Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom

This week of our pretend travels around the world started with a pretty existential question: what is a country? This week, the kids had chosen the United Kingdom from our world map. 

According to the Internet, the United Kingdom is made up England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland... wait a minute. Those are each countries, aren't they? How can a country be part of another country??

So what's a country? I thought briefly that each of those places should have a week all to themselves because they each have their own flag... but then again, U.S. states have their own flags, too. I started asking for second opinions. Phillip started talking about the Prime Minister but that just confused me more. Even my trusted adviser Google was absolutely no help.

In the end, I reasoned that since the United Kingdom is represented in the Olympics as a country, I went with that. If you're from England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland and disagree with my decision, I blame the Olympics. (If it'll make you feel better, it's perfectly okay to tell me I'm an idiot in the comments.)

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The kids found the UK on our map and filled out a page of their passports with information about the United Kingdom. My son was annoyed at all the bordering seas and bodies of water he had to write in. Sorry, bud. They're islands.

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I have no idea what that random hand is doing or which child's it is.

If you want to download the passport pages, click here.

Then we drew the UK flag, the Union Jack. It doesn't look that complicated (it's just a bunch of straight lines, after all) but getting the proportions and the angles to come out right was really hard for my kids to figure out!

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Union Jack: Looks deceptively straightforward.

They weren't completely happy with the finished product, but I told them that "better is the enemy of good enough," something Phillip is constantly saying just to bug me. (Since I'm a perfectionist, I usually pretend I didn't hear him.)

We read A Visit to the United Kingdom by Rachael Bell and watched a short 13-minute video by Shlessinger Media called Countries Around the World: United Kingdom. I really like that video series because they're short, intended for kids' classroom use, and we can get them at my local library.

I looked around for general UK-themed activities that other people have already made but I couldn't find any I really liked, so I made up a worksheet that would help the kids recognize and identify the 4 countries that made up the United Kingdom and their flags.

The blank UK map is courtesy of Printable Maps, and the flags are from Printable Colouring Pages. You can download the PDF below:

Download the PDF

In this activity, the kids had to find which flags belonged to which countries, color them the right colors, then label their maps and put the flags in the right places.

I didn't anticipate my 3-year-old to want to be involved in this, but she begged for a worksheet, too. Here is her finished work:

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
A preschooler's creative rendition of the flags of the United Kingdom. Very colorful.

This was how the older kids' turned out:

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Meanwhile, the baby was on the floor hard at work, too.

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

For dinner we had bangers and mash, an English dish with a much cooler name than "sausage and mashed potatoes." They're apparently called "bangers" because they sort of burst out of their casings, but when I asked my kids why they thought so, my daughter guessed "Because they bang the pigs on the head before turning them into sausages?"

We planned to spend one day on each of the 4 areas of the United Kingdom for the rest of the week.


Today was Northern Ireland, but we went to a big awards dinner for Phillip's work so Northern Ireland sort of got the shaft.

Sorry, Northern Ireland. We'll talk about you more when we visit the Republic of Ireland for a whole week next year.

We didn't have time to cover much, but we did talk about why Northern Ireland is part of the UK and the rest of Ireland isn't. Of course I didn't really know so I read a little about it from these smart people over at Quora. Then I acted like a genius who's just always known this stuff when I repeated it to the kids later that day.


Up for today: England! Which makes me a little nervous, because I have many blogging friends who live in England. (Citizens of England, please see the above statement about calling me an idiot in the comments.)

We familiarized ourselves with some of the landmarks and attractions in England by reading Katie in London by James Mayhew.

We attempted to watch a video from our library called Visions of England, which I do NOT recommend for children, any adult with narcolepsy, or adults without narcolepsy. It combined an extremely soft-spoken narrator with sort of a comatose voice and a hard-to-understand accent with an hour of sleepy arial footage of England's landmarks put to music you'd hear at a day spa. It was like one of those YouTube videos called "WATCH THIS IT WILL PUT YOU TO SLEEP!"

Seriously, my kids have a long attention span. We don't have a TV at home, so they will watch the most boring, longest thing on a screen just because it's on a screen  and even we couldn't finish this video.

(At one point my 9-year-old said, "I think for this video they should've picked someone who was a little more excited about England...")

However, we watched it long enough for them to at least get a feel for some of the landmarks and moved on to our activity: making a travel brochure for somewhere in England.

I showed them a few real travel brochures and we talked about the features of each: colorful pictures, an explanation of what and where it is, something about its history, and why you should visit there.

My kids chose Tower Bridge:

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Fountains Abbey:

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

and Hadrian's Wall:

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

For dinner I threw a roast in the crockpot with carrots and potatoes, and we had Yorkshire pudding. The kids were a little confused at what this bread product had to do with pudding, but they liked it, anyway.


We started the day by reading Cultural Traditions in the United Kingdom by Lynn Peppas.

Continuing to talk about England, we talked about similarities between their culture and ours. One big difference is that we in the United States don't have royalty!

I'd checked out a book about Princess Diana, but it talked about all the affairs and wasn't appropriate for the ages of my kids. But we did read an awesome Rookie Biography called Elizabeth the First: Queen of England by Carol Greene.

