When my kids and I studied US history, I went with a literature-based approach, probably not a surprise. At the time, my daughter was in 6th grade and my son was in 3rd grade. For the main basis of our study, I used Beautiful Feet Books Early American History: A Literature Approach for Intermediate Grades. This resource worked fairly well for us. I tailored our curriculum by shortening the study to half a year (18 weeks); we skipped the Vikings and included some of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong. The best books included in the Beautiful Feet study were Amos Fortune Free Man, America’s Paul Revere, Path to the Pacific: The Story of Sacagawea, and The Landing of the Pilgrims. I had to find maps to go with our study, as the teacher guide does not really include them. Our family felt The Life of Washington by Josephine Pollard to be slow, so we skipped it. (I would not recommend Your Story Hour: Intermediate CD set. The objective historical value of this history resource I find to be questionable.)
One thing I really believe, even if using a story-based curriculum, it takes the lesson deeper to include other facts that are relevant to the study. If you are building context, why not use the opportunity to bring in other interesting and related subject matter like geography?
US History Supplemental Resources
Social Studies Alive! Regions of Our Country
I choose this regional approach to studying geography after deciding that an in-depth study of each state along with our US history curriculum would be overwhelming. This Social Studies Alive! Regions of Our Country curriculum made the work easy peasy! Many facets of the land and culture of the US are similar for a region, so this approach complemented the story. The textbook divides the US into five regions: The Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and the West. I purchased a used copy of the textbook for each of us, and we read it aloud. We divided each region into 3-week units. Since we were studying early US history at the same time, we started in the Northeast, and then worked our way South and then towards the West. The book utilizes a social studies approach; many facets that social scientists study such as geography, history, economics, and political science were explored. Again, I REALLY believe in an interdisciplinary approach; disciplines are often co-mingled in the world. The pictures in this resource are helpful also.
As we went through the textbook, I also had a blank master map of the US and my kids memorized the states and capitols for each region we studied. After reviewing them every few weeks, my kids were able to write down all the states and capitols at the culmination of our study.
In addition to the textbook, I purchased the Lesson Masters, the Lesson Guide, and the Student Interactive Notebook. The Lesson Masters feature maps, student handouts, and chapter assessments that I used for my 6th grader. In addition to additional reading resources, the answers for all of the handouts are found in the Lesson Guide. The Student Interactive Notebook was supplemental, but families could get along with only the Lesson Masters and the Lesson Guide.
Eat Your Way Through the USA
After going through the Regions book, for each geographic area, using Eat Your Way Through the USA by Loreé Petit, every three weeks we cooked foods from states in those regions. Another homeschool family recommended this cookbook for us. It did not disappoint! This cookbook features 2-3 recipes for dishes from each of the 50 alphabetically laid-out states. On each state page, there are also facts about favorite foods and crops in each state.
Both of my kids really enjoyed cooking. The recipes were tasty and fairly easy. On each day when we cooked, we also watched a movie or video about one of the states from the library, and sometimes we did a regional activity.
All in all — combining a literature-approach to early US history, a regional US geography approach, and hands-on cooking from the states was a winning curriculum to learn about the United States.