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Factual secular history for third grade


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What are my options for a secular history for third graders.  In todays climate where I have come to understand that I was basically taught US history fan fiction in public school I am very interested in fact based history.  Not Christopher Columbus was a great guy and the Native Americans gave their land freely type rhetoric.  

Thanks!

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You might look at Build Your Library. It's secular and more global focused than most elementary curricula. It's more than just history though. 

Or if you just want history, Story of the World with the activity book is plenty for third grade, especially if this is your first year. The activity book has loads of book recommendations and more if you want them. 

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On 7/22/2020 at 12:30 PM, purpleshamrock said:

 Not Christopher Columbus was a great guy and the Native Americans gave their land freely type rhetoric.

I forget who said this, but with young kids and history, you should always try to "start with heroes" or at least some positive or interesting stories.  For you, maybe that won't be Columbus, or maybe not American history. But there's lots of time later for all the complex, darker, shameful parts of history. That's hard to lay on a kid who has to be part of this society and is really young. Third grade is a great year to do ancients, with Greek myths, and those crazy warmaking Romans and their she-wolf origins, Egyptian culture, and ancient China etc, and those stories often aren't lingered on much in the public schools. So that might be a fun option, just putting it out there. 

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42 minutes ago, Emily ZL said:

I forget who said this, but with young kids and history, you should always try to "start with heroes" or at least some positive or interesting stories.  For you, maybe that won't be Columbus, or maybe not American history. But there's lots of time later for all the complex, darker, shameful parts of history. That's hard to lay on a kid who has to be part of this society and is really young. Third grade is a great year to do ancients, with Greek myths, and those crazy warmaking Romans and their she-wolf origins, Egyptian culture, and ancient China etc, and those stories often aren't lingered on much in the public schools. So that might be a fun option, just putting it out there. 

Exactly, and there's a lot of ugliness beneath fairy tales, mythology, Bible stories, nursery rhymes, all of history. It's not not factual to focus on the good and heroic in the younger ages. You don't tell little kids that Romans had orgies in their temples or left some of their infants outside to die if born with birth defects. It's not age appropriate. You teach them the ideologies and the heroic truths they were aiming for by telling them their heroes, their stories. No culture reaches it's true ideals and perfection nor can they be looked at through today's lenses. But you see what they are aiming for, what they believed from their literature and stories and their heroes. Discussion of right and wrong is subjective and for later ages. For Columbus, I read his actual diaries and read some aloud to my kids. There were interesting passages where he described in awe meeting the native Americans. Not in today's language and vocabulary of course. But he is part of history. When my kids are older they read actual primary documents themselves to study. I don't get into right or wrong debates at a young age. They need to know what happened, the major players, have heroes and ideals, learn countries and continents and how to read maps. 

Edited by 2_girls_mommy
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On 7/24/2020 at 10:48 PM, Emily ZL said:

I forget who said this, but with young kids and history, you should always try to "start with heroes" or at least some positive or interesting stories.  For you, maybe that won't be Columbus, or maybe not American history. But there's lots of time later for all the complex, darker, shameful parts of history. That's hard to lay on a kid who has to be part of this society and is really young. Third grade is a great year to do ancients, with Greek myths, and those crazy warmaking Romans and their she-wolf origins, Egyptian culture, and ancient China etc, and those stories often aren't lingered on much in the public schools. So that might be a fun option, just putting it out there. 

I totally agree that it's important to have heroes. I love that.

I do teach my kids gently (adjusted to their capacity) about slavery and its legacy. But I tell them that even in the midst of this, a few people managed to follow their conscience and stand up for what was right. I tell them about Frederick Douglas, John Brown, Harriet Tubman...there are so many. 

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We have really enjoyed Curiosity Chronicles World History https://www.curiositychronicles.org/  We're starting our third year with the curriculum. Fully secular and my kids like it. Also, if you are looking for American History from an Indigenous perspective, I recommend Turtle Island: The Story of North America's First People by Eldon Yellowhorn.   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33215508-turtle-island We read it when my oldest were second graders. It's written for kids. I supplemented with tons of library books by Native authors and videos when we did a few months of Native history. There are so many excellent books on Native culture and beliefs. Two really great ones we read ( and reread!) are The Mishomis Book by Edward Benton-Banai and The Girl Who Helped Thunder and Other Native American Folktales by Joseph Bruchac. We were really into it! We haven't used a dedicated American history curriculum yet. I have been talking about really hard stuff/topics since my kids were little. I keep it at their level, but we've been discussing racism, sexism, etc and real history for ages. The discussions are simple but ongoing. 

