We’re highlighting some of the elementary books we think do a great job illuminating Native American history.
A Native American history reading list for your middle grades homeschool, including fiction and nonfiction books.
On the 150th anniversary of the Medicine Lodge Treaty (a trio of problematic agreements that forced the Plains Indians onto reservations) ensure that your high school U.S. history studies include the country’s marginalized original inhabitants.
I discovered Louise Erdrich in college and quickly became a huge fan, collecting most of her books and following her career, which is studded with awards and honors. I think her prose is beautiful and her subject matter and characters fascinating, but what I have always liked best about her is her humor. When I found out that she had written a series for young adults, I knew I had to read it to my boys. And I’ve just finished the first book: The Birchbark House.
Both my boys loved this book. However, they didn’t think they would like it. My 10-year-old son took one look at the cover and groaned. I let my 7-year-old play instead of sitting on the sofa to listen, but he was in earshot. About halfway through the book, he began to sit still and listen with his brother and me. I knew they were both listening when they burst out laughing at a very funny part near the end of the book.
They were captured by the main character’s spirit. She’s a young girl, named Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop. She has a special way with animals, befriending two bear cubs, and she even has a crow for a pet. We learn how her family, members of the Anishinabe (now called Objibwe or Chippewa), build their homes and feed themselves. We spend a full year with them, including the very tragic winter of 1847, but the beauty and messages in this book are uplifting. We are carried along as Omakayas learns important life lessons and discovers whom she really is.
This book had everything in it that I hoped for and felt was important for my two boys to hear. First, it helped them see how the Native American tribes were affected by the arrival of white settlers. (I trust we will continue to learn about this as we continue the series.) Second, it has strong female characters. Third, it allowed them to hear beautifully written prose—something that I haven’t found in every young adult fiction book. This book also deals with loss and grief and healing in a beautiful, sensitive way.
This book would make a perfect readaloud in your homeschool because it’s a story that every age can enjoy, but even if you don’t have young children to read it to, you should read it. It’s that good.
This week, Shelli's got the scoop on what's lighting up her April homeschool.
We’re a birding family, so we love the spring weather and watching the birds nest and fly about in our yard! My six-year-old especially loved this interactive website that lets you explore bird anatomy, and in the evenings we’re also enjoying watching some wild bird videos too.
in the magazine: Subscribers can download our free meal planning sheet (with spaces for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks because homeschoolers need spaces for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!) when you log into the subscribers-only portal.
on the blog: Amy shares what she's learned teaching homeschoolers creative writing
on instagram: Why yes, our Friday nights are pretty thrilling
This month we’ve been learning about the Cherokee Indians because our local art museum has a Cherokee Basketry exhibit I want to attend, and this is an important part of our state’s history the boys should understand. (So, yes, this is a Mama-led activity!) I began by reading The Cherokee: native basket weavers by Therese DeAngelis, Sequoyah by Doraine Bennett, and The Cherokees by Jill Ward, which were all short (elementary level) books I checked out from the library. Then we read the (middle school-ish) book Only the Names Remain by Alex W. Bealer, a sad account of the Trail of Tears. These were all good books.
My New Adventure
It’s not always about the boys’ projects around here. This spring I have been delving into the world of bread baking, and not only that, I have captured my own wild yeast, too! The series Cooked (exclusive to Netflix) inspired me. I am using the book Classic Sourdoughs, but it hasn’t answered all my questions, so I’ve frequented YouTube and friends on Twitter as well! (Thank you, Twitter friends!) After four loaves of bread, I’m still trying to get it right! (I did have great success with pizza dough, however.)
The boys are constantly looking at our collection of Calvin and Hobbes books, which I keep on the kitchen table with the weekly newspaper. At least my nine-year-old is reading something without being told!
A couple of years ago, my nine-year-old lost interest in the Little House books when we got to By the Shores of Silver Lake. Now we’ve picked it up again, and he’s enjoying it. I think we’ll finish the series now!
For myself, I just finished reading Taking Lottie Home by Terry Kay. It’s a Southern novel, and I thought it was going to be predictable, but as the story gained momentum, I realized it was not! It was a very good read and a meaningful story.
Our most current beloved documentaries:
--NOVA’s Rise of the Robots (PBS)
--Nature’s Wild France (PBS)
--Cooked (Netflix exclusive)
--Chef’s Table (Netflix exclusive) (These last two were insanely great.)
Just for me: Mr. Selfridge (Masterpiece Theatre PBS; available on Amazon Prime)