One of the fantastic things about homeschooling is that you can use your intimate knowledge of your children, combined with the flexibility of home, to make your curriculum work for you.
Instead of having history class and literature class and then making a lame stab at “outside reading,” you can combine them into one nifty package: a book that they will love to read because it’s just that good.
The Killer Angels counts as all of the above. Well written, gripping, based on primary sources yet brought alive by the novelist’s imagination, it’s a great story about a great moment in history.
A book like this can help you figure out how to go about homeschooling the older child — with the two (plus a bonus) tips I am going to give you.
Maybe thinking about it can help unbend the part of your mind that curls up into a spastic ball when you look at Ambleside, with its extensive booklists; or in general think about homeschooling the older child.
If I had known these things from the get-go, I would have been better off, and so would my kids.
- If you have some method of keeping a history timeline (and even multiple timelines, for certainly American history alone will require several), history will be easy to teach and learn. I like the forms found on Donna Young’s site. You can make your own, of course, but these are great. Choose whichever one appeals to you and works with the amount of detail you are looking to put in there, print them out, punch holes in them with your 3-hole punch that yes, you have handy, and put them in a 3-ring binder. (Sometime I will go into detail about this, but consider: If you have a binder, you can pop in other materials such as papers, drawings, short bios, “letters” from a historical figure, and whatever your child has produced relating to the particular moment in time you are studying.)
- And if you (parent/teacher and child/student) have a commonplace book (or florilegium) and learn to keep it as a record of your thoughts on what you read. Think big and wide with this. You want to make note of particulars about the book — the title, author, chapters, characters — but also any quotes that strike you, any thoughts on developments in the plot, and any questions you might have.
- Extra bonus tip: The amazing internet will offer you many ideas for study and essay questions. Simply search for something along the lines of “Study questions the killer angels shaara.” Do not spurn these. They are your friend. Some can be just questions you use to spark discussion with younger students or students who are working on other things. Others can be actual essay questions, the background preparation for which can be carried out in the commonplace book (finding quotes, musing on possibilities, making connections). You can also search for something like “civil war timeline.” Trust me.
These two things — timeline and commonplace book — work for every age of reader. A third-grader can keep a lovely “overview” timeline and a simple journal. A senior in high school can keep a detailed timeline and a commonplace book that will serve him well in college.
Searching online for study notes and timelines will make life much easier for you.
In any case, The Killer Angels is a great read, perfect for late summer. Even if you aren’t specifically studying the Civil War, don’t miss out on this book. If you plan a trip to Gettysburg (in reality or just in virtuality), it’s a must-read before you go, to be revisited during and after.