#DearMrPresident About that 20

A year ago, I blogged about a group of homeschool kids in New England that started a petition to have Andrew Jackson’s picture taken off the $20 bill. (You can find a bunch of Everyday Learning ideas about Andrew Jackson at the original blog post.) Sure, Jackson was the — President of the United States, but he really wasn’t all that great of a decent human being.

The push to have Jackson’s portrait taken off the twenty has been around for some time. But, with the power of social media and the Women on 20s website, this campaign has reached a whole new level.


Agree or disagree, you can harness this hot topic into a fascinating learning journey.

Everyday Learning With a $20 Bill:

  • No record reportedly exists for why certain individuals were selected to be on different denominations, but see if you can make an educated guess after reading the White House’s presidential biographies. You can also talk about why Ben Franklin – who was not a president – was honored with a portrait.

    Check out the Federal Reserve’s free downloadable lesson plan that explores this exact question, if you want to save some planning time.

    • $1: George Washington
    • $2: Thomas Jefferson
    • $5: Abraham Lincoln
    • $10: Alexander Hamilton
    • $20: Andrew Jackson
    • $50: Ulysses S. Grant
    • $100: Benjamin Franklin
  • Read about how the U.S. Treasury Department designs paper currency. Enlarge a photocopy of the front and backsides of a dollar bill. Have your kids identify each of the symbols with a 1 or 2 sentence explanation of what they mean.
  • Take a look at the list of nominated women. Pick 3 names that are unfamiliar. Research them and create a poster that lists 5 interesting facts about each woman.
    • Harriet Tubman*
    • Wilma Mankiller*
    • Rosa Parks*
    • Eleanor Roosevelt*
    • Susan B. Anthony
    • Clara Barton
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
    • Rachel Carson
    • Shirley Chisholm
    • Betty Friedan
    • Barbara Jordan
    • Patsy Mink
    • Alice Paul
    • Frances Perkins
    • Margaret Sanger
    • Sojourner Truth
      * – Voted as one of 4 finalists on the Womens on 20 national poll
  • What about paper currency in other countries? Do they only feature past presidents and kings? Do any of them have a woman featured on their money? How often have other countries changed the portrait of who has been featured on their money? You can start with the Bank of England and compare their banknotes to American dollars. You can make a chart that compares and contrasts the answers to these questions across the different countries that you research.
  • Discuss or debate which criteria is more important in determining who should be featured on paper currency. For example: Should only elected officials be honored? How do you measure patriotism across different centuries? If you’re basing your criteria on humanitarian good, how many people should have benefited from a person’s achievements?

    There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. What you’re looking for, however, is the ability to back up your criteria picks with good reasons – not just emotions or opinions – and to be consistent with your reasoning across the selection of every person featured on paper currency.

Do you think Andrew Jackson should be replaced on the $20 bill? How else are you exploring this topic with your kids?

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Scholastic News Kid Reporter Writing Opportunity

Some kids love to write. If you’ve got a budding journalist on your hands, then this opportunity is just for you!

Scholastic News is recruiting up to 20 Kid Reporters. Students between the ages of 10-14 will write for Scholastic’s online Kid News website and print magazines that are distributed to classrooms across the country.

Interested? Find the full application online. Applications MUST be postmarked no later than September 26, 2014 AND they must be sent via postal mail.

The application must include:

  1. 400-word news article that uses at least 2 quotes from interviews the Kid Reporter conducted. The artilce must feature a person or organization that does good in the community.
  2. 250-word essay on why they want to be a Kid Reporter.
  3. 2 story ideas about they community they live in that they would be willing to write about.
  4. Some biographical information and a picture.
  5. Release form

Bullet-Proof Play Mats

Everytown For Gun Safety reported yesterday that American schools have suffered, on average, a weekly shooting Every.Single.Week since the Newtown CT tragedy in December 2012.


On at least 74 different occasions, some person, other than a law enforcement officer, brought a gun onto school grounds and shots were fired. In more than half the incidents, someone died. More have been wounded.

