by Howard Zinn
adapted by Rebecca Stefoff
As last summer wound down, I was gathering materials to use to homeschool my then almost nine-year old daughter and almost eleven-year old twin daughters. I wanted to approach U.S. History with them in a different way than it had been presented to them in conventional public school up to that point. Specifically, I wanted to break away from the white-washed version of history which portrays every American historical figure (most of them white) as a hero, and America as “the land of the free and the home of the brave” without examining underlying complexities and uncomfortable truths about the country which we call home. In a nutshell, I don’t want my children fed a diet of zealous patriotism and nationalism.
On several recommendations, I bought A Young People’s History of the United States and used it as our history “curriculum” this school year. It was a great choice. Adapted for younger readers (Amazon doesn’t specify an age range, but I would say ages 10 through teens) from Zinn’s original A People’s History of the United States (which I have, but haven’t read. I hope to at some point), A Young People’s History covers the time from Columbus mistakenly arriving in America to the “War on Terror” and the George W. Bush presidency. Told from “the people’s” point of view rather than from the point of view of those in power, this wonderful book discusses the many social and political issues that have shaped, and continue to shape the United States – slavery, segregation, labor unions, poverty, women’s rights, the political issues that have driven the wars in which the United States has been involved, and more.
My daughters and I really enjoyed our time studying U.S. History using this book as our guide this school year. We would sit down together two or three times a week and take turns reading aloud from A Young People’s History, and our readings always led to interesting discussions, and often to further studies elsewhere.