Friday, April 26, 2013

Homeschool Review: 2012-2013 Family Read-Alouds in American History

This year, I decided we'd set aside a little time each day to share a read-aloud with the family focused on the time period we were studying in history, one for American History and one for World History. I found some of these in resources like Let the Authors Speak, books I already owned, or through library searches.

We would read through the American History read-aloud two or three times a week until it was done. Then I'd start a new book that matched up with our current studies. We read these when First Son was in third grade and First Daughter was in kindergarten. Second Daughter (four) and Second Son (two) were intermittent listeners.

This year in American History, we started with a study of slavery and the Civil War. Then we just moved chronologically up to the present times.

Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling is a biography of Harriet Tubman for children. I thought it was a nice way to learn about slavery and the struggle for freedom. (purchased copy, I think at a library sale)

Old Sam: Dakota Trotter by Don Alonzo Taylor is the story of a trotting horse with an injured leg who proves himself time and again on the frontier. It's told wonderfully from the perspective of a young boy who loves the prairie life. The kids loved this book! (purchased copy, from Bethlehem Books)

All-Of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor is one of my very favorite books. Set in New York City, it chronicles the delightful daily life of a Jewish family with five young girls. All of my children loved this story. We followed it up with the next two books on audio CD from the library (All of a Kind Family Downtown and More All-of-a-Kind Family). I'll be checking the next one out of the library to read aloud as the children are all asking for more - even Second Son! (The first one we read was also a library copy.)

Blue Willow by Doris Gates is another one of my favorite books. It's such a sweet story of courage and every day life during the Great Depression. Janey's father lost his ranch in the Dust Bowl and now they follow the field work. She longs for a permanent home and a regular school. Her family is loving and supportive and she finds new and wonderful friends. (library copy)

Gentle Ben by Walt Morey is the story of a young boy and his pet bear set in the territory of Alaska. It's a wonderful addition to any story of Alaska or a nature study on northern habitats. (purchased copy, at a going-out-of-business-sale)

Every one of these books would be worthy of reading aloud regardless of any history studies. In fact, those are exactly the kind of books I seek out for our family read-alouds.

These were a number of other books I had ready and waiting but we did not have time to read them aloud together this year during our American History read-aloud time.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink - Because it's one of my favorite books, we read it as one of our regular family read-alouds (which we read every day!), so we didn't miss out on it. (I own this book from my childhood.)

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I wanted to read this, but we didn't really have time for it and Kansas Dad thought First Son probably wouldn't be that interested. When the girls are older, we're definitely going to read it aloud! (I own this book, too.)

Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder - This is a wonderful book of post-Civil War life, forgiveness, and family, but we just didn't have time to read it. I might ask First Son to read it independently next year. (We would have used a library copy.)

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright is a nice story of a young girl in Wisconsin, but I don't think it's quite as good as the other books. (I picked this up at a library sale.)

The Mitchells: Five for Victory by Hilda van Stockum is a lovely tale of five Mitchell children at home during World War II. It's a read-aloud appropriate for all ages about what life was like in the war years. It's predictable, but in a sweet way. I'm very tempted to ask First Son to read this independently next year or read it aloud just for fun with the girls. (I purchased this for my Kindle from Bethlehem Books, though I do not see it offered at the moment.)

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata is the story of a young girl sent to one of the Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II. I liked this story on many levels and think it would be great for older children, especially girls, as an accompaniment to a World War II study but in the end decided against reading it with my younger children. There's nothing really inappropriate; I just think older kids would appreciate Sumiko's emotions and struggles more. (library copy)


  1. Thanks! I always appreciate your recommendations.

    I finally read The Blue Castle. Our library system didn't have a single copy, but I found an electronic copy for .99 a couple weeks ago. After the first few chapters, I couldn't put it down and ended up staying up half the night to finish it. It's definitely a book I could read again. I'm so glad you mentioned it!

  2. Tiffany, I'm happy to hear you enjoyed The Blue Castle!

  3. We're reading "All of a Kind" currently, it is very sweet. I was talking with another friend about books on CD, I think my kids would enjoy that as a change. We're rarely in the car long enough for something like that, but maybe even just during lunch or something...


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