Favorite Early Modern Books for the Whole Family

Today I’m sharing some great books that will guide your whole family through the time in history that we call Early Modern, about 1550 through 1850 or so. It’s an exciting time period with a lot happening all around the world, including a fledgling country that we now know as the United States.

I think it’s a great idea to study American history alongside the world history that was happening at the same time. It’s important for our students to realize that what happened in America did not happen in a vacuum; a lot of the events in American history are related to events in other countries. So studying American history in context just makes sense. And it’s the same for whatever country you live in.

Studying your country’s history in the context of world history helps our students to keep a global mind-set. We don’t want our children to grow up with tunnel vision, thinking only about their immediate community’s concerns. We want them to consider the bigger picture as well. And teaching your country’s history alongside the world history of the same time period can contribute to that wider perspective.

The Simply Charlotte Mason daily lesson plans covering the Early Modern time period approach history in that way. Your students will read American history two days per week and world history in that same time period two days per week. All of the books I mention today are scheduled in those open-and-go plans, so you can just grab the books and dive into that fascinating time in history.

If you live in a different country and don’t need or want to teach American history, then I encourage you to substitute your own country’s history as it fits into the bigger picture of world history.

American History

For American history, I have a spine book and a reference book to recommend for your family.

Stories of America, Volume 1, is a great spine for Early Modern times. For those of you who might not be familiar with that term, a spine book is a book that is used to give structure to a study. You can think of it as a backbone with the various muscles and nerves branching off from it. In the same way, a spine book will cover the basic events of a historical period in an orderly, chronological way. Then you can branch off from that spine and focus on various individual people and events, going more in-depth as desired with additional books.

Stories of America, Volume 1, covers key events and people from Columbus to the Alamo. The chapters present living biographies and ideas about the original colonies, events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War, America’s new government and growth, early inventors and their inventions, the story of her national anthem, and much more.

Interspersed between the chapters are classic American poems, such as “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers,” “Paul Revere’s Ride,” “Sail On, O Ship of State,” and others. In the back you will find some helpful vintage maps that feature the original colonies as well as the territorial expansions over the years.

When you pair Stories of America with Stories of the Nations (which I will talk about in a just a minute), you have a wonderful combination of American history and world history spine books.

The other American history book that I wanted to mention for the whole family is a reference book on the presidents of the United States. It’s called Our Country’s Presidents by Ann Bausum. This book is a great way for your children to get familiar with the presidents and see how they related to each other through the years. I love that it features beautiful paintings and official photographs of these men who served their country in that high office. Too many books on American presidents use cartoon drawings, and I don’t think that kind of art helps to instill in our children the idea of respect. We may not always agree with the decisions a president made, but we should teach our children to respect the office. And this book does that while still keeping a human element in the interesting summaries that accompany each portrait. Pictures of events during each presidency are also included, along with some quotations by each man.

Happily, this book is updated to include each new president as the years go by. It also contains interesting articles on the White House, the powers of the president, White House traditions, campaign strategies, vice presidents, presidential landmarks, kids in the White House, the electoral process, and more. All in all, it’s a fabulous reference book that will add much to your study of American history during the Early Modern time period as well as Modern Times.

World History

Now let’s talk about a couple of great world history books for your family to enjoy.

First, the book Stories of the Nations, Volume 1. As we mentioned earlier, this is your spine book. It will highlight the key people and events around the globe during Early Modern times. Then you can branch out from there and add more great books about specific people or events as you want to. I’ll be sharing some of my favorites for the various age groups in upcoming posts.

But the spine book will tie it all together. Stories of the Nations, Volume 1, covers 1550 through 1850, from the Ottomans to Garibaldi, Hero of Italy. Your children will enjoy hearing about Queen Elizabeth, William Shakespeare, Kepler, Galileo, Kangxi of China, Peter the Great, Napoleon, Lafayette, Bolivar, Samuel Morse, Livingstone, and lots more.

Helpful maps are included that show how Europe changed over those years, as well as which areas of the world were claimed by which countries.

Now, I mentioned that there is a chapter on Shakespeare. One of the books that you can use to branch off of that chapter is Master Skylark by John Bennett. This is a fabulous mystery set during the time of Shakespeare. He’s not in the book much, but he plays a key role. You’ll see what I mean.

It all starts when a troupe of traveling play-actors comes to Nick’s town and gives a performance. Nick ends up accompanying them back to London. Once they hear his beautiful singing voice, they want him to stay and earn them money. Nick spends the rest of the book trying to figure out an escape and get back home. Throughout his adventures he meets a wide variety of people who lived during that era, and your children will learn much about life during the Shakespearean age. Nick decides that if he can just find William Shakespeare, he will be able to get home, for Nick’s home is in Stratford: William Shakespeare’s hometown too.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but let me just say that this is a story that your whole family will enjoy. It has enough twists and turns to keep the older ones interested, yet the writing is straightforward enough so your younger ones will be able to follow the story line quite easily.

Master Skylark. Don’t miss it! It’s a masterful living book and it’s in public domain, so you can download it free at gutenberg.org or Google Books. You’ll love it!