A History Booklist for the 19th Century


I’ve received a few emails asking for a more detailed book list from last year, so here it is. It’s roughly in historical order, and I’ve added a few notes about content.  We read lots of others, but these are the ones I will do again when we come back around to the 19th century.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (Latham) This is one of my all-time favorites.  Nathaniel Bowditch was a self-educated renaissance man who revolutionized nautical navigation in the early 1800s. 

Fever, 1793 (Anderson)  Anderson makes the Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia come alive.

Amos Fortune, Free Man (Yates) My children begged to hear this one. Fortune was a brave man of deep faith and convictions.  We will read it again.

Chains (Anderson) This book about slavery is vivid and hard, but it’s well worth the read (for middle school and up, I think).

Amazing Grace (Metaxas) Another of my favorites about William Wilberforce, the English orator and politician who ended the slave trade and changed the culture of England.  It was an independent-read for my 8th-grader.

Those Rebels: John & Tom (Kerley) This deceptively simple picture book held all of us enthralled. It’s about the conflict and deep friendship of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  It opened some great conversations.

Adironam Judson: God’s Man in Burma (Hambrick) I didn’t expect this read-aloud one to capture my children as quickly as it did.  Judson’s childhood (he was born in 1788) is vividly portrayed and the descriptions of his experiences in Burma are fascinating.

A Picture Book of Lewis & Clark (Adler) Adler has a whole series of basic but informative picture books. We like them.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition (Webster) This was a simple independent read for my 8th grader.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Lewis) I read aloud selectively from this primary source, but the maps and journal entries were great.

A Picture Book of Sacagawea (Adler)

Streams to the River, River to the Sea (O’Dell) O’Dell has such a gift for making characters come alive. This one’s about Sacagawea.

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame and What the Neighbors Thought (Krull) Krull’s biographies are always entertaining.  This one was no exception and was a picture book for the younger crowd.

The Great Little Madison (Fritz) We all loved this one. She blended great details of his life with an insightful analysis of his understanding of the constitution. It started great conversations.

Dolly Madison: famous first lady (Davidson) We liked this one because it treated her in her own right, instead of just as James Madison’s wife.

James Monroe (Teitlebaum) An 8th-grade independent read.

Andrew Jackson (Meltzer) Another 8th grade read-alone.

Hispanic Heritage: Wars of Independence (Sanchez) This was a good overview of Latin America’s Wars of Independence.

Simon Bolivar (De Verona) The writing wasn’t amazing, but the details were good.

The Amazing, Impossible Erie Canal (Harness) Everyone asked for “just one more chapter” of this one.

The Battle of the Alamo (Jeffrey)

By the Great Horn Spoon (Fleishman) This novel about the California Gold Rush is so good. My 5th-grader read it alone.

The Monk in the Garden (Henig) 8th-grade read-alone. It’s about Gregor Mendel (the “father of genetics” and how he conducted his studies.) Jonah still mentions Mendel.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, Free Man (Douglass) A classic for many good reasons. An 8th-grade read-alone.

Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers (Fritz) I just love Fritz’s history biographies.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman led her people to freedom (Weatherford) Both the text and the pictures in this are stunning. Appropriate for all ages. You will want this one on your shelf.

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad (Cole) This is a new book, a powerful wordless story your kids will want to look at again and again.

Abraham Lincoln (Raum) An 8th-grade read aloud. Solid.

Abraham Lincoln (D’Aulaire) Like all of the D’Aulaires’ biographies, you will want your own copy.

Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln: The Writing of the Gettysburg Address (Fritz)

A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman (Adler)

Across Five Aprils (Irene Hunt) 8th-grade independent read.  It was great fodder for discussions of how the press influences public opinion and the effects (intended and unintended) of war.

The Red Badge of Courage (Crane) Again, an 8th-grade independent read.

Abraham Lincoln’s World (Foster) This read-aloud was our history “spine” and it does a good job of covering both the roots of the Civil War and the revolutions all over Europe.  It took us six months to read it all, but it was worth it.

