Having just finished our second roll through Classical Conversations Cycle 3, I have American history on the brain. The ideas for this set of Gathering Placemats were simmering in my brain for over a year. So, I sat down and got all of it out. This is the fastest I have ever completed a placemat set!
Of course, I am so excited to share it with you!
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A Quick Gathering Introduction
If you are new to the idea of Gathering and Gathering Placemats, let me introduce you. Gathering is what we call our morning time in our homeschool. Simply stated, it is a simple feast of goodness, truth, and beauty. I curate the things I want to share with my kids into two places – the Gathering Placemats and the Gathering Playlists. These two go hand-in-hand for our morning Gathering tradition.
Throughout the year, I share a new set of placemats each month with my kids. Since I have four kids, the Gathering Placemats come in sets of four. Trading and sharing is, of course, encouraged! We discovered the best time for our Gathering is breakfast time. Since we are eating and Gathering, I print out our placemats and laminate them for easy cleaning.
If you are interested in learning more about our Gathering, please read our Gathering FAQ.
The Gathering Placemats are absolutely essential to a rich morning time experience. You can grab them here:
I wanted to create a new set of Gathering Placemats for my kids focusing on American history and culture. To be real with you, I am not at all what one would call, “patriotic.” Yes, my heart swells at the displays of patriotism, just like yours. I am immensely thankful for the country in which I was born. But I do not recite “the Pledge of Allegiance.” Additionally, I do not place my hand over my heart at the playing of the National Anthem. However, I do want my children to understand this country of ours, its history, its culture, and its beauty.
Thus Gathering: Americana was created with the goal of understanding basic American cultural history. I truly enjoyed putting these things together! And I hope you do, too!
Gathering: Americana Books
Over the past five years of homeschooling, we have discovered some wonderful books for American history and cultural instruction. Here are some of our favorites:
- America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney
- The American Experience Storybook a compilation of stories about America’s heroes from the Copper Lodge Library. These would be perfect to read throughout the month, as you have time in your Gathering.
- The Children’s Treasury of Virtues by William J. Bennett. This is hard to find. We have a used copy. It is a compilation of three of Bennett’s books for kids. The portion of this book good for our Gathering: Americana is called The Children’s Book of America. I am not sure about the other options on Amazon for this book.
- Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by Edward Eggleston – short stories for little learners! (also available on Scribd)
I like to pick a book and work through reading it aloud to my kids during our Gathering. All of these would be suitable for my learners (currently 4th-preschool).
Gathering: Americana Playlist
The Gathering playlists are my favorite element of our Gathering!
You have free access to the Gathering: Americana playlist simply by opening Spotify (you do not have to have a paid Spotify account to hear the playlist – although I am not sure if it will have ads). We use our Google Home Device to play the playlist by saying, “Hey Google, play Gathering: Americana playlist on Spotify, please.”
Where the usual Gathering Playlists start with a hymn, the Gathering: Americana playlist begins with a Patriotic Hymn. I refer to this as a patriotic hymn because many of the “hymns” in American culture extol America rather than God. This is a distinction I desire to show my kids.
“Hail Columbia” is actually one of America’s first national anthems. It was played at Washington’s first inauguration. The song used to be played when either the President or the Vice-President entered a room. Now, we hear “Hail to the Chief” for the president’s entrance and “Hail Columbia” only for the Vice-President.
Another bit of trivia regarding the playing of “Hail Columbia:” when it is played by a military band, it is always preceded by “ruffles and flourishes.” The maximum number of “ruffles and flourishes” allowed before the playing of “Hail Columbia” is four. Want to share “ruffles and flourishes” with your kids? Here you go:
How many “ruffles and flourishes” did you hear there? For the Gathering: Americana playlist, I included a vocal and instrumental version of “Hail Columbia” for you.
I also included God Bless America from Irving Berlin. The song was the official campaign song for both sides of the 1940 presidential campaign – Wilkie and Roosevelt. “God Bless America” had a resurgence in popularity after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01. It is featured prominently in one of America’s cultural touchstones – the seventh inning stretch of baseball games. Since we are working as a family on improving our singing skills, I included a wonderful vocal version of this American favorite.
Folk Song & Nursery Rhyme
Since we have been using Ambleside Online‘s reading lists and riches schedules for a number of years, it was natural for me to select a folk song to go along with the Gathering: Americana. This past year I got into the habit of printing out some coloring sheets with the lyrics to our folk songs for my kids. So, when I selected the folk song for our Gathering: Americana, I thought I would add another. My kids can now create a coloring book of folk songs! You can get your printable coloring sheet for “We’ll Fight for Uncle Sam” here.
I also threw a little joke into the last page of the Gathering: Americana Placemats. The song version of this nursery rhyme is so delightful, but so short; I decided to put it on the playlist twice.
Gathering: Americana Composer
Charles Ives is one of America’s most notable composers. I included two of his more accessible works on the playlist. The pieces stretch the listener’s ears to bring in minor keys. My kids mention minor keys sound like “bad piano playing.” Although I am not as well versed on Charles Ives as I would like to be, I have a trick up my sleeve this month for our composer study! Gena over at Music in our Homeschool has got my back again with her course American Music for Elementary. The course has a whole section dedicated to Charles Ives!
I would also really like to get my hands on this beautiful picture book.
Gathering: Americana Answers
Scroll no more, the answers are here!
- Founding Fathers of the U.S.A., Challenge (page 3): Four of these men held the office of president. Only two of those men were also vice-president.
- State Capitals of the United States (page 3) – Help your student notice with questions like: What letters do most state capitals start with? (C and S) Which letters are not the initial letter of a state capital? (E, G, K, Q, U-Z) What is the shortest state capital? (a 3-way tie) The longest? (Jefferson City) Challenge them by asking them to name each capital’s state.
- Brain Teasers (page 4) – 1.) This riddle is helpfully solved by drawing a picture. Answer: He took the goose over first and came back. Then he took the fox over and brought the goose back with him. He left the goose on the other shore, bringing the corn with him. Then he went back again, by himself. His last trip he brought the goose back. 2.) This is an old American brain teaser in verse – absolutely delightful! Answer: a bubble!
- Capitals of the United States of America (page 4), Challenge – 1. Only two of these also serve as state capital. 2. The current capital of the U.S.A. is Washington D.C.
- Flag Math (page 5) – 1. A Star. 2. Seven red stripes, and 6 white stripes. 3. Thirteen
May God richly bless America and may God richly bless your homes!