Saturday, October 1, 2016

Beautiful Feet Books: Pocahontas and Jamestown

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After studying explorers, we moved on to the early settlements with Beautiful Feet Books.  I'm a little behind with sharing this unit, but we've just been busy with school and life.  I did mention Roanoke briefly, but our curriculum focused on Jamestown for this portion of our study.

Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire

This book is used in both the Primary and Intermediate curriculum, and Beautiful Feet Books lists it as 1st-6th grade reading level.  The D'Aulaire biographies seem to be very popular among homeschoolers, though this curriculum has been our first real experience with them.

The boys seemed to like the book.  I did point out that Pocahontas was not a "princess" as we know the term.  I brought this up because it's basically presented as fact, and I didn't want to mislead the kids.  This wasn't something I was taught in schools, nor could I find any children's books that avoided the princess myth in a cursory search to go along with our study, so I just kind of summarized what I'd learned.  My minimal research from Native American sources online show that Native Americans were primarily egalitarian or democratic, yet the English assigned their familiar social structure of royal hierarchy to the tribes. So if they recognized Powhatan as a great leader (Chief/King) that would have made his daughter a "princess" to the Europeans.

In their notebooks, the boys chose not to write that she was a princess.  Emory just labeled the picture for that exercise with their names.  Elliott wrote that she was the daughter of Chief Powhatan, and about how her name means Play, which is what the book said.  (I've found various translations for her nickname, and shared these with the boys:  naughty one, spoiled child, little wanton and playful one.)

We also talked about the alleged saving of John Smith, and how this story is debated.  I told them it's hard to know much about Pocahontas and what is true, embellished or false, because we do not have her story in her own words.  I reminded the kids that it is important to look at history from different perspectives and to draw conclusions based on as much information as possible.  Elliott seems really interested in learning about these discrepancies, so I'm trying to stay one step ahead of the kids when I plan and research.

Instead of the map activity in the guide, we added John Smith's map of Virginia, along with pictures of the etchings of Pocahontas and John Smith.  I didn't want them stuck with only cartoon images in their mind.  In hindsight, I don't know why we didn't include John Rolfe as well.

Interesting Links
Indian Chiefs
The True Story of Pocahontas as NOT told by Disney
The Pocahontas Myth {Statement from the Powhatan Renape Nation}

James E. Knight

This historical fiction book presents the founding of Jamestown from the perspective of a settler, through his personal journal, which is being read aloud by his daughter to his grandchildren.  My boys have seemed to enjoy all of the books so far, but I was actually glad to switch to a book by a different author.  It was just refreshing to read a book with a different tone and pace, and I also really liked the simple illustrations.

The book was spread out over four short readings, so it didn't take us long to get through it.  This is listed as a K-3 reading level on Beautiful Feet Books, but it was great for both boys (2nd/4th) and they both found it very interesting, particularly the part about the starving year and how they ate non-food items.  {For reference, it did not go into cannibalism, though the Columbus book from the last unit very briefly mentions it in passing.  I know different children have different sensitivity levels--this book does, however, mention deaths from starvation, disease and conflicts with Natives.}

When I saw that John Smith's coat of arms was discussed in the manual, I printed a small version of it for the boys to add to their notebooks.  Of course, that lead to "Why did he have a coat of arms?" questions for us to research.  Then we did this Make Your Coat of Arms app, which the kids enjoyed.  I printed them for their notebooks, and the printed versions included information about the images/virtues they chose.

Yes, one kid got a little silly with his.

After we finished reading the book, the boys took turns recreating their own Jamestown Settlement at History Globe (I found this link courtesy of A Story in Time, who also has a great series on this curriculum) and the boys loved this activity.

You make decisions on where to settle, how to interact with the Natives, what crops to plant, and so on.  At the end, you'll get your results and see how your colony fared.  Elliott went first and did Fair overall.  Emory went second and did Good, and was even promoted to Governor of Virginia.  Elliott went again just to see how the different choices would affect his colony, and managed to kill off most of his colony and get fired!  Emory finally got an "Excellent" rating on one of his.  I only printed the first results for their notebooks.  It was actually a really neat activity.

One day during lunch/break we watched some Discovering Jamestown Videos.

At this point, there was a lesson that asked us to have the students write a report about the leading figures in Jamestown, the importance of the colony, etc. and then immediately went into the next book about pilgrims.  I decided to break that last lesson up and save the Pilgrims book for the beginning of our next unit.  We spent two days working on our reports.  On the first day, I had Elliott type his rough draft up on the computer.  The next day I helped him edit for spelling, grammar and clarity.  I let Emory dictate his to me.  Elliott's report focused mostly on John Smith, while Emory's was a mixture of Smith and Pocahontas.  We haven't worked on narration as much as I would like in the past, but I'm hoping to use these books, the discussion questions, and the occasional "report" prompts to really move forward in this area.


I've been slowly listening to the Read Aloud Revival podcast from the beginning, and let me tell you...she has wonderful speakers and educators on there, and it's been so enriching.  I finally decided to just skip ahead and listen to the episode Reading Aloud for History, Rea Berg.  It was so interesting to hear how the curriculum started and what influenced her has a homeschool parent, and how we can nurture our children.  It was just very encouraging!

More Early American History on the blog
Early American History Explorers
Early American History - Gathering Resources
Early American History the Planning Stages

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  1. Very interesting post! I will have to check out Beautiful Feet more in depth. It looks like your kids are having a terrific time.

    1. It has been fun and interesting so far! We're studying pilgrims now! :)