Struggling to teach American history

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  • momto3blessings

    Over the last several months I have done a lot of research deep into certain subjects. Startlingly I have found that much of the history we were taught about our own country over the years have been lies or perversions of the truth. It’s making it very difficult to even know how or want to teach our country’s history to my kids, but I know that I have to. I don’t know how to move forward. I can teach what the books say, but then have to reteach it the way I have learned it to be true. I keep asking myself, what’s the point then? I am trying to reconcile and understand why I am coming to these realizations now. My husband says it’s so that I can teach the kids the truth while we still have them here schooling with us. I see it as a huge burden, he sees it as a great opportunity. The problem is that the burden falls directly on me since I am the one doing their schooling and the one that digs in to do all of the research. He likes hearing what I find, but he won’t dig in and help either. Sorry for the rambling. I am just really struggling with this right now and not sure how I should approach it. My kids are 16, 14 and almost 12 if that matters.


    I am afraid I am a bit ignorant about American history myself, but maybe you simply allow them to read source documents and time period literature. Maybe skip the spine. There is a spine called the Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, maybe that would be more honest. I havent read it, but it claims to tell the truth. I think if I were in your place I would go through the Ambleside history readings, without the spine. Source documents, speeches and letters will always be more truthful than pre-digested retellings. Maybe some reliable biographies or autobiographies. Literature and poetry written during the time period. Let your students see what people were thinking and feeling. Maybe use a simple encyclopedia for a spine, just short and sweet with dates and facts, then add writings that occurred during that event. Reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was really eye opening for us. I think the only way to know anything close to the truth is to go to the source. Good luck!


    There are different kinds of history. There is Natural History, Political History, Social History, and so much more.  Some of these are less complicated than others. Counting tree rings is certainly simpler than listening to many men’s stories. If you are focused on social and political history, it will get messy. Even the history of technology is sometimes argued.

    I would take a deep breath and ask what do your children need to know to walk in wisdom.

    I think you are on the right track honestly. You have made the leap from history is a set of true facts to history as told by men is inherently biased.  Yes, there is one true truth but God’s revelation is about the only thing I can trust to be true. Heck, I have discovered things I really remembered doing was really me thinking about doing them!  Sometimes I see evidence that someone else is right and my own memory is well, forgetful.  Once you can’t trust your own memory you are toast. Ha!

    So what is it to walk wisely in a confusing age with lots of opinions out there? I think this could be a good ongoing discussion as I really don’t have all the answers and would love others to chime in but here are a few.

    Understand that all men are sinful and “the heart of man is desperately wicked, who can know it.” That people I trust are biased and we must look honestly at our own ideas and even those of whom we trust if we want to grow. That sometimes we are protecting our own opinions or actions or a certain groups own opinion or actions.  We must also have the ability to entertain an idea, learn about it and discard it if it is garbage. Men’s ideas are often full of garbage. That is just life in a sinful world.

    Understand that narrative is powerful. Many stories and tales (even ones that are based on some truth) have been manipulated for propaganda.  What does this story want us to think? Is the situation more complicated than this simplified narrative might suggest?

    Can powerful narratives be used for good and reveal truth? Absolutely! Don’t throw them away because some have misused them but question them. Line them up with the Bible.

    I think comparing different points of view is also important. There are more things that we can be unsure of then we can be sure of of. Humans simply aren’t omniscient.  So I focus on diving into one particular topic and learning how to research and grapple and apply than to try to learn American or World history all during high school. That is just not doable.  I want to give my children tools to continue to thing their whole life. They will never know American History. They will know parts and they will develop an understanding of the the background we came from and what is facing our society but they won’t know all of history.

    I heard a TED talk recently on “The Danger of the Single Story” which really hit on some dangers of a single narrative about people groups and other things. There are billions of people in this world and thus billions of stories. Reading one book about any place or technology or incidence will not make us knowledgeable on a subject. It is ok to only dabble as long as we have an understanding that we are not then an authority on the subject. Humility is key. If we want to become more knowledgeable on any one thing it will take many books, many points of view, aligning it with knowledge we have from different subjects or areas of our life and for me that includes aligning it with the Bible and put it all together. As a human with limited time this means I will be really knowledgably on relatively few things and that is ok. God made me a human and I won’t know it all. I just need to know enough to walk through life in wisdom.




    I realized I probably left you more confused than ever. I think it is important to relate these timeless truths about man first and foremost while you are learning. This can be done at the dinner table or during a book discussion.

    I think it is ok to choose a biased book (they all are) to get an overall timeline in our head. Of course, we want to be cognizant of the overall narrative goal of a book when choosing it, if we plan on spending a lot of time in it.

