Knowledge Keepers books are the perfect addition to any homeschool history curriculum! As the collection grows and homeschoolers increasingly desire to use real, living books to teach their children, they want idea for adding these amazing books to their lesson plans.
Knowledge Keepers Books
What are Knowledge Keepers books? These are books that I have found by looking for old, out-of-print titles that tell us original accounts of American History. They feature diaries, letters, autobiographies, biographies written by people who were there, and firsthand accounts of some very exciting events.
This is the most interesting and accurate way to know history, and I couldn’t resist bringing these incredible true stories back to life, and in an affordable printed form for home libraries.
What is the reading level of Knowledge Keepers Books?
Each book is unique in its writing style, because each one was written anywhere between 1492 and 1918. As you might imagine, there is a lot of variety in style, language, sentence usage, and sometimes even spelling! Reading old books sometimes means reading sentences that are entire paragraph long! If you’ve ever read George Washington’s writing, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Since children are so widely varied in their reading ability, even within a grade level, I will not attempt to assign grade levels to these books. Instead, I’ll generalize with elementary, middle, and high school. You will know what your child’s ability is. Additionally, each book has sample pages in its listing to read. These will give you a good idea of what to expect.
Where can I buy Knowledge Keepers books?
Currently, I carry a limited inventory at KnowledgeKeepersBookstore.com. They are all readily available on Amazon, as well, with free Prime shipping.
If you’re in North Carolina (near King or Statesville) you can buy in person at Gullion’s Christian Supply Center!
How to use Knowledge Keepers Books with your homeschool curriculum
I have been a big fan of reading living books with our history curriculum for many years. Any homeschool parent, with any curriculum plan, and any list of books, can create a beautiful book-centered education at home. I believe it is the stories and facts in living books that bring a textbook lesson to life and allow a student to know and understand so much more than a chapter in a history book allows.
If your lesson plan only allows for one day or two on a particular person or event, please understand that it’s okay to revamp your schedule. Many curriculum plans assume you will fly through history with little tidbits about everything and little depth about anything. But this is not necessary! Pause your lesson plan and dive into a book! Get to know the great people of history (and the terrible ones, too) and you’ll accomplish much more than checking off boxes.
What does that look like? Well, it varies from family to family. For instance, a book about George Washington could be read during history lessons that cover all of the 1700s. We did this very thing a few years ago. In this case, you need not stop your lesson plans.
In other cases, you might stop where you are in the lesson plans and jump into a unit study on the person or event in the book. Read the book a little each day, and explore all of the topics included.
Whether you read aloud to all of your children at once (this is my usual method) or assign the books to be read by your children, they can easily fit into any history curriculum.
Download this guide in PDF form here:
Knowledge Keepers Study Guides
Some of the Knowledge Keepers books include a free, printable study guide. (If you don’t print at home, I have an affordable option to purchase a printed copy.) These guides are written for “whole family” use, the way we homeschool in our house. That means that there is usually something for every age. They include a bit of geography, vocabulary, research, and some copy work.
On KnowledgeKeepersBookstore.com, you’ll find a page called “Bonus Links.” These are pages dedicated to even more extracurricular fun with the study guides. If there are good videos, free printables, or book recommendations, you’ll find all of those links available in one place.
Knowledge Keepers American History Books
I’m listing these in chronological order to make it easier for you to plan!
1492: Christopher Columbus – His Story and His Journals
Christopher Columbus is incredibly misrepresented today, and it’s because almost no one has read his own story. His journals are amazing, and it’s such a sad commentary on education today that rarely anyone is acquainted with them. This book is two in one: a biography of Columbus written by a popular historian of the 19th century, and the actual journals. The biography quotes heavily from the journals, as you will see.
You can use this book as its own study with the free printable guide, or add it to your world or American history. Columbus was one of many explorers of that age, so it would also be a great book for a world explorers study.
The biography (Part 1) is a great read-aloud, and could be easy reading for upper elementary to high school. The journals (Part 2) are a bit harder for young children, but a little skimming here and there might still be in order. High schoolers should find the journals readable.
1524: Valiant Navigators – Sailors’ Narratives
After Columbus found the New World, navigation up and down the coast exploded! This book contains several journals and reports of the men who attempted to find the same path to the Orient that Columbus was seeking, as well as those who began searching for new locations to colonize. Get descriptions of the New World and exciting stories of adventure straight from the men who sailed the Atlantic coast of New England!
Valiant Navigators covers 100 years of exploration history, before the period of settlement was in full swing. It’s world history and American history, and makes a great accompaniment to a study of explorers, the Renaissance, and early American history.
Much of the language is old fashioned (much of it was revised from Elizabethan English), so it’s sometimes slow reading. Recommended for high school independent reading, but it’s interesting enough to read aloud to the whole family.
1620: The First Year at Plymouth Plantation
This is a genuine piece of American history, straight from the pen of two of the Pilgrim Fathers, William Bradford and Edward Winslow. Long known as “Mourt’s Relation,” this is a journal of the Pilgrims written between November 1620 and November 1621, and includes details about the Mayflower Compact, the search for a location, relations with Indians, friendship with Squanto, building the town, and many more adventures.
Written in the Old English style of the Pilgrims, but not difficult upper elementary ages and up!
1620: Miles Standish – Puritan Captain
The story of the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth is another that is often grossly revised. This story is told through the eyes of their captain, Miles Standish. It was written by another prominent author of the 19th century, John S.C. Abbott. He draws heavily from Pilgrim diaries and letters, as well as Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford.
This one is a good read-aloud when studying the early settlements of the colonies, or during the month of November when celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. It should be easily read by middle and high school students.
The Life of George Washington by John Marshall
Originally published in 1804, this is an incredible piece of American history! This is part a 5-part biography of George Washington, written by John Marshall, a man who grew up with and knew Washington. They both fought in the War of the Revolution together, and after America won its independence, Marshall served as Washington’s Attorney General. He was specifically chosen by the Washington family to write this biography after the death of George Washington in 1799.
Part 1: Prelude to Independence -In this first volume, we have what Marshall calls “an introduction, containing a compendious view of the colonies planted by the English on the continent of north America, from their settlement to the commencement of that war which terminated in their independence.” With scant mention of Washington, it instead sets the stage for his greatness by describing the events of the American colonies from 1495 to 1775. Marshall lays the groundwork for the time when Washington would take his place in history. From the discovery of the North American continent by Cabot, through the various charters and settlements all along the Atlantic coast, to the French and Indian War, and into the American Revolution, Marshall illustrates to readers which events, both large and small, led to the eventual breaking free from Britain.
Part 2: War in the Colonies – The story of George Washington is the story of American independence, and this biography illustrates that perfectly. War in the Colonies is the 2nd volume of The Life of George Washington written by Revolutionary war hero and Supreme Court Justice John Marshall. It spans the years 1732 – 1778, from the birth of Washington to the thick of the war for independence. Having set the stage in Volume 1 (Prelude to War) with a history of the colonies, Marshall now focuses on George Washington’s role in those famous events.
1771: Iroquois Handbook
I was so excited when I found this old book! Originally published in 1818 as HISTORY, MANNERS, AND CUSTOMS of The Indian Nations WHO ONCE INHABITED PENNSYLVANIA AND THE NEIGHBOURING STATES by the REV. JOHN HECKEWELDER OF BETHLEHEM, PA. Reverend Heckewelder lived with the Iroquois for thirty years, beginning in 1771, as a missionary. He loved them and learned all of their customs, and was finally commissioned by the U.S. Government to write down everything he knew about them. This book was the result.
Not only does it have a wonderfully categorized set of chapters on every aspect of the Iroquois life, the preface and beginning chapter give a very detailed and educating description of their geographical movements and their language.
I don’t have a printed study guide for this one yet, but I do have a link to a study on the French and Indian War that goes perfectly with this book. These are the tribes that were a part of that time in American history. This is a must-have for a 1700’s American history study!
The language in this book is a bit more old-fashioned, so I would suggest reading aloud in short spurts, or assigning it to an aggressively interested upper elementary student or higher.
1776: Able and Mighty Men – The Biographies of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence
Originally published in 1838, it features the biographies of every man who signed the Declaration of Independence, as well as George Washington and Patrick Henry. The author, L. Carroll Judson, knew or met almost every single man in this book. It is such a treasure! Not only is each biography included, but with each one, Judson describes the traits that were so necessary to produce such men. Also included are the first draft and final draft of the Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution (at 1838), and George Washington’s Farewell Address.
The writing style is quite old-fashioned, but not difficult. It’s educational to read the way our forefathers wrote! Independent reading by upper elementary to high school is recommended, but these are good enough to read aloud to the whole family!
- Order at KnowledgeKeepersBookstore.com
- Order at Amazon
- Get the Declaration of Independence Study Guide here
1842: True Stories of Nebraska Pioneers
A book of selections from COLLECTION OF NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES, updated with photographs, biographies, and obituaries of many of the pioneers. Originally published in 1916, this Book of Nebraska Pioneer Reminiscences was issued by the Daughters of the American Revolution of Nebraska, and:
“dedicated to the daring, courageous, and intrepid men and women—the advance guard of our progress—who, carrying the torch of civilization, had a vision of the possibilities which now have become realities.“
Most of the stories are easy reading for all ages, with a few written in a more old-fashioned style. Each story is unique!
