Literature Based Education – American History Anchors

I’ve already told you about the World History Anchors I use in our family’s literature based education in addition to a few other excellent resources.  Today I’m going to tell you about my American History Anchors.

As I mentioned yesterday:

My only complaint about the Classical Model of history study is it is too light on American History for my taste.  I appreciate the idea that American History should be taught in the context of greater world history but if you are trying to cram all world history into a four year cycle, a LOT has to be glossed over or skipped all together.  As an American and a Patriot I feel it’s important to know more than just the highlights of American History.

Our history studies as a family started with Ancient history and progressed through Story of the World up until the Middle Ages.  After we read the one lesson on Columbus and were left wanting I started looking for other American History resources.  For the next year or so we would jump back and forth between World History or American History, trying to keep things in chronological order.  The closer we got to the American Revolution the more time we would spend on American history.  By the time we reached the Civil War era, we were almost exclusively learning American History.  Now that we are emerging into the time period of the Industrial Revolution, our America-centric studies need to be expanded to include a more worldwide perspective (hence the timing of this series and my obsession with finding a World History curriculum).

This is why I love using BOTH a World History program and a separate American History program within it.  I go along happily with Tapestry of Grace taking “breaks” to explore for months what TOG would only spend a week on.  At this point TOG becomes the supplement rather than the anchor and I use my American History program to keep us on target.

So as you can see, we DO study American History in the context of World History, but from about the time of Napoleon through the American Reconstruction Era, we focus almost exclusively on American History (mostly because the events happening during that time period are largely unaffected by other worldwide events.  However after that the things that happen in Europe certainly impact the things that happen here across the pond and I want to be able to connect the dots.

So without further adieu, here are the resources that I use in addition to Tapestry of Grace and that help us dig deeper.

I Love America

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I Love America Vol 1 discusses the following:

  • The American Flag
  • Christopher Columbus
  • The First Thanksgiving
  • Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson
  • Pocahontas
  • Our American Heritage

Volume 2 focuses on:

  • The Statue of Liberty
  • The Pilgrims and how they learned to use their freedom
  • The need for Freedom of Religion
  • The Revolutionary War, and why we had to fight
  • Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence
  • The Constitutional Convention – and how the Constitution makes us free
  • The Free-Enterprise System – through first-hand experience

While they are two volumes under one name, you can use them independently of one another and can go very far with just one or the other volume!  I Love America is perfect for those who want an Early American History resource that also includes some civics and citizenship lessons.

America the Beautiful

But again, I Love America can only take us so far.  Last year I had the opportunity to review Notgrass’s America the Beautiful.  I have made much use of it since then and have been very happy.

Notgrass: America the Beautiful | Ordinary Happily Ever After

A History of Us

Lucy is entering middle school this year and while America the Beautiful is excellent for younger grades curriculum, it doesn’t go into as much depth as I would like for my older children.  I did not like Notgrass’s high school program (too many false teachings on our church) so I went searching for something else.  After much turmoil and mental anguish (yes, I anguish over curricula… I only have my children’s education and future riding on my choices after all) I decided to add A History of Us to our bookshelves.

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I have known about A History of Us almost since I began homeschooling and have put it off year after year.  When I first discovered the series I checked out a few volumes from the local library.  As I flipped through one of them I wasn’t thrilled with what I saw.  The volume I flipped through cast motherhood in an unflattering light.  As a stay at home mom and somewhat of an anti-feminist, I didn’t appreciate how the illustrations and captions painted my chosen career as oppressive and mindless.  I’ve been looking for an alternative ever since.

Year after year they kept popping up as the go-to source for middle/high school American History.  As we ventured into the time leading up to and including Civil War, I swallowed my pride and checked out the applicable volumes out of the library and was pleasantly surprised.  In fact, A History of Us has the best and most fair description of the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outside of curricula produced specifically directed towards members church themselves.  I decided that I would purchase the volumes that I wanted/needed for our studies… but by the time I added them all up it would have been cheaper to buy the entire set… so that is what we did :)

Like anything, it’s not perfect.  A History of Us is more of a “textbook” than anything else, but it is clearly written by someone who loves history.  There is a LOT of information in them and you can easily either start from the beginning and read them cover to cover, or pick and choose the sections applicable to your individual lessons.

There are a handful of mistakes on dates and other things that I’m a little stunned haven’t been corrected yet considering there are several editions of this series, but I had no problems writing in the margins make the corrections.  It IS a secular text, which is excellent because, as I said before, it allows for an unbiased portrayal of my church history.  On the down side, the secular background doesn’t account for the powerful influence the Judeo-Christian values had on our country’s birth and growth.  One only needs to look at the differences between the American and French Revolutions to see how important it is for the citizens to be grounded in faith.

