Level 100 - American History

Great for ages 12-16

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Overview of the History

Sonlight's 100 American History course offers a fascinating look at the ups and downs of the nation's past. As your children transition to independent learning, they will examine the events, people, and debates that molded the United States.

This course builds on the foundation of Joy Hakim's award-winning series A History of US. Hakim is an excellent storyteller. In her 10 volumes of history (and an eleventh book with original source documents), she tells the story from the first peoples who came to North America on. To the story, she adds additional fascinating sidebars, little tidbits of intrigue and interest. The whole set is profusely illustrated with photos, portraits, and political cartoons. The School Library Journal said, "One of the best nonfiction series of the decade. Impossible to put down." We agree. It's outstanding.

So the spine of the course is stellar. Yes. But to expand on Hakim, the Instructor's Guide has something like 300 more pages of notes and articles. These offer counter-arguments to some of Hakim's views. With A History of US and the IG combined, you have an extraordinary tool to help your children think about, and understand, American History.

And there are 17 more history books to enjoy!

Some expand on a time: Before Columbus explores what America was like before Europeans arrived; The Yanks Are Coming offers wonderful details of WWI; World War II is self-explanatory in title,though the ideas are anything but normal.

Some are about specific people: Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold tells the story of the most famous turncoat in American history. The Great Little Madison tells of the Father of the Constitution, that weak-voiced thinker. David Wilkerson left a comfortable suburban pastorate to minister to gangs in New York. Cameron Townsend wondered how much more effective he would be as a missionary if the people had the Bible in their heart-language.

And some are about specific events: the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, or the Montgomery Bus Boycott; writing the Constitution, fighting the battle of Gettysburg, building the Panama Canal.

From making moonshine during Prohibition, to unconstitutional internment in prison camps during WWII; from Chinese labor in the Sierra Nevadas of California, to teens fighting in the Civil War, this course offers a wide range of perspectives, nationalities, and locations.

After their children have worked through Sonlight's 100 course, some parents have their children take the CLEP exam (the College Level Examination Program test that counts for college credit at some schools). These students pass.

Even though many of the Sonlight books are not "challenging" in their reading level, the quantity of titles, the memorability of the books, and the incredible range of topics, make the whole a thorough, enjoyable study of American History.

Estimated daily time for American History: Student: 45min.

Our high school courses are separated by subject to allow customers maximum flexibility. Feel free to buy either the History or the Literature, or both, or to mix-and-match with the History and Literature of other Sonlight courses.

Overview of the Literature

Sonlight's 100 Literature moves roughly chronologically through American History. The books are in a variety of genres, including lyric poetry, short story, novella, novel, memoir, science fiction, historical fiction, and travelogue. There is a novel told in vignettes, a novel told from multiple points of view, an epistolary novel, and a novel-in-verse.

The setting of the books is also varied across the United States: Alaska, California, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Michigan, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Also a covered wagon trip from Arkansas to Oregon, and a car road trip from Chicago to Texas.

You'll read a book about each of our North American neighbors: Elijah of Buxton takes place in Canada and My Heart Lies South takes place in Mexico.

The male and female authors are Caucasian, Africian-American, Abenaki, and Korean-American.

The Literature includes several mature works. The poetry book, for example, contains collections by six of America's top poets, including Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, and Sandburg.

You probably know the story of Rip Van Winkle, who went to the mountains and ended up asleep for twenty years. It's a classic American short story. The author has a scintillating vocabulary, which makes the simple story quite a challenging read.

Jack London's Call of Wild, about a California dog kidnapped to the Yukon during the Gold Rush, explores how deep our "civilization" really runs. What does life look like without external moral boundaries?

And the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my favorites, looks at racial tension in the South, with a bit of courtroom drama (and who doesn't love that?).

Apart from these, most of the books are not challenging reads. Some of the topics are more mature than I'd prefer for elementary school children. For example, Keeping Score includes a character who returned from the Korean War with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after he witnessed war crimes. This is not comfortable history, though told gently. Rules of the Road's main character is a teen who has to figure out what it looks like to have a relationship with a drunk, deadbeat dad. Bonanza Girl, despite the incredible charm of the story, deals with intense racism in an Idaho gold-mining town.

None of these books focus on dark things. But they all include it, making this, I believe, an excellent transitional course, for upper middle school and lower high school.

Overall, this is a charming collection, diverse, interesting, enjoyable, and thought-provoking.

Fully integrated with the Literature, this year's Language Arts builds on past years and continues to develop literary analysis, creative writing, research, and essay skills, with weekly writing assignments in a range of lengths and topics.

Estimated daily time for American Literature: Student: 45min.

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