanity!), but I couldn’t find all of them, and the quality was just not great. I was so happy to catch them all (and in just 1 CD), on sale last year for $5 on Christianbook.com. Because of the cartoon format, it felt much more entertaining to watch vs. the Learn Your History DVDS that felt more formal.
Patriotic Songs of the US Music CD
These came as a part of the MFW 2nd curriculum. The CD includes patriotic songs like God Bless America, Yankee Doodle, and the Star Spangled Banner. In total there are 11 songs (remakes not original compilations).
Additional Books and Read-Alouds
I found many of these at Goodwill, while thrift shopping, or on Amazon. All of these were fun selections that added to our story. I’m very excited about incorporating the American Girl history books next year for my daughter – if you’re looking for gender specific resources, I hear these are excellent. I was able to find a couple of books that I’m holding until the fall for her.
*In order from left to right, top to bottom.
1. Leif the Luckyby D’Aulaire. 2. Viking (DK Eyewitness Books) 3. You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Viking Explorer! (Revised Edition) 4.Squanto’s Journey 5. The Story of the Pilgrims (Pictureback(R)) 6. I can read about Indians 7. George Washington (Read, Discover, Explore) and more 8. Abraham Lincoln reader by Harcourt. 9. Meet Samantha an American Girl Book One 10. Legend of Freedom Hill (See bonus book #11 in today’s video below).
Resources We Used as a Reference
Confessions of a Homeschooler Road Trip USA
This curriculum is fantastic. It’s intended for 3rd Grade but I used many of the postcard printouts for the post cards we didn’t get from our exchange above. I’m planning to have my son do the road trip crafts and activities for his 3rd grade year.
I didn’t add it in this year because all of the other resources we had in the mix this year were honestly more than enough. (Note: I also found the State-by-State picture book recommendations mentioned above in this curriculum!). There are also recipes included for some of the states, as well as lesson-extending video links.
“If You Lived” History Books
These books are also mentioned in the COAH curriculum above. Click the picture to read more. Although I did purchase them, I didn’t use them this year. I found the MFW history books provided more than enough information for 2nd grade, but I’m excited to cover these in 3rd grade since they do provide more detailed information. I really like the vivid illustrations of these books, so I’m hoping my son will enjoy reading them out-loud, or on an “assigned” basis – during his independent work. I’m also thinking about adding a “book report” at the end of each booklet, to see his recall and comprehension of the material.
What Your __ Grader Needs to Know Books
I use these books every year as part of my curriculum planning (click the picture to read more), and as a quick resource when hard times hit or we’re pressed for time (illness, medical appointments, moving). Read my post How To Homeschool Through Hard Times for More Ideas and Strategies. This book allows us to curl up and get a dose of learning in the car, before bedtime, or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office (special needs or chronic illness mom. This is a great one to squeeze in learning anytime!).
Even though they are common core aligned (We are presently anti- common core, but choose curriculum not just based off of it’s “happenstance” alignment – but the quality and substance of the materials we want to incorporate). These books are very well written and detailed.
We also use excerpts from this book for Poetry Tea Time. If you’ve been following me on Instragram, or Facebook – you’ve probably seen my recent post where I shared 3 of the poems we read during our last family Poetry Tea Time.
They were from this book (!)
We also read the fairy tales in the literature section, after we’ve read all of the poems in the book. We also research more selections by the authors we’ve enjoyed. My kids get to develop the skill of discerning what they like (and want more of), all while learning how to research – after being prompted by a need or interest (so much more effective than researching something random!).
We did quite a few field trips to bring history to life this year. I’ll have videos going over these along with tips – further along in this series.
In today’s Video I’m giving you a live Glimpse and Preview of all of the materials I used, and a few bonus items I don’t mention here. Check it out:
I hope you enjoyed this post and the linked resources. In next month’s Part 3 I will be going over a Real Life Fast Motion, Day in the Life of what it’s like to Homeschool 2nd Grade (start to finish!).
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I hope you found today’s post useful as you get started planning for your 2nd grade year or if you’re starting to homeschool after leaving PS or private school – mid-year.
What has been your greatest challenge or lesson from teaching 2nd grade? Please share it below in a comment for a homeschool mom planning her year <3.
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