A History of Us is also not entirely in line with my libertarian world view.  In general it gets more progressive as the volumes progress, but I am not afraid of teaching my children the world views that are in opposition to my own.  Knowing the kinds of things and ideas they are likely to face when they leave home will only help arm them more thoroughly.

Patriot’s History of the United States

Patriot's History
As you can imagine from the title, this book has an unashamedly Patriotic perspective.  That being said it is also extremely critical of the many… many indiscretions of our country’s history (manifest destiny, indian wars, slavery, Jim Crow, etc.).  For me this book is not the easiest book to read from cover to cover.  So what I usually do is read the applicable sections when I want a deeper perspective than what the other books can give me.  Patriot’s History is a scholar level book.  It’s doesn’t just tell us the names and dates and people involved in history’s events.  It tells us the ins and outs of how events impact the future.  It connects the dots between the fugitive slave law, Dred Scott, and the Civil War.  Several months ago wrote a paper on Slavery and the Civil War.  But for this book I would have had no idea how much the fugitive slave law and the Dred Scott case exponentially increased the chances of war.  I highly recommend Patriot’s History for high school or parent level education.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History

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For those of you who want something more summarized, I have found The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History to give an excellent overview of American History (fair warning, this book along with The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War comes from a perspective quite different from what I grew up hearing.  While I don’t agree with everything from the “war between the states” perspective, I have learned from reading these books that learning different points of view and challenging your paradigms is an extremely healthy exercise and an excellent way to break through political agendas and also to solidify your own conclusions.  Don’t hide from ideas just because they are contrary to what you have always heard or believed).

LDS Curricula

I should stop to take a moment to address some new products that have popped up recently.  I know there are several curricula emerging that are specifically geared towards LDS homeschoolers.  I am extremely grateful and appreciative that there are products being made to help meet this growing market.  I chose not to go with a history program written specifically for LDS homeschoolers for a few reasons.  First of all, they aren’t complete.  Most of these resources only have a few years complete with several years “coming soon”.  When I buy materials for our school I like to get the whole shebang at once.  We don’t always know ahead of time when we will be able to put things like this in the budget, so when we get chunks of money from our tax refund or a bonus, I tend to buy everything we will need k-12 (one year we purchased ALL of the math we would need, the next we bought ALL of the science).  It makes for some large purchases once in a while, but it helps me breathe easy knowing that the children (or I) can pick them up as soon as we are ready for them.  Secondly, in my experience the LDS American History seems to focus a LOT on the LDS part and much less time on the American portion.  For me it was easier to add church history into an American history program than the other way around.  Lastly, some (but not all) of the programs had very little or no samples or previews for me to study or only had paid trial periods.  I’m sorry but that is a terrible business model.  As homeschooling families, it is safe to assume many of us are single income families and are not going to plop down 100 plus bucks for (digital therefore non-refundable) curriculum before we can even see the table of contents.  I don’t care how pretty and dynamic your website is… I need to SEE the table of contents, the scope and sequence, how much prep work there is, etc.  I want to try before I buy (and the my favorite programs allow you to do just that).  Terrible business decision!

That being said, absolutely love the idea of World History starting with the pre-mortal life and being able to connect the dots between the spread of Judaism and Christianity, William Tyndale, Columbus, the Constitution, and Joseph Smith.  I am just not completely sold on what is currently on the market.  But that is a personal decision and if you love them, please say so in the comments for your fellow readers to learn from your experiences!

The sad truth is that there IS NO perfect history curriculum.  None.  Find the one that fits you the best and fill in the gaps in other ways.  That is the best anyone can do.

Next time… Ancient History Literature.

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Comments

  1. We do some purchasing of the whole series too. Love working that way because then on years where our budget is nonexistent (it’s happened!) we still have much of what we need for the new ages/grades. One I’m still trying to accumulate is upper level Apologia books. We have elementary through middle school (physical science) so I’m watching for the high school books and waiting for money.

    Loving your posts! I want to have a heavier American history emphasis in the coming years too. Do you supplement your American History spine (History of US) with living books or how does a lesson look for your kids when using that?

    • I do supplement and will have another post giving specific titles for our American History literature :) I use a lot of historical fiction and biographies for the kids and a ton of political and non-fiction for my own education. You would be surprised how much history there is in political and current events books!

  2. Just throwing this out there… I know now probably isn’t the best time for you… I think YOU should write a history curriculum. :)

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