It has been a while since I've written about what we're doing in Canadian history. Last year I began using Canada, A People's History by Don Gillmor, Achille Michaud & Pierre Turgeon as my "spine" for my students in grades 6 and 8. I would normally recommend it for grades 7 or 8 and up through high school, but I had a precocious student in grade 6.
You may be familiar with Canada, A People's History as a video series put out by CBC TV. I believe the books are meant as a companion to the videos, but they easily stand on their own as "living books" on Canadian history. They are well-written and incorporate many first-hand accounts into the story. They are also well-illustrated with relevant art and photographs. They are in print, and very easy to find used at thrift stores.
This past year we were studying the time period between 1650 and 1800, so we began with "The Golden Age of New France" (Volume 1, page 75) to partway through "A Question of Loyalties" (we ended at page 162). Because we have three terms of 10 weeks each, and one 30-minute period per week for Canadian history (not counting supplemental reading of biographies and historical novels), I divided those pages by 30 to get our average weekly page count. My boys worked mostly independently, reading silently and then giving a written or oral narration.
This coming school year our time period is 1800-1900, and the page count (Volume 1 p. 162-292 and Volume 2 p. 1-50) is too high for the amount of time we have for it. I decided to skip "Journey to the Sea" (p. 180-216) because my boys have already covered the material fairly thoroughly using another book for Canadian geography (Five Roads to the Pacific by Neta Lohnes Frazier). It may still be a little much to cover in one study period per week, so we may have to adjust as we go along.
Please note that I have not read the parts of these volumes that I haven't specifically mentioned. As always, pre-read (or at least pre-skim!). These books are idea-rich and there are many things that you may wish to discuss with your students.
About half way through last school year, we started to watch the corresponding videos on YouTube with the whole family on Fridays, and we all really enjoyed that as a recap of our studies in Canadian history. While my younger students had been using other books, they were studying the same time period in history so they found the videos relevant to their studies as well. (Please note that there are battle scenes, so they may not be suitable for sensitive children.)
Some of you may wish to know how this compares with other Canadian history spines generally used around this age. I don't have many on my shelves, but I can compare briefly with Janet Lunn and Christopher Moore's The Story of Canada (often used around grade 6) and Robert Bothwell's The Penguin History of Canada (often used in high school).
Lunn and Moore's The Story of Canada is similar in beauty and illustration to Canada: A People's History. I think the reading level is very similar, but CaPH is considerably expanded both in length and in interest because of the first-hand accounts that are incorporated. If you have a grade 6 or 7 student that is a bit bored with SoC, you may find that CaPH will rekindle their interest. On the other hand, if you need less reading for a slower reader, SoC may be more suitable to your needs.
Unlike CaPH, Bothwell's The Penguin History of Canada is not illustrated and is not as immediately attractive as CaPH. The reading level of PHoC is higher, while still being engaging and rich in ideas. High school students who have grown up with the types of books in the Ambleside Online or the CMEC curricula will have no problem with PHoC. My own tentative plan for my oldest is to continue to use CaPH through grade 10, then switch to PHoC for grades 11 and 12. (I say tentative because I would like to look at the Ambleside Online recommended Short History of Canada by Desmond Morton before I decide.) However, I do think CaPH is robust enough to use through the end of high school if you only have time for one, or if history is not your student's first love and you want to stick with a colourful, high interest option.
I would love to hear what you have chosen for Canadian History in the upper grades, so please comment!