I am not native to America but spent a good majority of my life here, and I honestly preferred associating with my native country's culture - which is much more accessible and uniform, because it is a smaller country. But now that it looks like our family will be here permanently I have been thinking about this as well. My husband is quite patriotic (although he is not white either, he identifies as Puerto Rican, but born in the US) so he's always going on about American culture. But what's interesting is that the "American" culture he grew up in, about 45 minutes away from where I grew up, was quite different. He grew up in a multiethnic neighborhood in the city; I grew up in a pretty affluent very-white, WASP-y town. Night and day. Now we live in a third sort of area, which isn't affluent but it's also pretty white, and it's in a totally different region (we lived in CT, now we live out in the Rockies).
Don't laugh, please?
We went to Disneyworld recently and my favorite part of that is Epcot, the World Showcase. Some of the country exhibits there are slightly more involved than others, and granted they're all very superficial and "Disney" and yeah sure. BUT. They did have an American exhibit and that made me thoughtful. They had a colonial themed garden, themed dresses. We ate at the Liberty Inn Tavern at the MK (I think?) which was a relatively good reproduction of a real tavern (we went to a few on field trips back when I was a kid). That was pretty "American" to me and even before I read this thread it made me think about that sort of stuff. What American culture was like.
And yes, there was slavery, there was some crazy religious stuff, Native-land-stealing, there was the Civil War, etc. But there were also lots of other things.
We are going to be homeschooling and one reason (out of many!) for this choice is that I think it's super important to cover American culture *well*. My tentative plan is to break it down into the following categories, over time:
a) learn about the Natives who were here first, their various cultures and nations and such
b) split the country into different regions and concentrate on them one by one. their history, their culture, their contributions to the nation as a whole. even things like food, music, local stories. Maybe even take it state by state and research each state's history and offerings one at a time.
c) general american culture - American folklore - tall tales, stories like Rip Van Winkle, The Headless Horseman, others, children's novels - Little House Books, the Little Strawberry Girl, even the American Girls types of stories - novels by American writers about American themes - Scarlet Letter, Poe (he was American, right?
) Mark Twain, and other distinctly American authors, painters, poets, etc. - American architecture, some stuff about the "heydey" of America (I think of it as about 1900's or so).
It's easy to get disillusioned with American culture. But I think it is great, great, great, that there IS so much freedom here. Maybe not the same opportunities for everyone, and maybe not as much accessible culture as I'd like. Suburbia is kind of blah.
Where I was from, you'd have castles and Roman ruins and museums and just STUFF everywhere. Here, not so much. But this is a big country and there is a lot to learn about it. And that's just without even going into the various "mixes" - Italian-American, Irish-American, German-American, Mexican-American etc. cultures.