We’ve pretty much finished up the 5th unit/topic in our US History studies for this year, looking at the years 1815-1860 with a focus on the pioneers. Unlike previous units, I’m trying to get this written up before it gets too foggy in my mind. 😉 We still have one or two books to finish up that fit more into this topic, but since there is overlap timeline-wise between this unit and our next unit (focusing on slavery and the underground railroad during approximately the same time period), I feel like this unit is “done enough” to wrap up.
I had a hard time finding just the right “spine” or key text for this unit. I really wish that the Maestros had continued their American Story series beyond the “New Nation” book, which ends with the War of 1812. Those books give such a good overview of the time periods they cover, without giving too much detail. Other books I considered were too detailed or lengthy for the ages of my kids.
I was hoping for something that would give a bit of a socio-political overview of the time period between the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Westward migration and slavery are certainly two key topics, but other things were going on as well.
We tried out a few chapters of a vintage book, “This Country of Ours” by H. E. Marshall. It was okay, but the kids weren’t “into” it enough for me to feel it was worth our time to continue. I decided that since this is just 3rd grade/Kindergarten US History, I would just forgo finding that big picture “overview” and trust that our assortment of book basket books would be enough. After all, up until recently I don’t think I really knew exactly what else was going on between 1815-1860 (other than the pioneers, the gold rush and the slavery issues) anyway!
One book I did discover toward the end of this unit was “A Pioneer Sampler.” I had requested it from the library but didn’t look at it very closely until it had been in the basket for a while. I had been under the impression it was mostly an activity book, but that’s not really the case. Look for a post about it coming soon (maybe later this week).
Read-Alouds (linked to my blog posts about the book):
Of the three Louise Erdrich books, only Birchbark House originally appeared on my read aloud list for this unit. But we loved it so much that we went ahead to the next two books in the series. Doing this meant we dropped a couple of more traditionally pioneer-oriented read alouds I had scheduled. I am really okay with that, however, since I feel like our reading of the entire Little House on the Prairie series a year or two ago (even though it falls in a bit later time period) gave us a good background on the pioneer life in general.
A book I wanted to read aloud that belongs in this time period that we didn’t read yet is “By the Great Horn Spoon.” We’ll reading that one sometime soon. 🙂
Longer Books Read Independently by Miss M (age 8, 3rd grade):
Carolina’s Courage by Elizabeth Yates — A story about a young girl traveling west in a covered wagon and a challenging sacrifice she is asked to make in giving up a cherished possession along the way.
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan — I realized after including this book in this unit that it probably takes place later than the time period we were trying to study. Miss M read it and enjoyed it anyway. 🙂
Skylark by Patricia MacLachlan — Sequel to Sarah, Plain and Tall
Three sets of the “American Girl” books are set during this time period — Kirsten, Josefina, and Mary Grace/Cecile. Miss M has read the Kirsten books several times in the past (they’re her favorite of the American Girl books) and she did not re-read them at this time. She did read all the Josefina books for the first time and re-read 5 of the 6 Mary Grace and Cecile books. She also read the “Welcome to Kirsten’s World” and “Welcome to Josefina’s World” non-fiction companion books that go along with those series.
I filled our book basket with over two dozen books for this time period. You can see a list of most them in my US History Year 1 spreadsheet. Miss M read many of them independently, with the boys only asking me to read a couple of them out loud. The boys love the “You wouldn’t want to be…” series, and “You Wouldn’t Want to Be an American Pioneer” was no exception.
I read aloud to all the kids “Young Abe Lincoln: The Frontier Days” (We read this story about Lincoln’s early years on Abe’s birthday, no less!), “Who Let Muddy Boots into the White House?” (a humorous book about Andrew Jackson), and parts of “Day that Changed America: The Alamo” (a very, long and detailed picture book that I tried to squeeze into far too few minutes before a trip to the library on the day the book was due and couldn’t be renewed!).