View Full Version : English/History Integrated course

01-23-2014, 08:27 PM
I thought the best way to teach US History and English was to integrate the two. Right now, my stepdaughter is reading The Great Gatsby, and we're studying the time period between 1910 and 1930 in the US. I'm also using the Glencoe website to help me with content ideas/timeline.

My problem is, my lessons tend to be very short! I assign her to read two chapters of The Great Gatsby and define 15 vocabulary words a night. I also ask her to write down any words from what she's reading that she doesn't understand and to define them. The next day, I ask her 10 questions about those chapters, ask her to define five of the vocabulary words I assigned her and ask her to define two of the words she found in the chapters that she didn't understand. Then, we move on to history. I give a brief discussion about the topic of the day and then assign her three things to look up related to that topic. All together, the lesson lasts at most 30 minutes. Because I also have her completing assignments, is this sufficient?

Is there anything I can do/should do to supplement these lessons?

01-23-2014, 08:46 PM
We do history and literature together, also. Typically, our literature will be divided into enough lessons to last about 12 days. History is separate reading and activities though, just correlates. My kids are doing American History and Literature right now. I would say that it takes about 2 hours to do them both, on average, per day.

It sounds like she is not doing much critical thinking about what she is reading, from what you said. Or writing.

01-23-2014, 09:40 PM
For a high school student, I don't think that sounds like much. I agree with Teri that it doesn't sound like she's doing any real thinking about the book. Unless I misunderstand and the questions are in depth discussion sort of questions. But sometimes you don't want there to be a ton of reflection as you go. I depends on the book. For something like Gatsby, I would think it would be fine to focus on the reading and comprehension first and then turn to reflection, discussion and probably a literary essay afterward.

And it sounds like there's no history? What are you using for that end? A high school student should typically be reading a quality text (or accessible "adult" nonfiction history books - I think both are fine, depending on your approach) as well as at least some primary sources (texts from the time period).

01-23-2014, 09:53 PM
Thank you!

I am having her write a paper after she finishes reading the book that will incorporate critical thinking about the book and the time period. I really don't know what else to do now.

As to the History class, she is doing some writing when she is answering the questions I'm asking her. For example, today, we talked about important people in the 1920s, and I asked her to research Margaret Sanger and her contributions to women's healthcare. I've asked similar questions which require a short essay answer.

I'm not sure what else I can do. I'm not following a set curriculum, and she doesn't do well sitting in front of a computer doing online courses. We are doing Khan Academy for math, but that's all we could agree upon for online classes.


01-23-2014, 10:24 PM
My child is younger, however he often reads books at high school level (if content appropriate). I often just google "study guide for book title here" or "discussion questions for book title here" and find a wealth of resources. I just did a search for Gatsby and came up with a few and this looked great at helping you analyzing the book:

The Great Gatsby Questions (http://www.shmoop.com/great-gatsby/questions.html)

01-23-2014, 10:28 PM
So... what's your goal for her? She's a second year junior... does that mean she's repeating her junior year? Was she struggling academically before you pulled her? Do I correctly remember that you're new to this, yes?

Will she go back to ps for her senior year? Is your goal to send her to college? What type of college - community college, a four year college? What's her general direction?

I ask all this because it's sort of important for deciding what sort of history and literature course you want to provide. Right now, to be honest, it sounds quite remedial. But that could be a positive thing. If she's been a struggling student, then you've got her reading a classic work of literature, studying some history, engaged and learning and remediating vocabulary. There are a lot of kids for whom that would be a huge improvement. And if her direction isn't college year after next, then hey, I think you're doing okay. On the other hand, if she's not a struggling student, if she is headed to college, or even if she has struggled but wants to work toward college in the near future, then I think you really need to up the game. And if she's flying through things, then it sounds like she can up her game regardless.

For history, I think it's fine to have focused projects, but that assignment sounded very younger kid to me - and like it was something she could accomplish by reading a Wikipedia entry for fifteen minutes. For a high schooler, I would expect - or hope - that she read something more challenging about the topic and ideally that she read something by Sanger about birth control. Does she have an overall sense of US history during this period? If not, I would say she should read a text or a good book covering it. You might use Joy Hakim's History of US, which is a middle school level text, but extremely detailed and available in different volumes.

Right now it sounds like your English and history are very top down - you're telling her to do these little bits and pieces of things. Do you want to be pushing more toward having her do more of the learning independently and exploring topics that interest her. Did she find Sanger interesting? Or women's rights? Or was it your suggestion?

01-23-2014, 11:58 PM
I think it's neat that you are creating your own unit studies using literature and history. How do you select which units (literature, time periods) to study?

If you don't have any kind of overarching history spine to put the different time periods you are studying in order and into historical context, I wonder if that might make you feel more grounded as you go? I know the Joy Hakim books Farrar mentioned are well-regarded. I've read a couple and have enjoyed them myself. Maybe an appropriate historical survey book (one volume) would also work well as a reference and guide. (Sorry I can't suggest any titles.)