After that I asked my two oldest to pretend they were newspaper journalists. They needed to create an article with a picture of her and at least three Q&A with Queen Elizabeth. They were hilariously creative.

My oldest wrote a newspaper called The Time Traveler's Gazette. The paper is published in the year 2115 and the reporter goes back in time to different periods to bring them exclusive interviews with historical figures.

As it happened, the kids left their articles outside and it poured rain that night. I learned the next morning that you can dry paper in the microwave. (Regular power for a minute and a half... who knew??)

For dinner we made bubble 'n squeak, which Allrecipes assured me was English. My kids liked the name.


We moved on to Wales today, and relied heavily on YouTube. This video of 10 facts about Wales was a decent intro.

We watched this animated short to show the kids what the Welsh language sounds like. I have no idea what it's about, but it's all I could find. Believe me, I searched YouTube for a while for something appropriate. Since only 562,000 people speak Welsh, I understand the slim pickings.

This YouTube video tells about Wales' patron saint. St. David's day is celebrated March 1st. My kids absolutely loved the cute 4-year-old narrator's accent.

Because we learned that sheep outnumber humans in Wales 3 to 1, we made the cute stand-up sheep craft from Red Ted Art.

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Of course right afterwards we made Welsh cawl for dinner... using lamb. My 3-year-old was running around the table showing everyone her bowl going "There's a sheep in this! They killed it so I could eat it!" And at bedtime she asked me sweetly, "Mommy, sometimes can we have sheep for lunch?"

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying the United Kingdom {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
That hairy arm isn't mine, by the way. Phillip volunteered.


Last day: Scotland! We read B is for Bagpipes by Eve Begley Kiehm

This was another YouTube-heavy day. What did people do before YouTube??

We mostly looked up interesting things from the book to see what they were like. We saw Scottish dancing here and here, someone playing the bagpipes, and what curling is. We also looked up a Highland Games sport called "toss the caber:"

Phillip's comment was, "I threw my back out just watching these guys."

We ended by having them write a story about the Loch Ness monster with the help of this printable from Activity Village.

At dinnertime we listened to Scottish folk music while eating Shepherd's Pie. My kids liked it, but let me know in no uncertain terms that it was NOT pie.

All in all, visiting the United Kingdom was fun, and as a bonus for me, I finally figured out the difference between Great Britain and the UK. The kids' main takeaway was that the food is the most interesting thing about the UK: Yorkshire pudding isn't pudding, Shepherd's Pie isn't pie, and how can you not love dishes named "bubble and squeak" or "bangers and mash?"

This week on our around-the-world geography learning adventure, I taught the kids all about the United Kingdom (UK.) It was a full week packed with hands-on activities and crafts to learn about England, Wales, Scotland, and more! Free printables, book lists, and recipes included. #unitedkingdom #uk #educational #aroundtheworld #kids

Building the perfect United Kingdom (UK) lesson plan for your students? Are you doing an around-the-world unit in your K-12 social studies classroom? Try these free and fun UK-themed activities, crafts, books, and free printables for teachers and educators! #unitedkingdom #uk #lessonplan #students
This United Kingdom (UK) unit study is packed with activities, crafts, book lists, and recipes for kids of all ages! Make learning about the UK in your homeschool even more fun with these free ideas and resources. #unitedkingdom #uk #kids #homeschool
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Tubbs said...

I'm laughing so hard right now! It's so hard to explain about a country just through videos, food etc. You get an idea, but it's not the same as coming. (Visit! You'll love it). But I Doubt we'd do better trying to understand America!

Anonymous said...

I love this! You are such an amazing teacher to your kids!

Jenny Evans said...

I'd love to visit. Can my family of 7 crash at your place? ;)

Mrs Helicopter Writes said...

Ahaha! LOVE this! I'm Welsh! I'm really shocked to learn that only 562,000 people speak our language! Does that include our Patagonian comrades?! It probably seems like a drop in the Ocean to you! I think it's great to educate your kids about different countries around the world! What a fab idea! #TheTruthAbout

Jenny Evans said...

I think I got that number from an early 2000 census. I'm figuring that was why it was hard to find a kid-friendly YouTube video showing Welsh. Because, you know, not all of them are going to be YouTubers, and even those that are won't necessarily be posting videos about Welsh all the time.

Jenny Evans said...

Thanks Christine. I'm hoping they remember this kind of stuff when they look back on their childhoods, instead of our deadbeat tooth fairy who never, ever remembers to come!

Unknown said...

I love the Welsh accent too, it is totally adorable. It was a bit hard to see the entire history and culture of my country wrapped up so succinctly but I salute you for what you have done here! I hate bubble and squeak and it's news to me that Shepherd's Pie is considered a Scottish dish... Absolutely love Philip's comment - your husband is a funny man :-) Thanks for so bravely linking up Jenny X #thetruthabout

Su said...

Great post! I have the laugh "better is the enemy of good enough" & your daughter's guessed "Because they bang the pigs on the head before turning them into sausages?" Ace! Lovely drawing of the brochure by the way. Great job mama! :) x #TheTruthAbout

Jenny Evans said...

I do feel like I wasn't able to do it justice. But we try. And one day maybe we'll visit there (for real) to make up for it!

Jenny Evans said...

I thought that was a pretty good guess, too!