I’m in the midst of doing the planning for our Africa unit, which will last us for January and February. In case you don’t know, we’re headed for a trip to southern Africa for most of March, so this is in educational preparation. We’ll ditch our U.S. history studies for that time and pick them back up again once we’ve recovered in April.
I’ve found some wonderful books, especially some wonderful picture books. The lists here and here were both very helpful to me. Hooray for other homeschool bloggers sharing good information! I’ll post up all the lovely children’s books we’re planning to use sometime in the next few weeks. I even managed to find a nice projects book.
Mostly though, I’m still in the frustrations period. Too many of the books I’m finding are like the one you see there, Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions A to Z. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lovely book and one we’ll definitely read. It’s a Caldecott winner, in fact. And the information in it, not to mention the illustrations, are wonderful.
But… But… But…
When we start American history, we can use something similar. Something like Lynne Cheney’s America: A Primer. But then we can move to that and read lots other books – biographies, history books, folk tales, fiction stories in picture book and chapter book form. Or when we start studying animals, we could begin by reading Bert Kitchen’s crisp and lovely Animal Alphabet. But from there, we would move to big animal encyclopedias and animal stories and beautiful photo books about animals.
But with Africa, there’s nowhere to go in many cases. When all the library has about Africa is books like Ashanti to Zulu, Count Your Way Through Kenya and a few Enchantment of the World books, then it’s crushingly limited. And it makes the efforts in a fine book like Ashanti to Zulu feel less like the beginning of a path and more like a dead end filled with random, untethered facts.
Here’s what I have found. There are African folktales enough. There are African animals and biomes books enough. There are some African picture books, though there should be more. There are a scant few chapter books about Africa but not enough for a decent selection. There are almost no decent books about African history and culture and almost no biographies of use either. And there are no big, fat, overall geography books that are worth the time. The few I found were outdated or dull or outdated and dull.
I’m so used to working off a spine for a unit, but this unit can have no spine. There isn’t one worth using.