Has your stepdaughter done any kind of historical overview yet? You wouldn't necessarily have to go in chronological order if unit studies work better for your stepdaughter, but I would think it might be helpful for her to take the events she has learned about and understand when they occurred in history and in relationship to other events. Timelines are popular for that purpose and can take all kinds of cool forms with older students. If that isn't something you are very familiar with I bet you could get a lot of ideas just by googling "binder timeline for history."

Good luck!

01-24-2014, 12:29 AM
Here is what my kids will be doing tomorrow in lit and history (they are 11, 12 and 13). I would consider this a very light day, especially in history. I will probably continue watching the Ken Burns Civil War series with them, also:
Read Ch. 11 and 12 in Elijah of Buxton
Answer reading comprehension questions
Grammar exercise (correct sentences taken from the novel)
Do activity on symbolism as it relates to the novel
Activity on using precise language

Read pages 30-43 of Fields of Fury: The American Civil War by James McPherson.
Answer reading comprehension questions
Activity: complete Civil War Battle Cards (ongoing throughout the unit) 6 battles to complete, like this one:
The Battle of New Orleans
April 1862

Important people in the battle: David Farragut

What was the outcome of the battle? Farragut's forces were able to seize the city of New Orleans for the Union.

What was the significance of this battle? (Why was it important?) New Orleans was a critical Confederate fort, so the Union seizure of the city was a major victory.

01-24-2014, 04:57 PM
She is a remedial student. Her school has progressed her even when she hasn't passed her classes or the "end of course" exam. I'm not sure how a fifth year of high school will be sufficient to give her the credits she needs to graduate PS, but that's the present situation.

There are also other issues at hand, so we don't know if she'll be returning to PS in the fall. Right now, my goal is to get her caught up so if she were to return to PS in the fall, she could.

We've discussed her taking the GED, but she refuses. She wants to finish high school, but yes, she is severely behind.

Her first writing assignment is actually in psychology and is a continuation of what she was doing in her PS. She was supposed to choose a mental illness and write a paper on it. She chose asperger's, so we watched Mozart and the Whale and talked about the autism spectrum. She'll be writing her paper as instructed by her psychology teacher, so it will be the first opportunity I have of seeing how good or poor of a writer she is.

I have her doing Khan Academy, and I was worried I started her at too basic a level, but she's struggling with 2nd grade math, so I guess I was right to start her where I did.

Teri, do you not do any type of lecture with your kids? Emma wouldn't be successful with simply reading and writing. She requires the interaction, even if it's really limited right now. So, I guess another of my goals is to increase that interaction time and get her to start thinking. She is at a very basic thinking level right now. As an example, we talked about the symbolism of the green light in The Great Gatsby. She said it's Daisy's dock. I asked her if it could mean anything else or what she thought it could mean. And her answer was that the book didn't say it meant anything else.

Thank you all of you for your input. I'm spending this weekend with trying to flesh out lesson plans, but I still feel so lost. The only text we're using right now is The Great Gatsby. I can't afford to purchase any text books, and we're already behind in the semester that we just rushed right in.

01-24-2014, 06:10 PM
Okay, getting the picture now.

Here's my advice, for whatever it's worth....

Don't worry too much about keeping her on the same page as the ps. They failed her. She's 17 and doing math that 7 year olds do. And they clearly were just passing her along no matter what. Do what she needs, not what the ps says.

I would go ahead and finish Gatsby, but next up, do not pick an AP English type book. Dive in with a good, meaty YA novel. Something like The Book Thief, Code Name Verity, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars, etc. Something that will be automatically more engaging, but also have stuff worth talking about. And then, on the side, tackle poetry and short stories from the canon instead of novels. So instead of trying to read The Scarlet Letter or The Sound and the Fury, you just do "Young Goodman Brown" and "A Rose for Emily." That kind of thing. Because then, you can get in a taste of cultural literacy and a serious look at literature, concurrently with something that she can maybe sink her teeth into on a level that she simply can't yet with a work like Gatsby.

You need a US history textbook. I know that some people would like us to believe that curricula is crazy expensive, but it doesn't have to be true. However, the reverse, that you can homeschool for free, is also not really true in my experience. At least not as well as you can with a little money. The Kindle versions of the Hakim series are only $10 apiece. And are carried by most libraries. Do you have a good library? Even though I think the Hakim books would probably be perfect for her, a good library will have at least some options for a history spine. You need one. I was a history major and taught history in school for many years and *I* need a history spine or I get lost and that's for younger kids now. High school - forget it. You need something. Alternately, Zinn's A Young People's History of the United States is more radical type history (but, hey, you had her researching Margaret Sanger, so I'm thinking that's going to be up your alley) and also should be well within her reading ability. And then, from there, as you feel able, you can add in movies and other resources.

I think she should probably be writing more. You say that you'll see how she writes soon for a psychology essay... I would think you would have given her something meaty to write right off the bat. And this is really it, right? I mean, literature, psychology, history... on some level, none of these things will matter if she can't write and do math. So make those your number one priorities. Math and writing.

I know you don't want to hear about paid resources, but you really might consider Help for High School from Brave Writer. It's on sale at HSBC. It's written to the student.

