In August and September, we concentrated our history and culture readings on pre-1600s North America. I didn't "teach" anything; we just read stories together so it's like a focused story time. I am loving it (and I think First Son does, too). In fact, I'm seriously considering adding a third session a week (on Wednesday afternoons) to fit in more of the great books I'm finding. Here are the ones we read in our first five weeks or so. (I figured I'd better get them on the blog or I'd never remember them later.)
The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble. We enjoyed a number of books by Paul Goble. This one is a Caldecott award winner I snagged at our last library sale. We moved on to some others (like Mystic Horse and Her Seven Brothers, but I think First Son and First Daughter liked the Iktomi and the Berries best. Our library has some other Iktomi books and we'll be reading them all, I think.
Mr. Goble is a native of England, but is now living in South Dakota. His illustrations are true to Native American clothing and weaponry. He's also been adopted into the Yakima and Sioux tribes. You can read more about him here and here.
The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie dePaola is one of my new favorite books. The young girl's parents have died and she is alone in the tribe. She is willing to make a great sacrifice for the benefit of her people and it makes me cry every time. My kids have no problem with parents dying, by the way. (They're always telling us we're going to die and go to heaven.) As always, use your own judgment when selecting books for your own children.
The Legend of the Lady Slipper by Margi Preus and Lise Lunge-Larsen is a similar story of the courage and strength of a little girl who journeys through a winter night to bring back medicine for the people of her village. First Son wasn't quite as interested in this one, but I liked it.
The Sunflower Garden by Janice May Udry was another one I picked up at our library sale. (I had Native American stories on my mind.) In the story, a young girl grows the first sunflowers in her village. She is sadly ignored by her father at the beginning, but earns his respect by killing a rattlesnake (saving her baby brother and endearing herself to First Son forever).
How Chipmunk Got His Stripes by Joseph Bruchac and James Bruchac was a favorite with First Son and First Daughter. They begged me to read it again and again, even though First Daughter always jumped when chipmunk gets his stripes. It has some simple morals reminiscent of Aesop's fables, namely that we should take care not to take ourselves too seriously and that we should win gracefully.
Crazy Horse's Vision by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by S.D. Nelson. We read this one too early as Crazy Horse lived in the mid-1800s, but I couldn't find Gift Horse (listed below) so I grabbed this one instead. After reading Mr. Bruchac's book above, I checked out a few of his others. This one, illustrated by S.D. Nelson, is a vibrant look at young Crazy Horse's life. I think it would complement well one on his later life. I think we'll be reading some more of Mr. Bruchac's works later on, as well.
In 1492 by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. First Son loved the illustrations in this book. I think he loves to look at pictures of little boats alone on a vast ocean. We're reading a few now (Pilgrims and Europeans heading to the new land, now that it's October) and he seems fascinated. I think there are better books on Columbus, though. (I found Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus just recently, which we'll be reading this week or next, and there's always Columbus by the famous D'Aulaire team.)
Gift Horse: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson. I think this was one of First Son's favorite stories. The illustrations are bold and the story is one of courage, patience and learning from your elders. This was the third Native American story I picked up at our library sale and I wasn't sure about it. The illustrative style has grown on me, though, and I may see what else S.D. Nelson has to offer. First Son in particular loved the buffalo hunt (where the illustrations are full of movement and chaos).
I found a great many of these books at Oyate. They have some harsh reviews of classics near and dear to many hearts (like the Little House books and The Courage of Sarah Noble), but they also have an extensive list of books which contains many excellent suggestions. (I haven't decided how I feel about everything they write on the site. Though I still intend to read many of the books they disavow, I can't help wondering how I'd react if Catholics were portrayed the same way especially if my children were forced to read such a book in school.) [Edited in June 2012: Oyate has removed their list of books to avoid and replaced it with a guide to discerning books. We still read some of the books they would discourage, but we talk about them a lot more. I think their guides are worth reading.]
We've moved into the 1600s and will read about the Revolutionary War before October is over. I'll be sure to post about those books. Let me know if you have any suggestions!