    I taught my older two (now graduated) at the same time through some investigation into a couple topics but for the bulk of just getting the general facts they did that on their own. Reading and listening to books of their choice. My DS liked Great Courses and more broad theme books. My daughter did a lot more biographies since she is people focused.  There was no way I could have kept up with younger kids also and read half of what they did. Since we did the hard stuff together with just a few topics, I just had to trust them to a certain extent to put it to use when consuming other materials.

    My third child has dyslexia and prefers hands on so I’m having him read The Story of the World for a basic timeline and getting the big picture. We are doubling up with English and he is writing narrations, etc. We will also be doing some investigative work together and talking about all of the aforementioned things as discussions.

    I guess my point is, I do the hard stuff with them and leave the vast majority of content up to them.


    Your post resonates with me.  I have also been reading and learning which leads me to analyze the curriculum and read-alouds I choose.  Next year I plan to use the Early Modern Guide by SCM, but for the American History portion I will be using American History by Core Knowledge, which will be out this fall (they have samples on their website now).   The course is intended for 7-8th grade; I will be using it with my ninth grader and a friend for our mini-co-op.  For the past two years, I have been using their sixth grade history and it has been outstanding for us.  It is a textbook so not a living a book if that is something you prefer.  While I have added some to the lessons (mostly vocab and retrieval practice), the teacher guide has been open and go on the days that I need it.  I can’t wait to use this over the next two years.

    I hope you are able to find a curriculum that works for you.  🙂


    Just want to share a couple of resources and things that I did for my kids. 8, 11, and 17. First year of homeschool.

    We started the first term with a history of the Indigenous people that inhabited the Americas before the explorers. We used “Native Roots” by Jack Weatherford. I can’t put into words how well the author puts together the past and present contributions of the native people to our current societies. I supplemented with children’s books for my youngest. My middle girl read living chapter books about natives, and my oldest read more complex chapter books about native people, including Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

    I’m sorry to say that we had to eliminate a couple of the recommended family reads due to what I’ll call old thinking and terminology  I supplemented with podcasts and documentaries and we discussed them together  (I don’t worry too much about what my youngest can understand or not from advanced study  I believe he’ll pick up what he can and we’ll discuss the rest)

    For the second semester, we started with a brief history of the African continent, just enough to look at African kingdoms, art and way of life, before they were kidnapped and enslaved  We used a book called “If you want to learn Early African History, Start Here” by Robin Walker  Again, I found supplemental books at the library for all of them  My oldest read “Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market”, a very rough, but useful and necessary book  We watched documentaries about the Middle Passage and sort of ended there

    Then we started the Early Modern lesson plans, but I had to massage the plans since I knew what I wanted to incorporate, and what I wanted to take out  We will finish Early Modern around the end of this fall, but I don’t stick to time constraints with my kids  I value learning more than grades and time constraints

    We’ve also used Crash Course videos,  documentaries, and we discuss current events  I don’t hide the ugly from my children – kidnapping, enslavement, assimilation and genocide are heavy. My opinion is that they can learn about these things at a level that is appropriate, but they should at least know about them.

    I hope this is helpful. We each know what our kids need, and we each know what will prepare them for being the future leaders that make our country better. My encouragement to you is to pick at least one thing that you feel is a non-negotiable, and teach the heck out of it :). For example, I won’t bring any book into the house that justifies treating Indigenous or Black people as less an image bearers of Christ and I won’t use books that refer to them as people of the past. I won’t use books with words like “savages”. After that, my pool of book selections becomes pretty small 🙂

    Praying for you to find the resources and path that fits your heart for your family.


    Just a short post here.  From what I understand, it sounds like you have been on a similar journey as what David Barton describes in his path of uncovering American History.  He has many books and his blog has fascinating articles that give tremendous detail and sources.  Maybe you could start reading with your children some of those posts.  I have not read his books but have listened to some talks he gave on YouTube that were very interesting. I hope that helps you!


    Thank you all!


    Thank you! I didn’t realize that about his journey. I will definitely look into more of his books and such.


    I have a friend who won’t teach history because she doesn’t know what’s true. I don’t think that’s even an option. If you go at history without a presupposed idea, you can put it together.

    Let me explain: I grew up with a bit of a David Barton view of history. America was a Christian nation and all the founding fathers were Christians. It doesn’t take much digging to disprove that.

    I grew up in the North being taught the Northern Narrative of the Civil War. I now live in the South where I hear a different narrative. If my loyalty isn’t to one particular side, it’s not hard to find the facts.