Little House in the Big Woods et al (Wilder) Wilder’s perfect descriptions an vivid stories opened history to me as a child. It’s not different for my children. These are classics about westward expansion.

Caddie Woodlawn (Brink) Woodlawn’s family is more settled than the Ingalls, but her descriptions evoke the same period with equal authenticity.

Lyddie (Paterson) An independent reader for an 8th grader about the challenges of industrialization during the 19th Century. Beautiful, brave, challenging.

{phfr}: late July

{Pretty}: These beauties were perched on a log by the lake where I ran last week.  They were so gorgeous they made my heart hurt.

{Happy}: Our friends who live in the Philippines stayed with us for a few days.  What a blessing to spend time with them, to be able to hear what they’re learning and seeing and doing there… not to mention to have our kids all hanging out.  I’m grateful.


{Funny}: My favorite part about the chicks is how much my children love them.  Jonah tries to make everything fair by holding each of them equally, even when some of them clearly don’t want to be held.  Owen, on the other hand, prefers to hold only Rhonda (his) but will hold her all day.  Moriah definitely projects her own fears and anxieties (rain, wind and thunder) onto the chicks, but the chicks don’t seem to mind any of it.  And Phoebe doesn’t want anyone to hold her chick, Marshmallow, who is vying for Head Chick in the flock.

Here’s Rhonda, when she was still fluffy.

{Real} :  I’m grateful for the end of our swimming season.  The meets, which run all morning, wipe me out and then we come home and I’m supposed to feed the children?  They’re hot and tired, I’m hot and tired, and nobody is really hungry.  One day I managed to make four grilled cheese sandwiches for them.  Here’s what was left over.

After that, I declared it was “find your own lunch” after a swim meet, which has worked much better.
For more {p,h,f,r}, go check out Like Mother, Like Daughter!

No Far Away

IDP camp, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

My heart goes out to all those involved in the Gaza conflict. Our family lived in Jerusalem in 1982, and I remember the sonic booms of jets flying overhead.  We followed a tank on a truck as we drove north toward Galilee for vacation.  The next day, Israel invaded Lebanon.  When bombs went off in the city, my desk would collapse on my knees.  War is very real and very present there. There are no righteous aggressors and no children who deserve to have their schools and homes destroyed.

My heart is also heavy for the Ebola victims in West Africa.  Ebola makes a great thriller novel but isn’t good for much else but terror and grief.  Here’s a link to a great article (and brief video) about Samaritan’s Purse’s response in Liberia, where they are providing much of the care and outreach to victims.  MSF (Doctors Beyond Borders) is handling care in Guinea, and you can read more about their work in Guinea here.  According to an International Red Cross fact sheet on the situation in Sierra Leone,

“To date, although there are no official figures, reports indicate that most of the people affected by the EVD [Ebola Virus Disease] are women. The health workers affected have been mainly women and women are the ones that take care of their sick family members and relatives. They are also the ones that care for the body of the person that has died, which is highly infectious if not dealt properly with.”

photo of boots used by the cleaners in Samaritan’s Purse Cholera Treatment Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Please take a minute to find out more about the situation in West Africa and how you can help.  To quote David Wilcox, there is “No Far Away.”

Tales from the Air-Conditioning Wars

Every summer, Sam and I play Air-Conditioning Wars.  It goes like this:

Sam says something innocuous like, “It’s hot outside.”  I say, “Well, we’re not turning on the A/C.”

Sam says, “It’s hard to sleep when it’s hot outside.”  I say, “Sleep without a blanket.”

I go away for the weekend. He turns on the A/C.

I come home and turn off the A/C.  I open the windows as early as I can in the morning and turn on the fans to suck in all the cold air.  As the house begins to heat, I run around closing windows and shades if the sun in shining in. (This routine is surprisingly effective as long as it’s not over 90 degrees every day.)  If Sam insists he can’t sleep, I hang the clothes on the line and say he can’t have both soft underwear and A/C.

I’m really a stingy person at heart, and when we turn on the A/C I can hear the money being sucked into the giant compressor and shredded.  This year, I even have proof of what a money pit the A/C is, because I can monitor our electricity use and production in real time.  (Don’t think I wasn’t doing this from New Jersey while I was gone.)

