Thursday, December 15, 2016

Beautiful Feet Books: Early American History {Pilgrims and Thanksgiving}

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I'm finally sharing our next unit with Beautiful Feet Books - Pilgrims and Thanksgiving!  You know, since it's almost Christmas!  It took longer to get through this unit because by the time we started it I had slowed our history schedule down to the recommended pace (we were doing history at nearly double the pace prior to this), and you know, I'm slow to share things around here.

The one thing we found is that there weren't as many notebooking activities for this section, and the boys were actually asking for more.  Some of these readings were longer, and they were needing something to do.  We did add some Draw Write Now exercises, but when I do this with the girls, I'll probably plan ahead to add a few things here and there.

Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey

This book gives us the background of the Pilgrims and why the fled England, as well as some of their time in Holland.  Then it goes into why they decided to go to America and their voyage, as well as the hardships of the first winter and how they made it through to the first Harvest and Thanksgiving.  Overall, this book got a mixed reaction from the boys.  They followed along well in the beginning, but I could see interest waning toward the end. I think when we slowed down to the recommended pacing, and with this being a longer book anyway, it made it feel like it lasted forever.

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla

I'm not sure what I thought of this book.  The boys thought it was okay, but it's a dated book, and there were stereotypes to discuss.  It offered good talking points, particularly since this book tells one version of "the Squanto story," where he went willingly to England once, then upon his return he was captured as a slave but was purchased by monks who helped him find his way back to America.  It doesn't go into much detail after his final return to America, as far as the pilgrims are concerned; it's more of his story before he becomes their translator and helps them learn to live in his homeland.

I have read various versions of Squanto's life online, and no two stories are the same.  It's interesting to read different viewpoints, since historians do not agree agree as to whether he was kidnapped once or twice.  I talked about all this with the kids, and how we must piece together oral traditions, primary sources and learn about the customs and other people of the time period we're studying, and still exercise caution in determining what is most likely the truth.  

Then we read another book . . .

I added this book.  It tells the other common story of Squanto being captured and sold into slavery, then "rescued" by monks, and slowly making his way back home to America before befriending the Pilgrims.  It's a very traditional, rose-colored version of his life and his role in the first Thanksgiving.

Neither book, of course, mentioned the historical discrepancies, the precarious relationships he had with the Natives and Pilgrims or most of the other things I didn't learn in school either . . . but considering the target audience is early-mid elementary, I guess it doesn't all needs to be taught yet, as my goal at this age is to explore the basics of the various versions and myths and let them build on this knowledge as they mature.  Sometimes it's hard to find appropriate living books that explore both sides of a story, so I just have to add conversationally.

Here are some articles that might be interesting for mom to read in order to have discussion starters, or for in-depth discussion with older students.
The REAL Story of Thanksgiving
Squanto:  The Former Slave
Here's the Crazy Story about Thanksgiving You Never Heard
A Lesser-Known Atlantic Crossing

The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall

This is one of the more interesting Pilgrim books I've read.  It is written in first person with historical vocabulary and vernacular, and although it briefly mentions Thanksgiving, it focuses more on the daily life, specifically giving details about the men, the women, and then the children.  My kids thought it very odd that fathers would be put in stocks for the bad behavior of their children!

My only "complaint" if you will, is that when we started this book, it was being read simultaneously with the assigned Squanto.  If you're doing the full assignment all at once, you're reading both books back-to-back.  In the future with the girls, I think I'll just plan to read the books independently of each other so we can focus more on the individual books.

1621:  A New Look at the First Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac

I added this book.  This book is a beautifully photographed reenactment of that First Thanksgiving, and describes the historical events and cultural influences that would have shaped actual events.  It tries to tell the story with a more balanced viewpoint from the Wampanoag.  The kids thought the pictures were great, and most of the information presented was interesting.  However, the text wasn't as "living" as I would have hoped, and had a kind of textbookish feel to read out loud.  We read it over a couple of days though, and I'd still recommend this for middle elementary  and beyond.


I tried to do a couple of cooking projects, but that didn't go well.  We made Shrewsberry Cakes from Cooking Up Some American History, but they fell flat.  Literally.  The taste was okay, but I'm not a baker, so to try and recreate a recipe with no rising agent was a mess.  Then I tried Nasaump from a recipe I found online somewhere, and the kids looked at me like I was nuts when I served it.

So we transitioned into Thanksgiving prep, and that was that.  I have a couple more "extra" books I was going to add to this unit, but we didn't get to them, so I think maybe we'll read those after Christmas break, and I'll just share about them later, since they're not specifically related to Thanksgiving, but are more about colonial life in general.  I imagine it will be awhile before my next BFB installment though, as we're currently on Christmas break and won't be starting a new unit for awhile yet.

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