In high school, my American history class used Document Based Questions for tests. We were given two primary sources and had to write what we learned from them. I loved analyzing the journal entry and comparing it to a survey from the time. It was fascinating. I’ve been looking for an excuse to do this same idea for years, and finally, with this American Revolution unit I’m ready to go.
Before you can look at the causes of the American Revolution, you must know what Cause and Effect is
The first lesson in this unit had you go through and look at cause and effect in many different ways (types of effects and how many, different types of causes, long and short-term effects). Since we’ve been talking about cause and effect off and on for years and how history is one long cause and effect chain, they pulled in all sorts of random facts.
“The Seven Years War caused the American Revolution and French Revolution.” (They might have been listening to one of my recent discussions with Jeff for this one)
“The Protestant Reformation caused the Thirty Years War.”
“It was muddy so we didn’t go play outside.” I had to pull teeth to get a non-history related one. Which was kind of funny
Then we started working our way through immediate causes of the American Revolution
Quick note, if I’d had my way this unit would have started with the French and Indian War/Seven Years War. You need to understand the background of that to understand the reasoning behind all of the taxes Britain passed, but I have yet to see a unit starting there, they all start with the taxes with a quick note on the war.
The Causes of the American Revolution
The Stamp Act was a law passed on official papers if you wanted a bill of sale, a marriage license, any of those types of papers were now taxed.
British Response: the Stamp Act
This was our first primary document, and I wanted to see what the kids got out of it on their own, and I set them to studying it while I went grocery shopping.
I returned to some very confused kids, so the next morning we sat down and talked it all over. Going through what the reasons stated in the document were for, and why it was so important.
(Side note, I know I could probably find this and almost every other document featured in this unit online, but it was nice not to have to hunt for it and have all of the papers ready made for me)
American response to the Stamp Act
We read the Virginia resolution to the Stamp Act (this is my assumption, it’s not specifically labeled which colony this came from, but it’s similar to the Virginia resolution).
Slowly we started to see trends. The Americans were quite quick to claim their rights as Englishmen. You can practically feel the all capital letters as you read ENGLISHMEN in their response.
More acts passed and more unrest follows
And then because we’re talking 6th graders, not college students, we went through a quick overview of all of the acts passed. While it would have been fascinating to go through all of the acts one by one and the official response, I know my kid’s eyes would have glazed over. Instead, we built a chart of all the various acts Parliament passed, and the general response the Americans had to every act (which was pretty much “You can’t make me”).
The unrest builds towards the American Revolution
Next, we looked at the Boston Massacre and Paul Revere’s engraving. This was a big rallying point for the Colonials. I’ve got an in-depth post on this one event, so I’ll let you read that, rather than veer from this particular train of thought because I have my next primary document!
The Boston Tea Party
I find the Boston Tea Party hilarious. A bunch of grown men protest the tax break, because that’s what it was, when Britain gave an exclusive monopoly to the East India company, by dressing as Natives and throwing the tea into the harbor.
After they were done, they cleaned up the decks. Several primary sources include this detail, and I find that interesting. This was probably my favorite primary source because it had so many fun details in this letter. Let’s break down this letter.
Who was it written to? We don’t know, presumably someone on the Patriot’s side
When was it written? Right after the Boston Tea Party in 1773
What is going on at the time? There are many different protests going on over the taxes imposed by England.
Why is the letter written? To convince people the protest was done peacefully, without coercion, and will aid the Patriot cause
What happened next?
Well, that is going to be next week’s lessons in our house, but it’s going to start with the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and go from there. I’ve peeked ahead and there’s a whole slew of great primary sources for me to drool over. I can’t wait to see what we learn next.
They have several different units designed for grades 2-10. The program is designed for gifted students, and you can see that in how rigorous it is. As we did the material I left out half of the suggested activities because it would have overwhelmed my kids. I did some of these same activities in my honors high school classes.
On that note, if I was just teaching this and using it as both my writing/reading/history program it would have been fine. But at the time we were in the middle of several other projects that I could not stop. There was some amazing writing and reading assignments that I’m going to modify for use in another unit sometime because they are very well thought out.
I can also see this working wonderfully for a homeschool co-op. There were a couple of activities that we could not do as well because of number of students. As I read the lessons, I kept thinking, “I wish I had a homeschool co-op to complete this with because this is perfect for that.”
Actually, I might see if I can convince a few other families to join me for one on the Civil War next semester. This would make an amazing semester-long study on the causes and the repercussions. Because while the American Revolution sets up the inequalities that lead to the Civil War. The Civil War sets up most of the problems we are still dealing with today.