The other two parents that I co-school with really liked the topic-based format that I used for the year we studied 19th-century America, so I went with that again for the twentieth century.
There's so much that happens in the twentieth century, it was very hard to narrow down the topics. In the end I let two principles guide me:
(1) Since this is American history, I would stick with a U. S. perspective on global events. I wouldn't, for example, explain what led up to World War One over in Europe. We would cover that material in World History. So instead I would limit my discussion of WWI to the Americans' entry into the Great War and afterward. I applied this same principle to a number of other global events.
(2) I would favor topics that would help explain "how we got where we are today." If something is important in today's news, I wanted to try to give the last hundred years of context for it.
After much fruitful discussion, we came to this arrangement of topics:
- American foreign relations and the roots of the War on Terror
- Economics (including the Depression, the effects of unionization, Social Security, the national debt)
- American mobility (including the interstate highway system, migrations, immigrants)
- Parties and ideologies (FDR, Reagan, the 2000 presidential election, Bush v. Gore)
- Civil rights (women's suffrage, Brown vs Board of Education, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the disability rights movement, important Supreme Court cases, and homeschooling rights)
- Twentieth-century changes to the American experience of childhood (child labor, schooling, gender and race restrictions are lifted, the American family mutates, the unborn lose protection)
- Communication technology (radio, television, movies, computers, Internet and social media)
Meanwhile, I completed my short list of dates for the kids to memorize, and we did various exercises with the dates all year long. Previously learned memory dates include:
- 1492, Columbus sails
- 1776, Declaration of Independence
- 1860, Lincoln elected
- 1865, Civil War ends; Lincoln assassinated
- 1900, remember that McKinley was the president at the turn of the century
Here's a week-by-week book list. "Hakim" refers to Joy Hakim, A History of US.
Week 1------ MEMORY DATE: 1918, the "Spanish" flu epidemic and the end of World War I.
- Hakim vol. 9 Preface about world war I
- Marquette, World War I
- Hibbert, In the Trenches in World War I
- "U. S. Enters World War I" short film at http://www.newseum.org
- Kudlinski K, Hero Over Here (Spanish flu)
- Sergeant York (film)
Week 2 ------
- Blassingame, Combat Nurses of World War II . This book is twelve kinds of awesome. You get the stories of women who saw combat, you get a close look at the Pacific theater, and you get lots of interesting details that never make it into textbooks.
- Hakim vol. 9, chapters 26, 27, 29, 30
- The Great Escape (film) (okay, they were Brits, but it's such a great movie)
- Sands of Iwo Jima (film)
- Leckie R, The Battle of Iwo Jima
Week 3 ------ MEMORY DATE: 1941, Pearl Harbor attack, U. S. enters WWII.
- "Japan Bombs Pearl Harbor;" "Nazi Holocaust Exposed;" "Hiroshima" all at http://www.newseum.org
- Stein, The U. S. S. Arizona
- McGowen, Battle for Iwo Jima
- Blassingame, Combat Nurses of World War II (continued)
- "The Great Escape" (PBS NOVA documentary)
Week 4 ------ MEMORY DATE: 1945, the first nuclear attack on a city; WWII ends.
- Elish,The Story of the Manhattan Project
Week 5 ------
- Foster, The Story of the Cold War (read parts through 1957)
- Kallen, The Race to Space
- Grant, NATO
- Various books about Apollo and Mercury missions
- Doeden, Weapons of the Cold War
- WarGames (film)
- Russkies (film) DO NOT LAUGH AT THE EIGHTIES FILM LOVE. I wanted to show the kids what the pop-culture notions of Russians and of nuclear war were like in the mid-eighties.
Week 6 ------
- Hakim, vol. 10, chapter 7
- Leckie, The War in Korea 1950-1953 chapters 1, 2, 12, 13. This is a fantastic Landmark book. I wish I had had time to read it all to the kids.
- Foster, The Story of the Cold War (read from Sputnik to Johnson)
- Kent, The Story of the Saigon Airlift
- Discussion question: If the war in Vietnam is over, why continue to argue about whether the US sould have fought it, or when it should have come to an end?
- Huynh Q, The Land I Lost - a memoir about Vietnam from a Vietnamese refugee
Week 7 ------ MEMORY DATE: 1989, the Berlin Wall is opened.
- Foster, The Story of the Cold War (finished)
- Schmemann, How the Wall Came Down (parts)
- "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech by Reagan, Youtube
- "The opening of the Wall at Berlin Bornholmer Strasse 1989"
Week 8 ------ MEMORY DATE: 2001, the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
- Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell. This is a history of terrorism in general. It is a Landmark book and was revised after September 11, 2001; older editions won't have a discussion of the 9/11 attacks. It's really wonderfully comprehensive.
