History is a subject students either love or hate. Long lists of dates, names, and events to memorize are dry and uninspiring. If we approach history through the power of story, however, it comes alive, jumps off the page, and is about more than rote memory.
Unless we live through an event, we must to trust the words of historians who write about historical events. Most historians do the best research they can, but they were not eye witnesses to history either. Sometimes, their research is flawed or their conclusions biased.
So how do we know what is true?
Some people, like Abraham Lincoln, and events, like the Civil War, are well-documented. If we want to study Lincoln’s life and impact on the world, we can easily find primary documents to inform us.
What are primary documents?
These documents are papers, journals, letters, and photos created by an individual living in the time period about the events they experienced. One of the arguments people have against historians is a tendency toward bias or a personal agenda.
When we go to original documents, eye witness testimonies bring the details of the times and events to life. We aren’t relying on a historian’s interpretation or worrying about their bias.
There are many primary documents created during Abraham Lincoln’s life. Some allow him to speak directly to us about the situations he experienced as President of the United States. Others give us background about the events occurring during his day.
Documents about Abraham Lincoln’s early life:
Abraham’s Lincoln’s Youth (See words that Lincoln wrote in one of his school books.)
Lincoln’s Sense of Humor (See a business card designed as a joke.)
Virtual Library (Includes links to photographs and learning pages.)
Interactive Presentations (Uses newspaper clipping and photos to teach Lincoln’s days before being President.)
Video of the Kentucky Years from Lincoln’s Birthplace
Under Lincoln’s Hat (Primary Resources)
Documents about Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency:
Sheet Music and Songs Written About Lincoln
Telegram (Telling Lincoln of the surrender of Fort Sumter)
Civil War Maps
Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft (Tells what Washington was like during the Civil War)
Lincoln and General Grant
The Gettysburg Address
Pictures and Lithographs
Lincoln’s Resolution on Slavery
The Emancipation Proclamation:
Drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation
Petition Supporting the Emancipation Proclamation
Petition Requesting Exemption from the Emancipation Proclamation
Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination:
Lincoln’s Pockets (What were in his pocket’s when he was killed?)
Drawings of the Event and Funeral, including the Reward Poster for Lincoln’s Killer
Anonymous Letter Warning of Lincoln’s Assassination
R. A. Hunt to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, January 18, 1861 (Warning Lincoln of assassination attempt)
James S. Knox, Saturday, April 15, 1865 (Eyewitness account of Lincoln’s assassination)
Other Primary Resources for Abraham Lincoln:
Civil War Trust
Teaching Lincoln with Primary Sources
Documents from TeachingAmericanHistory
2nd and 3rd Grade Lesson Plans Using Primary Documents for Abraham Lincoln
Using primary documents can be fun and challenging. Finding out what really happened during historical events makes dates and names come to life. You may find the more documents you read, the more questions you have. Using original documents to unlock history can transform a dry process of fact memorization into a fact-finding treasure hunt.
Happy history hunting!
This article was originally published on our Homeschool Launch Blog.
For more on teaching history check out this video on Teach Them Diligently 365.
There is great value in approaching the way we teach history by using source documents and real experiences to do so. Join Leslie and Ben Kunkel of the Ashbrook Center as they talk about teaching history to your high school students using source documents– and even throw in some great ideas for making history come alive for your younger students!
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Middle school students are mature enough to begin thinking more deeply about Thanksgiving. They are able to complete more complex assignments about the related history. Thanksgiving unit studies for middle school students create hands-on learning opportunities when holiday excitement makes it hard to concentrate on text books.
Children who enjoy role playing may enjoy creating costumes and writing plays for friends and family to participate in. Costume making combines history and home economics subjects. Who doesn’t like getting two for one? Perhaps your reluctant writer will forget to be reluctant when carried away by writing the play?
Ways to Teach the History of Thanksgiving
Unit studies allow elementary and older children to work on the same historical time period together. Expand the requirements for an elementary unit study to make it middle school appropriate.
1) Research Pilgrim-era games and teach them to younger friends and family during the holidays.
2) Create a timeline of Pilgrim leaders and other historical figures who lived at the same time, etc.
