US History--Civil War & Reconstruction--2013

It's been five years since we last studied the Civil War.  Because my kids usually get each subject twice (I have a 5th grader and a 10th grader right now), I like to have different read-aloud books each time. We discuss the books and movies, then my older kids do other assignments and tests as well.  I typically use the same resources for extra high school work each time (eg. the Critical Thinking in US History series) because the younger kids don't use it.
  • Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt.  This book is a masterpiece--and a tear-jerker. It covers all of the major battles of the war because the main characters--a young boy and his sister--devour the newspapers trying to find news of their brothers and friends serving in both armies.
  • Harriet Tubman by George Sullivan.  It is part of Scholastic's "In Their Own Words" series, and uses as many primary sources as possible.
  • Stonewall by Jean Fritz
  • Gettysburg video.  This is the film version of my all-time favorite Killer Angels.  It is heart-wrenching.
  • The Eyes and Ears of the Civil War by G. Allen Foster.  This is a fun book that talks about information gathering during the war:  the telegraph, spies (including women!), hot-air balloons, and others.  You can pick and choose chapters, or read the whole thing.
  • Lincoln--A Photobiography.  I chose this book because I am emphasizing the question of what we were fighting for--states' rights or slavery.  This book includes a lot of Lincoln's thinking on both topics.
  • The Civil War: an Illustrated History by Catherine Clinton.This book is an "encyclopedia" of the war, with short articles on many people and events.  It was good for filling in gaps not covered in our read-alouds.
  • A History of US--Book 6, chapter 29, "Mr. McLean's Parlor" about the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.
  • Article from Meridian Magazine titled "Joseph Smith, Abraham Lincoln, and the Call for Repentance" about reasons for the war.
  • Critical Thinking in US History, Reconstruction (volume 3, chapters 5-9 about the Reconstruction) for my high school student.  This series teaches logic and reasoning using historical writings about the time period.
  • Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder.  This book gives a picture of the devastation and hard feelings in the South after the war.
We added many people and events to our century books.  This year I purchased line drawings of timeline figures from Home School in the Woods.  My 5th grader really enjoyed this because he usually just draws stick figures!

I'm always tempted to cover every battle of the war.  I have to remind myself that it's more important for my kids to become acquainted with and to think about a few of the relevant people and ideas.  They'll remember those, but they probably wouldn't remem-ber the textbook version. :)


  1. You didn't mention any movie titles!

    "Glory" is a really moving but also quite bloody (accurately so) movie about the first black regiment in the Union army. I don't remember the rating, and it's definitely not appropriate for younger kids. But I think sometimes there is a real validity to not "prettying up" what war is like.

    Then of course the movies based on the Shaara books, Gettysburg and Gods & Generals.

    And of course the historical fiction, like Gone with the Wind or Shenendoah.

    Also, I have not actually seen this one, but "Birth of a Nation" is about the civil war isn't it? I understand there is a lot of racism in it (old as it is). Still, it makes an interesting commentary on the race vs rights issue.

  2. *Gettysburg* is in there! I actually have a few more Civil War movies from A&E, but I haven't previewed them yet.
    Thanks for the *Birth of a Nation* idea. I may put that in for Reconstruction.
    I'm also thinking about *Amazing Grace* because it shows how Great Britain handled the slavery issue.