The Hardest Subject: American History

History has been, for me, the most difficult subject to plan for and teach in our homeschooling journey so far. I’ve checked out over two dozen history curricula designed for homeschoolers, and even a few that are meant for public or private school classrooms. I’ve looked into secular history and Christian history options. I’ve investigated history curricula written long ago, and some written recently.

I was very disappointed by most of it.

History, in general, is written by the conquerors. This means that most history curricula is Euro-centric, glosses over injustices done to weaker people groups, glorifies “expansion” and “colonization” (i.e. stealing land and genocide), and tends to water down historical fact to the point of inaccuracy. I won’t name specific curricula here, but you can bet that if it’s one commonly used in homeschooling circles, I found that it taught history this way and would not feel comfortable using it to teach my child.

The good news is that I did find a curriculum I like for world history! We will be using Curiosity Chronicles: Ancient History. It is a secular curriculum geared toward grades one through three (for the first level, ancient history, and there are later levels for older grades available) that feels like it has enough variation in how it is presented to be able to connect to multi-aged children who learn in various ways, with hands-on activities, fun projects, written assignments, reading, etc. to bring history to life. They have their own supplementary book lists as part of their curriculum.

Side note: I don’t see anything wrong with fictionalized historical stories, either in picture books or chapter books. That doesn’t feel like “watering down”; it seems better to present history to children in story-form, so that’s fine! My issue is with changing actual historical facts to fit an inaccurate view of what happened, due to a socio-political agenda of the author or their own lack of true knowledge.

Why is so much of the historical curricula for homeschoolers so flawed?

I think there are many reasons. But I’m not going to speculate on that here. After being entirely frustrated with my search, I decided to create my own American history book list.

The suggested books from Whole Story History and The Parallel Narrative were very, very helpful in this endeavor. I highly recommend that anyone searching for history alternatives start with those two websites! My goal was to find books that presented European, Indigenous, secular, religious, and ethnic minority viewpoints on what happened in the early years of America, so that we could see history from multiple perspectives.

Here are the resources we will be using for American history, over the entire second grade school year:

~ Under Three Flags: Exploring St. Louis History, From the Ice Age to the Louisiana Purchase, by Maureen Hoessle

~ The Discovery of the Americas, by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

~ Before Columbus, by Muriel Batherman

~ The eight part documentary 1491: the Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus

~ Sunset of the Sabertooth, from the Magic Tree House series (#7), by Mary Pope Osborne

~ Exploration and Conquest, by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

~ Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving, by Joseph Bruchac

~ Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl, by Kate Waters

~ Roanoke: The Lost Colony, an Unsolved Mystery from History, by Yolen/Stemple/Roth

~ Mayflower 1620: a New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage, by Arenstam/Kemp/O’Neill Grace

~ The Pilgrims of Plimoth, by Marcia Sewall

~ Tapenum’s Day: a Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times, by Kate Waters

~ Finding Providence: the Story of Roger Williams, by Avi

~ The New Americans, by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

~ The first thirteen episodes from the television program Liberty’s Kids, free on Youtube

~ Liberty or Death: the American Revolution, by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

~ Molly Bannaky, by Alice McGill

~ A Voice of Her Own: Phyllis Wheatley, by Kathryn Lasky

~ Abigail Adams, by Alexandra Wallner

~ John, Paul, George, and Ben, by Lane Smith

~ Paul Revere’s Ride, by Henry Longfellow

~ Children of the Earth and Sky, by Stephen Krensky

~ Children of the Wind and Water, by Stephen Krensky

~ George Washington, by Cheryl Harness

~ Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, by Gretchen Woelfle

This will take us up to the beginning stages of the American Revolution. We’ll pick up where we left off when we begin third grade in August, 2020!

If I could choose just three resources from this list, I would say you should check out the books by Betsy and Giulio Maestro, the documentary 1491, and Under Three Flags. They are really great, and can be used for multiple children as a backbone for discovering early American history.

I have about a third of these books in our home, bought from book sales in the past for a dollar or two each. The rest of them are borrowed from the library when I need them. We will read these books, narrate and discuss them, do a little map-work, add big events and people to our historical timeline, and occasionally do an activity based on the week’s book. A few of the books will only be used for excerpts; some will be read all the way through, over the course of a week or a month.

Since this is my first year truly teaching American history, I’m ready and willing to change or adapt what the list looks like! At the very least, I have peace knowing that I am working towards giving my daughter a more balanced look at our nation’s history. She has both European and Indigenous ancestors in her heritage, based on her dad’s ancestry and my own, and I want her to grow up knowing the truth about both sides of her timeline.


This entry was posted in Exploring education, Home-schooling 101, Homeschooling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Hardest Subject: American History

  1. wellwornsuitcase says:

    Thank you so much for this! My husband and I have struggled SO much with these subjects, and always appreciate finding balanced, secular resources.

  2. Pingback: Goodbye, Second Grade! What Worked, and What Will Change | lifeistheteacher

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