Not Your Birthday

Teach your child to hold his tongue; he’ll learn fast enough to speak.

My fav Benjamin Franklin quote

Most people know Franklin as one of our Founding Fathers and also from his scientific experiments with electricity. But yesterday we were able to take a morning to not only learn about this renaissance man, but celebrate his birthday. More about this in a bit….

I am big on traditions. We have a handful of things we do for Christmas and other special days throughout the year. We do birthdays big in this house. Our family even has its own cheer (yeah..corny but I guarantee the kids will think back on it fondly in 20 + years). So I am always on the hunt for new quality traditions.

They should be fun, purposeful and learning opportunities. So I was intrigued when I stumbled upon It’s Not Your Birthday. This family chooses a different person from history to celebrate every week. It could be a writer, past ruler or even a military leader. But it is a chance for their family to come together over a meal and birthday cake to learn something new about an important person in history.

Fun party + learning opportunity?!?!  Count this as a history lesson and sign this busy homeschooling mommy up!

What closed the deal was that they sent me a “party in the box for Ben”. So on Friday we invited another family over and incorporated a lesson about the Industrial Revolution and the cotton gin.

We started off setting the table for your typical birthday party. I had the chance to get a couple books from the library and had a bobblehead doll to add to the mix (it is really Sam Adams…but who would know the difference??).

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When our friends came over we read a book about Ben and his life as an inventor. Then we pulled out the “invention box” full of paperclips, clay, tape, twine, glue, marbles, pipecleaners and any other  little doo-dad that kids could use to build something. The girls spent the next 30 minutes building their inventions while the moms relaxed over a cup of coffee.



Then each person explained their invention. We have some sort of new instrument here:


Next we squeezed in a little lesson about the Industrial Revolution and the cotton gin. The girls picked the seeds out of cotton and then used tools to recreate their own cotton gin. For some reason they really got into this.


Then it was party time! But would a birthday party really be a party without the guest of honor???


Yes! Ben was able to make a guest appearance. And no, I don’t have a Ben Franklin costume sitting around my house. Some friends work for an amazing journalism organization called Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and he is their mascot. They were kind enough to let me borrow the costume for the weekend. Our sweet au pair volunteered to wear it (thank you Annika!!).

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It was a really fun morning. As the party ended and we quizzed the kids, we were surprised how much they remembered about Ben, his life and the importance of inventions. The other lesson that stuck with them is that inventors fail. They work hard and many times have to do the same thing over and over – sometimes never seeing success but always learning from their mistakes.

This heartiness and ability to learn from failure is a trait I want for my kiddos. The world can be tough but your character will help you stand strong.

Next month It’s Not Your Birthday will celebrate Frederick Douglass’ birthday. He is another person that withstood unimaginable adversity but changed the course of history for freedom because of his passion and perseverance.

Check out their website for more ideas. And let me know if you try this out with your family.

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