What you are getting
You are getting a book list, with guidance on when to weave back and forth between your spine and the supplementary books, keeping everything in mostly chronological order.
I want to make this incredibly clear: this is a rough draft.
I created this plan for a private school to use this upcoming year. For grades K-3, I have a good amount of confidence in the book choices as I have pre-read most of them. For grades 4-5, I will be teaching that this year, so I have pre-read less books, especially the spines, since I will be the one using it and I can make changes as I go.
Another note on grades 4-5: I know already that what I have planned is way too much work for one school year. I have left basically two spines in the rotation (Abraham Lincoln’s World and A Child’s First Book of American History) because I couldn’t choose just one. I will decide as the year goes on what to do about that.
I look forward to your feedback on book choices, pacing, etc. You can reach me at email@example.com.
What is a spine?
A spine is your main book that guides you chronologically through history. It is the book you keep coming back to and you become familiar with the writing of the author. You will take breaks from the spine for biographies, and other supplementary books.
Why aren’t there worksheets or discussion questions?
I prepared this curriculum with the Charlotte Mason method in mind. In this method, narration is the primary form of checking for retention. For Form 1 (K-3), narration is primarily oral. For Form 2 (grades 4-6) narration starts to become more written, but can be oral as you see fit.
What is narration?
Narration is simply the child telling what he knows. It is essential for the teacher to listen to this narration, so please allow time during the lesson time to hear the narration after reading. Begin with short passages. Never interrupt or nag or question the child who is attempting to narrate.
If children struggle with narration, start with one sentence and ask them the narrate, then after they have mastered that, continue to one paragraph, until you can complete one “episode.”
Some more notes on narration and reading lessons together fom Charlotte Mason’s book, Home Education ~pg 233:
“I have already spoken of the importance of a single reading. If a child is not able to narrate what he has read once, let him not get the notion that he may, or that he must, read it again. A look of slight regret because there is a gap in his knowledge will convict him. The power of reading with perfect attention will not be gained by the child who is allowed to moon over his lessons. For this reason, reading lessons must be short; ten minutes or a quarter of an hour of fixed attention is enough for children of the ages we have in view…” (under 9 years old)
(This is in reference to reading lessons, but this concept of being able to narrate without re-reading text is important)
“In every case the reading should be consecutive from a well-chosen book. Before the reading for the day begins, the teacher should talk a little (and get the children to talk) about the last lesson, with a few words about what is to be read, in order that the children may be animated by expectation; but she should beware of explanation, and especially, of forestalling the narrative. Then, she may read two or three pages, enough to include an episode; after that, let her call upon the children to narrate, — in turns, if there be several of them. They not only narrate with spirit and accuracy, but succeed in catching the style of their author. It is not wise to tease them with corrections; they may begin with an endless chain of ‘ands,’ but they soon leave this off, and their narrations become good enough in style and composition to be put in a ‘print book’! This sort of narration should not occupy more than a quarter of an hour.
The book should always be deeply interesting, and when the narration is over, there should be a little talk in which moral points are brought out, pictures shown to illustrate the lesson, or diagrams drawn on the blackboard. “
What about exams?
Exams occur every 11 or 12 weeks and in function, they are essentially more formed narration questions. For younger kids it will be things like, “Tell me about Abraham Lincoln” or “Tell me about the Lewis and Clark expedition.” This is your child’s time to shine! Kids using the Charlotte Mason method in their homeschool tend to love Exam Week because they get to share with you everything they remember. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, and yet, you can absolutely tell how much they retained from how much information they give you.
Generally, you’ll ask 1-2 questions per day that you have scheduled history in the week, so it would be a total of 2-4 questions every 12 weeks.
How to use this curriculum
1) Aquire the spine(s) and any other books you want to have on hand. Homeschooling is a booming market right now and if you don’t plan ahead, your library and/or bookstore might not have the books you need or want. Look now.
2) Plan to work on history two days a week, about 20-30 minutes per session, with the longer sessions for the older kids
3) As you’re reading, you can write down names and places on a whiteboard so you and your children have them handy for narration
4) Most, but not all entries in the spreadsheet are about one session’s worth, with the exception of whole books. Do not push past the point of frustration just to finish what is listed. If you want to stop early, just try to stop at a point that makes sense to pick back up.
5) After a reading, ask, “Tell me about what we read.” For younger kids, you won’t necessarily do this every time (especially if you’re using the Charlotte Mason method across all subjects, as they will narrate for other subjects).
Some notes on flexibility
In the Charlotte Mason method, there is no Kindergarten. I created this level for the private school where I teach and you can use it as you wish. If your student is in grades 1-3, I would use the 2-3 level. The 4-5 level can easily be used by children older, but some of the books will be a challenge for kids who are younger.
The cells that are in yellow are books that are used in other levels.
YOU know your child best. Don’t let the levels I put make you feel like it’s a command. It’s a suggestion.
Some notes on the books
America First is more violent than what we’re used to in children’s books today. It’s up to you on whether your child can handle it. Also, if you don’t get the updated version that I link to, there will be more outdated and offensive language toward Native Americans and African Americans. It is not a perfect book, but you will be hard pressed to find another book that covers so many people and events that isn’t written like a textbook or an easy reader.
I allowed books that use the word “negro” as it is the word that was used nearly universally for quite some time. I do suggest that you edit that as you read aloud to “African-american” or “black men/women” as you read since the word is not used today and carries a derogatory meaning to it in our time.
I’m sure there are many other imperfect books. In Courage Undaunted there’s a reference to “infested with Indians”. I read nearly a third of the book and couldn’t find anything else that was so overt, so I kept it. My expectation is that you will talk with your children about why people had these attitudes in the past. My personal opinion is that you should NOT do the same that has been done in previous generations and over simplify like “People were dumb/ignorant/racist/whatever”. That’s not critical thinking and it’s committing the same fallacy as we’re complaining the author committed. There are reasons why people held those opinions or were scared. Maybe it was wrong, but there are reasons. Don’t be intellectually lazy and cop out of a meaty, important conversation with your kids. <steps down from soap box>
I welcome your constructive criticism on the books, but again I expect that these books will bring up tough conversations from time to time. Have them. I have chosen a variety of books from a variety of viewpoints. Use that to understand the variety of people and opinions that have existed for centuries. It’s eye opening when you learn that not everyone wanted the American colonies to break from England. Your child doesn’t have to be in their 30’s before they learn that for the first time.
An article to read about history, bias, and how to teach to children. I largely agree with the author here.
Any other questions?
I may have missed explaining something. Please feel free to ask. I will caveat with I am a full time homeschool mom, a full time student, and a part time teacher/office assistant. Please be patient with me.
Before you email me – make sure you’ve read this document entirely. If it’s in here, I’m just going to point you back to this document for you to read it yourself. #teacherlife
Email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Use this link to view the proposed timeline for how to use the spine(s) and biography books.
List of books and affiliate links to purchase them:
Those marked with ** are spines for the level they’re marked for.