This school year we are tackling the 1900s and 2000s. Kind of a big task since last year we only got through about 1860-1900. Obviously, we will not be spending as much time on the World Wars as we did on the Civil War. My main focus is on American history but for my oldest (11th grader) I am trying to incorporate more international events. The first chunk we took was from the turn of the century to World War I. Though my kids are all in middle or high school this year, there may be some things below that work for elementary too. I am not above using an easy book if it is a good book or gives us what we need at the time. You can find all my lists of living books here.
Living Books on 1900-WWI
I greatly simplified our spine this year. Last year we got pretty bogged down in big thick spines. This year I want to spend more of our “together time” on Bible so I chose a pretty simple spine. Here it is:
I got this series of books from a library book sale some years ago. We actually used it many moons ago when we first did the 1900s. My kids were much younger then so you can see that it is not tough reading. Honestly, it is probably upper elementary level, even 3rd-5th grade. Yet I am using it with my 6th through 11th graders. Why? Part of the answer is in what I want a spine to do — it is an introduction, a fly-over of the period we are studying. My kids will each get more detail and more challenging reading and narration in their individual work. But the spine book makes sure that we are not missing major events. (Part of it is also a lack of good spines I can find on this period; many of the ones we have used in the past are older and actually stop before 1900.) This series may not look on the surface like living books, and perhaps it is not. But it is actually fairly well-written and I am happy enough with the content. It has some of the look of the sort of modern “busy” book that annoys the sock off of me, but it keeps the side blurbs to a minimum and the text itself is reasonably interesting.
There are a lot of topics one can cover for this period; a lot of social things — immigration, women’s rights, etc. — were going on. Since we are not spending too long on anything this year, I got each child a more comprehensive book. If you are looking for things on smaller topics, you can also check out some of my posts from last year on the end of the 1800s. Many of the issues span the century divide and were covered, at least in part, last year (immigration, for example, is one we touched on last year).
I had my 6th grader read two shorter books:
Jean Fritz is a favorite author. Her books vary in length. Each of these is probably at a 4th-6th grade level, a longer chapter book basically.
My 7th grader read Albert Marrin’s Spanish American War:
I like Marrin because he tends to cover a lot of ground even in a book that is ostensibly on one narrow subject. This one might not have had the range of some of his but it was still good. Usually, I use Marrin’s books in high school but this one didn’t seem too tough.
My 10th grader also read a Marrin book:
Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Modern America is more typical of a Marrin book in that it gives the flavor or an era. She seemed to enjoy many of the stories and learned interesting tidbits about TR.
My 11th grader focused on the Boxer Rebellion in China. I looked at two books on this topic, The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston and The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China by David Silbey. Though Preston’s book looked good, I opted for Silbey’s as it was shorter and fit better into our schedule.
One more book on China I looked at was China’s Long March by Jean Fritz (again):
In the end I chose not to use this book (yet?) because it is really more about the 1930s. I am mentioning it here in case you are looking for more on China and also because I am not sure if we will have time to get to it later.
Since our spine isn’t long, I read a few other books aloud to my kids.
For brief intros to various topics I love the Cornerstones of Freedom series. Be sure to get the older editions which all begin The Story of . . . The newer ones are not living books(IMO)!
Arctic exploration was also a topic at this time:
Both of these are books we have read when my kids were littler too. Curlee’s Into the Ice is an overview of Arctic exploration. Black Whiteness is about Admiral Byrd in the Antarctic. It is a more poetic and heart-wrenching account. (It is also set in the 1930s but I included it here anyway.)
Lastly, here are some books I looked at but didn’t end up using:
Werstien is another favorite author (look for him in my WWI booklist coming soon!). This particular volume is more of a pictorial history though there is an introduction which one could read. It might be a good choice for the boy who is into the specifics of military things. Rebel in Petticoats is about the move for women’s rights. It looked good but I couldn’t find time for it.
Until next time–