1852: Diary of a New York Girl
In 1852, a young New York girl began keeping a journal of everyday happenings in the village of Canandaigua. For 20 years, she noted ordinary and extraordinary events, including school days, social outings, the American Civil War, the assassination of President Lincoln, and attending the speeches and sermons of famous personages. The diary was originally published 1913 as Village Life in America. This edition has been reformatted and includes new footnotes and information about the author and her family, as well as the First and Second Inaugural Addresses of President Abraham Lincoln. It’s an amazing piece of history written by an average citizen of the 19th century.
Great for all ages!
1861: General Lee, Southern Commander
As with many important figures in our history, Lee has been reduced to a racist, Confederate-flag-waving villain in the popular culture. The only way this could happen is for generations to have grown up not knowing or caring about his life and work, and those of many of our founders.
General Lee, Southern Commander combines two out-of-print history books into one volume: It includes a biography of Lee, originally published (with the General’s permission) in 1876, as well as a wonderful collection of letters published by his son and fellow Confederate soldier, Captain Robert E. Lee, Jr., in 1923.
A perfect addition to your Civil War study. Great for middle and high school reading.
Memories of a Trailblazer: Seventy Years on the Frontier by Alexander Majors
This is such a great book covering a wide swath of western expansion. From 1820 in Saint Louis to 1890 and many adventures across the western states, Alexander Majors blends eyewitness history with geography and little bit of animal and plant science! He founded the Pony Express, led freight wagons on the Santa Fe Trail, fought in the Mexican American War, witnessed the Mormon migration to Salt Lake City, dabbled in gold and silver mining, and much more!
The chapters are short and easy to read, so I recommend this for upper elementary and up!
- Order at Knowledge Keepers
- Order on Amazon
1865: Autobiography of a Mississippi Slave
If you are studying slavery in America, read the firsthand account of Louis Hughes, who was born into slavery in Virginia in 1832, and gained his freedom at the end of the Civil War. He tells a gripping story of life and servitude on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, and inside the family’s mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.
Hughes describes the role of slaves inside the house and in the fields, the treatment from his masters, how holidays were celebrated, how food was provided and clothing was made, life in Memphis just before the war, and so many other details of this sad time in our history. You will cheer him on in his multiple attempts at escape to the North, and celebrate as he gains his ultimate freedom on the 4th of July.
Suitable for all ages. There are a few descriptions of whippings of slaves, and a couple of casual uses of the “n” word. It is not violent, just straightforward.
1865: Freighters and Pilgrims – Two Stories of Western Immigration
In 1865, a young man and a young woman headed west, like thousands of other pioneers. They never met, but they traveled roughly the same path on the Oregon Trail as so many others that summer. This book is actually two books in one: the report of Charles E. Young and his travels to Denver with a freight team, and the daily diary of Sarah Raymond Herndon, who traveled to Montana with a large wagon train.
Charles was only 19 years old when he and two friends decided to see what the west might hold for them. Adventures awaited in the form of mule teams, Indian attacks, blizzards, and treacherous mountain travels. In fact, he entitled his book “Dangers of the Trail in 1865.”
Sarah was 24 when she and her family joined a wagon train headed for California. They were part of a large party on the Oregon Trail. Their trip west was fairly pleasant and peaceful, with only some mild troubles here and there. Eventually, Sarah’s family and several others decided to make Montana their home, so they changed their route.
Both stories are true, firsthand accounts of the trip that so many Americans traveled over many decades of the 19 century to settle the West. These stories are the best way to really learn history!
Freighters and Pilgrims is the perfect supplement for studies of the Oregon Trail, especially with my free study guide!
1872: Up the Western Trail: The Log of a Cowboy
Up the Western Trail: The Log of a Cowboy is a true-to-life diary of a cattle drive in the heyday of the cowboy. Andy Adams gives mile-by-mile detail of a drive from the Rio Grande in Texas to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana, one of the longest cattle drives to be undertaken.
Adams wrote this from his decade of experience as a Texas cowboy and drover. In this tale, readers get a firsthand look at life on the trail, with all the hard work and some fun times, too. These cowboys took their herd up the Western Trail, crossing all manner of rivers and streams, meeting Comanches in Indian Territory, entertaining themselves in Dodge City and Ogallala, chasing multiple stampedes, and experiencing many other exciting adventures along the way.
Fun reading for all ages!
Order the Knowledge Keepers Homeschool Set, including all of the book, four printed study guides, and the Knowledge Keepers Homeschool guide.