Teaching the history of the United States is one of my favorite things to do! There are so many interesting ways to approach the subject—from living books and field trips to documentaries and fictional movies. You can really bring the history of the United States to life in your homeschool as there are so many wonderful resources.
Traditional Approach to Teaching United States History
First, let’s look at the traditional approach to teaching. Using textbooks provides a great start to teaching United States history. Depending upon your homeschool approach, you may be able to make use of textbooks used in public or private schools. One series that our family has used and loved is published by Notgrass History. We used Our Star Spangled Story with the recommended literature component. And even though this is a textbook, there were many opportunities for exploring outside the book such as building scale models of historical locations like the Alamo or creating crafts.
Classical education is a wonderful way to approach teaching United States history in your homeschool. Resources from Memoria Press have been shared many times on this website including:
- Geography I
- Famous Men of Rome and Famous Men of Greece
- The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set
- 200 Questions About American History Set
But what is a classical education? A short definition provided by Memoria Press is a “classical education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue through the study of the liberal arts and the Great Books.” If you are looking for a traditional approach that will help your children grow to love American history, then Memoria Press is for you! They reprint classic history texts that helped a whole generation of Americans love U.S. History.
SchoolhouseTeachers.com offers many individual courses that study United States History from a traditional approach. America in the 1800s is an eighteen-week history course that provides the opportunity to explore and relive this significant period of American history. Your children will study the Oregon Trail and other trails leading westward, the Mexican-American War, the California Gold Rush, and more.
Lapbooks, Unit Studies, and More!
If you would rather let your children’s interest lead your area of United States history study, then you can bring in lapbooks, unit studies, and individual lessons and activities. One of the joys of homeschooling is that we can really tailor our lessons to our children’s needs and likes. Do they want to learn more about the American Civil War? Why not look at the Time Travelers U.S. History Studies (Grade 3–8) from Home School in the Woods? These lapbooks include readings, hands-on activities like cooking and sewing, as well as a look into the culture, history, and art of the time period covered. The Civil War lapbook file includes the creation of mini-books on the major leaders and generals, which is a great way to review what is learned.
Are your children interested in Colonial history? Drive Thru History has a series to learn about early life in the United States. You can even take a course based on the series at SchoolhouseTeachers.com called Drive Thru History: American History that is interactive!
Individual courses allow us and our children to dig deeper when teaching United States history. If studying the entire history of the United States is too daunting for your child, you can study a specific time period with American History: Post-Civil War through World War I from SchoolhouseTeachers.com. This course focuses on immigration, industry, and inventions that changed the world. From readings, creating timelines, and writing essays this course has a variety of tasks for your children to complete as they study U.S. History from 1865 to 1918.
Brining United States History to Life
With so many wonderful resources to teach United States history, it is easy to make the subject engaging. Find books that bring the subject to life such as the Horses in History Series by Mattie Richardson. This series of books brings history to life through the eyes of horses in different time periods and locations. Travel across the Oregon Trail in Blue Skies West or read about the Civil War in Night and Day.
Movies can also bring history to life for our children. Oftentimes movies that fictionalize history or attempt to display real events include violence, uncomfortable topics, or inappropriate language. I would recommend previewing all movies prior to watching with your children as you know your children and worldview best. You may not want to view an entire movie with your children but instead select specific scenes that help bring the time period to life.
For example, you may want to teach about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment of the American Civil War. You could watch Glory (1989) with your children but you should keep in mind it is rated R and only loosely based on real events. With the exception of some of the main characters, Robert Gould Shaw and Frederick Douglass, the main cast is portraying fictional characters based upon traditional army characters portrayed in World War II movies.
A New Outlook on Teaching United States History
Has your opinion of United States history changed now that you are a homeschool teacher? Perhaps you once thought of it as boring but now that you see there are so many wonderful ways we can help our children engage with the subject, it has become your favorite subject. It is a blessing to be able to reinvigorate or increase our own love of subjects while teaching our children!
This article has been written by Kristen Heider. She is the Business Building Team Manager of The Old Schoolhouse® and the Social Media Manager of HomeschoolingFinds.com. She shares more about her family’s homeschooling journey at A Mom’s Quest Teach.