Our energy use over the past week. Can you tell Sam was home over the weekend?

My clothes line killed itself last week: just pitched itself off the patio into the lawn and fractured its arm.  Like horses, clothes lines have to be retired if they break their arms.  I would have taken this as a SIGN [and Sam would have been happy for me to interpret it that way] except that then the A/C STOPPED WORKING TOO.

Now we have soft laundry, courtesy of my clothes dryer that sucks up my money and shreds it, and an 85 degree house.  Thank goodness our house guests live in the Philippines and weren’t actually that impressed by 85 degrees with 5% humidity.

But there’s hope on the horizon.  My new clothes line arrived today (just as my load of laundry was spinning in the washer) and fit into my old pole’s bucket o’ concrete.  And we have a call in to the HVAC guy.  Maybe soon Sam can go back to sleeping in a cool room and having soft underwear.

School 2013-2014

This post is an update on our school year.  I took the “Learning Plans 2013-2014″ and have updated what actually happened (in bold) next to what I’d planned (in italics).

Every year, I struggle with what we didn’t accomplish.  But I think we’re learning to make the most if the year we do have. (That’s a life skill, right?)  This year’s ups and down had so much to do with our move.  Living with my parents affected our physical fitness and the quantity of “work” we did, but we learned much about respect and communication and patience.  We deepened relationships.  We went to Guatemala and there, too, had to learn to be flexible with our expectations and to make the most of our opportunities.  This spring, we have had the gift of guests again, and we’ve been making the most of short bike rides and long-distance relationships.  So without further ado, here’s our year.

Jonah: 8th grade, Owen: 5th grade, Moriah: 4th grade, SweetP: Kindergarten (as she would say, at last!)
Bible: Last year we added more independent reading of the Bible (each child) as well as family reading and verse memorization. We’ll continue that this year. I would like each child to read a full gospel and an epistle. We read John and 1 & 2 Thessalonians.
Math: J: Intro to Statistics, O: Singapore Primary Math 6B/New Elementary Mathematics 1, M: Singapore Primary Math 4B/5A, P: Singapore Primary Math 1A (and maybe B, depending on how it goes). Jonah completed Intro to Statistics (fall) and College Algebra (spring). Owen completed 6B, Moriah completed 4B and 5A, and Phoebe is almost done with 1A.

Latin: Henle Year 2 (for J). He does this very independently. I am hoping to find him an online class or club to support him in it. He worked with a tutor in the fall, scored summa cum laude on the National Latin Exam Year 1 and continued working in the spring.
Spanish: Rosetta Stone Level 2 (O & M), and phrases for all of us. I’m planning to add in more written Spanish, starting with the worksheets from Rosetta Stone. Hard-to-quantify progress was achieved by all. We got a big boost from our tutors at Celas Maya Language School when we were in Guatemala.
On our tour of Takalik Abaj

Arabic: Rosetta Stone Level 1 (O&M) and special tutoring with Papa. Both Moriah and Owen have decided not to continue with Arabic for now. They were ready to quit in the winter, but I made them finish the year.

Writing: ETC 1 and copywork (1 word at a time) for P. Classical Composition for M & O (moving into Fable Stage) and Cheria/Maxim for J. I totally forgot that we were going to do copywork for Phoebe. She finished ETC 1 and Set 1 of the Bob books. We stopped the Classical Composition after the first semester., because it just wasn’t working for us. We did a lot of journaling and a weekly writing assignment about the books we read.  We used a CD game, Editor in Chief, to practice proofreading.


I would like to have them write 3-4 reports this year, though I haven’t decided which subject we will choose. Jonah did some formal reports, and all four kids wrote up their science projects.

Geography: US geography as it fits into the Civil War and nascent statehood; A Child’s Geography, Vol. 1 (Voskamp). We made it through about 5/6 of the way done with A Child’s Geography. I’m not sure how much they learned from it.

Programming: I’m not sure why I forgot to write this on the original plans, but I did. Owen has been working his way through Kidcoder: Game Programming and practicing what he’s learned on scratch. I think it’s working.