3) Identify the character traits, good and bad, of the major figures in the Pilgrim story. Did those traits help or hurt the person? Which of those traits to you see in yourself?
4) Computer savvy youngsters may want to create a power point presentation of their findings on a Thanksgiving related topic.
Nothing like knocking out two subjects with one assignment!
Visit the Thanksgiving unit study at 123 Homeschool 4 Me. Ideas include: costumes, quills, DIY marbles, Johnny Cakes, and book printables. I love the hands on activites included in this engaging unit study. Especially for a youngster who learns by doing more than reading, hands on activities make learning easier.
Want to teach your middle school student more about Plymouth Rock? Take the ideas from Fall Into First and create more challenging tasks for middle schoolers while working with younger ones on the same topics.
Love Pinterest? Amanda Bennett has a wonderful board of unit study ideas.
The website In All You Do offers a free printable Thanksgiving unit study for pre-K through 5th grade.
Field of Daisies has listings of poems, audiobooks, a play, science activities, and loads of cooking fun tucked inside the Old Fashioned Thanksgiving unit study. Math, music, Bible studies and printables round out this wonderful resource.
Unit studies may seem challenging for moms who are more comfortable with text book based learning. The holiday season is a good time to try one on for size. Offer your middle schoolers the opportunity to use unit studies and broaden their understanding of colonial history while celebrating Thanksgiving.
This article was originally published on our Homeschool Launch Blog.
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Free Resource – The 14 Day Starter Bible Devotional for Homeschool Moms!
Focusing on the foundation of your homeschool provides a powerful anchor to direct your day and your school teaching to the Gospel. A short focus on the foundation at the beginning of your day will bear massive results.
- MINUTES A DAY.
Each entry can be read in minutes each day.
- FOCUS ON THE WORD.
It is amazing how other priorities fall in line when we get the foundation right each day. Starting with the correct priority will minimize distraction.
- KNOWN FOR THE HEART.
Teach Them Diligently is known for addressing the heart of discipleship in homeschooling. Let us help!
Let’s Go BEHIND-THE-SCENES to get to know Ray and Charlene Notgrass
After 22 years in church ministry, Ray and Charlene Notgrass decided to serve God in a different way by writing Bible curriculum for homeschoolers. At their first convention, a mother told us that she wished someone would write a Tennessee history, so they decided to write one and call it Exploring Tennessee. They included Bible study in it. Two years later Ray wrote Exploring America for high school. This time they included Bible and added literature. They kept listening to homeschooling parents and writing what they told us they wanted, first for high school and then for middle school and junior high. Now they are writing for grades 1-4 as well. Ray and Charlene believe that God has been preparing them since childhood to do what they are doing now. Their goal of writing Bible curriculum has grown into history curriculum that includes Bible and literature. Thus they are able to share God’s Word with many more homeschooling families. Charlene says, “It was His plan, not ours, and we love what we do.”
Did you know…
Ray and Charlene are personally connected to history stories they tell. Their ancestors include a French-Canadian fur trader who fought with the Continental Army during the American Revolution; pioneers who traveled through Cumberland Gap and on the Tennessee, Ohio, and Cumberland Rivers to found Nashville, Tennessee; and veterans who served during the Civil War, World War II, and the Korean War. They stand on the shoulders of Ray’s dad, who encouraged him to read great literature, and Charlene’s dad, who took her family to historic sites. Those formed the basis for how they taught their own children, what they like to do for fun (read great books and travel to historic sites), and how they write for other homeschooling families.
We think you’ll love them, too! :) Make your plans to stop by the Notgrass booth in Nashville, Atlanta and Myrtle Beach to say hi!
Special Offers for Teach Them Diligently families from Ray and Charlene Notgass.
Behind-The-Scenes With Author Cassandra Driver
Cassandra Driver was homeschooled all the way through school and self-published her first book at age eighteen. As she developed a love for reading while growing up, she rapidly realized there wasn’t an overabundance of clean books out there! This spurred her to try her hand at writing in order to put more wholesome and exciting stories on the shelves, particularly for young people, and the Lauren Series was born. Cassandra now has published 3 books in the Lauren Series with a 4th due out soon. Make sure you stop by and meet Cassandra at #TTDNashville!