Help! I'm Home Schooling!
Here’s some advice for parents who suddenly find themselves home-schooling their kids. This is a secret that librarians and teachers have known for years.
One of the most enjoyable and effective ways for students (and teachers) to learn is through stories. Specifically, school subjects come to life in the pages of historical fiction.
Here are some examples, including study guides, from my own books.
Topics: the Scopes trial, the teaching of evolution, dealing with doubt
We meet thirteen-year-old Frances Robinson, a fictionalized version of the real-life Frances Robinson, who in 1925 has a front-row seat at the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial. Her father owns the town drugstore and helps to dream up the trial as a way of revitalizing their struggling town. The plan backfires, and the “trial of the century” is splashed across the nation’s newspapers, featuring Clarence Darrow, William Jennings Bryan, and H.L. Mencken.
The Year of the Bomb
Topics: the McCarthy era, the nature of science, 1950s horror movies, coping with fear
The year is 1955, and there’s nothing that Paul and his best friends Oz, Arnie, and Crank love more than horror movies. So when Invasion of the Body Snatchers starts filming in their small California town, they couldn’t be more excited. But when their acquaintance with Laura and Darryl, extras in the movie, leads to physicist Richard Feynman, who they suspect may be an atomic spy, Paul is afraid they’re in too deep. It's not a horror movie anymore—this is real life.
Lord of the Mountain
Topics: the Depression, the roots of country music, the meaning of home
Ever since Nate Owens saw a needle glide across a 78-rpm record, he’s been fascinated by the science and beauty of music. Now it’s the summer of 1927. Music producer Ralph Peer is coming to Nate’s hometown of Bristol, Tennessee, and there’s no way Nate is going to miss the chance to be there. The only problem is, Nate’s preacher father hates music—forbidding it in his home and his church. Set during the “big bang” of country music, this novel tells one boy’s journey of self-discovery at a moment when an entire region was finding its voice for the first time.
Night on Fire
Topics: the Freedom Riders, Civil Rights history, recognizing our flaws and strengths
In 1961, thirteen-year-old Billie Simms doesn’t think her hometown of Anniston, Alabama, should be segregated, but few of the town’s residents share her opinion. As the Civil Rights movement gathers momentum, Billie can’t help but feel stuck—and helpless—in a town too set in its ways to realize that the world is passing it by. So when Billie learns that the Freedom Riders, a group of activists riding interstate buses to protest segregation, will be traveling through Anniston on their way to Montgomery, she thinks that change may finally be coming.
Room of Shadows
Topics: Edgar Allan Poe, dealing with anger
There’s something odd about the house David Cray and his mom moved into following his parents’ split. Sure, it’s old and battered and a little off kilter, but that’s not all. With so many nooks and crannies, it seems like the walls were built to keep things hidden—or maybe from getting out. David begins to notice connections between terrible events happening around town and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Has David unleashed a dark force by opening the room? Or has the room awakened something in David that he would rather not face?