Although we usually follow a 4-year-cycle for history and science in our homeschool, last year we decided to do something different. Spurred on by my children's interests, we spent the first half of the year exploring the United States through books, pictures, foods, and videos. Rather than focusing on memorization of state names and capitals, I sought to give us all a small sense of the culture in each region of the USA. To make our United States unit study more holistic, I decided to incorporate the following for each region:
Native American studies
stories and folk tales
chapter books, including books for my own education
media to accompany the read-alouds
pictures of landscapes and famous sites
foods and recipes
Read-Alouds, Not Worksheets
I wanted our unit study to be an enjoyable, shared experience between me and my children. To that end, I purposely avoided basing our unit study upon worksheets, which are often used as busy work, and which my children would come to dread. Instead, I built our unit study around read-alouds.
With read-alouds, I was able to easily introduce my children to new ideas, cultures, and places. Through read-alouds, we were immersed in loving households, in the triumph of overcoming struggles and challenges, and in the wondrous fantasy of folk and fairy tales. Read-alouds also sparked some of our most important discussions, leading to the foundation of good character, integrity, responsibility, and kindness.
Whole USA Books
There were a few books which I read to my children throughout our USA unit study:
The Children's Book of America by William J. Bennett - This beautifully-illustrated book includes historical stories, folk tales, and poems about the USA
The United States of America: A State-by-State Guide by Millie Miller and Cyndi Nelson - This book contains pages for each state of the USA and includes many interesting facts such as the size and population of the state, the state bird and flower, and sites of interest within the state
American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg - This little chapter book includes stories of American folk heroes such as Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and Davy Crockett