This is not just about disenfranchised teens lashing out against unchecked bullying. According to Everytown For Gun Safey’s review of media reports, children as young as 5 years old are bringing guns to school. These shootings are happening in K-12 schools, as well as colleges. (That includes the college down the road for me, where I used to bring my kids to see community theatre shows.)

BodyGaurdBlanket Image from BodyGaurdBlanket.com

Rather than implement more sensible gun safety laws, instead we’re seeing a whole new marketing line being rolled out to address this serious public safety concern.

The kind folks at ProTecht developed the Bodygaurd blanket to “provide superior protection for children and teachers while at school” That’s right, folks. In addition to learning the Common Core, students can now be trained to line up in an orderly fashion so they can receive their bullet-proof play mat before lying on the floor in a huddled, quivering, solitary mass “protected” from semi-automatic gunfire.

I feel so much better. Don’t you?

We teach our children to wash their hands after using the bathroom. We teach them to look both ways before crossing a stree. We teach them to stop-drop-roll in case of a fire.

Today, I suppose, we must also teach them to tell an adult when a friend confides in them about wanting to hurt other people – or when they overhear plans of retribution or violence being discussed.

Back in the day, we called this tattling. Nowadays, we hail this as heroism.

The reality is, this lesson pushes the onus of responsibility for keeping peace and safety in our schools and communities onto our children. Just something to think about.

Despite what it may seem, this really isn’t a rant against public schools. The reality is, many homeschool families also have children attending public schools – as well as being dually-enrolled in colleges. While the safety odds may be in our favor, homeschooling families are not immune from the potential of tragedy.

With every passing week, with every additional shooting that happens – guns in schools become an even more urgent matter that needs to be addressed, regardless of where our own children are educated.

Do you think school violence is a homeschool issue?
Share your ideas below!

Hands-On Electoral Process

The US Constitution guides the political life of our country and guarantees many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy everyday as American citizens. But, let’s face it: Reading that core document is not exactly everybody’s idea of a fun Saturday night.

Seventeen-year old Saira Blair decided to take civics learning into her own hands. With the help of friends and family, Saira put together a campaign and won the 2014 Republican primary against a 2-term incumbent. She now stands to graduate high school in a few weeks and become the first 18-year old elected West Virigina state delegate.

Not every high school senior in America can enjoy this type of hands-on government learning. According to NPR, only 18 states allow citizens to run for state office before turning 21.

Everyday Exploration of Elections

  • Is 17yo too young to be running for office?
    Some might say a 17yo lacks the maturity to take political issues seriously. But, just because you’ve got age on your side, does that mean you’re better suited to run for public office? Watch select clips from the 2014 Idaho Governor’s Debate and then discuss “fringe candidates”. What do you think? Should everyone have the right to run for public office or should there be more criteria that weeds out people who don’t have a chance of winning? (You can watch the full hour-long Idaho debate, if you want.)

  • Compare age and other qualifications for different elected positions.
    Begin with the US Constitution. Skip to Article 1, Section 2 and 3 for qualifications for running for a U.S. Delegate and Senator. Read Article 2, Section 1 for U.S. Presidential candidate criteria. Make a side-by-side column chart to compare the minimum age each office requires a candidate to be. List any other qualifications you find.

    Next, you’ll need to google your state’s consitution and find the section for minimum qualification for state delegate, state senator, and governor. Compare your lists. How are they different? Do you think the criteria makes sense?

  • How could a 17yo possibly beat an incumbent?
    Read the Washington Post story on Saira Blair’s win. Compare it to the Fox News story. Discuss what factors may have helped Blair win the primary race? Was it the difference in campaign spending? Did social media work in her favor? Or, did she benefit from an “old boys’ network” in some way?
  • Register to Vote!
    Check out the law in your state to see how old you must be to register to vote. Mid-term elections might not hold as much excitement as Presidential elections, but they are crucial for local politics.

How are you exploring the Election Process today?
Share your ideas below!

