Planning Our 1800s America Unit Studies

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I decided to spend this entire school year immersed in 1800s American history. To say that I am excited about this would be an understatement!


When I started planning for this upcoming rotation of history last year, I was struggling with how to teach through all of American history in one year when there are so many lovely pitstops along the journey that I would love to spend more time with, really digging in and immersing ourselves in the details of the time. However, we often spend so much time focused on the early stages of our country’s history, such as the explorers, the Revolutionary War, the founding fathers and the founding documents — all extremely important — that we have to rush through the remaining 200+ years to finish in one year. That leaves just enough time to hit the highlights and only skim the surface of the stories behind the everyday people that really built America.

So last year, we stopped our history studies midyear and I changed course. We had been working though the middle ages, but after Christmas, we turned to the American explorers, the colonial period, and the Revolutionary war. After a little review in August, we can now jump right into the 1800s America unit studies I have planned. Then next year, when we go back to World history (the Modern Age), we can pick up where we left off in American history in the 1900s.

Once I settled on this plan, I spent many hours this summer developing our own 1800s America unit studies to use this year. There was so much taking place in this new, developing country during the 1800s, and much of it was going on concurrently. I tried to set up our unit studies chronologically, but in many instances that just wasn’t possible. So I had to get creative.

The 1800s America unit studies I decided upon are:

  • Louisiana Purchase (including Lewis & Clark and Sacagawea)
  • The War of 1812
  • Go West (Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee): This unit will also include the Trail of Tears.
  • The Civil War
  • Oregon Trail and Sante Fe Trail
  • The Gold Rush
  • Cowboys and Indians (and the Alamo)
  • Oklahoma


For each unit (which I plan to spend about a month on), I have pulled together books, movies, activities, crafts, recipes, art, and field trip ideas. For several units, I also have lap books planned that we will put together. I am also very excited to add music to our studies with Diana Waring’s new Exploring History Through Music set.


Field trips will be a big part of the hands-on homeschooling component of our unit studies. Here’s a taste of what I have planned for this year:

There are so many ideas for field trips in our vicinity, I  just can’t list them all! If I get really adventurous, I’d love to take the kids to Dodge, Kansas. Not only is it part of the unit study, but for several years during its heyday, my great great grandmother lived there as a young girl.

Which brings me to another important component to this year’s history study: Family history. I’ve been researching our family’s genealogy since I was a teenager, and  I have uncovered information about so many family members that played parts in this era of history. For example, several of our ancestors fought in the War of 1812, even more fought in the Civil War — on both sides. We have ancestors who were Nebraska pioneers, with the Oregon Trail running across their land, and Oklahoma Sooners in our family history as well. In fact, we had ancestors living in the Oklahoma Territory before the land run.

Earlier this summer, I released my first eBook Making History Personal — a guide to walk you through the process of bringing history to life for your children using genealogy study and tools. I will be putting much of my own advice back into practice in our 1800s America unit studies this year. (By the way, Making History Personal is on sale for 50% off through August 31!)

Because my 14- and 15-year-old nieces both need an Oklahoma history course, we will spend the last part of the year and next summer working through Oklahoma History Online by Cindy Downes.  She has put together a great online course, as well as an Oklahoma Scrapbook full of field trip ideas, pictures and memories.

I plan to keep collecting resources as I find them, but I am so excited and ready to get started. If you see me out and about looking like a pioneer, I might have taken it a little too far! But hey,  those pioneer women knew how to take care of things.

What era of history are you covering in your school this year? What resources and/or curriculum are you excited about using for your history study? We’d love to hear what you’re working on in the comments below! 

Back-to-School Special: Save 50% on my eBook Making History Personal: A Genealogy Study GuideIt’s an excellent teaching tool to help you bring history to life for your children this school year. On sale now through August 31 for just $4.98!