I can't speak for Teri, but I can tell you that most of us see "lecture" as a brick and mortar school feature, NOT a homeschool feature. Most homeschoolers don't lecture, just like most homeschoolers don't have desks facing a blackboard. We read, we discuss, we interact, but there's no lecture. I would shy away from putting yourself in the position of sitting there delivering information to her all day. She should be a more active participant here. She should be writing, reading, watching, doing the learning on her own and you should be supporting her doing that by making the schedule, making her stick to it, helping her understand it, helping her evaluate information, evaluating her writing and written work, etc.

01-24-2014, 09:16 PM
I am with Farrar. I wouldn't try to catch her up so much as make it work. I would go with something like Hunger Games that is really popular, engaging and make her want to read it. The Giver also comes to mind (and it will be a movie this summer).

No, I don't have to really lecture my kids anymore. Because the three of them are so close in age though, we have a lot of discussions and will often read and discuss things out loud. Most of their learning at this point, though, is self-directed.

FWIW, we use Moving Beyond the Page: Homeschool Curriculum for Preschool through Middle School (http://www.movingbeyondthepage.com). We are doing the 12-14 level, but it might be worth looking at to see the lit units with each of the history levels. You could drop as low as 9-11, I think, in your case.

Also, I would consider an internship/apprenticeship for her. It doesn't sound like she will be college bound any time soon and learning a skill might be really helpful for her.

Have you looked into what your state's graduation requirements are for homeschoolers? In Texas, as a homeschool (private school), we set our own requirements, so a GED isn't needed.
I would look at what she wants to do after high school and try to figure out your plan and graduation requirements based on that. I would back off what she was doing in high school and not even worry about that at all. If she interested in psychology, maybe a developmental psychology or something that might be more applicable to a job that she could train for without a degree (like a preschool teacher).

Have you looked at Coursera or Udacity? Maybe taking one of their courses besides what you are doing with her would add some weight (and they are free).

01-24-2014, 09:37 PM
If you want to tie together history and LA, Oak Meadow does it in the elementary grades. Not sure about high school.I know that may (or not) be too easy for her, but who knows? Clearly the PS failed her and I TOTALLY agree with Farrar - meet her where she IS. Maybe 4th, 5th, or 6th grade history/LA from OM would give you what you are seeking. It is very gentle and provides many options.

I commend you for taking the bull by the horns and stepping in to remediate with her. Way to go Mama!

01-24-2014, 10:11 PM
Thank you!! I requested Hakim and Zinn from the library today and should have them by Monday.

She is an avid reader, and one book she's been wanting to read is "The Final Descent" by Rick Yancey. It's his fourth book in his Monstrumologist series. I haven't read any of the books, but it is rated YA for ages 14 and up. I'm going to read along with her and try and come up with my own questions throughout. The setting is New England during the late 1800s about the time of the reconstruction. I should have started with this book because when she left PS, that is what they were studying, but as I said, I rushed into this without really knowing what I was doing. Also with my library, I was able to locate a series of poetry, short stores, and dramas that I could download, so I chose ten different ones to review, and we'll go through some of those as well.

Homeschool rules in Washington require that 11 subjects: reading, writing, spelling, language, math, science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation - be included in her curriculum. She's already had much of that in PS. She also needs to be tested annually by a standardized test or a non-written test? I'm not sure how that will work out because she definitely will not test to grade level.

I do want to be more than a coach. I'm on disability so I don't work, and once we work on a dedicated schedule, I want to be able to engage in discussions with her as well as have her to do some reading and writing. One thing is that she just started living with us last month, so as well as all of a sudden becoming a full-time stepmom, I'm also all of a sudden a teacher. I suppose feeling like a failure initially is part of the program!

I did better earlier today when we were doing the history/English lesson in asking her some more critical thinking questions. She didn't have the answers, so she's having to think about them tonight. Hopefully, with more practice, she'll be able to develop answers more quickly. We also had more of a discussion during history, in talking about the successes and failures of Harding and Coolidge. I am following Glencoe's US History after 1877. They only provide the chapter overviews online, but that gives me a guideline to follow.

I'll take a look at both Zinn and Hakim to see which would be a better resource.

01-24-2014, 11:17 PM
I think feeling like a failure somewhere along the way is a mandatory homeschool requirement - of the parents! ;)

It sounds like you are doing great. Keep it up! :)

01-25-2014, 12:57 AM
She's reading Rick Yancey, eh? Oh, she's got the YA down. That's actually really good. I liked Fifth Wave better than Monstrumologist. Still, I would pick a more YA or pop lit type book to use as a base for looking at symbolism and literary analysis.

Good luck. It sounds like you're going to make it work.

01-25-2014, 08:27 AM
I contacted Rick Yancey about a discussion guide for Final Descent because he does have a couple on his website for other books. He said he wasn't going to do one, but if we did one, he'd put it on his website, so, I've figured out one thing Emma will be working on while she's reading.

01-25-2014, 06:10 PM
I just wanted to mention that I have gotten several of the Hakim "History of Us" books through Better World Books for $4 each (or less with the sales.)

02-04-2014, 06:02 PM
JenRay, I was able to find Hakim at our library! Thanks!