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    Living California History: A Jed Smith Biography, and More!

    November 25, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    I accidentally neglected California history last term. I really don’t know what happened. I had various ideas written out, but for whatever reason, it all completely slipped my mind. And I mean completely. If this subject hadn’t come up recently on the AO Forum, I’d probably still be in blissful ignorance!

    So here’s the deal. I never intend to do a “California Unit” like the schools around here. The main reason for this — beyond my natural aversion to such things — is that I remember zero from my California unit when I was in school. So my goal here is to design California history exactly as if it were part of AmblesideOnline. This means I want living books — both assigned and for free reading — that match up with AO’s chronological history.

    Last year, we got our feet wet using Scott O’Dell’s Cruise of the Arctic Star as a living geography book. It went fantastic.

    This term, we’re using a few books, though only one is assigned and scheduled out. Remember, Year Five is a year that lines up with a lot of major historical events in California — from Lewis and Clark first viewing the Pacific Ocean, to the Gold Rush, becoming a state, and so on. If we’re ever going to really study California, Year Five is the time to do it!

    I’m assigning two free reads this term, both of which take place during the Gold Rush era. First up is The Balloon Boy of San Francisco. This is a thin little volume, so E-Age-Ten is already halfway through it. He informs me it meets with his approval! The second is a bit better known, called By the Great Horn Spoon!

    As actual assigned reading, I’m using a biography called Jed Smith: Trailblazer of the West. Jed Smith is mentioned in O’Dell’s Cruise of the Arctic Star, but this will give us a lot more detail than we found there, plus we will learn about Jed’s strong Christian faith.

    Below is a 12-week schedule for reading this little biography. I am adding this to the AO schedule. I suppose that if you had trouble fitting it in, you could use it as your history biography. I hesitate to do that because it is a little bit light all on its own, but it is possible for those of you who need to do California history {it’s required by law, remember} and feel like you cannot add any more to the schedule.

    Jed Smith: Trailblazer of the West
    by Frank Latham

    (fits with AmblesideOnline, Year 5, Term 1)

    Week 1: Jed Wins a Fight (Ch. 1) and Jed Hears of Faraway Lands (Ch. 2)
    Week 2: Up the Missouri (Ch. 3)
    Week 3: In the Land of the Sioux (Ch. 4) and On to the Yellowstone (Ch. 5)
    Week 4: Jed Learns His Trade (Ch. 6)
    Week 5: Fight with the Rees (Ch. 7) and Jed Takes a Message to Major Henry (Ch. 8)
    Week 6: Ashley’s New Idea (Ch. 9)
    Week 7: Jed Whips a Grizzly (Ch. 10) and Jed Starts on His Big Adventure (Ch. 11)
    Week 8: Jed Rides into the Unknown (Ch. 12)
    Week 9: Jed Conquers Mountain and Desert (Ch. 13)
    Week 10: Back to California (Ch. 14)
    Week 11: Jed Meets the “White-Headed Eagle” (Ch. 15)
    Week 12: “The Greatest of the Mountain Men” (Ch. 16)

    I’m sure some of this could be done using a map — treating it more as a geography book. I’m choosing to use it as a simple biography, though having a big map on the wall means we’ll often orient ourselves upon it whether it is assigned or not.

    I’d love for you to share the titles of your favorite California books in the comments. I’m always updating my list!

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Kansas Mom November 26, 2012 at 1:20 am

    I don’t have any suggestions, though I’d be interested in any set in Kansas. 😉 I have to say, though, that we read By the Great Horn Spoon last year as our historical novel to match the Gold Rush and my children adored it. Very fun!

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