American History Resources

Studying American History? You may enjoy the following list of resources.

(In 2010-11, we used Sonlight Core 3 - D. These are some of the rabbit trails we took.)

Week 1-6 (or more)

History Pockets: Native Americans.
Information sheets and fun projects covering eight Native American tribes in different areas of the country.  We studied one tribe each week for several weeks and kept track of their similarities/difference on a comparison/contrast chart. Followed a recipe for making hominy. 

**When we started reading about various explorers (from Columbus in Pedro's Journal to various others in The Story of the USA), I found a wonderful book to tie things together. Around the World in a Hundred Years tells the story of the major explorers in one chapter each. Since the stories are told chronologically, it helps children to understand how one person's exploration prepared the way for the next. (So, for example, the fact that Balboa first saw the Pacific Ocean from atop a mountain in Panama made it possible for Magellan to use this information to explore around the world.) The book tells fascinating, detailed information about each explorer's exploits. I brought the book along on a beach trip and had 3 generations listening in rapt attention as I read a chapter about Balboa. The more we got into the book, the more I relied on it to fill in information about each explorer that was only briefly presented in The Story of the USA. I will definitely include it next time I do Core 3.

Week 2 (during the reading of Pedro's Journal)

Blog Entry: Make play dough maps showing the world as most Europeans knew it, pre/post Columbus.

Week 3 (during the reading of Secret of the Andes)

Hands-On Latin America: Art Activities for All Ages, Yvonne Y. Merrill
Contains background information on Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards. Features many activities "developed to replicate museum artifacts from ancient cultures of Central (Mesoamerica) and South America."

The Secret Life of Math: Discover how (and why) numbers have survived from the cave dwellers to us!, Ann McCallum
One section describes the Inca system of recording (and adding) numbers using a system of knots. Provides instructions on making one of these Inca Quipus.  Blog entry: Inca Quipu Math Activity

The Inca Empire: Inventions & Achievements
Incas (list of projects and links)

Week 4

Blog entry: Inca Quipu Math Activity

**Found a new book that is a perfect go-along for ancient Incan culture. Patterns in Peru takes two kids on a journey to Peru where they follow patterns to discover a lost, ancient city. The math content in the book makes it a perfect addition to these pattern lessons.

Week 7

Grass Sandals & Haiku
Haiku is the subject of this week's reading in A Child's Introduction to Poetry. The book briefly mentions Basho, one of the first people in Japan to use haiku. To learn more about him, we read a beautiful book entitled Grass Sandals. The book describes Basho's trek across Japan and includes one of his haiku poems on each page.

Following the reading of Grass Sandals, we wrote a haiku together. We brainstormed a list of words and phrases describing a skunk. Then wrote  our haiku:

Stinky, black and white
Small, long tail, fluffy tail
Gets into trouble.

After our collaboration, my 7yo wrote his own haiku, first brainstorming a list of words/phrases to describe whales. His haiku:

Big whale in ocean
Blue whales have blow holes to breathe
Humpback whale is gray

A couple ah-ha to count syllables and the number of syllables needed for a haiku. He appreciated the work that goes into haiku after he experienced what it meant to calculate the # of syllables per line.

Sign of the Beaver/Robinson Crusoe
In week 7 we also began reading Sign of the Beaver. Because of the importance that Robinson Crusoe plays, we read that story as well. Since he wasn't ready for the unabridged text, we read a shorter, illustrated version instead. While I'm sure the version we read is out-of-print, here is another illustrated copy of Robinson Crusoe. I've read Sign of the Beaver with kids before, but to add a reading a Robinson Crusoe really increased understanding of the issues involved.

Week 8

While we're loving A Child's Introduction to Poetry, we were disappointed to find that they significantly shortened Paul Revere's Ride. Since this IS an American History Study ;) , we were eager to read the complete poem in this book, illustrated by Ted Rand. After reading the book, we watched the related episode of
Liberty's Kids, describing this story.

Week 9 & 10

See the following blog entries:

Sunflower Science/Art/Writing

Ideas for week 9/10: cardboard timeline, venn diagram for Sign of the Beaver book/movie, "New World" advertising brochure, Pied Piper poetry and more.

Week 11

We are reading Skippack School using the beautiful, illustrated version, which I highly recommend.

Week 12

I wasn't sure about reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond with my 8yo son. When I taught middle/high school English (grades 7-9 or so), it was required reading. I think the content is too sophisticated for the average 8yo/3rd grader. We made it through. It wasn't terrific reading for him. On the other hand, he was interested enough to keep going.

I am adding a book to the "read aloud" category. Personally, I think Stink Alley is a far superior choice for younger children. (I recommended it to Sonlight several years ago. They subsequently added it to their Core 100 list; I wish they would switch The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Stink Alley.)

The fictional story tells about orphaned Lizzy Tinker. She lives with William Brewster and his family in Holland after they escape England and prior to their trip on the Mayflower. She goes to work for the family of a rascally boy who later grows up to become a famous painter...Rembrandt. The tale gives children more perspective on why the Pilgrims left Europe and the hardships that they encountered prior to their famous voyage.

Week 13-16

Around Week 13, we started having trouble with the readers. My son, age 8, reads at a 5th grade + level. But he could not comprehend Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia OR Mr. Revere and I when he read them on his own. SO. We slowed waaaaaayyy down. Then I saw that the book, Who Was Ben Franklin? (by Dennis Brindell Fradin) was on the Young Readers' Choice list for this year. BINGO. It's a much easier-to-read book. My son flew through it and enjoyed it.

If your children are old enough, they might enjoy watching the YouTube video, Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration.

Week 17

Writing of Declaration of Independence
Reading about Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence? Don't leave it behind without a reading of The Hatmaker's Sign; A Story By Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Jefferson, disheartened by the enthusiasm with which the Continental Congress wants to totally revise his initial draft of the Declaration of Independence, is told a simple story by Franklin. In it, a hatmaker wants to create a sign for his shop. The hatmaker meets people on his journey to the signmaker's...people who want to change his sign word by word until nothing is left. Ultimately, the signmaker helps him to make the ultimate (and funny!) revision. This is a not-to-be-missed tale!

Week 18-20

We're reading more books by Jean Fritz. My son really likes these and it helps to "fill in the gaps" in the harder history reading.

Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May
Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?
Shh!, We're Writing the Constitution
What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?
George Washington's Breakfast

He also read:
The Boston Coffee Party
Ben Franklin's Glass Armonica

We watched:
The Animated Hero Classics: Benjamin Franklin

YouTube video of "I'm Just a Bill" (School House Rock!) as he read the book, If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution.

Math Game:
And not to be missed...make some "magic square" pieces from milk caps and read Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares.

Week 21

We enjoyed reading a new book, The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy, which tells of a North Carolina girl who road her horse fifty miles to warn of redcoats on the march.

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