Week 9 ------
- Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell (continued)
Week 10 -------
- Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell (continued)
- Several news articles about terrorism in the past week, to show that it continues to be a significant global threat
Week 11 -------
- 14 Cows for America
Week 12 ------- MEMORY DATE: 1929, the great stock market crash
- Downing, The Great Depression (free browsing)
- Blumenthal, Six Days in October
- Sandler, The Dust Bowl through the Lens
- Lange, "Migrant Mother" (photograph)
Week 13 -------
- Appelt and Schmitzer, Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. Love. This. Book.
Week 14 -------
- Discuss current economic recession
- Lauber, Flood: Wrestling with the Mississippi. This book didn't really fit in anywhere but I liked it so much I wanted to use it, so I decided it went in with economics (since natural disasters are economic disasters, right?) Patricia Lauber is a prolific writer of kids' science titles.
Week 15 -------
- Paradis, From Trails to Superhighways: The Story of America's Roads to show how we got our interstate system
- Williams, Road and Rail Transportation (pgs 20-26) for a handful of technical details
Week 16 -------
- Stanley J, Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp. This is an utterly amazing story of how Okie children, rejected by Californians, built their own school with their own hands under the leadership of a visionary and kind public school official. It is sobering to think how far we have come from the regionalistic xenophobia of just a couple generations ago, when citizens of one state regarded migrants from another state as dangerous aliens.
- Discuss other migrations (African-American "Great Migration;" Mormon migration; Gold Rush)
Week 17 -------
- Paul, North Across the Border (Mexican immigrants)
- Springstubb T, The Vietnamese Americans. I picked these two books not because I particularly favored Mexican or Vietnamese immigrants over others, but because they seemed the best books our library had about the immigrant experience
Week 18 -------
- "The Rainmaker" (from Armstrong, The American Story) about FDR
- Church and Lacayo, "Social Insecurity," TIME magazine, March 20, 1995
- Hakim vol. 9, chapters 20, 22, 23, 24, 25
- Discussion about how Social Security works and potential for insolvency; possible solutions.
Week 19 -------
- Hakim, vol. 10, ch. 36 and 37 (Nixon)
- Lewis and others, "5 Held in Plot to Bug Democrats' Office Here" The Washington Post, June 18, 1972
- Discuss the attitude that one's political opponents are one's enemies.
Week 20 -------
- Hakim, vol. 10, chapters about Ronald Reagan
- Discuss: Reagan as polarizing figure, liberal vs. conservative economic philosophies, pros and cons of progressive taxation, arguments about trickle-down economics, Reagan as "the great communicator."
Week 21 -------
- The American Experience: Ronald Reagan (film)
Week 22 -------
- Discuss 2000 presidential election, close elections, electoral college, Florida recount, mechanics of voting machines, chads;
- 2008 Minnesota senate race (close race with hand recount) "Challenged Ballots: You Be the Judge." Activity from Minnesota Public Radio website, I printed out the challenged ballots, cut them apart, and had the three kids pretend to be election judges and decide how to allocate the challenged ballots.
- CBS News archive coverage of presidential election night, 2000.
- Hakim, vol. 10, chapters 46-47
- Greene A, Understanding the 2000 Election (background chapter)
Week 23 -------
- Separate but Equal (film): first half. It's a made-for-TV movie about Brown v. Board of Education.
Week 24 -------
- Finish Separate but Equal (film).
- Read Justice Earl Warren's opinion in Brown vs. Board of Education.
Week 25 -------
- Hakim, vol. 10, chapter 16 (integration of Little Rock Central High)
- "1920: Votes for Women" (from Armstrong, The American Story)
- McKissack P and Zarembka A, To Establish Justice: Citizenship and the Constitution, chapter 10 on the disability rights movement. There's some adult and controversial material in this book so I excerpted carefully.
Week 26 -------
- "I Have a Dream" Martin Luther King speech, full, on Youtube
- Short clip of Malcolm X speaking
- Hakim vol. 10, chapters 14, 15, 19 (Martin Luther King)
- King ML, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (excerpts)
- Graves R, Malcolm X (Cornerstones of Freedom series)
- "The Black Revolution" from The World's Great Speeches (Malcolm X speech to socialists organization, 1964)
- Discuss Malcolm X and MLK: influences of religion on them, name change, assassinations, opinions of the method of nonviolence
Week 27 -------
- Curtis CP, The Watsons Go to Birmingham -- 1963 (fiction, used as independent reading)
- Writing assignment: Curtis places a real event (the 1963 Birmingham church bombing) in a fictional story. Does it make a fictional story more interesting if it contains a real event? Does the fictional context make it easier to understand the impact of the historical event?