Music: We’ll continue with piano using Faber, and Composer Study: Haydn, Tchaikovsky, O’Connor, and Stravinsky. We continued playing piano but did no composer study.

Art: Picture Study of Copley and Manet. We didn’t do any formal picture study, either. We went to the art museum three times and really enjoyed all three exhibits, and we just went to see the Chiluly exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens.
Dale Chihuly’s Blue Boat:
Science: Apologia Astronomy (for O, M and P) and Apologia Biology for Jonah. Jonah’s favorite course this year was Apologia Biology. We finished the elementary astronomy book and made it to the planetarium once, but no one loved it. The younger three designed, executed and wrote up science experiments. We supplemented our reading by watching NOVA specials and Ted talks. Our favorites Ted talks: Multitasking and Dragonflies that Cross Oceans.  Our favorite NOVAs: Making Things (a series with David Pogue).

Finding out about acid and bones:


Nature Study: We plan on continuing our Nature Study walks and charting. I would like us to do Trees again in the fall and winter, and birds in the spring… as well as whatever else catches anyone’s eye. Our Nature Study was fairly limited this year. Highlights included the specimen trees planted in the parks by my parents’ house and a fuzzy black caterpillar we lost in their basement (and found 2 days later).  I guess having chicks counts in as studying birds, right?
Literature: Shakespeare, As You Like It. We found a good audio book version and enjoyed it. Poetry (hopefully every Friday)- I would like to read some Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandberg, and Walt Whitman. We read some poetry every Friday. Our favorite poets this year were Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandberg, and Edward Lear.


We managed a lot of reading, both as a group and independently. Starting in December, the three older kids had to read 3 non-fiction books a week (2 biographies and 1 other) and a novel. They did a good job with this. With Phoebe, my goal was to read her at least two illustrated books, apart from the longer books she listened to with us. Everyone else wants to listen to these, too, so we usually begin our read-aloud time with a picture book or three. We discovered a few favorites (marked by a *).
Our read-alouds included:

  • Strawberry Girl (Lenski)
  • Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (Willems)*
  • James Herriot’s Treasury for Children (Herriot)
  • The Library Lion (Knudson)*
  • Anne of the Island (Montgomery)
  • Just So Stories (Kipling)*
  • The Penderwicks (Birdsall)
  • Knuffle bunny: a cautionary tale (Willems)
  • Artemis Fowl: the Arctic Incident and The Time Paradox (both by Colfer)
  • The Princess and the Pea (Childs)*
  • Henry Higgins and the Clubhouse (Cleary)
  • The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag and A Wild Herring without Mustard (Bradley)
  • Dead End in Norvelt (Gantos)
  • Cinderelephant (Dodd)*
  • Little Women (Alcott)
  • The Queen of France (Wadham)*
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake (Wilder)
  • St Francis of Assisi (Kennedy)*

Individually, each of the kids read a mix of novels of their choice and mine.

History: As our History “spine,” we are back to Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster. Once I have our literature/history selections roughed out more fully, I will post them here. Our goal was to cover from the end of the Revolutionary War through the end of the Civil War. Here is the list of our history read-alouds:

  •  The Great Little Madison (Fritz)
  •  Hispanic Heritage: Wars of Independence (Sanchez)
  •  Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph de Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George (Ransome)
  •  The Wonder Child (Stanley)
  •  The Battle of the Alamo (Jeffrey)
  •  Lewis & Clark (Bertozzi)

All of these came before reading Foster’s Abraham Lincoln’s World, which took us most of the winter and spring (and was completely worth it).

At the Denver Art Museum


PE: I didn’t have this as a subject on our page of learning plans, but I think I should have. I will have it on next year’s plan! We didn’t do winter swim team and thus lost much of our fitness. We did take a lot of walks, and the boys really thrived on riding their bikes. My grand skiing plans were a bust… although we did ski in the end, and we did enjoy it. Owen did cross-country in the fall, but half his season was canceled because of the flood. In the spring, Owen played volleyball, and the girls played soccer.

