Six Middle School History Years Planned

I began my career in education as a history teacher and I feel like it’s the subject that I see people overthinking the most in the homeschool world. As great as I think history is and can be as a subject, I also think the most important thing is to just do something. Yet I’ve seen people debate minutiae of historical interpretation, refuse to use a text because of one or two minor errors, and wring their hands over whether or not it’s okay to read historical fiction instead of primary sources for first grade.

Kids have a leg up when they know history. It builds on itself. When they sit down to read a difficult book about history, recognizing names, places, and events definitely makes it easier. However, going through everything with a fine tooth comb isn’t going to draw in most kids. High school history surveys don’t assume specific prior knowledge either, so it’s alright if there are gaps.

One of the things I talk about in my book about middle school is how it’s important to be engaged and doing, but that you don’t need to make it complex. Reading and discussing keeps it simple but substantial. That’s really what you want.

Most of the history programs I’ve seen for middle school are sorely lacking. That’s why the pile of books and a little discussion is the best you can do a lot of the time. Look at some maps. Find some supporting videos. Take some field trips if they’re available. It’s really that easy. You don’t need tests, worksheets, fill in the blank maps, and document based questions. You don’t need primary sources. It’s all right if all you do is read a good pile of books. Kids also don’t have to read that much themselves. When my boys were in middle school, we still read aloud the vast majority of our required books. Other families like audiobooks. Other kids tear through any book you put in front of them. But it’s not a dictate to force your kids to read. You can still read aloud.

With that in mind, here are six history plans for middle school. Just add conversations and whatever videos and research you happen to do along the way.

The World Wars Year

War Horse by Michael Murpurgo
Angel on the Square by Gloria Whelan
The War to End All Wars: World War I by Russell Freedman
War Game by Michael Foreman
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Code Talker by Joseph Bruhac
The Winged Watchman by Hilda Von Stockum
When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
We Are Witnesses: Five Diaries of Teenagers Who Died in the Holocaust by Jacob Boas
Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Hands On Bonus for Project Fans: World War II for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by Richard Panchyk

The Global Stories Year

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
The Red Pencil by Andrea Pinkney Davis
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
A Girl Called Disaster by Nancy Farmer
The Boy Who Harnessed the WindYoung Reader’s Edition by William Kamkwamba
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafsai
Baseball and Other Stories by Gary Soto
Homeless Bird by Gloria  Whelan

The Birth of the United States Year

Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruhac
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin
Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Salt by Helen Frost
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Bull Run by Paul Fleischman
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Roderick Philbrick
Hands on Bonus for Project Fans: Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself by Kris Bordessa

The Post-WWII America Year

Hidden Figures: Young Readers Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly
Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin
The President Has Been Shot by James L. Swanson
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
Revolution by Deborah Wiles
Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
March Trilogy by John Lewis
T-Minus: The Race to the Moon by Jim Ottaviani

Immigration Stories Year

Esperanza Rising by Pam Nunoz Ryan
Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm
Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse
Sylvia and Aki by Winifred Conkling
Return to Sender by Julia Alverez
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
A Different Mirror for Young People by Ronald Takaki and Rebecca Stehoff

The Middle Ages Around the World Year

The Well of Sacrifice by Chris Eboch
The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis
The Inquisitor’s Tale
 by Adam Gidwitz
Castle by David Macaulay
Good Masters, Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schlitz
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
The Road to Damietta by Scott O’Dell
Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson
The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa by Patricia McKissick

4 thoughts on “Six Middle School History Years Planned

    1. Honestly, me too! One of the reasons I didn’t make one is that there isn’t, in my opinion, much great historical fiction or amazing middle grades/YA novel length nonfiction about the ancient world for this age. There are exceptions, of course. Eagle of the Ninth is a classic. The Roman Mysteries and Detectives in Togas are both fun Rome series, though really skewed slightly younger. Archimedes and the Door of Science is a wonderful book for this age and I know Jeanne Birdsall has another one about Herodotus that I haven’t read but which is supposed to be good. There are also some good Troy or Odyssey retellings that are suitable for this age, though there are more for younger students. But then… I start to draw a blank other than picture books (some of which are still great for this age, of course, but aren’t in keeping with the other lists I made here) or below level series books like the I Survived series. I don’t know of any good historical fiction books about ancient Egypt, for example. Or ancient China. Or the Indus-Saraswati civilization. It’s just a bit of a hole in good books!

      1. I’ve also found them hard to find. We’ve enjoyed those Jeanne Bendick biographies, as well as “Detectives in Togas,” and some graphic novel / retellings of the Odyssey/Illiad … there’s a great graphic novel set by a local illustrator Gareth Hinds, for example. The other big hit was “The Golden Goblet” set in ancient Egypt. When researching, I did come across “The Eagle of the Ninth” so appreciate the recommendation. We’ve just started GA Henty’s “The Cat of Bubastes.” Some others I’ve found but haven’t read are “Mara, Daughter of the Nile” and — creeping into the Middle Ages — “Tales from the Arabian Nights …” by Donna Jo Napoli. There are some fun old readers as well, like this one http://www.gutenberg.org/files/34083/34083-h/34083-h.htm.

Leave a Reply to Name Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s