January 7, 2011

  • The Fifty StatesA Unit Study

    I have been wanting – since the beginning of this school year – to do a study of the United States.  There are fifty of them.  They’re fairly close by.  Just about everyone I know is in them.  You would think that the homeschoolers of the world would have something on-line as far as materials for homeschooling each of the fifty states in an AO/CM friendly, non-twaddly manner.

    You would think.

    Well, there isn’t.  My friend Missy pointed me to State lapbooks… only a dollar each!  Which sounds pretty cheap if you aren’t thinking, but… um, hello, there are FIFTY of them!!!  I don’t think so!!  And I found a Squidoo site with lots of links to the .gov sites for each state so that you can wade thru the ever-so-exciting data compiled on each state in order to glean a knowledge of the states.  There are also links available to twaddly stuff… basically ‘color-the-state’, ‘color-the-state-bird’, ‘color the state tree’, ‘color the state flag’… sometimes I think homeschoolers have NO concept of learning beyond coloring pages.  It’s highly annoying to the CM-loving, AO-using, twaddle-free educator.  Once upon a time HomeschoolFreebieOfTheDay offered a set of worksheets (my friend Ellen helped me get them), but the more I’ve looked at them, the less I like the way they were put together.  Nothing ‘hands on’ about them, and very hodge-podged on the page… not easy to follow or read.

    It’s brutal out there.  And frankly…?  There is NOTHING that is put together nicely for the parent to print off and use.  Worse, I went to the library.  In the kids non-fiction area there’s a whole section on geography, and an entire shelf for books on the states.  There are two varieties of these books… the dry, factual, dull-as-all-get-out informational texts (which are deceptively skinny, but yes, they are textbook format).  Or there are the “Wow, isn’t this beautiful!” variety, which are all pictures, disjointed blurbs in 60 different fonts that you can’t make heads or tails of and… and… neither are living books.  I know, because between October and now I’ve brought home over half a dozen of them and slogged my way through and thought, “There is NO WAY this is going to work!”

    So it became apparent that I had to re-invent the wheel in order to come up with something acceptable for my kids to learn about the Fifty States from.  Oi.  But first, I wanted to be REALLY sure that I had to do this.  Surely SOMEBODY had some ideas that could be compiled with other people’s ideas in order to create a good plan that would work?  Thus, I  went digging.

    The Notebooking Concept

    Some woman named Jimmie in China put together a ‘Fifty States’ notebook with her kid.  Take a look at THIS mamma-jamma:


    Now I’m an anal kinda person, but… that baby’s FOUR INCHES THICK!!  Are you out of your ever-lovin’ mind?!  And I have FIVE kids… there ain’t no way that’s gonna happen over here.  Just… y’know, for the record.  She had this on Flikr, along with pictures of the forms from the inside… which were incomplete, IMHO.

    The State Log Pages

    But I liked her idea.  And in my own files, from somewhere I no longer have the link to (if you happen to know, please help me with this, k?) I had one sheet to do a State Study on.  I thought it was incomplete and wasn’t keen on it, but it was the best I had seen.  And so I printed Jimmy’s two pages off (link and link) and my page off (link wanted), and then scanned them, reworked them into two new sheets, adding a few things in here and there to make it my own, and to clean it up.  And here’s the two-page spread that I came up with:

    Both of which are, of course, enlargeable.  Just click n’ print!

    Now, what I did was print these back-to-back for 50 states, with a big map of the United States on the front, so that it would open up exactly like I have them laid out above – two sheets per state.  Times six of us equals 300 pages… thank goodness for the free copier machine!
    The Cover Page

    Then I created a beautiful cover for the top, printed it on cardstock (along with a cardstock last page) and comb bound the suckers.  Oh… maybe I should include the cover for you, too?  Okay, no prob.  Lemme just take a picture, download it, and .jpg it up, here, a minute…  okay.  Click to enlarge, if you wish.

    The State Quarters

    I’m assuming that Jimmie taped real quarters into her book but 50 quarters times six people is a LOT of money in quarters, so I wanted to print off a sheet of US Quarter pictures to put on our pages.  Go figure, there ARE no pages of quarters on-line ready for printing.  Good night, do I have to do EVERYTHING?!?  So I went to the Wiki page for US State Quarters, downloaded ALL of them to my PC, and put them in pages that could be printed.  And I’m uploading them so YOU don’t have to go thru that whole rig-a-ma-roll.  Click to enlarge, as always.

    See Anna.  Funny, funny Anna.  She uploaded it upside down. 
    Silly Anna.  Click to enlarge, anyhow.

    Okay, so now I have the notebook, the coins… I need the flags and the state seals. 

    Other Stuff for the Notebooks
    1. Luckily the state seals ARE available on-line to print…
      a larger version here (link) and a smaller version here (link)
    2. The state flags are also on-line and printable… just click the picture (link) and either print it or save to your computer. 
    3. You can get the bird/flower pictures by copying/shrinking them from this site (link) to a Word.doc and printing them out.  Someday when I have better capability, I’ll do it for you, here.
    4. I found really nice topographical maps with major cities and locations on it.  To get them, go to
      Click on the name of the state you want.  This pulls up a small map of the state.  NO NOT enlarge the map… instead, just under it is a ‘print me’ link. Click it!  Right click and ‘save as’ the image OR… ‘copy image’ and paste it into a Word doc.

