04 June 2015

2015-2016 School Plans: History

I'm continuing to blog about planning our 2015-2016 school year. Today I'm moving on to US and world history. Technically our state guidelines only mandate that we teach United States history in the lower grades, but we do both. (Actually, they're pretty wishy-washy on the requirements for world history in the older grades as well, which is unfortunate.)

{You can also check out our plans for mathlanguage arts, and geography.}


Thanks in part to all those American Girl and Magic Tree House books, both Senior Agents really came to love learning about the past. This year we branched out to many other historical fiction stories, studied the American Revolution in more detail (thank you, Liberty's Kids), and also read multiple biographies.

{Side note: While Agent E has read every Magic Tree House book, most at least twice, Agent J has never cared for the series. However, they have both read and enjoyed several of the Fact Tracker non-fiction companion books.} 

Still, much like with geography, I felt like we kind of bounced around without a cohesive theme. Agent E (who will be in 4th) in particular has indicated she would like to follow a more chronological path going forward. She likes to see the big picture and how things come together.

For our primary history text we have decided to use History Year by Year: The History of the World, From the Stone Age to the Digital Age. We purchased this book last year shortly after our Washington, D.C. visitDescribed as a visual journey throughout time and an invaluable reference for kids looking to connect the dots of history across the world, this book is exactly what we were looking for to execute our timeline approach.

The book is divided into eight main sections: before history began (up to 3000 BCE), really ancient history (3000 BCE to 700 BCE), much more civilized (700 BCE to 500 CE), the marvelous Middle Ages (500 to 1450), exploring and reforming (1450 to 1750), time for change (1750 to 1850), empires and World Wars (1850 to 1945), and fast forward (1945 to present).

Depending on how we end up combining things, and how many pages we cover each week, if we wanted to just skim the timeline we could in theory make it through this book in a year. But, that would be without going into much detail and not following many rabbit holes. This is unlikely in our case, so I'm guessing we will end up reading about half at best and continuing with this same text next year.

Of course this means that we would barely scratch the surface of the United States becoming a new nation. So, we will no doubt supplement with some resources more directly related to US history as well. For example, we are tentatively planning to watch the History Channel series America: The Story of Us (yay, Netflix!) and adapt the episode guides (written for 7th grade and above) as needed. We will probably still cover presidents in February and incorporate other US-specific learning along the way.

While our primary approach with history, as with most subjects, is to read extensively on our chosen topics, we will also complete some written work, utilizing once again our favorite resources at education {dot} com and TLS Books. We will also explore the website America's Story From America's Library (presented by the Library of Congress) for a fun way to learn about people, places, and activities of our country's past.

Another topic related to history that we have considered investigating as a separate subject this year is world religions. We own a copy of DK's Illustrated Dictionary of Religions: Figures, Festivals, and Beliefs of the World's Religions by Philip Wilkerson. It's been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time, and while it's not specifically aimed at children, I think it would serve our purpose well. It covers general questions about myth, doctrine, and sacred places, as well as specific teachings, texts, and traditions of the major faiths. I think the Agents would find it fascinating.

While we probably won't purchase another book to serve as a spine for our study of religions, as I don't anticipate us delving into too much detail with this for the current school year, two others we have taken out of the library and enjoyed are What Do You Believe? by DK Publishing and The Kids Book of World Religions by Jennifer Glossop.

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