George Washington – First President of the United States of America


Our feature book for this study is Meet George Washington, part of the Landmark Books collection (we are partial to Landmark books)!  This was another post that could have gone on forever.  I’d love to do a more in-depth post about the duties of the president, so I’ll save that for another post and another book.

If you can’t get a copy of the book, you can watch a short video on Washington’s life here.

Childhood and Youth

On February 22, 1732, George Washington was born on Pope’s Creek Plantation in Westmoreland County, VA.  He was the eldest of six children from his father’s second marriage.

Little is known about Washington’s childhood.  This lack of information has fostered many of the myths about his boyhood, some of which were initially featured in Mason Locke Weems’ book, The Life of Washington.

It was Weems’ book that was the beginning of two of the most popular fables about Washington’s youth: the tale of Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree and the story of Washington demonstrating his strength by tossing a silver dollar across the Potomac River.

One of the certainties we have about Washington’s youth is that sometime before age 16, he hand-copied The Rules of Civility, a list of social graces contained in Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men.  Just as Washington did, your learners can use these for copy work with this free e-Book featuring the The Rules of Civility.  If you need handwriting paper, click here for blank handwriting paper options.

By his early teens Washington had mastered growing tobacco, stock raising and surveying. In 1749, at the age of 17, Washington was appointed surveyor of Culpepper County, VA.  This was an important profession because, as settlers continued to push inland, the need for accurate surveys and maps grew.  He completed his first survey within two days, measuring a tract of 400 acres.



Military Experience

Washington began his military career in his early twenties and quickly moved up in rank.  He followed European military models and, on two occasions, even sought to have the troops in his Virginia unit placed on the British service.

As a Lieutenant Colonel, 22-year-old Washington led an attack on French forces at what became known as the first battle of the French and Indian War.  Two months after the attack, he resigned his position and returned as a volunteer under British authority.

It was through his experience with the British soldiers that he observed and wrote: “Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak and esteem to all.”

He later served in his most famous role outside of the presidency as commander in chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

Washington’s success in the Yorktown Campaign was crucial to winning the Revolutionary War. Learn more about his victory at the Battle of Yorktown here.

Discover how Washington’s leadership bolstered the success of those enlisted under his command.

Read more about Washington’s military career here.

Washington’s rank is protected due to the fact that in 1976, President Gerald Ford signed a bill which not only named Washington the mostly highly ranked American General but also specified that “no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list.”



The First President

In 1789, Washington became the first and only president to be unanimously elected by the Electoral College.  In fact, the United States was the first nation to elect a president.  On his lap fell the responsibility of defining what a president should do and how a president should act.

Washington’s opponent, John Adams, became his vice president. According to protocol at the time, the man who received the second most amount of votes would become vice president.

The first presidential inauguration was scheduled to be held in March of 1789, but bad weather delayed many members of the First Federal Congress from arriving in New York City, the temporary seat of government.  Finally, on April 30, 1789, Washington took the oath as president on the second floor balcony of Federal Hall above a crowd of onlookers.

However, even the morning of the inauguration was not without its own glitch.  On the morning of Washington’s inauguration someone realized that no one had brought a Bible for Washington to place his hand on during the oath.  This led to a hectic, last-minute search to locate one.

At the close of Washington’s inauguration, Robert Livingston, Chancellor of the State of New York, administered the oath of office and closed with, “God bless our Washington! Long live our beloved president!” This was the language familiar to those who had lived under the English monarchy with their traditional cry, “Long live the king.”

Subsequent inaugurations took place on March 4th (or March 5th if the fourth fell on a Sunday) until 1937, when the 1933 ratification of the 20th Amendment changed the date to January 20th.

Washington retired after his second term as president and lived only two years in retirement at Mount Vernon before dying from of a sudden illness.




Meet those who lived during Washington’s time to learn more about him and the time period.

Learn about George Washington’s contribution to agricultural techniques in America.

Watch Lessons in Leadership, an 18-minute feature on George Washington from The History Channel.

View a series of short videos about the American Revolution.

Liberty’s Kids offers numerous episodes featuring Washington.




Do a picture study of Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington.

Observe Emanuel Leutze’s painting, Washington Crosses the Delaware.

Use some creativity to decide what soldiers are saying or thinking in Leutze’s painting.



Coloring Pages

Print a free coloring book featuring all of the presidents up to George W. Bush.

George Washington:  Surveyor and Mapmaker

George Washington Crosses the Delaware

Coloring pages and activity sheets from the George Washington Foundation

George Washington Coloring Page featuring basic facts



Audio Resources

Mister President:  George Washington

George Washington (A Biography for Young People)

Washington (From Hero Tales from American History)

This Country of Ours: Washington, First in War, First in Peace

George Washington in the French and Indian War (from American History Stories Volume 1)

The Life of George Washington

Cavalcade of America:  Valley Forge

American History Stories, Volume 2, has too many choices to narrow the selection down to a few. It’s a good overview of what led to the American Revolution and, additionally, contains several stories about Washington.

True to the Old Flag:  A Tale of the American War of Independence by G.A. Henty

Young Folks’ History of the American Revolution

Meet historical characters from the American Revolution including George and Martha Washington, Private Joseph Plumb Martin, General Baron von Steuben, the Marquis de Lafayette and more with the Podcast through History.



Junior Ranger Guides

If you read our last post, you’ll remember that Junior Ranger Guides are meant to be used on site at specific national parks.  However, we have found them useful for home use even if we can’t use the entire guide.  Please don’t let their intended use dissuade you!

Liberty Junior Ranger Activity Book

Learn about Minute Men with Rebels, Redcoats, and Homespun Heroes

Learn about The Road to Revolution



Interactive Online Activities

View an interactive timeline of Washington’s life.

Look at Washington’s world with an interactive map.

Take a virtual tour of Mount Vernon.

Play the Road to Revolution online game.

View an interactive timeline of the American Revolution.

Complete an interactive word find. (Free Macromedia Flash Player 6+ required)

Try an online crossword puzzle. (Free Macromedia Flash Player 6+ required)



Other Free Printables, Activities, and Activity Books

Print a bare tree and do a coin rubbing activity using quarters as the leaves (colored pencils work best).  You also can learn more about quarters if you want to talk about the coins you are using.

Make a George Washington Big Galoot Foldable.

Create a George Washington lapbook.

Design your own Washington Monument.

Find out what life was like during George Washington’s time.

George Washington Mini Unit

Read a newspaper written as if in the time of Washington. The first part of the paper has some introductory news, and the second part features historic events as if they are current news.  If you would like a teaching guide for the newspaper, click here.

If you have older students and want to use the newspaper with them, choose the middle school version.  A teaching guide is available for the middle school newspaper as well.



Library Book Suggestions

The Scarlet Stockings Spy

Toliver’s Secret

Redcoats and Petticoats

George Washington

d’Aulaire’s George Washington

The Matchlock Gun

George Washington’s Breakfast

A Picture Book of George Washington

Sam the Minuteman

George the Drummer Boy

The 18 Penny Goose

George Washington and the General’s Dog

George vs. George:  The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides

Katie’s Trunk

Guns for General Washington:  A Story of the American Revolution

DK Eyewitness Books:  American Revolution

Magic Tree House Fact Tracker: American Revolution

If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution

The American Revolution (Landmark Books)

Liberty:  How the Revolutionary War Began

Real People:  George Washington



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