When mid-morning comes around, and our dining room table is buried under the layers of four sets of books, folders, and notebooks, we get up and go read some books together. This serves the double purpose of turning down the noise that tends to build up throughout the morning with four busy kids and gives us an opportunity to bond to great stories.
For the past month, we’ve been exploring stories from American history. Originally, when I selected this curriculum, I intended it to be used with my seven-year-old as a one-on-one thing. I envisioned us cuddling up on a couch reading the stories and discussing them, while the rest of the kids were concentrating on their own thing.
That didn’t happen.
Disclaimer: I received this product for free and was compensated for my time. As always, I’m honestly sharing my opinions and experiences.
The first time I sat down on the couch with my son, opened the volume one of Sonlight’s Exploring American History curriculum, and started reading about the explorer Leif Ericson, my oldest son came along and said, “Oooh, Viking ship. Interesting…” and climbed on the back of the couch to look down at the book from over my head. A few minutes later, my daughter came along, looked at the title of the page, and asked, “Who are the unsung heroes of Viking shipbuilding?” “Women,” I replied. “Um,” she commented, climbing up next to her brother. As can be expected, my youngest didn’t want to feel left out, so she quickly joined us too.
The next day, when I grabbed the bright red volume, all my kids got up and followed me into the living room like little ducks following their mama.
I should have known!
None of my kids can resist a good story!
If you labor under the mistaken conviction that history is boring, let me hastily reassure you that it depends on the resources you use. Sonlight teaches history with a playful storytelling approach. And I’m happy to say that the stories are enthusiastically received by all four of my kids.
What is Sonlight’s new American History curriculum?
Sonlight is a literature-based homeschool curriculum that offers resources for a robust academic education. They sell full-grade packages from preschool to high school that contain everything you need for one year. Plus, they offer customizable packages, where you pick-and-choose materials to create an educational experience to suit your goals and your child’s interests.
Exploring American History is a new 36-week program that introduces children to a wide range of events and people in American history. The storytelling approach grabs attention, engages kids emotionally, and helps them absorb the historical facts without effort.
The program is designed for kindergarten, but it works for a wide range of ages, even adults. I was astonished to discover so many gaps in my own knowledge of American history, and after chatting with other homeschooling moms, I noticed that many also felt that they didn’t know American history well, or well enough.
After a quick google search, I discovered that when forty one thousand Americans were asked twenty multiple-choice questions on American history (taken from the U.S. citizenship exam), only 39% past! Clearly, we need to do better when it comes to teaching American history to our children.
What’s included in the program?
The cornerstone of the Sonlight’s Exploring American History curriculum is Heroes and Happenings: sixty stories in two volumes from American history. The two vibrant volumes have 30 chapters each and include colorful illustrations, boxes with interesting facts, timelines, vocabulary words, suggestions for further reading, famous quotes, and maps.
The first volume starts with Leif Ericson, who lived about one thousand years ago, then moves to Christopher Columbus almost five hundred years later, and then goes on to cover Henry Knox, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Noah Webster, John James Audubon, Mark Twain, and many other esteemed characters. Volume two picks up in the mid-1800s with Edison and advances through the lives of famous engineers, botanists, statesmen, scientists, aviators, politicians, orators, and entertainers to tell the story of America.
The program includes a comprehensive instructor’s guide with lesson plans, sample schedules, discussion questions, and lots of additional information.
If you get a complete curriculum, you will also get 7-10 living books, 17-21 read-alouds, and a set of early readers. The exact number of books depends on either you pick a 4-day or 5-day program.
How we use American History by Sonlight
We read one story a day and discuss it loosely following the guideline in the instructor’s guide, which takes about 15-25 minutes. We are about three quarters into the curriculum at the moment.
Yep, we are moving pretty fast and will be done in two months, even though the program is designed to last a year. I find that it’s easier to keep the momentum going while the interest is still fresh. Plus, I like to teach my kids to finish what we start and the more extended the task, the more likely life’s events to get in the way and halt the progress.
I think my kids are motivated by my enthusiasm. As we read the stories, I can’t help exclaiming, “Can you believe this!” “Oh my gosh, I totally didn’t know that!” “What?! Surely that can’t be true.” American history is full of audacious events, surprising twists, and extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.
And what could be more thrilling about a story than knowing that it’s true?
Some days, we go on the internet to find additional details about the characters mentioned in the story or to verify that the facts mentioned in the story are what most modern historians agree on.
Other days, something in the story sparks my kids’ interest and encourages hands-on investigation. For example, when the compass was mentioned in one of the stories, my kids got a compass and went outside to explore with it. And when Albert Einstein was shown building a house of cards, my kids wanted to get cards and try their hand at building too.
We weren’t able to get the additional books suggested at the end of each chapter. Our library was closed for three months due to COVID. (And we did already buy a few hundred books during the lockdown since all of us read hard and often). But our library is set to open this month. So maybe I will go back and find a few books to put on hold for deeper investigation.
Want a closer look at this program?
My son did a video to show you inside Sonlight’s Exploring American History curriculum. He marked the pages he wanted to mention to give a structure to his review. All the words are his own 😉
Try the Sonlight Curriculum for free!
Did you know that you can try the Sonlight curriculum for free? Yep, all you have to do is click here or on the image below, fill out the form, and click “submit.”
Sonlight is for you if you
- Like literature-based curriculums
- Want to make history fun
- Prefer when everything is laid out for you
- Are intimidated by the idea of teaching American history
- Love stories that grab hearts and minds
- Are looking for something that works for multiple ages
If you are not sure about the selections, click here to request a catalog.
Sonlight Kindergarten American History Giveaway!
One winner will receive Sonlight’s New Kindergarten History / Bible / Literature Program: Exploring American History. Enter below. Must be 18 and have a shipping address in the Contiguous US mailing. Giveaway ENDS 6-30-2020.
Sonlight’s American History curriculum worked for my family, and I hope it will work for yours too.