Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ideas for Homeschool Middle School History

In response to a question left for me in my blog comments looking for history resources for middle schoolers that goes deeper than The History Channel's America The Story of US documentary miniseries released in 2010.

We used Story of the World non-fiction story book by Susan Wise Bauer as a SPINE and used regular children's books in addition to flesh out detail not in the book and to add more exciting reading (and great illustrations).

I highly recommend the ACTIVITY GUIDE for SOTW also.

SOTW is world history chronologically ordered from prehistoric to present day. It was created for grades 1-4 but in a pinch is better than nothing for middle school (there is nothing for all of world history on par with this that is non-religious and comprehensive for grades 5-8 at this moment in time). When I say "better than nothing" I mean to say a story format of nonfiction that is interesting that covers all the world and all the time periods. To have a spine like that which additional, more detailed readings can be done alongside is what I really like. What I did was use the SOTW (which seemed easy reading for a middle schooler) but then used on grade level" go-along readings. SOTW is set up to do one chapter a week that focuses on one topic or country.

You will see recommended in The Well Trained Mind for middle schoolers to use one of the Usborne books for world history, those are two-page spreads on topics with snippet texts in paragraphical format. This is different than a story format that is anything but snippet-y.



We took a break from SOTW to move on to the next series---to focus on United States History---which is what I was asked about.

Titles can be confusing!

The History Channel America Story of US that is airing right now (2010 release date) is different than the US history book I am recommending called The Story of US by Joy Hakim -- which is an 11 volume book set. That is for middle school and even light for high school or good for the early high school years, and to reiterate it is JUST US History.

A few years ago PBS aired a documentary mini-series called Freedom A History of US based and had a book of the same title by Joy Hakim written on high school and adult level about US History and a companion book in hardcover was released which as of last month was out of print.

Presently we are using the Joy Hakim 11 volume series A History of US (slower than I'd like to report). I love it and feel it offers food for thought and plenty to discuss.

A homeschool mom friend of mine told me yesterday they are reading the 11 volume series by Joy Hakim with her 8th grader right now (after hearing me praise it) and love it and they watched The History Channel Series America the Story of US and it is "skimpy and skipping parts". She didn't like the History Channel show much.

The History Channel documentary mini-series is offering free DVDs to educators and teacher's guides (see sidebar link on this page) however they are not shipping until August, she told me. I submitted my request for a copy two or three months ago and wondered where the heck it was. Now I know.

More Info

Joy Hakim was on In-Depth, a three hour long interview and discussed teaching history to kids of all ages and issues with public school's handling of history. I blogged about that here.

More of my ideas and opinions on teaching history can be found by clicking the label below called "teaching history".


dstb said...

Hi Christine,

Thanks for your insight on both History and Math.

I started with SOTW with my two boys, but started using History Odyssey by Pandia Press a few years ago (the boys are 11 and almost 13). I have been very happy with it because it keeps me on track and it also has some good book selections. For example, this year we are studying Early Modern and some of the books included:
I, Juan de Pareja
Witch of Blackbird Pond
Amos Fortune, Free Man
Oliver Twist
Johnny Tremain
and others
The spine is Kingfisher History Encyclopedia.

There is mapwork, timeline work and writing assignments. There is a "try before you buy" option that is very helpful at figuring out if this would be right for you. I have gone the e-book route because that way I can print off copies for both boys and if they mess up their map, I can print a new one.

Another resource I have used along with History Odyssey is the website They have a US History course that allows you to pick a time period and watch short videos. Today, the boys watched the ones under the topic "America's Growing Pains". It covered Lewis & Clark, westward expansion, Trail of Tears, etc. Along with the videos (which is all we have used) there are more in-depth topics to read about.

I also like the Hakim books, but would like to listen to them. Only one or two libraries in CT have the audiobooks and I am not sure that they are actual discs. They may be available for download only and you probably have to be a resident of that town. I am considering joining so that we can get these.

We don't have anything more than basic cable anymore, so I use interlibrary loan for a lot of things. We have recently watched videos of the War of 1812 and are now watching one about Napoleon.

Sorry this is so long. Thanks for sharing what you use.

Welcome!!! said...

I just wanted to warn you about the TV series The Story of Us in case you hadn't seen it. It's really a neat series, but it doesn't censor some of the graphic parts of our history. I would preview it if you have sensitive kids and parts (IMHO) are not appropriate for elementary kids. (If you have seen it, I am think specifically about the gore of the Civil War and the Donner family segment). I would agree with your friend that it's an overview and not super deep.

Love your blog!!

JILL O. MILES said...

I can vouch for SOTW too. Although I read it to my children when they were younger, as the adult reader I learned so much! I think a middle schooler would enjoy it.

christinemm said...

My friend KL emailed me to point out I didn't include K-12 online classes for history for upper middle school in my listing. I am presently looking at the US history components for grades 7-8 which use the Joy Hakim 11 volume series as a spine and have additional readings branching off from there. I probably will enroll my 7th grader into this for this summer or September at the latest, I'm 80% decided upon this...

Principe Carlos said...

Hello, Christine,
My name is Jason McKenney, and I am the author of a newly launched series of eBooks entitled "Time Trip". This series is made with middle and junior high readers in mind, and covers various historical topics by way of two young protagonists who have the ability to travel through time. It is an adventure series that young readers can enjoy outside the classroom, but while being entertained they can also learn much about the period in which their story is taking place.

I'm sending you this email in hopes that maybe some of the parents/students who visit your website may also be interested in reading these stories. Currently there are only 2 volumes available but in the coming months this series will continue to grow. The first volume of the series (Ancient Greece) can be freely downloaded and distributed from a link at my blog ( I hope both you and your audience will find it supportive of any history curriculum they are using.

I would also like to link to your blogsite from mine if that's OK. I really appreciate the outreach to homeschoolers you are providing here.

Thanks for your time,