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So, I homeschool my kids, and now we're looking at history.

athena1's picture

I thought it would be easy. Just teach them Zinn's "A People's History."

But Holy Fuck! Have you read that thing? The kind, giving natives slaughtering themselves and their kids faced with Spanish slavery/colonialism (he goes into detail about parents slitting the throats of their kids before they slit their own!)? This is the most horrifying story I've ever read, and I'm a King fan!

I guess I'm going to give my kids the choice: Fairy Tale History (And I can teach that), or are you curious enough to want to know the truth, as gruesome as it is?

How would you deal with it if you were a homeschooler?

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Jay's picture
Submitted by Jay on

You've got to give it to them straight up. And encourage them to challenge you. Not on whether they have to eat their vegetables of course, but on the coursework. My kids come up with really provocative questions (don't homeschool though). I don't know how old your kids are, but another couple of books I'd recommend are Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, and The Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (fiction). Definitely the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Amendments, just to get a flavor of how much the lofty rhetorical theory deviated from practice. Huck Finn. Charles Chesnutt's Cunjah Tales make excellent reading, especially around Halloween, and make it more possible to relate to what life under slavery might have been like, if not a full understanding of it. War is a Racket by Smedley Butler.

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

We just finished Twain, the Helen Keller story, and the Jack London classics (with a dose of Orwell's perspective on London's politics.)
I read War is a Racket a while back, and that's a good idea. I can also get him to read the wiki on "The Business Plot". He could do both of those in a single afternoon.

I'll look into those other books, too. Thanks for the suggestions!

techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

I don't know how old your kids are, but at some point at least their teacher should read Quigley's Tragedy and Hope. History every American should know. Interesting sidebar. Quiqley was one of Bill Clinton's history profs at Georgetown—see if you think he learned anything.

Oliver stone's new The Untold History of the United States is also can't miss. It fills in the gap between FDR and W. Bush—material most history books miss. Best of all, it comes with a 10-part video documentary with real file footage. Incredible.

And finally, since you want your little progressives to think they can win once in a while, you must read Political Prairie Fire about when the Nonpartisan League took over the government of North Dakota and instituted the most progressive economic changes ever in any state. North Dakota is the only state with a state bank to this day—thank the NPL.

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

We just watched Stone's "Untold History." Family TV time at the Athena1 household. (Along with "Through the Wormhole" and NOVA.)

Thanks for the other book suggestion, too! Adding them to my Amazon list.

I'm currently reading this:

Not sure if even my 9 year old is ready for that one yet.

Also, sorry for asking homeschool questions here. Most homeschoolers are rightwing fundies who homeschool to protect their kids from the Satanic secular world. Dinosaur bones were planted by Satan to fool us about the age of the world, and crazy shit like that.

I'm an atheist, and homeschooling for WAY different reasons, but let my kids go to church with their Christian friends and all that. (My kids are still basically agnostic atheists.) There aren't a lot of resources for secular homeschoolers.

Submitted by lambert on

Back in the day, they were sold in the supermarket volume by volume. I'd recommend something like that for general knowledge.

Also, I don't know how old they are, but the old versions of Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willlows, Winnie the Pooh, and Kipling's Just So stories are all wonderful. Get the hard covers second hand with the line drawings.... I know this recommendation is wicked Anglo-centric and WASPy, but they are all good for critical thinking skills and train for complex narratives. Alice, in particular, is a fully autonomous moral agent.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

I don't know how old your kids are but my kid takes an online class at Stanford that uses a textbook with first hand accounts to supplement the chronological history book.
In general, I don't think it's a particularly good idea to paint one culture as super evil. It tends to single out white people as particularly thuggish, brutal and cruel. That wouldn't be very accurate and ignores the overall historical pattern of all cultures with technological and resource advantages to lord it over their enemies.
To get a better perspective on that theme, I recommend Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.

Postscript: my religious fanatic of a mother once gave my 7 year old daughter a horribly depressing book on the holocaust based on the true story of some little girl who lived through it. "Well, she's got to learn someday". Yes, she does. But for a CHRISTMAS gift, I would have preferred she got a copy of A Christmas Carol or The Polar Express.
Mom never did get the whole concept behind Christmas.

Jay's picture
Submitted by Jay on

My take is that no subject is inappropriate for discussion. The challenge is to put things in terms that are conceptually accessible, don't plough through their questions, and openly admit when there's something you don't know. Wikipedia and the local library to the rescue! My kids are nobody's fools, and I'm trying to trust their judgment in what to ask/discuss/how to conduct themselves so that they in turn will trust their own judgment. An (expensive) magazine I can't recommend enough for kids (and makes great shithouse reading for adults) is How It Works out of the UK. The same publishing group does All About Space and All About History.

One of the subjects I'm going to take up with my kids is war. Curriculum: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges, Saving Private Ryan, and some sort of schlocky film like Sands of Iwo Jima or an Audie Murphy movie so they get a counterpoint of "war" as propaganda versus war.

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

I've read "War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning". Heavy stuff, and kind of a leftwing version of Bobbitt's (waaay unnecessarily long, IMO, but equally profound) observations about war and human nature and societies and culture, and how they evolve.

We've also watched Saving Private Ryan (my husband plays music recreationally and is an audio engineer by trade), and was briefly in a band called "Shaving Ryan's Privates". Heh.

More books to add into my Amazon cart. Thanks, guys!