Service and Job Training: This is another section I wish I had planned more intentionally, and I will in the future. Despite the catch-as-catch-can nature of our service this year, we learned a fair amount. The boys worked for Meals on Wheels with my dad. The children continued to donate money to buy rice for the refugees near us. Owen & Moriah participated in the 30 Hour Famine through World Vision. And we learned about Guatemala and served some there.

On our tour of the Catedral de Santiago in Antigua, Guatemala


I’m not sure where else to put this, but Jonah took the Red Cross Babysitter’s Training Course (hooray for an in-house babysitter!!). Owen and Moriah both volunteer with the nursery at our church. It seems like it should come naturally, but actually we have to learn to pay attention to other people’s needs. Who knew?

Next week I hope to post our plans for 2014-15, and it will appear as a page on the sidebar.  (At some point, I’ll post a book list of the history books the kids read independently, but right now those lists are in my bedroom in a pile of paper so big it makes me want to cry.)

Anybody else feeling the crush?

Last week I was a crazy woman. So crazy that Sam asked me if he should cancel his trip.

Does a bowl of cherries count as dinner?

There wasn’t any one thing that was too much, but the sum of my commitments was crushing me. I got back from a quick and excellent weekend trip on Monday night. Then swim team + work + an extra night working the hospital + a swim meet + dinner guests + editing deadlines + tae kwon do + grocery shopping + prep for children’s church + practicing three songs for worship = too much. Not to mention the extra work a girl in a long arm cast requires and all the World Cup games I wanted to watch. Paralyzed by the weight of it all, I curled up on the porch and read books instead of making dinner.

Owen’s 100 frestyle

Every summer I commit to doing the good things I say no to during the school year (because during the year I can admit that they’re too much to add to my daily life). Even if I’m not teaching every day, I’m still creating next year’s lesson plans and tending to four children whose needs don’t stop just because it’s summer.

Next May, when I look at a seeming my open calendar in June, I need to remember that what I really want is a few hikes and a day or two sailing. I want to remember that in order to make that happen, I need to use the word No more often.

Daybook: mid-July

Out my window: our little flock is so entertaining. They huddle together and follow each other around the garden. Elfie (the biggest) picked up a red and green leaf, and everyone was so convinced she had something amazing that they chased her around the coop three times before she got a moment of privacy to eat the leaf alone. I can totally identify.


In the kitchen: our friends are bringing us dinner tonight. She’s promising to bring a tomato-cilantro-tuna casserole with onions. Can’t wait.

Around the house (this should be its own category, but it’s not) I’m struggling with keeping the house clean. Part of my problem is a lack of summer routine. Part is the challenge of what Phoebe can do with a broken arm, and everyone else wanting out of their chores if she gets out of hers. Here she is, one-handed, trying to put the napkins in their holders.



Very sanitary.

In the schoolroom: most of my mental energy has gone into trying to write next year’s curriculum.  It’s  a multi-step process involving research on the library’s (and Amazon’s and Sonlight’s and Rainbow Resource’s) websites and then ordering at least a fair number of the books.  Our learning is very reading-heavy, and if I don’t have the bulk of the books on hand, I find we do a lot less “school” than we would otherwise.  I hear a lot of, “But I have nothing to read!” which is bunk, as you’ll know if you’ve ever been in our house.  Somehow I just can’t keep my children in books based purely on trips to the library.  I hope soon to post our reading lists: both what we read this past year, and what I have planned for 2014-5.

In the garden: my zinnias are starting to open.  And the seeds I thought were cosmos look suspiciously like marigolds.  I’ll keep you posted.

On my mind: refugees.  I just read that there are more than 50 million refugees of war right now. That’s the most since  World War II.  (And just like during WWII, few of them are here.)

Grateful for: friends who come to sign Phoebe’s cast. For a weekend with my dear friend and her family, who are moving across the world. For Sam’s ability to run the house while I’m gone.


Praying for: Jerusha & family, Mandy, Judy’s hip rehab, Heather & fam, Clare, Caleb’s trip, for my friends who are foster parents– it takes so much, Phoebe’s arm and sanity (the doctor is saying 3 months in a cast!), more of Jesus in me.