Having taught American History in a public high school, I had to jump in here.
I have used lots of texts...some more "traditional" than others. I (as a raving loony liberal
)also taught in a very conservative area in a very conservative school. I had a hard time convincing my students to examine the status quo and to think critically about what they had always accepted as "true".
To do this, I used snippets from all sorts of sources (Zinn is great, as is Stannard (he wrote American Holocaust
) and also
sources that obviously had a more conservative bias. There is no such thing as an ubiased source. That was something I wanted them to understand. They were always asking me for what "really happened" and I would tell them that they had to be historical detectives and add up the evidence for themselves..not trust a textbook (even Zinn
I think that the text that you use is less important than teaching your children to examine the evidence presented to them critically. Do your research, find out what the various (there are usually quite a few) points of view on a particular topic are and have been in the past. Then ask your children to examine the facts, the interpretations and the conclusions drawn by various authors/historians. Ask them why it could be interpreted in different ways and let them draw conclusions about the "truth".
This is not limited to older children, either. Elementary school-age kids love to be detectives. Organize a debate with some other kids (homeschooled or not) and encourage some to take the unpopular side of the debate (i.e. slavery was necessary, Japanese internement camps were too etc.).They will balk, but let them get inside the heads of the people who truly believed that what they were doing was right and good, even though we now see it as inhuman . (Wow, that was a run-on...did that make sense?) Our forbearers came from a different world than we do...kids need to understand that too.
History isn't static and there isn't one "right" way to teach it. Interpretations change and I think that most textbooks/teachers now acknowledge that Columbus didn't "discover" America. However, there is still a great deal of emphasis on the "rightness" of manifest destiny in most texts. Your own feelings will influence your work with your kids (I know mine did), but acknowledge your biases (they aren't necessarily bad) and teach your kids to be critical thinkers and you will do brilliantly.
If you can get your hands on any materials from the Advanced Placement American History prep. stuff, they have something called a Document Based Question that asks kids too interpret a primary source document (letter, political cartoon, painting, article) using their knowledge of the time period. It is a great tool for older kids and you could do something like it with little ones.
Wow, as usual, I have rambled on and on for pages. E-mail me if you want..I am happy to help you put together some ideas. (If you are interested..no pressure
) Can you tell I am not teaching currently.
Good for you for wanting to teach your kids.