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If you’re homeschooling in Texas, there’s a good chance you’re going to be teaching Texas History!
I frequently see homeschool moms looking for a good curriculum. There are quite a few out there, but many of them are designed to be taught in a classroom or co-op group. I’ve already compiled a ginormous teaching Texas History resource for you. But it really is ginormous, there’s a lot to dig through, and there are a ton of options. I list a handful of curriculum choices, and I also provide links to resources to help you supplement or create your own.
Today, though, I want to tell you more about the new Texas history book that I’m giving away in the Back to School Gift Basket.
Maybe you don’t want to dig through a ginormous list. Maybe too many options stress you out. Maybe you’d like to see more information about at least one of the products instead of researching all the options yourself because “Momma ain’t got the TIME.” (I hear you.)
Maybe you just want something simple and interesting and not over-complicated at all. (I hear that, too.)
Sam Houston’s Republic: Texas History Through Literature
The new addition to our curriculum collection this year is Sam Houston’s Republic, by Lynne Basham Tagawa. Last month, I approached Lynne about partnering with her for my Texas-themed gift basket, to include a copy of her book in the basket. She agreed and sent me not one, but TWO copies of her book–one for the basket and one for myself to keep. I started reading through it right away, and I was immediately hooked. Let me tell you why…
Sam Houston’s Republic is a narrative tale of Texas’ history, from early days to republic, through annexation, and to the Civil War.
Author Lynne Tagawa has written this text in a narrative, story-telling format. She uses excerpts from journals and letters to maintain authenticity and tell the real story. Tagawa also uses recorded eyewitness accounts to retell the actions and words of people as events took place.
The book is written as a novel whenever possible, to bring history to life and make it interesting to read. Sam Houston’s Republic isn’t exhaustive, but it does paint a complete picture of Texas’ journey to independence and state-hood. You’ll also find bits of world history thrown in to help complete the big picture of how things came to be where they were and why. If you’re a “big picture” person like me, you’ll appreciate the back story and supporting info.
Another thing about the way this book is written: I’m pretty sure you can call this a living book. Living books have a way of drawing the reader into the story and further into learning, unlike your traditional textbook. With a living book, kids are learning about the time period, life at that time, key historical events, without realizing how much they are learning. When reading a living book, kids are likely to remember what they’ve learned with more ease and recall it with less difficulty, because they were genuinely interested in the material.
Learning through literature is our favorite way to learn about history in any setting or time period.
Texas History With A Christian Worldview
Another element of Sam Houston’s Republic that pleases me is that it’s written from a Christian Worldview.
That doesn’t mean the history is altered or edited–what it means is that the author included information in the story which is relevant to the Christian worldview.
For example, here are a few items included in Sam Houston’s Republic, which might have been left out of another historical account:
- In the first chapter, the author gives background on Sam Houston’s family, describing them as a Scots-Irish Presbyterian family. Houston’s great-grandfather was in Scotland during the Reformation, started by John Knox, and after enduring hardships, he moved his family to the New World for religious freedom and safety.
- When young Sam Houston is reading up on Tejas, the account he is reading mentions the Great Flood, which led to the ice age, which caused many animals to migrate southward, providing abundant food for the earliest settlers in Texas–whom we know very little about but which left an abundance of skeletal remains to be studied.
- When Texas hears that the colonies have declared independence from England, the author describes the 13 colonies as “not homogenous,” as the culture varied great from colony to colony. She points out, however, that they did have some important things in common: a desire for liberty, including religious freedom. The colonies desired freedom from England in all ways, and freedom from the church of England which regulated faith for its country and territories.
- In his later years, Sam Houston himself becomes a follower of Christ, and one example of this is a letter written to his wife, in which he references the Sabbath, the Bible, and talks about the state of his sins and his soul.
I love that Tagawa included these bits into this history, because these are bits of real life at that time. At that time, people were fleeing Europe and resettling in the New World, seeking refuge or a fresh start because of the Reformation. At that time, a large majority of Europe and the New World believed a Christian faith–whether Catholic or Protestant, even if that’s not the case today. Any letters or journal entries written by Houston (or anyone else) would give insight to who he was at the time, as people change, and possibly shed light on motivations for political decisions and other actions taken.
As a Christian, I also enjoy putting all the pieces together, seeing how the history of the church and our faith was influenced by what was going on in the world at the time, or even shaping what was going on in the world around us. It’s quite satisfying connecting all the dots and learning how things intertwine.
Sam Houston’s Republic: As a Spine or as a Whole
You can use Sam Houston’s Republic to teach Texas History in one of two ways. Texas History is often taught somewhere between 4th-8th grade. But you can also study it during high school. (As homeschoolers, we can study it whenever we want!) Looking through this book, though, I think it’s probably a better fit for 6th grade and up, as a read aloud, or 8th grade and up for independent reading.
For a simpler study, you can simply use Sam Houston’s Republic as the whole of your Texas History curriculum. With 17 chapters, you can complete one chapter a week and spend about a semester on it, or spend two weeks per chapter and spread it across the school year. There are Teacher Resources created by the author, which include vocabulary, fill in the blank questions, discussion questions, etc, for each chapter. Do this orally, or print them out for your kids.
For more in depth study, you can use this book as a spine–the main text for your history study, fleshed out with other resources. There are many historical figures, places, and events that you will encounter in each chapter. After reading a chapter and using the included teacher resources, you can research other people and places mentioned as you “meet” them in each chapter (most of them are probably on my Texas History resource page.) Ask your children to write essays based on the discussion questions, something that happened in the chapter, or one of the people/places you further researched.
If you read ahead of your kids a little, you can have enough time to order books, print worksheets or coloring pages, or look up documentaries from my resource list for upcoming chapters.
Teaching Texas History With Sam Houston’s Republic
This book is exactly the kind of thing we like to use around here. As die-hard MOH fans (The Mystery of History,) I even got a little giddy to find Linda Lacour Hobar’s endorsement on the back cover.
As an eclectic homeschooler, with a love for literature and living books, who likes to be flexible and laid back as much as possible, but who also likes to rabbit trail and dig into things when they fascinate us (in a sort of interest-led kind of way,..) with a preference for materials written from a Christian worldview whenever possible, this history “curriculum” is right up our alley.
Whether you use Sam Houston’s Republic as only a read-aloud, as a spine for a larger study, or as the whole study itself, I’m sure you’ll enjoy learning the rich history of our state through this entertaining and engaging novel.
If you’d like to read excerpts, this books is available on Amazon with a “look inside” preview available, which will give you a sense for the style of writing. It’s also available at Grace and Truth Books.
If you missed the first three installments of this 5 Days of Homeschooling in Texas series, you can start at the beginning and work your way through: Day 1 – Laws and Requirements.
Do you have any questions about this book or teaching Texas History in general? Leave them in the comments below and I will answer!
To see what everybody else is writing about, just HOP over to this page and then hopscotch your way around the topics as you please. Happy hopping!
Disclosure: You should know that Lynne gave me two copies of Sam Houston’s Republic for free–one for the giveaway, and one for myself to keep. You should also know that I approached her, because I was genuinely interested in the book and partnering with her for the giveaway. No agreements were made on what I would or would not write about the book. My impression of the book and opinions given here are entirely my own, true, and fair. By law, because I received the book for free, I have to spell it out like this. As my readers, you should already know I have a strong honesty policy anyway. God bless!