We’ve been using The Story of the World (SOTW) series by Susan Wise Bauer as the backbone, or “spine,” of our chronological history studies for about two years now; we started with SOTW1 when Laura was in first grade, and starting in September we’ll be using SOTW3, Early Modern Times: From Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners (1600-1850).
Each year I’ve had to do a bit of tweaking to get things in order; well, my order anyway. The first year, when we studied ancient history, I rejiggered the chapters in SOTW1 to keep the various civilizations together, at the expense of some chronology. I realized that Laura would have a more difficult time hopping from one civilization to another and back again, so I lumped together all of the Egypt chapters as one unit, and ditto for Japan, China, Greece, Rome, and so on in rough chronological order.
This next year, I’ve decided to beef up the North American content of SOTW3, since we’re going to be going through a most exciting time early American and early Canadian history, and because the kids are dual citizens; I’m especially interested in exploring the Canadian and American sides of the Revolutionary War (Loyalists and Patriots), War of 1812, and other events. I also have to admit I’m keen to prove wrong all of the adult Canadians, homeschoolers included, who over the years have whimpered about how deadly dull their history is, “especially compared to American history”; if you want to read more about this, try Jack Granatstein’s spot-on indictment Who Killed Canadian History?* (that it remains out of print isn’t a good sign either). But I’m convinced that Canadian history is one long ripping yarn full of excitement, adventures, heroes, and heroines, even if you don’t get much past all of the voyageurs paddling upstream and Laura Secord running panting through the woods to warn the British. If I can’t prove it to everyone else, I can at least prove it to my own half-Canadian kids.
To hold everything together, I’ve chosen Courage & Conquest: Discovering Canadian History by Donna Ward. It’s available directly from Donna’s website and from every decent Canadian homeschool catalogue company, including the ones such as Academic Distribution Services and Tree of Life on the sidebar at right. Courage & Conquest is arranged much like a SOTW activity guide, with each of the 30 chronological lessons (from the Vikings through the fall of New France and Confederation to Newfoundland and Nunavut) accompanied by a short narrative passage; a two-page spread with a picture to color (if desired, and the kids usually do); brief questions for the student to answer; suggestions for additional reading and study: and recommended passages to read in the suggested spines, which include The Kids [sic] Book of Canadian History. The beginning of C&C also lists four-and-a-half pages of other books to read. I’m also going to interweave another one of Ward’s books, Canada’s Natives Long Ago, with C&C, and I’ll interweave (interleave?) all the Canadian material with SOTW3. Because we go down so many rabbit trails, and expand on certain subjects and people, over the school year anyway, especially in history, I’ve no doubt that it will take us longer than one year (42 weeks if you follow the chapter-a-week schedule in SOTW) to complete — closer to two years, I’d imagine. The subjects in C&C start with the Vikings (a bit of backtracking for us), then on to John Cabot, Jacque Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, the fur trade, Maisonneuve, and so on. We’ll stop at lesson 24, British Columbia Gold, and pick up with Confederation in 1867 when we start SOTW4 in anywhere from 12 to 24 months.
Despite Ward’s recommendation of a particular main text, The Kids Book of Canadian History, I’m being my usual difficult self, not only making substitutions but also using two spines where no doubt one would probably be enough (alright, I’ll admit it, that missing apostrophe does drive me nuts). But hear me out — first, we don’t already have The Kids Book, but we do already have Isabel Barclay’s out-of-print and wonderful The Story of Canada, an illustrated narrative history for young children, found at the Goodwill Shop for a quarter the other year, and My First History of Canada by Donalda Dickie, a reprint edition of which I bought secondhand from another homeschooling mum a few years ago, when home education wasn’t even in a glimmer in my eye (I just thought teaching the kids some Canadian history would be a good thing). The Barclay book, which unfortunately stops at around 1900, is very simply written and charmingly illustrated — perfect for the boys. The Dickie history, also in narrative style but more of a challenging read, is to use with Laura.
I also found another fun book, rather like a Dover or Bellerophon coloring book, with a large picture to color on each page accompanied by a brief story, called Pioneer Life by Natalie Quinn (Apple Press); it includes three sections, Settlers in New France, Settlers in Upper Canada, and Homesteaders in Western Canada. I really like the look of the Apple Press Canadian history and geography workbooks I’ve seen. Stylish and not too workbook-y for workbooks, if that makes any sense. And Laura can’t wait to get her mitts on it.
For what it’s worth, I looked at the Pioneers & Patriots study guide, by Vince Marquis, for Canadian history, but it’s a bit above the Grade 3 level and seems a bit dry compared to Donna Ward’s approach.
Besides the list of books in Ward’s Courage & Conquest, I’m also using this list of Canadian historical literature. This would be a good place to thank Nicola Manning for putting together the list, with the help of members of the SonlightCanada Yahoo group, and for keeping it on her website. If you really want to thank Nicola, you can buy some secondhand books from her online at Nikki’s Book Nook.
For more on Canadian history material, the Canadian section of Ambleside online has some very useful stuff, including a discussion of the various, though mostly out of print, children’s narrative histories of Canada and an outline of “How one family approached Year One”; on a thoroughly unCanadian note, I’m also intrigued by Ambleside’s Plutarch rotation for grades four and up. There’s also a Yahoo group for Ambleside/Charlotte Mason/Canada, with some nifty stuff in the Files, including a folder of information for each province, as well as lists of books and activities for various grades. Another useful group for classically educating Canadians is Canadian WTM at Yahoo. It’s not a very busy group and there’s nothing in the Files section, but some good information in the message archives.
Stay tuned for Part II, adding more American history to SOTW3 (as well as a possible list of Canadian and American juvenile historical fiction and non-fiction), and hope I don’t get sidetracked by laundry or possibly a novel and a nectarine… [update: so far the laundry is winning.]
* The educrats did it, revamping and politically correcting Canadian textbooks until they turned them into “the blandest of mush” and “air-brushed accounts of the past.”
More Resources for Middle School and High School
Canada: An Illustrated History by Derek Hayes
Canada: A Portrait in Letters, 1800-2000 by Charlotte Gray
A Short History of Canada by Desmond Morton
A Little History of Canada by H.V. Nelles
Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People by Roy MacGregor
An episode-by-episode bibliography to accompany the CBC’s “Canada: A People’s History”
a Canadian Literary Reading List compiled by Dr. Bruce Meyer, director of the Writing and Literature Program, University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies, prepared for the CBC’s “Canada: A People’s History”
Canada in the Making website