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Secular, soft cover, out of print, but there are some inexpensive used options at Amazon:
The Complete Book of U.S. History (grades 3-5) = 350 pages
The Complete Book of World History (grades 4-8) = 285 pages

I especially liked the U.S. book because it focused on some really interesting topics that are not typically covered in other U.S. History resources. For similar reasons, we also enjoyed American Adventures, vol. 1 (1770-1870) and vol. 2 (1870-1999), which provided short informative chapters about positive, interesting, little-known people and events. The grade leveling is right on for this one -- grades 3-5.

The World History book was not quite as good. It had some interesting, more detailed 
information for the ancients and into the medieval times -- and then seemed to just rush through the most recent 200 years, flinging dates and major events and people names around without any detail or context. It also seems geared for older elementary ages -- grades 5-6 would be ideal.

__________________

Whatever you decide to go with as your "spine" text and "supplemental" resources, at the younger elementary grades, whether doing World or US History, if you have a sensitive child or one who is not ready for hearing about the really tough topics in history, it would be absolutely fine to skip the negatives for now and focus on positives:

- medical advances
- technological/scientific inventions and breakthroughs
- exploration/explorers of the past 150 years
- biographies of inventors, explorers, scientists
- sports, sporting events, and athletes
- artists and musicians

If doing U.S. History, you can enjoy taking time to explore cultural aspects:
- patriotic songs and American folksongs
- symbols of our nation and the history behind them
- famous American landmarks (natural and man-made)
- American tall tales and legends

Edited by Lori D.
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On 7/24/2020 at 9:48 PM, Emily ZL said:

I forget who said this, but with young kids and history, you should always try to "start with heroes" or at least some positive or interesting stories.  For you, maybe that won't be Columbus, or maybe not American history. But there's lots of time later for all the complex, darker, shameful parts of history. That's hard to lay on a kid who has to be part of this society and is really young. Third grade is a great year to do ancients, with Greek myths, and those crazy warmaking Romans and their she-wolf origins, Egyptian culture, and ancient China etc, and those stories often aren't lingered on much in the public schools. So that might be a fun option, just putting it out there. 

 

I disagree with the bold part. I think the whole point of studying history is to learn where things went wrong before and understand that context for current events. Obviously this is an ever evolving process, but I don't think that 3rd grade is too young to understand that there were things that happened in the past that was very wrong. I could get on board with that in Kindergarten perhaps, but by 3rd grade kids have an ability to think critically about these things. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were inspiring leaders and had an amazing and beautiful vision for creating this country as a democracy, but there were a lot of people in this country who were not included in that vision of freedom. That was wrong and a mistake. 3rd graders get that. I'm not going to go into brutal graphic detail about rape and violence with a 3rd grader, but understanding that slaves were brought here against their will, forced to work for no pay, and not treated fairly is appropriate for that age I think. I'm in the midst of planning a unit on the Gilded Age for 4th-ish grade level and while of course we'll cover the amazing and life changing inventions of Edison and the innovation of Ford. We'll also talk about the fact that millions of children were working in factories because they were poor and their families would go hungry otherwise and because they had to work they didn't get to go to school, and that was wrong. 

I think we do a disservice to kids when we don't help them understand the full scope of our history. Then they start to figure it out and they get really disillusioned or we expect them to suddenly digest all this in jr.high. 

OP Sadly I don't have a great recommendation for you. I've found that the good resources are usually a little to much for 3rd grade as far a reading level, or are way too religious and excuse or dismiss the less convenient aspects of our history. I've mostly just cobbled together my own stuff. 

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13 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Secular, soft cover, out of print, but there are some inexpensive used options at Amazon:
The Complete Book of U.S. History (grades 3-5) = 350 pages
The Complete Book of World History (grades 4-8) = 285 pages

I especially liked the U.S. book because it focused on some really interesting topics that are not typically covered in other U.S. History resources. For similar reasons, we also enjoyed American Adventures, vol. 1 (1770-1870) and vol. 2 (1870-1999), which provided short informative chapters about positive, interesting, little-known people and events. The grade leveling is right on for this one -- grades 3-5.

The World History book was not quite as good. It had some interesting, more detailed 
information for the ancients and into the medieval times -- and then seemed to just rush through the most recent 200 years, flinging dates and major events and people names around without any detail or context. It also seems geared for older elementary ages -- grades 5-6 would be ideal.

 

We used the US book. It was good. We went with History Odyssey after that.

