Dear Dr. Linda,
Your column is always interesting … and your answers always “right on.” Perhaps you can give me some guidance. My 15-year old grandson is extremely bright, does well in school, has nice friends — and is a happy person. Recently, we were talking about early American history, and he was blank. He had never heard of Christopher Columbus, the Dutch purchase of Manhattan, the Pilgrims nor other important parts of our history. I asked him exactly what had he learned, and his answer was not what I expected.
The history from his elementary school up to now covered: Mesopotamia, the Silk Road, the Industrial Revolution, and the slaughter of Native Americans.
My grandson has consistently received top grades and has had good teachers, highly regarded. When I mentioned to him some of the pieces of our nation’s history that were not taught to him, his reaction was exactly what I would expect: “Can you teach me this, Grandma? I’d like to know it all.”
How wonderful! But I need help, Linda. I am having a hard time finding a book or books not “politically” or “religiously” correct. I have left a message with my local library (open for pickup) hoping for something there. Perhaps you can suggest some books. He reads at an adult level. I am also checking for documentaries. Thank you very much, A Loving Grandma
Dear Loving Grandma,
Your grandson seems to be capable of reading and understanding college level books, however, the best place to start would be textbooks with a basic outline of “American History” and “World History.” Old fashioned history textbooks are the answer to establishing an outline. Once the framework is there, through research, he can put all the events, dates, people, etc. in order and delve into the areas he would like to learn more about. At that point, you and he, and perhaps other family members or friends, could read books simultaneously which will open up great discussions. Your local library should be able to recommend books on specific topics.
Once you find quality textbooks and, if possible, teacher’s guides to go along with them, begin with American history. It will have much more meaning to him because he can relate to it. Talk about when his ancestors first came to our country (including your side of the family). Use that as a starting point. Look at the Table of Contents in a textbook to create a timeline or look online for an agenda for a university course about the time period. Take the date(s) different family members arrived in the U.S. Have him look at a map and find the state and city they first went to. Read what was happening in the United States at that time in order to relate to what his very own family experienced. My family came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A good friend of mine has relatives going all the way back to Virginia and Maryland in the 1600s. We would start at different times.
Then read the history that led up to that point and the events that followed their arrival up until today. As you move along, pick up a book or watch a movie that relates to that time period, that historical person, or that group of people. In addition, you may choose to open the world history textbook and follow along to see what was happening in the rest of the world while the United States was living through a particular era. Or, you may want to finish American history and then tackle world history.
The bottom line, is that you and your grandson will be on a long journey which will take many years, unless you put together an abridged version. The New York state social studies curriculum basically begins American history in fourth and fifth grade. It moves into ancient history in sixth grade and then American history again in seventh and eighth grade. It then moves into world history in ninth and tenth grade and back to U.S. history in eleventh grade. And there’s a lot to learn at each grade level!