Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Civil War Study

While we certainly should have begun our study of American history with, at the very least, George Washington, our kids continue to be fascinated with the H.L. Hunley and the Civil War.  So, since they know plenty about George Washington and the Revolutionary War thanks to Your Story Hour cds, I decided to push ahead and just do a unit on the Civil War to fill out their understanding of the events surrounding the making (and sinking) of the Hunley.  Interestingly enough, three weeks into the unit O Boy looked up at me and said, "Mom!  We haven't even talked about the Hunley yet!"  I think we did spend one afternoon reading the following book (quite possibly the last book we had yet to read on the subject) but in the end I tried to fill out their understanding of the people and events surrounding the making of the Hunley, rather than learning more about it (they already know everything about it!).  While I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing a unit on the Civil War with a 3, 6 and 8 year old, it brought up countless excellent discussions.  And it was really important to me to give them the bigger picture of the tragedy and complexity of war.  I wanted them to focus in on the people, all made in God's image, who made up the war.  Some of them died, some of them made very sad and wrong decisions, some of them were brave and wise, and some of them sacrificed greatly for others.

The event that sparked a unit: the Hunley sinking the Housatonic
Throughout the unit we worked on building a "Civil War Book" for each boy.  This was an excellent way to customize this unit, since O Boy's book ended up being filled with dozens of extra pictures and pieces of information he added on his own and Mr. T's was the bare minimum of what I asked him to complete!
Here is a link to a 14 minute (!) video tour of O Boy's Civil War book.
Here is a link to a video tour of Mr. T's Civil War book.

This is the first book we read through.  It has excellent photos and a very simple, people-focused overview of the war.

This is another basic book that goes back and forth comparing life in the North and South before, during and after the war.

O Boy spent hours looking through this book and drawing pictures out of it to put into his Civil War book.

This is a map I made for the kids to color in (I printed it in black and white so they had to color in the areas which are currently in color on the map) so that they could begin picture the boundaries of the North and South.


This blog has tons of links:
Another blog maintained by a school teacher with good links to maps and pictures:

One of the suggested activities in our Beautiful Feet curriculum, which we loosely followed, was to learn the song America the Beautiful.  I found this great video on youtube, which we watched at the beginning of most days.
America the Beautiful video

After reading some basic background books, we moved into loosely following the Beautiful Feet study guide on Abraham Lincoln.  This involves reading through the D'Aulaire book on his life and coloring pages out of the book.  This project evolved into a much larger "Civil War Book" that each boy ended up making.  That allowed each boy to work at his own pace.  O Boy's book has dozens and dozens of pages (he even broke it into chapters), whereas Mr. T only completed exactly what was required of him and no more! Since coloring is not his favorite activity, it was nice to have an almost daily requirement of coloring pages.  I definitely saw him grow in his skills in this area, although he still prefers to be non-traditional in his choice of color.  This is why Frederick Douglass ended up (in Mr. T's book) with green hair despite my best attempts to get him to leave it white.
One of the lessons on Abraham Lincoln involved a story about him sharing a gingerbread cookie.  That day we used this very simple recipe to make some delicious gingerbread of our own!
Here are the patterns we used to make our own gingerbread people for our Civil War books.  We used sequins and colored them with markers and crayons to decorate.

Here is an animated version of Lincoln's life story that definitely highlights the many tragedies of his life.  The Little Sweetie wasn't a big fan of this (pretty sad) movie: Abraham Lincoln's life
 Abe Lincoln books used in our study:
The main book we read through on Abraham Lincoln.  Several of the pages I copied in black and white for them to color in.  Some of the stories in this book are presented as facts, but I later found are more legendary, or likely legends.

We just watched the Lincoln, Johnson, and Grant sections of this video to learn more about their presidencies.

This, along with a Your Story Hour story America's Arch Hero Gives a Speech, filled out our study of the Gettysburg Address.  This is a neat book in which the text is simply that of the Gettysburg Address, along with amazing illustrations.  O Boy was very impressed to note that the author is the REAL Abraham Lincoln.  :-)

Phil and I both read through this during the study just as background.  Very readable and interesting study of his life, with great photos.


I printed this off for O Boy since he wanted a map of the US when Lincoln was born.  He put a star on the spot in Kentucky where Lincoln was born.

I put this sheet together for them to color to show two versions of the flags of the North and South during that time period.  In reality, there were a few different flags for both sides but these are the most recognizable.

Another Lincoln coloring sheet.

Another man we spent a bit of time on was General Robert E. Lee.  Here are the two books I read aloud about his life and one of the pictures we colored about him.