    And when you look at history with Scripture as your lense, it puts a lot in perspective. Man is fallen. People sin. A person after God’s own heart can completely blow it and commit an atrocious evil (David did!) We have to judge righteously and say the sin is sin, but that doesn’t mean we reject the entire person.

    There are good things in American history. There are bad things in American history. Sometimes, the same person did both of them. There were laws that honored the Word of God and laws that completely disregarded it. There was hypocrisy. There was courage and sacrifice. There were atrocities and also great victories for human rights. But I think if we look at our own lives and families, we will see the same things. That’s the way men are.



    I just wanted to add a little something here. I have not even looked through it yet, but Hillsdale College released their new 1776 curriculum for free to the public. They released versions for grades K-12. Maybe that could help? (Let me know if you can’t find the link and I’ll try to find it again for you.)


    I know this is an old post, but I think there are some good discussion points in here that can be developed and it is a great part of our own ongoing education to sharpen each other.

    , could you elaborate on what you are “discovering to be lies” in the history we were taught? I too am laboring through many historical primary sources in a search for truth rather than a regurgitated spine like we grew up with.

    could you also back up your points? As I read primary sources, I do find much evidence that many of our American founders and the documents they created did have the Bible as an influence and a basically Judeo-Christian worldview rather than a post-Christian like we have today.

    Perhaps we could also get some critical perspective on what “revisionist history” really is. Can anybody else weigh in too?



    @ Brianna…..

    Sure, I’ll back up my points. America was obviously founded with some Scriptural principles in mind.. that is evident in our founding documents. Many of the Founding Fathers claimed to be Christians, but where outside of Orthodox Christianity….many were deists and unitarians. Deists would hold to a Creator and a moral life, but not to the authority of Scripture or the virgin birth or salvation by grace through faith. So, they would have denied the most basic statements of Christian faith….like the Apostle’s Creed.

    When you look at the life of someone like Thomas Jefferson, who rewrote the Bible and had children with his slave, it’s obvious that he was a person who did not follow Jesus. Same for Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton. (And we aren’t talking of a sin that was repented of and abandoned, like David’s adultery. These are lives marked by vice and blasphemy.)

    While John Q. Adams was the American version of  William Wilberforce, constantly trying to stop the slave trade in America, Congress passed a “gag rule” to prevent the House from considering any anti-slavery petitions. Would a Christian Congress have passed a rule like that?

    The Fugitive Slave act would never have been passed if our laws were actually honoring the Word of God. It was a direct violation of Deut. 23:15,16.

    So, I would agree that there were moral men in our nation’s foundation who had some form of fear of God and respect for His morals laws (which is vastly better than what we have today), but it wasn’t a holy nation like we sometimes try to portray. Some of the Founders seem to truly have followed Jesus, but many of their lives denied Him and His teachings with their actions and some of them denied Him blatantly with their words.


    I am finding things like the fact that many of our founding fathers and popular historical figures were freemasons. If you haven’t researched yet and learned about freemasonry I highly suggest that you do. It literally ties into almost every aspect of our history, both world and American. A great place to start is The Dark Side of Freemasonry by Ed Decker. Right now I am reading a book called In God We Don’t Trust by David Bercot. It echoes some of what @MissusLeata was saying. Many of our founding fathers were not who we have been led to believe sadly. There are many more things I could share, but it would be at the risk of sounding like a “conspiracy theorist”(a term coined by the CIA during the JFK investigation to make those who were questioning what they were told about it sound like fools). I don’t know how far into the lies you are wanting to go and I am not sure this is the place to do it. I would maybe be willing to talk to you privately about some of it if you would like.


    Hey there – thanks ladies and sorry for my delayed response. Sometimes it’s hard to separate from life to engage on a forum, nourishing though it is.

    Actually, I fully understand where you are both coming from  ( @MissusLeata and @momto3blessings). I have been on this journey myself since completing high school; I was homeschooled with Abeka curriculum, and as I’m sure you know it’s very opinionated without leaving room for one to form one’s own opinions. This is precisely what many of us work against in our homeschools now.


    I have read extensively and am familiar with the points you both bring up. I was wishing to further and deepen the conversation, because it’s an important one right now. Our basic foundation as a country is being attacked and eroded, and we need to have well-formed opinions that we can substantiate with evidence, and often the best way to sharpen those skills is in a gentle and friendly forum like this. Alas, unfortunately, outside of the homeschool world it’s very difficult to find truly thoughtful and well-read citizens.


    So I would love to deepen the conversation, whether here or private messages. History is *so* important. Let’s talk!

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