- Laws and court cases relevant to homeschooling rights and regulations:
- Meyer v. Nebraska
- Pierce v. Society of Sisters
- Wisconsin v. Yoder
- Minnesota v. Newstrom (relevant in Minnesota only)
- Current Minnesota statutes about home schools
- Discuss: Should the state regulate the subjects taught? Should the state regulate the credentials of homeschooling parents? Should the state regulate the number of days of instruction? Should the state ban homeschooled children from working during school hours? Should the state require public schools to allow homeschooled students to use their facilities?
Week 29 -------
- Discussion about how the lives of children changed between about 1920 and 1990. (consumer safety regulations, equality in education, overall better health but more obesity, labor laws, sanitation, vaccinations, antibiotics, extended families living more often far away, fewer family members lost to premature death, more divorce, working mothers, smaller families, racial and gender diversity of role models)
- Discussed growing awareness of diversity by discussing the role models who were available to young people.
- Ryan, When Marian Sang (about Marian Anderson)
- Weatherford, Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive
- Szabo C, Sky Pioneer: A Photobiography of Amelia Earhart
- (Biographies of others were available, including Jackie Robinson and Jim Thorpe)
Week 30 -------
- Cleary B, Dear Mr. Henshaw (fiction; first half)
- Themes of 20th-century child life: divorce, working parents, child support, moving to a new school, small family, lack of connection to extended family
- Discuss various literary styles of Dear Mr. Henshaw: first- person; "epistolary" or letter format ; writing in dialogue; diary format; book review .
- What do we think Mr. Henshaw thinks about Leigh? How do we learn what Mr. Henshaw has written to Leigh? How does Leigh express his feelings?
- (this actually appeared a few weeks later and we discussed it then, but thematically it goes here:) "Census: Saying No to Marriage," Star Tribune, May 12, 2011. Less than fifty percent of Twin Cities households include married couples. Read the article, list the main points, and discuss the implications.
Week 31 -------
- Cleary B, Dear Mr. Henshaw (second half)
- Continue discussions of themes of 20th-century child life
- 20th-century child life: Roe v. Wade. Discussion with parent. (I did not teach this to the group.)
- My take:
- What it means.
- How it changed U. S. law.
- Current legal controversy (aside from moral controversy) about whether there is a constitutional right to privacy.
- Rights of the unborn compared to what we have learned about civil rights, women's rights, and the rights of the disabled.
- What mechanisms exist under which the law could be changed? What can an ordinary citizen do about it?
Week 32 -------
- Discuss radio, cinema, silent movies, newsreels
- "1938: The War of the Worlds" from Armstrong, The American Story
- Watch: "Keystone Kops: Fatty Joins the Force"
- Watch: Newsreel of the Queen Mum's 1923 wedding, side by side with TV highlights of Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011
- Watch: Trailer for movie "THEM!"
- Discuss the social and cultural purposes and effects of movies in different periods
- Are there fewer moviegoers now? Why? What do theaters do to keep customers coming?
- For browsing: Parkinson D, The Young Oxford Book of the Movies
week 33 -------
- Kent, Z. The Story of Television.
- Clarification of the differences among broadcast television, cable television, VCRs, DVDs, streaming video, hard drive storage of video.
- Discussion of expanding choices; role of advertising; and cultural and economic changes brought about by television.
- Discussion of genres of television shows.
- Watch: Two episodes of I Love Lucy. "Switching Jobs" and "Lucy Does a TV Commercial."
Week 34 -------
- Sherman J, The History of the Internet
- McPherson SS, Tim Berners-Lee: Inventor of the World Wide Web (parts)
- Stewart GB, Larry Page and Sergey Brin: The Google Guys (parts)
- Discussion (mostly of technical details and GenX reminiscings): ARPAnet, Usenet, bulletin board analogy, gopher, email, world wide web, browsers, search engines.
- How the Web brings people together bycommon interest. "Cyberspace."
Week 35 ------- MEMORY DATE: 1991, the World Wide Web opens to the general public
- Discussion of safety while using email, online shopping, and social media.
- Predators; viruses; identity theft; inappropriate or dangerous material; privacy settings; information that should remain personal; precautions that kids should take.
- Risks organized from most to least dangerous: encountering people who intend physical harm; encountering people who intend harm via internet communications; identity theft; monetary fraud; spreading of private or secret information; bullying; malware; inaccurate information or lies; harvesting personal information for targeted advertising.
- "1500 Crash Birthday Party After Facebook Slip Up," Stephen Spencer Davis, 6/6/2011.
- Frontline: Digital Nation (TV documentary)
Week 36 ------- final exam.