Coloring pages for our civil war books - 


Best video of the Monitor/Merrimac battle
Since O Boy was so interested in how they found the Hunley and recovered it, I thought it was interesting to find this documentary on diving on the Monitor.  Return to Monitor

We tried many different Civil War foods over the course of our unit.  Here is a recipe for applesauce cookies we made after visiting a site which included applesauce cookies in a listing of wartime favorites.
Rolling out the gingerbread

Cornbread and apples: 2 more Civil War foods

Cornmeal mush (cooling in the snow) - not a huge favorite with the kids

Learning how to peel sweet potatoes in preparation for making sweet potato pie

Mashing up the sweet potatoes

Adding the honey

Making the pie crust

A rolling pin eye's view, taken by O Boy

Rolling out the pie crust

Adding the sweet potato

One of the "extra" things I found was this video of women's fashions in the 1800s.  I believe these women are portraying Southern women.  This was picked out specifically for the Little Sweetie!
Video of (Southern) women's fashions in the 1800s
I read through this excellent bio of Clara Barton to O Boy at the beginning of our study.
O Boy made this "Civil War drum" out of straws, string and a wheat thin box at the beginning of our study.  This sparked many marches around the house as all his siblings fell in behind his drumming.

At the end of our study my parents came up for a visit and O Boy spent time coloring some amazing Civil War pictures that his Papa drew for him.

This is a great set (cheap, complete) of Civil War toy soldiers I got from the site  I like that it has both flags, generals, horses, 2 kinds of cannons, wagons and other authentic gear.

On this site I found a great extra activity to fill out the end of our study: making real berry ink

This is a letter O Boy wrote to a friend.  It says "Dear Ginny, The North is kind of weak! From General Lee"  He thought it was very clever, and was pretty sure she'd think it was REALLY from General Lee.

While reading the book If You Lived During the Civil War, we learned that Blind Man's Bluff was a favorite game during the Civil War years.  We looked it up online, got out a scarf and had a great time playing it together.  We introduced it to a larger group at our weekly homeschool group a week later and had a hilarious time playing it with them too.  It's too easy to forget that sometimes the simplest games are the most fun!

Spinning the counter (Mr. T) around 10 times

Spinning the counter (O Boy) around - great counting practice!

The Little Sweetie found this to be a fabulous place to hide, as you can see.  O Boy could hear her but not really get to her.

Still trying to figure out where she's hiding!  I love Mr. T's expression in the background.

After studying Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee, I also wanted to learn about the war from the slaves' perspective.  So we began reading the book Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters (and it was neat that we were only 2 weeks out from Christmas at this point in the year as well!).  This is an excellently written and illustrated book that swings back and forth between the experiences of those in "the Big House" (Master and family) on a typical plantation in Virginia and their slaves in the weeks leading up to and after the last Christmas before the Civil War began.  The narrative voices change as you go back and forth between the two groups of people, and the differences in their two experiences are starkly illustrated.  Included in the text are recipes (we enjoyed reading the slaves' recipe for sweet potato pie while making it), poems, songs, fingerplays and other cultural details.  The illustrations are amazing.  I didn't make it all the way through this book, since it's quite long and we needed to wrap up our unit and celebrate Christmas!  It also closes out with New Year's Day, when all the slaves learned who was to be sold in the next year.  A very hard ending, with gut-wrenching illustrations.  But this is a very valuable book to include in any study of the Civil War, since it so well portrays a snapshot in time of both the slave and masters' lives.  It's also a great comparison with how we celebrate Christmas ourselves.

At the same time we began reading the Christmas book, we also started reading and learning about Harriet Tubman and adding pages about her into our Civil War books.
Here is a youtube video made by the same people who made the Abe Lincoln one.  Harriet Tubman video

Harriet Tubman coloring page

A map of some of the routes taken by slaves on the Underground Railroad.  We also watched a few youtube videos featuring tours of different stops on the Underground Railroad.
After learning about Harriet Tubman, we went on to read about Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass coloring page


I was going to use some of the FIAR lesson ideas along with a study of this book, but after reading it once and then reading this critical review of the book, I didn't want to focus on it any longer.  Still an interesting book, as long as you read this website to give you a more balanced view of its historical accuracy.

At the very end of our study O Boy decided to open a Civil War museum for us, and give tours.  Here is is "Open Civil War" sign.

The Hunley.  Of course.

The South

Fort Sumter

A view of the South attacking Ft. Sumter

From L-R, The Slaves, The Union Soldier, Abraham Lincoln, The South Soldier.  Please try to overlook the fact that Abe is wearing a dress.  I think he/she got chosen for the part because he/she is wearing all black.  !!

Last but not least, The Blockade [of Charleston Harbor].

No comments: