This book is #35 in The American Adventure Series. This book is set in Minneapolis, MN in 1916-1917 just as "The Great War" (which is what WWI was called at the time) was heating up. The story follows fictional families, but has them interact with and experience historical events. Some of the historical occurrences include the disagreements in America regarding whether or not the US should join the conflict, German U-boats blowing merchant vessels out of the water, young men joining the American Field Ambulance and other volunteer groups supporting the war effort, the declaration of war on Germany and the discrimination German Americans became subject to as our country organized for the war effort.
This book is #33 in The American Adventure Series. Set in the early 1900s in Minneapolis, MN, this book discusses the effects of the gramophone, particularly the introduction of ragtime music to family homes. John Philip Sousa, famous musician and composer of "Stars and Stripes Forever" is quoted and discussed as the main characters are boys who participate in band and look up to his example. Some of the character issues addressed in this book include adjusting to being a blended family (having a step-parent), how to respond when friends become jealous or unkind toward us, how to be mindful of others needs, and exercising self-control and discipline to meet a goal despite unhealthy peer pressures.
In this book, the children have been expressly told not to spend time with, or even be around newsboys, or other children of the 'rougher' sort that ran around without their parents and perhaps with disregard to social standards for behavior. When a newsboy helps Esther get home after she sprains her foot/ankle, she's unsure how her parents will react. She and her cousin, Ted, slowly become friends with him and discover he only works as a newsboy because his father was injured at the railroad and then lost his job. Humor keeps the book from being too serious or negative because Esther is forever finding herself in situations where she's scolded for unladylike behavior. She's a clumsy girl with good intentions and as the book wears on, she does discover a need to be more mindful of her behavior around others. She also demonstrates humility when being corrected or embarrassed.
The children travel with family to the Chicago World's Fair and discussion of the exhibits they viewed could lead to fascinating research or unit studies about the time period. From farming, to women's rights, to a towering Ferris Wheel, there is much to see during their visit. Returning home from the fair, the gravity of the unemployment situation bothers the children and Esther comes up with a way to help families who are having a hard time getting enough food. Eventually, the city takes more notice and begins to tally the number of unemployed and plans are made to help assist these families.
We use these books as part of our homeschool history to give the children a broad overview and spark their interest in American History. I've been very pleased with them and have only discovered a few books which had plots or content a bit too intense for my 6 and 4 year olds. All have been very appropriate for my 4th grader and enjoyable for me to read as an adult. I've learned a lot through this series that I hadn't learned in school and it's much more pleasurable than memorizing dates or watching a dry documentary.
I've seen many great cookbooks that can be used alongside American History studies. They are filled with kid-friendly recipes and can be a memorable supplement to most any curriculum. This year, the curriculum we chose for homeschooling has weekly time set aside to make recipes from a recommended cookbook, but I didn't bother ordering it after a quick preview indicated the recipes were laden with white flour, eggs, (in some cases loads of sugar) and dairy. I figured this would just be another case where my kids would have to "miss out" because of the limitations on our diet.
We were reading "The Courage of Sarah Noble" for school and the main character is a young girl. At one point, she was cooking johnny cakes, which are somewhat like cornbread cooked in small round patties. It turned out to be one of our vocabulary words and I decided there HAS got to be a way to make these. Sure enough, I located this recipe for Johnny Cakes, which has no frills, but I feel that is more appropriate to have a simple meal since our family is not wealthy now, nor would likely have enjoyed the luxuries of wealth had we lived in an earlier time period. I adapted the recipe to be dairy free:
Allergy Friendly Johnny Cakes Recipe- A recipe early settlers with limited supplies could make even if they were lacking the sugar (can be omitted) or milk (can sub more water)
2 cups fine ground white or yellow cornmeal (yellow looks more appealing IMO)
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups boiling water
approx. 1/2 cup almond or rice milk
oil or butter substitute for frying in (you will need generous amounts, butter substitute is recommended over oil as it will add some flavor to the otherwise very bland johnny cakes)
1. Stir together cornmeal, sugar and salt. Stir in boiling water to form a paste.
2. Gradually add milk while stirring until you have a thin mashed potato consistency.
3. Melt generous amount of butter substitute (or pour oil) onto cast iron pan or griddle. Scoop a Tablespoon or so of batter onto the pan and use the back of the spoon to spread it out to 2-3" diameter. Allow to cook until browning at edges before flipping over (much of the middle will cook when browning the first side, so it will take less time to cook the second side) and browning the second time. If they are coming out with uncooked centers, you need to reduce your heat and let them cook a bit longer before flipping them. Add more butter substitute as often as necessary to be sure they are able to soak some up while cooking and not stick during frying.
4. Serve with butter substitute or plain with most meals as a biscuit, would pair well with any meal you would usually eat cornbread with. I found them very bland, my family enjoyed them (likely because of the excitement of eating something so 'old fashioned').
Succotash - Grown with the "Three Sisters" (beans, squash, corn) Native Americans planted together and taught early settlers how to plant
The simplest recipe:
1 butternut squash, 2 cans corn kernels, 1 bag frozen lima beans, butter substitute, salt & pepper to taste
Peel, remove seeds, and chop into cubes one butternut squash. Put the squash cubes into a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer until cubes are tender. When squash is tender, add 2 cans of corn kernels and frozen lima beans. Allow to cook until corn and lima beans are tender. Drain water and top with butter substitute, salt & pepper to taste.
There are some recipes that add in tomatoes, and some even fancier ones (probably tastier!) that have ham and seasonings, but they don't include the squash like the basic simple, recipe above. It's up to you which one you choose to serve, and you can always serve baked butternut as a side dish. Just wash the squash, chop it in half lengthwise (might want to knock the stem off first for easier cutting), scoop out the seeds and bake it on a baking sheet cut side down for 30-50 minutes at 350 degrees until it is tender when pierced with a fork. The longer you cook it, the softer/mushier it will get. I throw a piece of parchment paper under mine for easy cleanup. We bring the whole cookie sheet to the table, flip the squash cut side up, scoop out what we want and add our own substitute butter.
Don't feel the pressure to be fancy, we make the simplest ones for the experience of what it would have been like to eat without all the frills (ketchup, garlic powder, etc, etc) available to us these days. Likewise, if you feel making the simple recipe would result in great waste, and want to go the extra mile- feel free!
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds- While many modern Americans use whole pumpkins primarily for decoration, the "waste not, want not" attitude of olden days can be demonstrated to students in many ways today. This recipe can use the seeds from a carving pumpkin or pie pumpkin.
The simplest recipe:
Prepare the seeds by scooping them out of the pumpkin, rinsing them and picking out any orange fleshy strings that are attached. Dry them by spreading out on a paper towel for a few hours. Then remove the damp paper towels and let them dry overnight in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
Lightly toss seeds with oil, adding just enough to coat seeds while stirring (so add it slowly!). Alternately, you could spray the cookie sheet with oil spray, then layer the seeds and spray them thoroughly. Shake salt heavily over them (it won't likely stick if you add it after, and much may fall off on the pan) and bake at 250 degrees, stirring every 10 minutes, until lightly browned. This can take anwhere from 30 min to an hour. I take them out when I first see a few starting to brown. Allow to cool before tasting. (They crisp up)
More involved recipes usually call for butter, but you can use a butter substitute that you like the flavor of. For really flavorful ones that may remind you of chex mix, try using the following seasoning per 1 1/2 cups of raw seeds:
4 Tbsp. butter substitute
1/8 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 drops hot sauce
1/4 tsp seasoning salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp celery salt
1/8 tsp salt
Corn tortillas and Fresh Salsa- Studying the Spanish settlements or South and Central American groups?
With only 2 ingredients and a cast iron pan, you can make fresh corn tortillas! Check out the recipe with great reviews here!
Fresh Pico de Gallo is a simple salsa that would be very kid friendly to make. As long as you don't have a genetic aversion to cilantro that makes it taste like dish soap, you should be able to customize this recipe to fit your palate.
Kettle Corn (Popcorn)- Why all the corn in these recipes? Scholars believe corn (and popcorn) originated in the Americas. Read "Popcorn: Ingrained in America's Agricultural History" to glean some additional facts to share with students.
We make kettle corn often, but we do not add sugar to ours. Here's a recipe utilizing sugar. If you want to omit the sugar, follow the same instructions, but know that it is NOT as urgent to shake the pot constantly if you're not using the sugar (attend it and give it a few shuffles, but not the end of the world if you set it down a bit). Also, we don't bother spreading our kettle corn out on a cookie sheet to cool. We just dump it into a large bowl and dig in. There is a knack for getting to be able to do it consistently with most all the kernels popped and no burnt ones, but the learning curve is not huge and it's a forgiving process.
Pea Soup- Pea soup has been around a long, long time. A chef in Canada traced pea soup all the way back to French explorer Samuel de Champlain. Listen to a 4 minute interview and see some additional recipes here.
