Category Archives: Activities Away From Home

President’s Day

Monday will be Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday created in 1880 as Washington’s Birthday. George Washington was born February 22, 1732. Over time, that holiday was combined with the observance of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Presidents’ Day is observed on the third Monday of February. Most federal holidays are observed on Monday or Friday to allow a three-day weekend.

Abraham Lincoln, who just celebrated his 200th birthday, was born February 12, 1809. A hero of President Obama, the White House celebrated Lincoln’s birthday with a speech by the President and re-opening the renovated Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.

The White House’s new website includes a slideshow of U.S. Presidents with links to their biographies.

In Massachusetts, you can visit President John F. Kennedy’s birthplace, the Kennedy library, and several sites in Quincy related to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Many businesses also have good sales on this day, especially car dealers. Perhaps you’ll find some good bargains at one of the many stores in Coolidge Corner. This Brookline neighborhood, which includes President Kennedy‘s birthplace,  shares a name with another president with Massachusetts ties, President Calvin Coolidge, although it was not named after him.

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

One of my favorite books of 2012, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, is freshly relevant, after the death of the real Ivan in August.  After reading Applegate’s verse novel, you may also enjoy following the adventures of a toy Ivan with Mr. Schu, author of the excellent book blog Mr. Schu Reads.  (Grade level 4+)

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In addition to being an overall wonderful book, there are several specific elements which will make it useful in the classroom. First, it is fiction inspired by a true story, and that combination of research and invention is a valuable skill that is rarely emphasized in traditional curricula. Second, the author has found a form that is halfway between prose and poetry which perfectly suits the narrating character’s personality, and she occasionally varies that form to great dramatic effect. Third, although the bad guy is clearly doing the wrong thing, the book also shows that there may be complicated reasons leading to such mistakes. Finally, like Charlotte’s Web, this is a story that deploys animals to teach humans how to care for others; in Ivan, however, the human characters participate in the animals’ big plan a little more actively (including facing a situation just as complex and difficult as the bad guy’s, but this time making a sacrifice and doing the right thing), suggesting that it is essential for people to take responsibility to translate the lesson of a book into real-life change. Definitely a Newbery 2013 contender.

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“Extended Day” Programs at School

Many Boston-area schools run a wonderful after-school child care program called Extended Day.  Information about the Baker School program, for example, can be found here.  It is important to note that this is not an academic program like after school institutes (such as the hagwon in Korea).  Originally begun when working mothers led to latchkey kids who were left at home alone after school, this program gives your child an opportunity to play with other children under adult supervision if you are not able to be home.

In past years, we have had students attend this program to get more exposure to English.  Sometimes parents want their child to speak only in English during this time, in order to learn the language.  However, many children will want to play with others who speak their native language. If your child attends a school with many other students from the same country, this is a good opportunity for them to relax and enjoy their first language.   Because this is a social – not academic – time, that comfort of speaking in the language they choose is nice, especially after a long day struggling to listen to and speak in English at school.  It has been difficult for some of our students who want to follow their parents wishes that they speak English when they see their friends speaking in their home language.

Our students have compared Extended Day to recess, an enjoyable time for them to relax and play games (we grown-ups know that these “games” are also teaching them lessons in art, science and more!).  Parents can be confident that this play happens in a structured and supervised environment.  There is a quiet period for doing homework – we recommend making sure your child feels comfortable asking the supervisors for help with any questions, because at the end of a long school day, some children may feel more shy and will not speak up.

Your school’s Extended Day Program can provide after-school care for your child if you have to work, but it is also a supportive environment for them to socialize in English and speak in their native language.