Friday, July 31, 2009

American History: Year 2

You know what? A lot happened in the United States between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. That's why we only covered a little over 100 years of American History in the past year.

This long blog post details our first year of American History. And you can find almost all of the books I've listed below here at my own store. As I explain there, I decided last year to make some adjustments to my beloved Sonlight material to better match my younger two children, who just finished 2nd and 6th grades. As I explained in that post, I dropped the spine Sonlight offers for American History: The Landmark History of the American People. We also dropped a few others and added in more hands-on activities. We used Peter Marshall’s The Light and the Glory and began his From Sea to Shining Sea in place of the Landmark History. This year we added Landmark back in very lightly and will use it more seriously in the upcoming year.

Yes, we have one year left of American History because I really can't see squeezing another 100 years into just a few months. (I am SO going to be ready for Sonlight 5, my very favorite core, after three years of being so US-centric!)

We left off last year after the Revolutionary War, moving westward. And so Lewis and Clark was a good place to start. You'll notice that I did the Civil War before we did the Oregon Trail and westward expansion. I felt as if the transition straight from slavery to the Civil War was more meaningful than breaking and heading off into the West, so we backtracked a bit after the war. It made more sense to me, and I don't think it matters in the scheme of things.

Year 2, Unit 1: Lewis and Clark
(Here is a post that details our whole Lewis and Clark unit, but I'll list the resources here as well.)
The Story of the USA: Chapters 4 & 5
Salt dough map of their trail and other activities from various resources below
Lewis and Clark: In Their Own Words (by George Sullivan)
Scholastic Lewis and Clark activity book
Lewis and Clark for Kids
The Great Expedition of Lewis and Clark by Private Reubin Field, Member of the Corps of Discovery (by Judith Edwards, Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport).
How We Crossed The West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer.
Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the American West by Steven Kroll

Videos: American Heroes and Legends series The Song of Sacagewea.
Go West Across American with Lewis and Clark. Very interactive.
Lewis and Clark at PBS
Lewis and Clark: Create Your Own Adventure
Journals of Lewis and Clark
Mapping the West with Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark Cyberhunt

Free unit studies on Lewis and Clark that go into much more detail that we did:
Happy Homeschool
Easy Fun School
The Teacher's Guide
Mama Bear's Den
National Bicentennial Exhibition

There are several other books for young readers that look fantastic but that our library didn't carry:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Carol Johnmann
Plants on the Trail with Lewis and Clark and Animals on the Trail by Dorothy H. Patent
The Lewis and Clark Cookbook
Seaman's Journal by Patti Eubank (I wish we had this one at our library!)
Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale by Laurie Meyers

Year 2, Unit 2: A Changing Nation

American Adventures: Earthquake in Cincinnati (Book 14)
Story of the USA: Chapter 6
From Sea to Shining Sea : Chapters 6-9

Year 2, Unit 3: Slavery
From Sea to Shining Sea: Chapters 10, 11, 16 (This is our primary text.)
Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling (This is an excellent book; please don't leave this one out!)
Harriet Tubman (Animated Hero Classics by Nest Productions): I was not crazy about this video. I didn't have a chance to find these but would next time around— Race to Freedom, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and/or A Woman Called Moses as the biographical, animated video fell way short of telling much of Harriet's story.
Frederick Douglass Fights for Freedom by Margaret Davidson
Uncle Tom's Cabin (Young Folks Edition): This is essential, in my opinion, because so many other books refer to Harriet Beecher Stowe's book as pivotal in the recognition of the evils of slavery in America. Although I had a copy of the book, this children's edition is available online, too.
If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine (I think this whole "If You..." series is fantastic)
Under the Quilt of Night by Deborah Hopkinson, ill. by James Ransome (nice picture book about one family's journey on the Underground Railroad)
Show Way by Jacqeline Woodson, ill. by Hudson Talbott (Traces the author's heritage from mother to daughter back eight generations, with a wonderful thread of quilting, piecing together, writing, and freedom. Love this one.)
Alec's Primer by Mildred Pitts Walker (Picture book retelling the true story of Alec Turner, born a slave in 1845, who was taught to read by his master's daughter. Ultimately Alec runs away from the plantation to join the army during the Civil War. We loved this story because it is based on a real person.)
The Wagon by Tony Johnston, ill. by James Ransome (Wonderfully poetic story of a child born into slavery and his subsequent freedom after the Civil War.)
"The Tale of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'" from The Children's Book of America by William J. Bennett
Addy: An American Girl series
My America: Corey's Underground Railroad Diary (3 books in series)
I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas (about the land rush in the late 1800s, post-Civil War)

In the Hands of a Child has a slavery lapbook. I downloaded this once when it was free from CurrClick, but I thought the information was too ponderous for my 2nd grader. I'd recommend it, though, for grades 6 and up. The Homeschool Learning Network also has a Harriet Tubman unit study for only $3.50. While I felt like reading the literature above was an excellent study of slavery in America leading up to a study of the Civil War, I think the lapbook and unit study would be an excellent addition for older kids.

