Despite the best of intentions to keep track on a weekly or bi-weekly basis of our American History reading and activities, we’ve now finished two “units” or topics of our self-designed American History studies without a post detailing what we did.
I’ll share a few thoughts here about our first unit (as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s — so I can remember what I might want to change as we come back around to American History in a few years!), and you can also refer to my general overview page of our US History studies for the year. I’ll be following up soon with a post about our second unit about the early settlers/colonies.
My goal with our first topic — Native Americans and Explorers — was to expose the kids to some information about what was going on here in North America before Europeans came to stay. We had read about some of the early European explorers of South American and Mexico last year in Mystery of History Vol. 3, but I purposely skipped over Christopher Columbus and the early North American explorers to save them for our US History studies.
Next time around, I think I might do things a little bit differently. I think I would incorporate the explorers into world history of that period (with MOH III or another resource), and spend less time at that point on the American Indians.
When I planned the schedule for this year I didn’t realize, first of all, how many of the resources available regarding various Native American tribes are full of information about how these people groups lived after the Europeans arrived. Secondly, there are many opportunities to read about Native Americans throughout the settlement/colonial period and beyond.
A few resource highlights:
I assigned Miss M to read Pedro’s Journal and Conquista. She didn’t really enjoy either one of these very much! I also expectd her to read the Kaya American Girl books, but after reading part of the first one, she let me know that she really wasn’t interested.
Miss M also read a number of shorter non-fiction and fiction books from our book basket. She really likes the “If you live with…” series of books such as “If you lived with the Sioux”, as well various picture books focusing on Native American legends. She didn’t care as much for some of the other informative books I selected from the library on various tribes and explorers. The boys also occasionally asked for some of the book basket books to be read to them, but not super often during this unit.
We only completed one chapter book read aloud during this unit, and started one more that we elected not to finish. You can read more about these two books in this post.
My favorite “overview” resource is The American Story series by Betsy and Giulio Maestro. This series of picture books takes American history from the time before European explorers to 1815 over the course of seven books. We read the first two for this unit.
As far as written work or projects beyond all our reading, the kids did do one project from the Native Americans History Pockets book (which Miss M declared to be “far too easy.”). There was very little interest from Miss M or Mr. E in completing any other written projects (lapbook pieces, notebooking, other History Pockets). The kids did do a few crafts from the book “More than Moccasins,” like these paper tepees.
In our history studies so far I’ve been amazed by my kids lack of interest in doing much of any written/tangible work or projects. I’m not going to force it or make a big deal — after all, I am pretty confident that my kids already know more about early American history than I did up until this year since due to various moves as a child I never had the “first half” of American history with much of any depth at all (though I had the “second half” of American history twice!).
We completed this unit about a week or two ahead of what I had originally planned. Given that we also finished up our second unit a few weeks early (i.e. we had read nearly all the books on our list and the kids were getting tired of that time period), I think I may have planned too long for each unit on our schedule! Miss M told me the other day that she was worried about what would happen if we studied US History “too fast.” I let her know not to worry — there is still plenty of American history left, and even if we get further in time this year than I originally planned, I can easily find good history or geography related studies to fill our time. 🙂