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8 hours ago, JessinTX said:

 

I disagree with the bold part. I think the whole point of studying history is to learn where things went wrong before and understand that context for current events. Obviously this is an ever evolving process, but I don't think that 3rd grade is too young to understand that there were things that happened in the past that was very wrong. I could get on board with that in Kindergarten perhaps, but by 3rd grade kids have an ability to think critically about these things. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were inspiring leaders and had an amazing and beautiful vision for creating this country as a democracy, but there were a lot of people in this country who were not included in that vision of freedom. That was wrong and a mistake. 3rd graders get that. I'm not going to go into brutal graphic detail about rape and violence with a 3rd grader, but understanding that slaves were brought here against their will, forced to work for no pay, and not treated fairly is appropriate for that age I think. I'm in the midst of planning a unit on the Gilded Age for 4th-ish grade level and while of course we'll cover the amazing and life changing inventions of Edison and the innovation of Ford. We'll also talk about the fact that millions of children were working in factories because they were poor and their families would go hungry otherwise and because they had to work they didn't get to go to school, and that was wrong. 

I think we do a disservice to kids when we don't help them understand the full scope of our history. Then they start to figure it out and they get really disillusioned or we expect them to suddenly digest all this in jr.high. 

OP Sadly I don't have a great recommendation for you. I've found that the good resources are usually a little to much for 3rd grade as far a reading level, or are way too religious and excuse or dismiss the less convenient aspects of our history. I've mostly just cobbled together my own stuff. 

I really agree with this. And I think actually, teaching kids about injustice can be really inspiring. So if I'm teaching about the social ills of the gilded age, for example, I'll also talk about social reformers like Jane Addams, etc. I'd probably use that as an excuse to look at Jacob Riis photos too, since we're in NY.

There are so many inspiring figures throughout history who have swum against the tide and confronted problems. That's what I really want my kids to learn about.

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18 hours ago, JessinTX said:

 

I disagree with the bold part. I think the whole point of studying history is to learn where things went wrong before and understand that context for current events. Obviously this is an ever evolving process, but I don't think that 3rd grade is too young to understand that there were things that happened in the past that was very wrong. I could get on board with that in Kindergarten perhaps, but by 3rd grade kids have an ability to think critically about these things. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were inspiring leaders and had an amazing and beautiful vision for creating this country as a democracy, but there were a lot of people in this country who were not included in that vision of freedom. That was wrong and a mistake. 3rd graders get that. I'm not going to go into brutal graphic detail about rape and violence with a 3rd grader, but understanding that slaves were brought here against their will, forced to work for no pay, and not treated fairly is appropriate for that age I think. I'm in the midst of planning a unit on the Gilded Age for 4th-ish grade level and while of course we'll cover the amazing and life changing inventions of Edison and the innovation of Ford. We'll also talk about the fact that millions of children were working in factories because they were poor and their families would go hungry otherwise and because they had to work they didn't get to go to school, and that was wrong. 

I think we do a disservice to kids when we don't help them understand the full scope of our history. Then they start to figure it out and they get really disillusioned or we expect them to suddenly digest all this in jr.high. 

OP Sadly I don't have a great recommendation for you. I've found that the good resources are usually a little to much for 3rd grade as far a reading level, or are way too religious and excuse or dismiss the less convenient aspects of our history. I've mostly just cobbled together my own stuff. 

None of the resources recommended nor any basic third grade book leaves this stuff out though, that I'm aware of. 

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On 7/29/2020 at 4:09 PM, MamaSprout said:

Popping over to the K-8 boards to ask just this for a Elementary Education professor who wants better resources for a broader view of elementary history.

Definitely look at A River of Voices by Blossom and Root. https://blossomandroot.com/us-history-with-blossom-and-root/

They cover history from a variety of perspectives rather than a single narrative - hence the name River of Voices. They also try to avoid crafts or activities that are culturally insensitive, etc. 

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On 7/30/2020 at 1:35 AM, JessinTX said:

 

I disagree with the bold part. I think the whole point of studying history is to learn where things went wrong before and understand that context for current events. Obviously this is an ever evolving process, but I don't think that 3rd grade is too young to understand that there were things that happened in the past that was very wrong. I could get on board with that in Kindergarten perhaps, but by 3rd grade kids have an ability to think critically about these things. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were inspiring leaders and had an amazing and beautiful vision for creating this country as a democracy, but there were a lot of people in this country who were not included in that vision of freedom. That was wrong and a mistake. 3rd graders get that. I'm not going to go into brutal graphic detail about rape and violence with a 3rd grader, but understanding that slaves were brought here against their will, forced to work for no pay, and not treated fairly is appropriate for that age I think. I'm in the midst of planning a unit on the Gilded Age for 4th-ish grade level and while of course we'll cover the amazing and life changing inventions of Edison and the innovation of Ford. We'll also talk about the fact that millions of children were working in factories because they were poor and their families would go hungry otherwise and because they had to work they didn't get to go to school, and that was wrong. 