    Books to go Along…

    After getting ALL of that assembled, I set out to find texts that were ‘living books’ to go with it.  Here’s what I decided on:  We open with Emily’s Guide, then look thru the P is for Picture-books.  Here are the links to them:

    Wish You were Here: Emily’s Guide to the 50 States
    Emily and her energetic grandmother set off on a grand adventure in a little red car. Their plan is to visit every state and Washington, DC, in one summer, exploring the things that give each place its character and uniqueness. The resulting oversized book is a visually appealing travel guide with a fine balance of prose and illustration. …There is no danger of information overload for young readers because each detail and fact is selected with an eye for high-interest appeal. …there is not enough information for report writers.
    aNNa’S NoTe:  The illustrations *ARE* twaddle, and it says it’s shallow, but… it gets the kids geared up to learn about the states.

    Discover America State-by-State
    Each title in Sleeping Bear Press’ Discover America State by State series uses playful rhymes and engaging text to introduce children to state history, culture and important facts. Children will learn what makes each state unique, from indigenous plants and animals to the famous people and significant landmarks.
    aNNa’S NoTe:  I think the artwork is fantastic, the poems an inventive twist, and the information shared is interesting and unique.  We are borrowing these from the libraries in our area co-operative.  
    For a better look at the series, click here:  http://www.gale.cengage.com/DiscoverAmerica/images/Discbrochure.pdf

    NOTE:  When you make your notebook, put the state names in it IN ORDER beforehand, so that they’re alphabetical and easier to find.  How do you know them?  Well, learn them by singing this! 

    The Fifty State Song

    I know I posted this here once before somewhere, but here’s me singing the ‘Fifty States Song’… it’s to the tune of ‘Turkey in the Straw’, and it’s hands-down THE best way to learn the names of the states (in alphabetical order!):

    We each have a green notebook (see above pic) and a set of flags, quarters, seals, maps and bird/flower pictures.  And each week we do another state.  They beg for them, because it’s a LOT of fun!

Comments (7)

  • how about postcards? meaning having people send you guys a postcard from their state & a description of what life is like in that state? you could put them all on poster board or something.  I also saw a lady that managed to get people to send her old liscense plates she hung them on a piece of plywood and then propped it up when studying the states – she also used it to play state bingo. just some ideas

  • Postcards are a good idea…..IF the state is…well, normal. Texas..isn’t. I mean, would you want City, or Desert (Big Bend) or Forest (the Piney Woods) or Coastal or or…..(Texas has all but 1 of the different areas……so yeah, we’re odd.)

    What about trying to get the free book from the State’s Tourism board? Texas has a great one – it covers the whole state, by “region”, it says something about why each area is unique, and it discusses all the cities and their quirky attractions. Ours is free….and I’m sure so are the other states – after all, they’re trying to lure you into visiting and spending money there! :wink:

    Downside – you’ll end up with 50 large-ish books. Upside – 50 books you can maybe cut up later for collages or arts ‘n’ crafts.

    I like your idea…..I’m storing it for later.

  • California is much like Texas – Mountains, volcanoes, forests, valleys, beaches, deserts, bays, buttes, immigrants, missions, movie stars…

  • uh-oh we got some of those free kits about Arkansas to send to the kids.

    I have read “N is for the Natural State” (Arkansas) and the pictures were beautiful the writing pretty good – maybe not Shakespeare but I read the aloud many times and didn’t mind.

    This is not a state book but you must check out “Pink and Say” by Patricia Polacco. It’s about two young soldiers in the Civil War & its one of my favorite children’s books.

  • Exactly… postcards don’t capture enough. And the state information is GUARANTEED to be info-oriented, and fact/data papers are not what a Living Education calls for. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t explored the CM-style teaching. Okay:

    Textbook/fact style literature: Florida is a penninsula on the southeastern tip of the United States of America. It’s capital is Tallahassee, which is located in the panhandle of the state….

    Living Book style literature: A warm mist rises over the thick vegetation, the low groan of a crocodile grumbling as it slowly glides through a swampy area. This is the Everglades…

    You see the difference? One is cold, impersonal, factual, and doesn’t *speak* to the reader. That’s what schools use, that goes in one ear and out the other. But the living books make you feel like you’re there, drawing you in, giving you a first-hand view of the state. THAT’S a living education… a CM education. That’s the kind of school materials we use – NO textbooks.

  • Holy Wow girl!! :eek: :eek: I wasn’t thinking of ordering all 50 states when I put up the link, just my own. Now that you’ve posted all this though, we might consider a study on all 50 after all! :yes:

  • Love your entry! I too do a US book for my 5th graders! Have you ever considered doing it digital? It would change your layout some but then, you don’t have to waste the ink and for the parents who really want the book, they can order it! Here is a link of what I am going to try this year!

    I really like your template for each state though….I may have to reconsider! I like the idea of the technology piece involved but you could always put the links on a portaportal and the kids have to access the information from that….

    Thanks again!

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