Homeschool Chat: History - 4th, 2nd, 1st



While we are fully enjoying our summer break, over the last month I've been giving a little thought to our last homeschool year, and how I would like this year to look different.  I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head, and so many homeschool topics I'd like to cover, that I've been having a hard time knowing where to start when it comes to sharing on the blog.

Sometimes when I get stuck like this, it's best just to jump into writing out my thoughts and see what comes of it.  This week I want to break down what I am thinking we will be using for each subject, and then maybe next week I can get into more of my general strategy and feelings about our upcoming homeschool year.  So let's talk about history, shall we?

General Thoughts On Homeschool History

With everything that has been happening in America over the last several months, I think history is the subject that has been weighing on me most heavily.  It is a travesty, what has happened to American history education in this country over the last decade, and if you doubt it, check out this video of college students not being able to answer simple questions about the American founding.  In all fairness, there were several who did know the answers.  But all the people they interviewed here agreed that they didn't learn enough history in history class, and the two teachers in the video admitted that they don't teach much history in social studies classes, they teach current events.

There is a saying I'm sure you've heard - those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. (That's the idea, accurate quote is here).  It's a common saying because it is true.

It's more important to me than ever that my kids really know the history of America, and the world.  I want them to know the mistakes and failings of the past so they can do their part to not repeat those things, but I also want them to know the victories and heroism that is their heritage as Americans.  I want my kids to recognize the good and true and beautiful in our history, and aspire to those good qualities themselves.  That doesn't mean we ignore the sins and failings of historical figures, but I think kids are smart enough to be able to see both, to honor the admirable traits and accomplishments of our Founders while also recognizing that all - every one in our history - have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God in different ways.

All that said, my homeschool history philosophy is that I want my kids to be really firmly grounded in American history first.  Of course knowing world history is important as well, but I have a couple reasons American history takes precedence for me.

One is that my kids ARE Americans, and I think it's important for the children of every country to be especially well-versed in their own history. For my kids, they will need to know the purpose of America, why it was founded, what makes our form of government unique, our national symbolism, how the states came to be, what wars we fought and why, what we've accomplished and what things nearly ripped us apart - they're going to need to know all that to just be good citizens, and to have any chance of holding this country together in the future.

My other reason for emphasizing American history first is that it just makes sense to me.  It seems natural to start with the history of the familiar before branching our into unfamiliar territory.  And also, world history is really complex.  I believe the context of world history is very important, but it makes most sense to me to learn the most immediately relevant history first (for my American kids that would be American history), and then build the world context up after that.

Okay, sorry, that was long, on to my curriculum thoughts!

(From our last field trip before quarantine and all that.  We went to a railroad museum!)

What We've Used In The Past

Beautiful Feet Books

Over the past couple years we have used Beautiful Feet Books for our history curriculum.  I liked Beautiful Feet Books because it teaches history through interesting picture books and chapter books, which is way more fun and memorable than reading a dry textbook.

We did the "Around The World In Picture Books" set last year.  It was fun to give my kids an introduction to different areas of the world, and especially because I tried to incorporate Christian missionary stories in with it, which had a big impact on them.

However, I find the teacher guides for Beautiful Feet Books to be a little burdensome for my homeschool style.  I'm more of an open-and-go sort of homeschool mom, and the Beautiful Feet Books guides throw something different at me every day, which ends up making me rather scared to open the book.  Pre-planning might fix this, but like I said, I'm an open-and-go type of girl.  I don't like to have to pre-plan.

Toward the end of the year I found myself drifting back to unit studies about different parts of American history, rather than finishing out our "world tour".  We will probably casually finish that Around The World curriculum set this year, but I've realized I need to make some adjustments.

Christian Liberty Press

When we got in a history rut last year I picked up "American Pioneers And Patriots", and we did a pioneer unit study.  I loved that book!  Each unit was a story about a pioneer family, with suggested activities at the end, though we mostly made up our own related activities, including playing the old Oregon Trail online.

Story Of The World

We also used Story Of The World last year because our co-op was using it.

The positives of this curriculum are that it's very thorough.  Each year a different era of world history is studied, and most countries are covered.

The negatives to me are that it's alot of focus on world history, which I've already explained is not my preference for elementary school.  There are also some really brutal events in world history that are difficult to explain to my kids' age group.  Story Of The World includes overviews of some barbaric cultural practices that I would rather not cover with my kindergartener (think Aztecs).  And overall, jumping around to different areas of the world for each historical period is pretty complex information for a grade schooler to keep straight (sheesh, it's complex for me to keep straight!).

Story Of The World wasn't our favorite resource, and we probably won't use it again unless we rejoin co-op.

Oh yeah, we quit our co-op.  That's a different post.

What We'll Use This Year

Looking ahead to this year, I knew I wanted to go back to American history after our brief attempt at elementary world history last year.  I want to cover America's founding again, learn more about westward expansion and pioneers, and lay the groundwork for getting deeper into the Civil War and the 20th century with Wyatt next year.  I decided to change things up, and I'm putting together my own hybrid of a couple different curricula:




Beautiful Feet Books Early American Beginner

This was the curriculum I used with my kids two years ago, and that was a great year for history.  We basically read all the picture and chapter books in the order recommended by the teacher's guide, and that was it.  No random videos and library resources to plan for, no extra crafts or projects.  Just the books, and if I felt ambitious I'd help my kids record what they remembered into their individual history notebooks.  It worked well, and we all enjoyed it, so that's what we're going back to for Clyde (1st) and Gwen (2nd), and Wyatt will listen to the read-alouds too I'm sure.

America's Story 1 + BFB Early American Intermediate

With three elementary school students to do lessons with this year, I knew I wanted something a bit more independent for Wyatt when it comes to history.  The curriculum I settled on was America's Story 1 by Masterbooks.  This curriculum comes with a student book and a teacher's guide - the student book has colorful pictures - including famous American art - and engaging text that covers the founding to the Goal Rush.  The teacher's guide includes student work pages, and guidance on creating an American timeline project and a "book of prayers for our country" project that I'm excited about.

As an extra, I also decided to buy only the chapter books for the next level of Beautiful Feet Books American History to read over the school year.  My idea/hope is that Wyatt should be able to read through the weekly America's Story lesson by himself, and probably also accomplish some of the projects independently (with a little help from me).  Then he and I will either read the BFB book recommendations together (aloud), or I'll assign some of the easier books for him to read independently as we go.

---

Overall, my plan for history this year is more complex than in previous years, but I feel good about the resources.  Despite my current plan requiring more work to accomplish than usual, I feel that I've landed on a curriculum combination that will actually get done.  Will we be spending more time on history than we have in the past?  Yes, and I feel really good about that.  This is the subject I want to focus on most this year, so it's fitting.

What is your style for teaching history?  Have you used any of the curricula I've tried?


You may also like:
Ashley Brooks said...

History is the subject I'm most excited to teach my kids next year! I love your approach of using chapter books and read-alouds to make the past come alive for kids. We're doing Story of the World since it fits with the Montessori curriculum my kids have already gotten at school. I was intrigued by the global perspective because, although I think I got a really great history education from middle school through college, I still have trouble pinpointing which world events were happening at the same time. The linear timeline approach is appealing to me as a way to see how global events influenced things happening in other parts of the world. Anyway, super long comment! I'm trying something new (or old, lol) where I actually engage with people on their blogs rather than IG or Twitter. It's always fun to see what you're doing for homeschool—I think I was reading about your curriculum choices when my oldest was a toddler!

© Through Clouded Glass. Design by MangoBlogs.