Learning from Home with Theodore Roosevelt and Library of Congress Collections

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Archibald Roosevelt, 28 Sep. 1907. Theodore Roosevelt Papers: Series 16: Additions, 1760-1993; Addition I, 1760-1930; Family papers; Correspondence; Roosevelt, Archibald B. (1894-1979), 1902-1916

Many households are juggling both adult work obligations and schooling children from home this fall. In September of 1907, Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States, wrote to his son Archie about his own experiences with trying to work with children in the house – the White House! Roosevelt was meeting with the Attorney General when younger son Quentin “burst into the room to show me the treasures” – “a large and beautiful and very friendly king snake and two little wee snakes.” Roosevelt wryly reported, “As Quentin and his menagerie were an interruption to my interview with the Department of Justice, I suggested that he go into the next room, where four Congressmen were drearily waiting…” The final page of the letter describes in entertaining detail the interaction between the 10 year old Quentin, the 3 snakes, and the four Congressman. (Hint: The king snake plays a starring role!)

Reading this prompted me and a few colleagues to think about what we might offer as engaging access points to enrich learning at home with the Library’s collections. Here are a few ideas:

  • Browse the Library’s Free to Use and Reuse sets and explore one that catches your interest. Share your discoveries with family and friends! You might ask them what they notice first or what surprises them. Classroom teachers might use this as a way for students to get to know each other early in the year.
  • In April 1912, Alexander Graham Bell published an article describing two experiments: “Experiment with a Floating Candle” and “Experiment with a Candle Too Heavy to Float,” and encouraging readers to try them themselves. Rather than explain the phenomena in the experiments, he concludes the article by saying, “the problem is not so easily solved by merely reading about the experiment without trying it.” Bell’s lab notebooks, and many of his letters, describe many other experiments, some of which might be replicated at home. If you try the floating candle, or other experiments, let us know what you discover!
  • The Library has assembled a page with even more ideas to support distance learning in classrooms, and many of the ideas could work with families, too.
  • Partners in the Teaching with Primary Sources Consortium have developed interactive projects for teaching civics with primary sources to students of various ages.  The post “Ideal for Distance Learning…” describes these projects and possible ways to use them to engage students.

Please let us know if you try any of these ideas – or have more to add!


Starting Conversations with Students about Personal Spending, Investing, and Stewardship with Historical Receipts

In the Sources and Strategies article, we explained that receipts for personal expenses such as these – for initiation fees, annual and lifetime membership dues, taxes, and donations – can provide starting points for conversations with students about a wide variety of economic topics from personal spending to investing to stewardship, and more.

A Recipe for Project-Based Learning

Recipes, like music scores, are especially interesting to me because they can still be used in the way the author originally intended. Though one cannot read historic newspapers to stay apprised of current events, or read historic letters to stay in touch with friends, “American orphan”; Amelia Simmons can speak through the centuries to help the reader get dinner to the table.