Our 2013-2014 Homeschool American History Curriculum

After MUCH searching, scanning, debating, and almost agonizing, I have finally decided to commit to a plan for our homeschool history curriculum for this coming year. We are taking a detour from our regularly scheduled Middle Ages history to do a whole year of American History. I know, I know, that’s not the Classical way, but I have a good reason. One of my best friends is moving just outside of D.C. in a few weeks, and I plan on wearing out the road between us with visits. Since we will be able to visit all the amazing historical sites that surround where she is going to live, I felt studying American history would just make sense. Seeing the inventions at Monticello aren’t as impressive if you don’t know the man behind them; and the bullet-riddled walls in Gettysburg don’t somber you if you don’t understand the horror of what happened there. Besides, the beauty of homeschooling is that detours from The Plan are usually where we find our best moments.

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I couldn’t find any textbooks or pre-written curriculum that were what I had in mind. I really love for history to be ‘3-D’ and relevant for my kids, and I just didn’t feel I was getting that with what I found out there. Then I stumbled upon this post from A Journey to Excellence where she discusses her idea for studying U.S. History using the America: The Story of Us videos from the History Channel. I always have some reservations of what the History Channel considers actual history, but since I am watching these first I can edit if I need to. I love her idea for using these videos, and I’m excited to incorporate them with our reading.

Next, I found where PBS.org has a video series based off of Joy Hakim’s books A History of US: Eleven-Volume Set: Paperback Set“>A History of US and started digging around for information on that book series.

I was able to borrow these books from our library to see if they were a good source to use as our main text, and I have to admit I was hooked right away. Each chapter is only 3-4 pages long and the books are filled with copies of original documents, advertisements, maps, and portraits. The whole book is written more like a story than a dry text, and she often pauses the historical details to get the reader to think about what life was really like for these people. In my opinion, she makes you feel like you are right there as the events are taking place.

I did read several comments from people on Amazon that said she writes with a liberal bias, especially in volume 10. I don’t think any historian writes without some sort of bias, and when I see something written in a way that contradicts our beliefs, I like to make it a matter of discussion with my kids and talk about why someone might believe that way, and why we disagree. There are a few chapters scattered over the 10 volumes that I didn’t like, and those we can just skip, but overall I felt she deals very fairly with the beliefs and events that shaped our nation, and does so in a very engaging way. I also saw that Sonlight uses these books in their curriculum, so I know that they are sound.

Now that I have my framework, here is my general plan for the year. Once I have the full year planned I will upload it. I’ve made it through the first 12 weeks so far.

Semester 1:  A History of US: Making Thirteen Colonies: 1600-1740 A History of US Book Two

Semester 2:  A History of US: From Colonies to Country: 1735-1791 A History of US Book Three

Semester 3:  A History of US: The New Nation: 1789-1850 A History of US Book Four and A History of US: Liberty for All?: 1820-1860 A History of US Book Five

Semester 4:  A History of US: War, Terrible War: 1855-1865 A History of US Book Six and A Reconstructing America: 1865-1890 A History of US Book 7

Semester 5:  A History of US: An Age of Extremes: 1880-1917 A History of US Book Eight and A History of US: War, Peace, and All That Jazz: 1918-1945 A History of US Book Nine

Semester 6:  A History of US: All the People: Since 1945 A History of US Book Ten (we probably won’t make it through the whole book, but I at least want to get through Vietnam).

I am planning out the specifics this way:

1. I take the book(s) for the semester and scan them to create a list of the main topic for each chapter. For the semesters where we are covering 2 books, I list only the chapters I want to use, trying to keep the total chapters around 42.
2. I have a list I made of all the Konos topics that relate to American History. Once I have my chapter topics, I read the Konos pages that relate to them to narrow down which of the activities I want to do.
3. Next I look through my American History pins and see which activities from there I want to do.
4. Finally, I decide which of the History Channel videos applies, and if there are any other movie clips I want to show. A Heart of Wisdom has compiled a wonderful timeline and link to movies for each era.

Now that I have all my goodies, I am writing out the weekly assignments. To cover 42 or so chapters in a 6 week semester, we have to read 7 a week. Since the chapters are short, this only amounts to 20-30 pages which I am breaking up into 2 days. The rest of the days we will do the Konos activities and watch the movies.

I also plan on adding in music for us to listen to and discuss that relates to the historical events we are studying, which will be a post in itself. I’m a huge fan of history, so this planning has got me really excited for the new school year! I’m hoping it will spark a love for history in the kiddos too!

Comments

  1. the links for each semester are not working

  2. Hi Vicki,

    This looks really interesting and I’d love to see more. None of the links to the semester sessions are working. Is this something you would be willing to share?

    Thanks so much.
    Best,
    Tricia

  3. Not sure what happened there, but they are all fixed now. 🙂

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