Studying the Civil War with Sonlight


My daughter is about 1/3 of the way through her year of 4th grade. We're using a curriculum called Sonlight.
Last year we covered American History from start to just before the Civil War. So far this year our focus has been mostly on the Civil War and it's been fascinating! I will say again that one of my favorite parts of homeschooling is that I learn so much right alongside my children. 

We've read Abraham Lincoln: A Photobiography - a great book to bring President Lincoln to life. This book helped us to see President Lincoln as a regular man, who faced many struggles and sorrows in his life. He really wrestled with the war, wondering if it was right, how it would turn out, if the nation could be whole again and heal from the deep wounds. He struggled through each decision that had to be made a President during such a difficult time.

You can't discuss the Civil War without talking about the issue of slavery. My daughter and I've had some good discussions about the issue of slavery itself, from a moral and biblical approach. The issue of slavery seems so cut-and-dry as far as being very wrong.

Yet the issue behind the issue of slavery is that of state's rights versus federal government involvement. The North wanted the federal government to tell ALL states where to stand on the issue of slavery. The South wanted the states to be able to decide for themselves whether to be slave or free. This discussion is not at all cut-and-dry and still carries on today (just think of the modern issue of whether there should be a constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman versus each state's right to define marriage for itself). 

We also are reading a book called Across Five Aprils. This book tells the story of a large family who live in the North but have roots in the South. Some family members fight for the Union, but one joins the Confederacy. At least one dies in the fighting. Another family member deserts his post. The book has had me crying more than once, but it accurately portrays what many families experienced during the Civil War - the family being torn, some taking one side and others taking the other side; Mother and younger siblings left at home taking care of crops in the absence of Father and Brothers; the punishment for deserters; the slow speed of news and letters for those on the home front to learn about the battle front.

My daughter was assigned this book to read on her own - The Perilous Road. This book tells the story of the war from the perspective a young boy living in the South. It's the opposite perspective of The Five Aprils book, though my daughter did comment that it was a little confusing to be reading both books at the same time. This made it hard to remember the characters, who was on which side, and to keep the plot straight as there are many similarities between the happenings in the two books.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the Civil War studies we've done with Sonlight. The books are excellent and truly make you feel like you are there, living through it alongside the characters. Learning in this way makes you connect with the issues of the war at a more emotional level, seeing both side of the issues, feeling for those in the North and the South. 

If you ask my daughter, she would say that studying the Civil War makes her sad. Coming from a child that struggles with feeling compassion and empathy... thank you, Sonlight, for allowing us to homeschool in a way that touches the emotions as you learn! 


Luke said...

I'm so glad this year has been going so well! I remember studying this stuff myself, and--yes--there are so many issues surrounding this period of history that are still applicable today. Also, I felt like I had a pretty good perspective on these issues that many of my classmates later in life hadn't been exposed to. Keep up the good work! I love that homeschooling allows us to learn (and relearn) along with our children [smile].


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