I think we do a disservice to kids when we don't help them understand the full scope of our history. Then they start to figure it out and they get really disillusioned or we expect them to suddenly digest all this in jr.high. 

OP Sadly I don't have a great recommendation for you. I've found that the good resources are usually a little to much for 3rd grade as far a reading level, or are way too religious and excuse or dismiss the less convenient aspects of our history. I've mostly just cobbled together my own stuff. 

Sure, and of course that stuff comes up in any history course, including slavery and the Holocaust at a high level of abstraction. But you don't want to imply that there are no heroes and play up everyone's vices instead. E.g., you can talk about Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of independence, and mention that slaves weren't included, without going into Sally Helms. In your example, there are heroes of invention, as well as reformers, but none were perfect. Henry Ford I believe was a great admirer of Hitler, but I don't think you need to mention that -- it's pretty awful to drag down each person with their faults when you're talking to a third grader. Around that time Teddy Roosevelt helped create a lot of conservation and the national parks, but I guess people today don't like him because of some of his other views? And what of MLK? There won't be anything good to relate in history if the people involved need to be perfect.

I think a good rule of thumb is, when they hit the age where they can talk about nuance in war, and realize there can be good and bad people on both sides, then they are ready for some more nuance in history. It's not springing it on them, it's waiting until they are developmentally ready to understand that very good and even noble actions can be done by complex people who also made some very bad choices. To me, that's logic stage, junior high ish.

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I think it's complicated.  I never did the fan fiction approach to history.  I never shied away from atrocities.  I talked about slavery, the genocide of indigenous peoples, and even the Holocaust with my kids from pretty early on.  I did a US history through picture books that I sort of collected for my oldest's K-1st grade years, which was preK-K for my youngest.  There are some fantastic, age appropriate books about those topics for little kids that don't gloss over the atrocities but that still focus on the helpers.  I didn't want to paralyze my kids with horror......I dreamed about the Holocaust almost every night from age seven till I was in my 20's, and I didn't want that for my kids.  But we definitely didn't shy away from the reality of bad things.  But I tried, when possible, to highlight the helpers, as Mr. Rogers would say.  So we talked about slavery, but we also talked about Harriet Tubman and Abraham Lincoln.  

I don't go so far as to say there are no heroes, because I don't think that's actually true.  I definitely believe in heroes.  But I don't believe anyone is perfect.  I actually spent a lot of time studying Columbus with my kids and really trying to get them away from the:  Was he a good guy or was he a bad guy? question.  We talked a LOT about the bad things he did, but also how even things that were innocent turned out badly, like how diseases led to genocide.  It probably was not reasonable for him to have anticipated that.  We talked about what good qualities did he have?  Was he entirely bad?  It was probably our first big complicated study.  

We talked about different historical periods having different values.  I don't entirely get the kids away from good guys/ bad guys, because there are definitely some bad guys in history.  And there are some people who are just straight up heroes whose bad qualities I don't highlight.  I mean, Harriet Tubman is just a bad ass.  I don't bring up MLK's extramarital affairs with my kindergarteners, you know?  We sure as hell highlighted Thomas Jefferson as problematic, though.  (And, um, I told them that George Washington was a wizard.  Cuz that's the only thing that explains much of his life.  Wizard.)

Really, by third grade, kids are old enough that you can have pretty nuanced conversations about history with them.  But mostly I just try to find the best stories.  

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  • 2 months later...

I know you're asking about Curriculum and not just about Columbus resources, but just in case you haven't found one, when you get to Columbus and Spanish conquest, I do have some resources I suggest (mostly videos).    The Crash Course ones are meant for older kids but I think a 3rd grader might be able to handle them.   I am including the Black Legend one even though I DON'T suggest it for a 3rd grader, just because it does go into so much more of what happens to the natives and might be useful later. 

(And I've done a LOT of research for Columbus for a fact check article I did, so the reason I choose these and not some other kids ones I've found is because these are the only ones that I've found that don't contain something in-accurate that are actually acceptable for kids.   That article is here if you would like to read it.)

