United States History - Elementary Text

American History for Young Catholics, Grade 1

Book cover: 'American History for Young Catholics, Grade 1'
Publisher: 
Seton Press
Binding: 
Softcover
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American History for Young Catholics includes 18 short stories, offering a gentle introduction to American History. Not longer than two pages each, each interesting selection takes less than five minutes to read aloud. The stories include famous American heroes; such as George Washington and Daniel Boone; American Saints, such as Kateri Tekawitha and St. Frances Cabrini; and interesting facts about American history, such as famous inventions and the Panama Canal. The selections are short, but substantive. Despite the large print and short length, the reading level is probably too difficult for many first graders, but they would work well as a read-aloud. For independent reading, the book might be more appropriate for an average 8-10 year old. Each story is accompanied by a photograph, drawing, or picture. Some pictures could be photocopied for the student to color while mom is reading aloud.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
9-3-02
Reviewed by: 

American History, Grade 5

Author(s): 
Rt. Rev. Msgr. Edmund J. Goebel
Sister Mary Richardine
John E. O'Laughlin
Copyright: 
1964
Publisher: 
Lepanto Press
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
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There is no shortage of reprinted United States for elementary Catholic students, but this one designed for fifth grade offers a unique perspective. The student's text is an overview of American history from the discovery period through to 1963, with the final chapters on the history of machines and transportation and the Constitution.

The seven units and twenty-eight chapters are fairly brief at an average of ten pages, and the reading level is appropriate for fifth and sixth grade students. In the chapters are loads of black and white illustrations, maps and timelines. The end-of-chapter questions are all discussion and short answer or essay type, with a list of persons, places, and terms that might be useful for a timeline book assignment. In addition, there are some "Interesting Things to Do" that are more research and hands-on oriented. The end-of-unit questions are also discussion or essay type, critical thinking questions. Also included are a section called "Linking Geography to History", more "Interesting Things to Do", and a list of additional books to read. Many of the titles on the book list are familiar to me as they are what is presently being discarded from the library. Many of them are are out-of-print, but others are currently being reprinted in inexpensive paperback editions. If essay questions are more than your student is able to tackle, the corresponding test booklet includes tests in the typical multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank format.

The Teacher's Manual contains the unique part of this course, and I would recommend its purchase as essential to getting the best out of this course. The reprinted edition is 95 pages long and is comb-bound. Its focus is on Christian social principles, which are outlined as an introduction to the Teacher's Manual and the course. Each unit has introductory information for the teacher, as well as an introduction to each chapter's material. These background notes are keyed to the list of Christian social principles and historical perspectives detailed in the introduction. Without this teacher's guide, I'm positive that I would have missed all of this. There is also a suggested test for the unit. For each chapter, the teacher's manual also includes a list of important terms and concepts, a useless-to-me list of related educational films and filmstrips, the answers to all of the student's questions, "Ideas to be Developed", and "Teaching Procedures". Because of the chronological arrangement of information, I think that the background information in the teacher's manual would be useful no matter which text you use.

Also available are a test booklet mentioned above and the answer key to the tests.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur

Review Date: 
9-3-02
Reviewed by: 

From Sea to Shining Sea

The Story of America
Book cover: 'From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America'
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Catholic Schools Textbook Project
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
462 pages
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We just finished a great history year, my two middle-schoolers and I. We tackled American History and used as our textbook Catholic School Textbook Project's From Sea to Shining Sea. I divide our school year into four quarters, so we had exactly five chapters per quarter. Every Wednesday afternoon we sat down in the sunny, bright living room and I would begin reading a chapter aloud. My two middle-schoolers would then each a take turn reading and we would have the chapter read in just over an hour. They used an atlas to find and trace the historical routes covered that session.

After the usual discussion, during which I would blurt out questions such as “Imagine if they had never made it there…” and when they would wonder about such things as “How could they do that?”, we would move on to the quizzes and tests in the teachers’ manual. We did those orally and I would have them take turns answering the questions. If one could not answer the other could help. At the end of the quarter we would review the material and I would write up a test using the sample test questions for guidance. Although these end-of-quarter exams were several pages long, they had little problem answering the questions, as we had reviewed the material.

We learned much about American History this year thanks to this book. Better yet, they loved it! Each week they looked forward to history. It was our three-way time together. Between the two elementary schooler and two high schoolers at home, the middle-schoolers enjoyed having mom all for themselves on Wednesday afternoons. So they could expand their history study a bit further, each week I used the local library online to select and put on hold materials about about the historical characters we were studying. During our weekly trip to the library we picked up these books and left them out in our library pile in the living room. I would see them reading the books for pleasure before nightly family prayer.

The book offered, we thought, the right amount of information. More would have been too much; less, too little. The chapters were meaty and long, but with one devoted afternoon we did not have trouble reading the whole thing. We stopped the reading occasionally to comment on what was going on, and the “yellow blurbs” as we called them, always offered some food for extra discussions as they provide glimpses of life or special people or events in that time period of American History.

The twenty chapters follow the history of the United States from the Pre-Columbian travels of St. Brendan the Navigator and the Vikings, and continue chronologically until the last chapter entitled “Catholics in America”, which discusses figures such as Dorothy Day and J. F. Kennedy. The paper is glossy, the layout attractive and colorful, and the illustrations are generous and interesting. Each chapter offers Summary, a Chapter Checkpoint, Activities and “The American Larder” with interesting facts about things culinary of that specific time period. The companion volume, still in beta version at the time of the this review, offers more summary paragraphs, answer to the chapters’ questions and sample quizzes and tests to each chapter. I used it consistently throughout the year.