Year 2, Unit 4: The Civil War
(There are hundreds upon hundreds of wonderful resources for the Civil War. We could have spent an entire year just learning about this time in American History. You may find that you'll need a lot more picture books or videos to supplement this list, but we had to stop eventually! When I did American History with my older child, we watched Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, but my younger ones weren't ready for those movies yet. Gone with the Wind, however, was a huge hit. We also watched a local re-enactment and we still have plans to visit some Civil War sites. Here in Tennessee, there are plenty!)
Abe Lincoln: The Young Years by Keith Brandt
Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg
A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln by David Adler
If You Grew Up with Abraham Lincoln by Ann McGovern
Landmark History, Vol. 1, Part 5, Chapter 23: "Slavery Conquers the South" and Chapter 24 "The Splitting of the Nation"
Story of the USA, Book 2: Chapters 13 and 14
If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War by Kay Moore
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
The Perilous Road by William Steele
Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder
The Death of Lincoln: A Picture History of the Assassination by LeRoy Hayman
Movie: Gone with the Wind (my kids absolutely LOVED this movie and they could understand so much of it after all of our reading)
(The My America series has all kinds of Civil War books, but my daughter was frankly tired of the repetitive pattern in these books.)

Year 2, Unit 5: The Nation Moves West
Pioneer Sampler: We absolutely loved this wonderful story/activity/history book. It is packed full of information, crafts, cooking, and other hands-on activities as it follows the life of a pioneer family. A must have.
Little House on the Prairie Books: Really, can you study this time period without them?
If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon
Sea to Shining Sea: Chapter 14
Bound for Oregon: Do not miss this one! It is actually used with Sonlight's 100 American History program, but I think it is much better suited for younger children (3rd-6th grade).
Pioneer Days by David King: We did lots of activites from this one.
Riders of the Pony Express by Ralph Moody
We also made Oregon Trail lapbooks, which I found at Lapbook Lessons. We used the resources above to help us complete our lapbooks.
And of course, no study of the Oregon Trail is complete with the Adventures Along the Oregon Trail game!

And that's about where we left off. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of material that is out there for this particular period of American History. We barely scratched the surface with all of the wonderful resources available. You'll notice a serious lack of internet sites. My kids have a short attention span for History Channel and sites—they'd rather be read to— but they are worth checking out for all of the units above if your kids enjoy those.

Moving onward into the 20th century!


  1. What a comprehensive list! I need to look into some of this!

  2. Thanks for the resources...we are covering these this year too.


  3. Despite my many years of homeschooling, I still find it hard to tweak curriculum. If it's in the Sonlight catalog, I think I need to have it and use it. My kids are doing three classes at co-op this year, so I don't need an entire core. But, try telling that to the nagging voice in the back of my mind that keeps telling me I need every piece. I've changed my Sonlight order five or six times already. I don't like the Landmark book, so at least I know I'm not using it. Even though I have it. Sigh.

  4. OMG! What a feat you accomplished! I am wading into Sonlight for the first time next year (as my daughter enters her junior year - nothing like waiting till the last minute!) I'm going to do core 400 using just the history and bible. She will be doing a LA class elsewhere and I don't want to overwhelm her with a double LA year especially with as much reading as SL has! LOL I'm just going to have a shelf of classics available to her to read at her choice. She told me she wants more high school lit. She was feeling left out from what her PS buddies were reading. Good peer pressure! :-) I'll probably drag her 400 out longer than a year with all the extra stuff we will be doing. She is starting French and Latin next year...that'll chew up some brain cells. :-/ all that on top of Alg 2, Marine Biology, art school, possible swimming....oi! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

    Watch out, I may be picking your brain for help! ;-)

  5. WOW!!! What an accomplishment. American history is so much fun to teach, but I agree that there are so many good books it can get overwhelming fast!! I love that you have the confidence, discipline, and sensitivity to make the curriculum work for you and your kids. That's what it is all about!

    Core 5 is my very favorite too, and I'm in your same boat. We will likely use that again next year, and I can hardly wait!

    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful plans and lists. They are a wonderful resource and source of encouragement!!

  6. There is an award waiting for you at my blog :)

  7. i'm going back to sonlight this year. i used oak meadow for the past two...but am ready to teach 3 of my kids together instead of 3 separate time periods. i'm starting with core 6. intro to world history part 1, then next year will do part 2 and then do american history the next.

    i'm excited to use sonlight again. i think my kids (especially the younger one) will enjoy all of the reading!


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