Anyways, here's my picks...
Columbus' Journal...it's very readable even for 3rd grade, and I suggest at least reading the first landing in the new World and first few encounters with the Taino people (Journal Entries 11-13).   It's from his perspective, but you can easily talk about how it might have seen from the native's perspective.   One thing that is subtle that might not come through is the way he talks about taking natives to learn Spanish and translate for him (but if they don't know Spanish, how could he possibly convey, and even if they did go willingly, how could they know what they were agreeing too?).   It's a gentle way to deal with some of the wrongs without dealing with stuff a 3rd grader can't handle. 
 

Crash Course 15th Century Mariners - This isn't JUST about Columbus, but sets the scene for why exploration was exploding this time and puts Columbus in with some other people exploring at this time. It doesn't deal at all with the aftermath of that exploration for native populations, so needs to be paired with another video (warning contains "testicles" in the context of an explorer of was a eunuch, and a joke that will probably go over most kids head... minute 1:40-2:05, easy to skip. For kids of various ages this is otherwise fine though except that it's a little fast paced for smaller kids).
 
Crash Course World History: The Colombian Exchange
The Columbian Exchange doesn't talk much about Columbus but shows the impact his discovery had, so its a really important follow up. He says OMG (spelled out) once (you can skip that and a problematic "people are animals" segment by skipping minute 1:22-1:33). Smaller children might be scared by depictions of war and people dying of smallpox. But overall a good overview of how this changed the world, and does summarize how this affected the people in the Americas, without much detail though.
 
 
Crash Course: The Black Legend  (PREVIEW FIRST - PROBABLY TOO MUCH FOR A 3rd GRADER) - This one covers what happened to the indigenous people after Columbus (not just during his time...takes a longer view). It has some parts, understandably, that would not be appropriate for some children, especially young children. I would definitely preview before showing your kids.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E9WU9TGrec&t=459s
 
Extra Credits: Bartolome de las Casas. This one deals a little bit more with Bartolome de las Casas, who is mentioned briefly in the last video. I was so excited when this came out because this is probably my favorite historical character and the person who got me studying this time period. He was a Spanish priest who came to the colonies just after Columbus had his governorship stripped. While he originally participated in the oppression of the indigenous people he soon realized what was happening to them was wrong and spent the rest of his life trying to end their oppression.   It is perfectly kids friendly though (violence/oppression is suggested but not explicitly shown...very well done in a way that's deep but gently presented).   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH65erzQBkY&t=2s

THE INCA
If you search youtube for TedEd and Mayas Incas and Aztecs, you will find a lot of short videos about them.   The one below is about the conquest of the Inca, and it's suitable even for younger kids because of the way they present it (sort of like a fable).   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO5ktwPXsyM&list=ULh2rR77VsF5c&index=830
 
Extra Credits also has a really good video series about the conquering of the Inca.   It goes into more depth about what their civilization was like before conquest. Its again animated (humorous, but respectful, and violence dealt with non-gratuitously). I find their stuff is better for kids My son started watching some of their other history stuff at 8, and probably would have done fine with it at 7. It's about 60 minutes in all, but broken up into 10 minute segments.




 


 

Edited by goldenecho
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If you are a Lord of the Rings Fan- I love how Tolkien mentioned that Bilbo's version of how he got the ring of power made it into the Red book (a Hobbitt's just the facts book). Of course, Bilbo's version made him look much better.

In Elementary school I like the hero version of history for the younger crowd. Who isn't inspired by a biography of Harriet Tubman or Corrie Ten Boom. Of course, we deal with lots of fallen heros too and understand that heros are humans. 🙂 And it is good for children to understand that everyone struggles with sins or family or whatever it is they might encounter. Like others have said, "Sometimes they just don't need the graphic details."

I also really focus on seeing things from the other viewpoint in elementary school and understanding empathy. What would it be like if you were in this circumstance? What about the opponents viewpoint?

 

In in high school we pick a topic and read books from multiple perspectives and we learn how narratives are used as propaganda. Also, how they affect our culture. We also learn to recognize when people are not actually understanding the other sides viewpoint. Seldom do we see a book written, even by a centrist,  that really describes others viewpoints properly. That is why it is best to get things, "straight from the horses mouth."

 

Anyway, all this ro say I doubt there is one curriculum with just "the facts."

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I just remembered a resource we enjoyed back in elementary grades. It's at a grade 4-6 reading level: the In Their Own Words series of biographies by George Sullivan. He includes quotations from the writings of the actual people, or what contemporaries wrote about the actual people. So a little bit of primary source material sprinkled into a biography. Looks like he put out about 6-8 biographies of U.S. historical figures.

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