The list of contributors is impressive with such names as Professor James Hitchcock from St. Louis University, the Nashville Dominicans and several Catholic academics. It is indeed a delight to use an attractive, new textbook for History that is not secular or anti-Catholic. The Catholic School Textbook Project should be congratulated in their work to fill a dire need in Catholic education today.

The opening paragraphs give a sense of how story-like this textbook is:

'What are the three things God loves, Mother?' the young boy asked. 'Child,' the holy nun replied, 'God loves the true faith that comes from a pure heart. He loves the simple religious life and the generous kindness of Christian love.'

'And what does God hate?' the child then asked.

'Three things He hates,' she replied. 'God hates a scowling face. He hates stubborn wrongdoing, and too much trust in money.'

Thus, St. Ita taught the young boy, Brendan. It was a lesson he learned well. So great was his faith that he took on the religious life of a monk. Though he lived in poverty, Brendan was joyful. He loved neither riches, nor comforts. He lived a life of penance, and what little he had, he generously shared with the poor. When the good Bishop Erc ordained him a priest, Brendan took on a most heroic task: he left his homeland and friends and traveled to foreign lands to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In addition to the story-like format (my 2nd and 5th graders are really enjoying it as a read-aloud), the text has a number of excellent attributes:

  • It ties in interesting and pertinent material that clarifies the historical details (like the 1976 voyage of Tim Severin that helped validate the legends of the voyages of St. Brendan in the 5th century)
  • It is beautiful and appealing with full-color illustrations, photographs from historical re-enactments, and plenty of maps.
  • It is a complete history course in that it incorporates stories of great Catholic leaders and how their faith influenced them alongside the basics of American history expected of any good American history text.

The book emphasizes the early discoveries of America, the explorers, colonial life and the history of the United States from the American Revolution through the Civil War. It also touches upon Catholic influences in American History in the 19th and 20th centuries.

I'm very, very impressed with this text and look forward to reading the rest. My children (grades 2 and 5) have been enjoying it as a read-aloud as well. I would like to note that there are some aspects of American history that aren't pretty and might be troubling to sensitive children. An example I came across in this text is a brief explanation of the ritualistic human sacrifices performed by the Aztecs. It is essential to understanding that time period in history and is explained in an appropriate fashion, but might require some supervision on the part of parents.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
5-29-2007
Reviewed by: 

Our Pioneers and Patriots

Book cover: 'Our Pioneers and Patriots'
Author(s): 
Rev. Philip Furlong
Copyright: 
1940
Publisher: 
TAN Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
505 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Resource Type: 
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Our Pioneers and Patriots begins with a review of Viking exploration and continues through the history of the United States to the time of President Roosevelt and the New Deal. The text is direct and factual, focusing on key people and events. Read straight through, this book would bore most children; however, when read a page or two at a time the presentation style is interesting and easily understood. Fr. Furlong has a unique way of digesting complex information into a few short sentences. These sentences are written in a conversational tone that would appeal to most young students. For example...

"The Boston Tea Party made the British very angry. The owners lost their tea and the government lost its tax. Worst of all the affair was an act of defiance. An act of defiance is a refusal to obey an order or command. King George III would not overlook that. The people of Boston must be taught to obey. The port of Boston was therefore declared closed." p. 201

Each of the twelve units is broken into unnumbered chapters and subsections making for many natural stopping points if reading time must be limited to just five or ten minutes a day. Each chapter is preceded with a brief "Read to Learn" section that sets the tone for the upcoming material and alerts the reader to key points to be remembered. Following each chapter is a Study Summary that includes a listing of key people, events and dates. An activity section provides mapping activities and other projects. These projects are meaningful and would bring depth to the student's study of the chapter material. The study test provides an easy means for evaluation.

This book provides the important factual information needed for Junior High students, but it does not provide enough material for critical thinking or integration needed by that age group. As a Junior High textbook it should be supplemented with research assignments, biographies and journal articles or historical fiction.

In comparison to From Sea To Shining Sea, also reviewed on this page, Our Pioneers and Patriots is more succinct, but it does not tell the story of United States history as well as From Sea to Shining Sea. While the latter paints the larger picture of our history in a way that is captivating to students, Our Pioneers and Patriots is better used to bring to life isolated events and people. This text is suitable for Grades 4-6, and may be used in conjunction with other resources for Grades 7-8.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1-3-05
Reviewed by: 

The Evangelization of the New World

Author(s): 
Dr. James Leek
Subject(s): 
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Resource Type: 
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Author's description of the text:

This text is suitable for grades 4 through 8. It tells in narrative fashion the story of the discovery, conquest, and evangelization of the New World from Columbus through the missions of California. Catholic social principles are also taught in the text. Students are asked to use the Catholic principles to judge the actions of history.

The Evangelization of the New World is a social studies supplement dealing with the Hispanic influence in American history. Again, Leek lays out objectives for the program that go far beyond merely imparting historical fact. It is designed to teach Catholic social justice principles such as human rights and duties, justice and charity, and stewardship. The teacher's manual is a great help in helping to begin discussing the interesting text, and the tests are included.

This text is recommended by Laura Berquist in her Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Though this title has been out of print for quite some time, it is readily available on the used book / resale market.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: