"'Education is the Science of Relations'; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––
'Those first-born affinities,
That fit our new existence to existing things.'"

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education
with a quote from The Prelude by William Wordsworth

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Westward Expansion: Santa Fe Trail

We finished up Lewis and Clark and began reading about the Santa Fe Trail. Of course we are reading aloud the Holling C. Holling classic book, The Tree in the Trail. Holling books are among our family's favorites. We read this a couple of years ago, but now that Ds#3 is "official" this is well worth reading again. The story is from the perspective of a cottonwood tree, so begins long before the "trail" that American settlers established.

We found several other interesting picture books about the subject. One is A Right Fine Life: Kit Carson on the Santa Fe Trail by Andrew Glass. Apparently Kit Carson struck out on his own along the Santa Fe Trail and went on to have a life intertwined with the country's westward expansion. (I'll be looking for some appropriate biographies to add on to our list.) The kids get a kick out of the vernacular; they were talking like Kit after we read it.

Another biography adapted for children is Along the Santa Fe Trail: Marion Russell's Own Story by Marion Russell, adapted by Ginger Wadsworth. The book details a lot of the difficulties and dangers of these times. James Watling's pictures are beautiful and moving, and a great part of this book's appeal.

I found a couple of historical fiction books relating to either the Santa Fe Trail specifically or Westward Expansion in general. The first is the highly recommended title Brave Buffalo Fighter by John D. Fitzgerald. Ds#1 is really enjoying this book even though, again, it shows a lot of the difficulties encountered by families migrating west. All of the fabulous historical fiction from Bethlehem Books are family favorites as well.

We also found a Dear America book about this time period called All the Stars in the Sky: The Santa Fe Trail Diary of Florrie Mack Ryder by Megan McDonald. For those of you unfamiliar with these series, Dear America has fictional young women writing diaries while My Name is America has fictional young men. Our library owns all of both series, and I even saw a few about world history though the series name escapes me. I'm interested to see if Ds#1 likes the Dear America version as much as the My Name is America one. I hope so!

Here are a few good non-fiction selections with wonderful pictures and enough text for the 8 to 14 year olds to read. The Library of Western Expansion: The Santa Fe Trail by Ryan Randolph is short yet informative, great for younger kids. (The book is OOP and very expensive used, so hopefully you can get it from your library like we did.)

David Lavender has written longer works about the Santa Fe Trail, yet also has wonderful 64 page, picture-laden, narrative-style book great for this age group. The Santa Fe Trail by David Lavender makes great reading for this period.

Finally, we also have by Melvin Bacon and Daniel Blegen. Bent's Fort: Crossroads of Cultures on the Santa Fe TrailThis 72 page book is full of details about life on the Trail, including a few references to various faith beliefs and comments, Christian and Native alike. It also contains a fair amount of photographs and drawings.

William Bicknell opened the Santa Fe Trail in 1821 and its use ended, as did many westward routes, with the 1870's completion of the transcontinental railroad. The Trail of Tears is another topic that fits well into this one, as well as the early Mission Trails.

Here are a few web resources that I found though we have not used much yet:


live4evermom said...

A lot of neat books. We'll look those up.

Cheryl said...

It looks like you have found an excellent selection of books for your American History study. Could the world history books you are thinking of be the Royal Diaries? Again, written through the eyes of girls but wonderful reads anyway. Perhaps a boy might not mind reading a few if they are appropriate for the lesson and there is no mushy stuff. LOL Certainly my dd has enjoyed many of the boy interest historical fiction books. There should be more!

Kris said...

Yes, that was it--Royal Diaries. I did not realize that they were all girl protagonists as well.

My boys are all about action plots; they do not appreciate much beyond that yet (sigh) so it depends how much action vs. intrigue are in them.

Cindy said...

We read Tree in the Trail last year during our Westward Expansion unit. Loved it! Again, thanks for adding this to the CM Carnival!

{ jamie } said...

We loved Tree in the Trail but haven't read these others. Thanks for the recommendations!