I am often asked how we teach American History and American Literature in high school.
Actually, we have used different means and methods with each of our high school learners, dependent on their interests, learning styles, and in some cases, learning challenges.
This blog post addresses one of those methods; the method we used with our reader who LOVED history.
With our son's interest in reading and history, we divided American History into Early American (to 1850) and Modern (from 1850 to present) so we could allow time for him to dig deeper. After extensive research (based on my love for education as well as the fear I was doing enough--yes, I have been there!), I developed literature lists for American, British, and World Literature courses. These lists provided my son with reading suggestions to get him started, a springboard of sorts. His desire to learn history prompted him to seek out additional titles. My motto became,
"You read it, I will give you credit."
For readers interested in the list of works from which we used toward either American History or Survey of American Literature, our reading list (remember it was a springboard from which he could jump in for more) is below. The American, British, and World literature lists are included in my book, Celebrate High School.
Please keep in mind as you read through this list, our son was a self-motivated reader with an interest in the subject. Not all young adults will share this interest or learning preference. In addition to his independent reading, we used a textbook as a spine of topics. Though he started the year reading some of the text, by the end of the year he was reading more primary source documents, living history selections, and biographical pieces than text. He also had amazing opportunities to tour many of the Civil War battlefields and visited Washington, D. C., Boston, Plymouth, Philadelphia, and New York City. God provided for his love of history through many experiential opportunities. We realize not all learners will have these experiences but trust there will be other provisions for your family.
This method worked for our oldest son. I tweak the process for each young adult, asking for their input. Please, don't use what is written here as a comparison for what your student should or shouldn't be doing. Learners are unique and high school is not a one-size-fits-all experience.
Comparing ourselves or our children to others leads to discouragement and discontent, neither of which are valuable.
Our examples are only intended as encouragement, to give an idea of what worked for us and what you might be able to create (or adjust) for your high schooler. Our young adult was (and still is) a reader, but your young adult may have an opportunity to intern with a local historical site or job shadow a museum curator. Use what God provides for your learner and pray about how he is preparing your young adult for the future plans He has, not for the ones we best intention.
Our American Literature list:
Alcott, Louisa May, Little Men
Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women
Barton, David, Bulletproof George Washington
Baum, L. Frank, The Wizard of Oz
Bierce, Ambrose, Civil War Stories
Cather, Willa, My Antonia*
Cather, Willa, O Pioneers!*
Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans*
Crane, Stephen, The Red Badge of Courage*
de Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America*
Dewey, John, Democracy and Education*
Douglass, Frederick, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass*
Edwards, Jonathan, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God*
Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury*
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby*
Franklin, Benjamin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin*
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Scarlet Letter
Hemingway, Ernest, A Farewell to Arms*
Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom the Bell Tolls*
Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and the Sea*
Hemingway, Ernest, The Sun Also Rises*
Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God*
Irving, Washington, The Legend of Rip Van Winkle
Keller, Helen, The Story of My Life*
Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird
McCullough, David, 1776
McCullough, David, John Adams
McCullough, David, The Wright Brothers
Melville, Herman, Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur, The Crucible
Miller, Arthur, The Death of a Salesman
Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling
O.Henry, The Gift of the Magi
Steinbeck, John, Of Mice and Men*
Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath*
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin*
Thoreau, Henry David, Civil Disobedience*
Thoreau, Henry David, Walden*
Thurber, James, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Twain, Mark, Life on the Mississippi
Washington, Booker T., Up From Slavery
Wilder, Thornton, Our Town*
Williams, Tennessee, The Glass Menagerie*
In addition to this literature list, we use primary source documents including speeches and journals.
Here are some examples. There are plenty of resources available on the internet (which could be a great catalyst for a discussion on reliable sources.
50 Core Documents, Teaching AmericanHistory.org
Journals of Lewis and Clark
The Story of A Common Soldier- Kindle ebook
The Journal of James Audubon
Orville Wright's journal entry
This post is based on the experience of our oldest son. It is not intended as legal advice and is written with the knowledge that parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children.