As we watch historic landmarks disappear, as the stories which make up our history disappear, it is more than ever up to us homeschool moms to preserve the truths of the past by teaching them to our children. And this makes me want to buy history books; I imagine you feel the same way.
The history picture books of author/illustrator Cheryl Harness don’t seem to have attracted the attention of the providers of homeschool curriculum, with the exception of Three Young Pilgrims (which I reviewed earlier.) Some of them are published by National Geographic, which is a cause of concern, but trying to be openminded, I ordered a couple. I loved them. Then a couple more. Ditto. Some I didn’t order because I could tell that she and I weren’t going to be in agreement on that topic…like her bio of Hillary Clinton. I guess she’s on a journey like the rest of us…
But the following four of her titles would make up a very good unit study on the War for American Independence. It seems appropriate to start with the man who was “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” George Washington.
I have read several Washington biographies, and if they had had the maps and sidebar notes of Harness’ George Washington, it would have saved me a lot of time looking things up! Harness’s book is factually accurate and engagingly written, but best of all, as with all her books, is the lively and interesting way it is illustrated. The maps and explanatory notes really help draw the reader in and show what is going on.
The Revolutionary John Adams, is another book I’d recommend highly. While it complements what you read in George Washington, it gives another side of the story. John Adams was a Boston lawyer, member of the committee which wrote the Declaration of Independence, member of congress, President of the United States, and much more. He was a student of law and a lawmaker, while George Washington was a Virginia planter who became Commander in Chief of the army. They were entirely different kinds of men, with different backgrounds, and different roles to play in the great drama.
And entirely different from both was Benjamin Franklin, a Philadelphia printer and inventor who played a very important role in our country’s history. He is said to have been the most famous man in the world during his lifetime, and in The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin we read the story of his life as a publisher, printer, and inventor, diplomat and statesman, richly illustrated with Harness’ award-winning paintings and maps.
Next is Cheryl Harness’ Thomas Jefferson. In addition to being the author of The Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was also a farmer, lawyer, scientist, architect, inventor, musician, diplomat, third President of the United States, and promotor of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Louisiana purchase. The book also discusses the big contradiction of Jefferson’s life: how could the man who wrote that “all men are created equal” actually own slaves himself?
Young John Quincy adds still another perspective – that of a boy during the time of the Revolutionary War. And he was not just any boy; John Quincy Adams was the son of John Adams who was a patriot, statesman, diplomat and President. Living near Boston as they did, young John Quincy shows us what it might have been like grow up there at the “cradle of liberty” during the Colonial and Revolutionary years.
It may seem that five books on one subject is unnecessary, but the way these five titles tell different sides of this very important story – the story of our country’s struggle to be free – makes it all much more understandable and interesting.