Simpler recipes don't call for ham, many call for potatoes and carrots which are not necessary but give a nice texture to an otherwise baby-food consistency soup. The bare bones-basic pea soup will have onions, soup, water/broth and salt, it will be mostly flavorless. I suggest going the extra mile and adding carrots (at least) and some spices. We often omit the potatoes, it is a versatile soup and IMO tastes best with ham involved. Here is a good recipe to try out if you don't want to use ham. This recipe utilizes ham for flavor but leaves out the carrots and potatoes (don't use the butter for sauteeing, just use a preferred oil).
Pumpkin Bread- This article explains that America's first folk song "New England Annoyances" includes a verse about how MANY pumpkins early Settlers ate. While this may have been dull, it was nourishing when other crops failed.
Here is the recipe we use to make pumpkin bread, muffins/cupcakes OR cookies! The hands-down best pumpkin pie recipe we have found is here, and I have served it to individuals with no food allergies who DIDN'T like traditional pumpkin pie and they loved this.
Julienne Soup- "Julienne" is a French word describing how to cut vegetables into a small, thin match-stick like shape. Julienne soup was popular enough to make it into early cookbooks in France with Americans writing about the new dish.
The idea behind the soup is simple enough, cut various vegetables, such as turnips and carrots into julienne sticks. Add some petite crescent slices of celery and chop thin French beans to 1-2" and if you desire. Put them into a clear vegetable stock. You may desire to use a beef or chicken stock instead, just make sure that if you use unsalted stock you add salt to taste. Bring these up to a low simmer until vegetables are tender. You can toss in a handful of small peas for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking.
This should be a quick soup, one that would've been easily made from a summer or fall garden and the pantry staple of stock.
"Bullets in a Pot" (Beans)- During WWI, dried beans from farmers were sent along supply lines to feed soldiers. Do you think soldiers enjoyed flavorful, varied menus?
Allergy Friendly Potato Soup- My grandmother lived through the Great Depression and she often made potato soup by peeling and chopping potatoes and cooking them slowly in milk. It was served with a dollop of butter and salt and pepper.
I have dressed up the recipe a bit by adding sausage, but that is completely optional and easy to omit. I missed the recipes my Grandmother made, so I found ways to adapt Potato Soup to our diet. We love this hearty soup that would likely be considered a chowder in consistency. If you're studying Norway, or how immigrants brought traditional foods with them, you may want to check out my post for gluten-free, dairy-free lefse. This is not an easy project for beginners, and although I gave the most thorough instructions possible (my grandma taught me to make Norweigan lefse before she passed away), lefse is often more successful when cooked with a another party experienced in making it.
Additional recipes- I am adding recipes that can be made gluten, dairy, egg free to my board "Elementary American History" on Pinterest. It has taken me a while to sift through and find them, so if I can save you some time by sharing links, I want to do so!
"Lights for Minneapolis" is #27 in The American Adventure Series. It is set in 1881 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The events and individuals covered in this book include James Hill (Head of the Great Northern Railroad) and the controversy and benefits of bringing electric lights into Minneapolis. Character issues brought up in this book included: learning to hear both sides of an argument, how to respectfully work through a difficult teen-parent relationship (or older child/preteen), acting out when you're upset and the consequences, and more.
I cannot say how impressed I am with the books in this series. We continue to be fascinated by the way history is brought to life in meaningful way that promotes curiosity and conversation and my children have also had the opportunity to gain empathy and wisdom when discussing the character issues addressed. Honestly, there is more substance for education in these books than in many curriculum lessons I've seen on the topics. I absolutely recommend these books to homeschoolers or others wanting their children to experience rich literature at a young age. Set the bar high for the books they read, it shapes them!
This book didn't have any content that was too advanced or intense for my sensitive and 4 year old boys and it provided a lot of food for thought for my 4th grade son as well. I live in MN and did not know much of the history presented in the books which are set in Minneapolis in this series. It's been a great learning experience for all of us and it's so enjoyable the kids think of it as story time rather than school time.
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I am not much of a blog reader. There's only a couple I check on occasion:
Love this girl's writing... feels like she's a long distance friend. Well, her sister is my long-distance friend, so that probably helps. Either way, what an inspiration and encouragement- you just need to check out some of the places life has taken Leah and be strengthened and inspired by the love that oozes (yes, oooozes) from her heart for Jesus, His people and His creation!
If you like nummy recipes, or have special dietary needs (or both!) check it out. ALL of her recipes are Vegan, and many can be made gluten-free. I stumbled upon it when searching for dairy/egg free treats to make for my kiddo and have gotten hooked on several recipes. Okay, "hooked on" doesn't portray it well enough. How about "addicted to"? That's more fitting. Will definitely be going back for more!