The Best Elementary American History Spine Texts

Rea Berg says that instead of following the 4 year history cycle that teaches ancient history to 1st graders, we should focus on American history in early elementary.  She points out that there are just too many good picture books that you don’t want to wait to enjoy.  No matter where in the U.S. you live, chances are good there are historical sites nearby to visit, and the year is filled with American holidays to learn about and celebrate.  These lived experiences add a richness and depth that can’t be found in any book.

We have been studying American History for the past two years, and they have been the most fruitful, enjoyable yours of our homeschool so far!  Over the next three posts, I’ll share our favorite resources for a literature based approach to American History in the elementary grades–spine texts, picture books, and historical novels.

Liberty’s Kids

And my first recommendation isn’t even a book!  It’s Liberty’s Kids, a PBS cartoon series starring Ben Franklin!  Our kids watched the whole series during the summer before we started formal studies.  They had a rough timeline and knew all the major players before we even began!  Then through the year they watched the series again a couple of times.  Each time it seemed like another character or event caught their attention.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

History of US

Before we began, I was on the lookout for a spine text that would guide and define our studies.  I knew I didn’t want a partisan text–neither Rush Limbaugh or Howard Zinn.  But where did that leave me?  I read so, so many books looking for the perfect one.  We finally settled on The History of US by Joy Hakim.  The books are written in an easy, conversational tone and filled to the brim with maps, historic documents, and other illustrations.

But the best part?  All 10 volumes of History of US are available on audio.  My kids have listened to the first 6 multiple times during afternoon rest time over the two years.  The storytelling is engaging and Joy Hakim’s writing voice is clear and friendly.  So much so that we are planning on starting her series The Story of Science next year!  The audiobooks make sure we are staying on track even though we’ve taken many rabbit trails.

Part 2 :: Best Read-Aloud Novels

Part 3 :: Best Picture Books


  1. We JUST watched our first episode of Liberty’s Kids this morning! Glad they come well recommended! The children are excited to watch more. Looking forward to reading part two and part three.

    1. Did you get the History of Us audio through Audible? Just listening to a few clips and they sound fabulous – we’ve read some of the books together – didn’t know they were available on audio!

  2. Stop the presses! The History of US is available on audio?! How did I not know this? I have slowly collected the volumes from Goodwills and Half Price Books over the years. This is a game changer. Thanks.

  3. Thank you for this information! Can’t wait for the other posts coming up. I was actually hoping to ask you how you do US History, and here it is!

  4. We have long loved Liberty’s Kids at our house! My girls learned so much from the series. Like yours, they watched it multiple times because they loved it so much. 🙂

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