Election Day

U.S. Presidential Election

Schoolhouse Rock: Electoral College

Explore the U.S. Presidential Elections

  1. Presidential – Election Day Logic Puzzles
    Ages 10-14. Set the stage for exploring the history of US Presidential elections and inaugurations with five table logic puzzles. These brainteasers blend critical thinking skills with your government studies.
    The Teacher Notes let you know what facts kids should be familiar with before they start – like FDR was the only President to be elected four times. From there, kids use deducive reasoning to learn fun new Presidential facts.
  2. Ben’s Guide to Electing the President
    Ages 9-12. Find out more about the electoral process from a totally non-partisan point of view. This link is very text “heavy”, but it’s excellent information written for kids and published by the federal government.
  3. BBC’s Election Guide on Presidential Key Issues
    Ages 10+. You can get any more non-partisan than this – an election guide published in Great Britain. Find out Obama and Romney’s positions on nine key issues.

  4. Library of Congress: Elections in America

    Image source:
    Library of Congress: Elections in America
    Ages 10-14. Explore the history of Presidential elections in America by delving into Candidates, Voters, Party System, Election Process, and the Issues. Your study comes alive with loads of links to digitized primary sources and fun activities.
  5. 2012 Electoral College Map
    Ages 9-18. Download a free color Electoral College map from CNN. You can also download free lessons that explore the pros and cons of the electoral college system; activities that use the map; and how the Electoral College is connected to the Constitution.
    Image source:
    CNN Special Offers

Share Your Ideas
What are you doing today to learn about the Election?

2012 Nobel Peace Prize Winner: The EU

On October 12, the European Union was announced as the winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. The EU became the 20th organization to receive this honor since 1901.

Alfred Nobel

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Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and inventor, created the set of five prizes that bear his name when he wrote his will in 1895. Best known for inventing dynamite, much of Nobel’s work fueled the creation of armaments used by countries at war. In contrast, Nobel’s legacy celebrates the work of those who promote peace. In addition to the Peace prize, the Nobel committee awards annual prizes to significant contributions in the field of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine or Physiology, and Literature.

Nobel spent most of his youth in St. Petersburg, Russia where his father worked for the czar and invented sea mines. Nobel and his three brothers were educated at home by private tutors. By the time he was 18, Nobel could speak Swedish, Russian, French, English, and German fluently.

As a lifelong bachelor, Nobel met a woman by the name of Bertha Kinsky von Chinic und Tettau. He hired Bertha as his housekeeper and personal secretary in 1876. While she didn’t stay employed with Nobel long, the two wrote letters to one another for the rest of Nobel’s life. Bertha was a peace activist and she tried to encourage Nobel to become involved in her work. He donated money to her cause but did little more to become actively involved.

“Justice is to be found only in the imagination.” – Alfred Nobel

Most scientists and inventors living in the 19th century did not necessarily believe they had a responsibility for how their inventions would ultimately be used. From what we know of Alfred Nobel, he did not work to invent things that could be used for killing and warfare. Instead, Nobel assumed the destructive nature of his inventions, like dynamite, would deter people from using them in times of war.

Over the course of his lifetime, Nobel registered more than 350 patents for his various inventions. He owned 90 factories across Europe and America. And, he was an investor in his brothers’ oil venture in Russia. At the time of his death, Nobel left the vast majority of his fortune to fund the Nobel Prizes.

Explore the Nobel Peace Prize

  1. 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Learning Packet
    The Nobel Peace Prize Activities packet is geared towards 9th and 10th grade students studying World History. It can also be used with advanced 7th and 8th graders. The activities are designed to supplement a world history curriculum. The packet contains general outlines for implementing four learning activities and suggestions for three additional extension ideas. A mapping exercise introduces the European Union to students. A timeline activity allows the teacher to recap significant events in EU history. A debating activity develops critical thinking skills that evaluate significant contributions made by Nobel Laureates. And finally, a 1-page writing assignment allows students to identify with a range of Nobel Laureates based on gender, race, religion, or ethnicity.


  2. Alfred Nobel: Video Biography


  3. BBC Nobel Peace Prize Quiz
    See how much you know about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize by taking this high school level quiz.


  4. Conflict Map

    This interactive map traces more than 100 years of wars across the world. Scroll through the decades to find out more about each conflict. Additionally, you’ll be able to see who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize at the same time.


Share Your Ideas
What are you doing today to learn about the Nobel Peace Prize?