Ben and Me

This is such a delightful and fast read!  This year my we are studying US History (though we’ve long since past the Revolution) and Physics.  I love that this has reignited my kids interest in the American Revolution and pre-engaged them for our upcoming unit on electro-magnetism.  Add to that that Brave Writer has an Arrow Guide for this, and I’ve hit almost every subject.  That shouldn’t be too surprising considering the range of interest Franklin himself had.

1. Books: Get the book!  And I always think that the thing that goes best with a book is another book!  We frequently pair our fiction and non-fiction reading.  You could add a biography of Ben Franklin (and there are plenty to choose from).  Erin’s family is a big fan of anything by Kathleen Krull, and this one emphasizes Franklin’s role as an inventor. ( Or you could put in some of his original writings with The Wit and Wisdom of Poor Richard.)  Amos HATES these maxims in the book, so it would be a great way to spark a conversation about the ups and downs of neat little witticisms.

2. Games: Franklin was a true Renaissance man.  He worked at a writer, politician, leader, diplomat, inventor, and scientist.  I picked these games that play with words and history to accompany this box.  If you have an older child, try Banagrams.  It reminds us of how words were originally built on a printing press. Littler one?  How about Silly Sentences?   Looking for history? Timeline offers American History, and Inventions sets.  My 10yo spent hours playing Timeline: American History solo without any prompting.  Professor Noggin has American History, American Revolution, and Famous Inventions.  Pick one (or three like me) and start there.

3. Snacks: Amos mentions a few times eating “rye, cheese, and ale.”  Clearly, DON’T put cheese in a box unless you plan to open it right away.  I’d also buy it from your local store rather than order it online.  For the rye, you can try these crackers, or check out the activities below to do some family baking.  I’m not going to give my children beer, even if I do currently live in Germany.  Instead, we’ll have some ginger ale or root beer.  Though, again, you can make it an activity and make it yourself.

4. Activities:  Make your own ginger ale and rye bread (put recipes in the box)!  Be forewarned that the ginger ale takes a few days to ferment and depending on your bread recipe, you may need a few days for a sourdough starter. I chose a recipe that doesn’t use a starter or yeast because I’m terrible at making bread.  Next up, be like Ben and create a family newspaper.  If you need some inspiration check out Mommy Labs and Playful Learning for concrete ideas.

5. Crafts:  If might be a bit of a stretch, but since Franklin was involved in printing, why not make some paper?   You can buy this kit that includes everything you need, or if you really want to DIY, follow these instructions for preparing the materials and making a mould.

6. Trinkets and Toys:  The two things that stand out most from the book are Franklin’s infamous fur cap and his kite.  You can buy a Russian style real fur cap, or you can use this Davy Crockett-style dress up hat.  You might want a fancier kite than Franklin; try this one.  Kites can be fun to make, too, and there are many varieties to try.  I’ve never had much luck flying a homemade kite, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the point of it. For a big splurge, throw in a portrait of Ben Franklin on a $100 bill…just kidding!

7. Movie:  You could buy this 21-minute movie, but I am certain you could find it on some video streaming site, if you looked.

8. Extended Education:  If you lapbook, you can download a free printable at Homeschoolshare.  You can read a very brief biography on Ducksters. Another great extension is the show Liberty’s Kids about the early days of the US.  You can purchase it or stream it; it has its own YouTube channel.

9. Field Trips:  If you can afford a trip to Philadelphia, or better yet, Paris and Versailles, go there!  Or East Coasters could visit colonial/revolutionary sites, and the rest of us will have to be content with going to the park to fly our kites.  One other idea is to call up your local paper and arrange a field trip to see their printing presses and offices.  I had a chance to visit the publisher who printed my yearbook in high school and it was fascinating.  I managed to arranged a field trip to our local radio station, which, admittedly, is loose.  But it gave us a chance to talk about how news is selected and the different styles of writing that are used for different media.

10. Bitty Box Extension:   This book is really for younger elementary students, so your preschoolers should be able to sit still for the short chapters.  However, it’s a great opportunity to introduce them to some electrical science with a Magic School Bus book and activity kit or Snap CIrcuits, Jr.

Erin’s Family Experience

I went heavy on the games in this box because I’ve been specifically looking to add more games to our day.  I also had a problem with fitting our kite (which I had already bought locally) into any of the boxes I had.  So I very quickly wrote up some clues to send my kids racing around our apartment to find where I had hidden it.  I thought I’d stump them with hiding a clue in our math manipulatives (with the fake “Benjamins”), but they got that one faster than any other.

We’re now halfway through reading both Ben and Me and the Giants of Science biography.  And each morning I read them a handful of maxims from the Wit and Wisdom of Poor Richard to start our morning time.  We have begun to create our family newspaper, and I’m holding my breath that my EXTREMELY reluctant writer has written three full paragraphs when he was only asked to do one.

We’ve flown the kite, cried over Banangrams (I’m making house rules to overcome this), and my 10yo has solo-played Timeline until he has almost all the cards memorized.  We still need to do our baking activity, construct the tetrahedral kite, and watch the movie.  I’m loving having activities to space out throughout the month and even past when we finish the book.  We can then do a few more pictures books and cover a wider variety of topics for while.


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