Thursday, June 13, 2013

Civil War Homeschool Unit: Schedule and Lesson Plan

The Civil War! This was a huge unit, and SO much fun. I've always liked history but I feel like I've never been so immersed in one period as I was during this unit. I felt like I got to know several of the historical figures (Lincoln, Lee, Grant, Jackson) better than I had before. Hopefully the children felt the same way! We watched the Ken Burns Civil War documentary over the last week or so of the unit, and I was overcome with sadness during several parts. When Lincoln was assassinated, it made me cry, almost like his death robbed me of some chance to get to know him (which is silly, since he would have been dead long before I was around, regardless). I mean, I had always seen his death as a historic moment, a moment that changed the shape of what was to come in American History, but I felt it personally this time. And it was the same reading about Robert E. Lee's surrender---I could almost feel his heartbreak and his sense of failure as if it were my own. Very interesting to experience it that way.

There were several longer books I read myself as background. One interesting one was Kenneth Alford's Civil War Saints. I thought it was fascinating to read about the intersections Utah and the Mormons had with the Civil War (there were more than you might think!). We visited Fort Douglas and it made it really interesting to know the history behind that place.

I also read Two Miserable Presidents, which I think is the best short history of the Civil War I've ever read. The guy who wrote it is a textbook author who wanted a place to put all the interesting quotes and stories about the war that were always cut from the textbook drafts he submitted. :) It's really engaging, with memorable quotes and anecdotes, and it made the various parts of the war come together in my mind in a way they never had before. I finally felt like I had a continuous sense of what happened when, and why---rather than a series of unconnected battles and half-understood events floating around in my head. I liked it so much that I ended up reading the whole thing (250+ pages) to the children. We read the pertinent sections each day, usually a chapter or so, and they would beg for more when we were done.

Here's the Pinterest page for this unit.

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