When studying California history in school, one usually begins with the various Native American tribes, moves on to the Spaniards and missions, then the Gold Rush, and boom, we’re a state. While the chronological approach has value, perhaps finding a jumping-off point for delving into our great state’s history would be more interesting to you and your children.
One recommended approach is starting with the California state flag: the Bear Flag. With just a little research, reading, and perhaps a field trip, a variety of learning angles quickly arise: history, politics, regional conflicts, ecology, non-native invasive "species" (Europeans and Americans, in this case), symbolism, and flag etiquette, for starters.
Start by either getting a picture of or acquiring an actual state flag. Why do we have a bear on it? What kind of bear is that? Why does the flag have “California Republic” on it? Why is there a single red star? All of these questions are lead-ins to a fascinating study. (You will not find answers here—this is a homeschooling column, not a school column—but you will find links to resources.)
Books you may want to read are:Rosie and the Bear Flag, by Harry Knill: The story of the Bear Flag from the end of the Spanish rule through the joining with the United States, as seen through the eyes of young Rosalie Leese, who was there.
Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California, by Christopher Buckley and Gary Young: Featuring over 90 poets from California, about California
California - A Place, a People, a Dream : A Journey Through California History, by Claudia K. Jurmain, James J. Rawls, Oakland Museum: A “panoramic view of the California dream from miwok baskets to silicon chips.”
To add music to your studies, listen to some of the many songs written about California. Did you know that California has an official state song? It’s not “California Here I Come.” Ever hear of “I Love You, California”?
For more field trip ideas,check out GHF's Virtual Field Trips page.
As a side note, learning about our state flag fulfills requirement 2d (“Learn about the flag of your state or territory and how to display it/”) for the Wolf Badge in Cub Scouts. Going to a local history museum and walking around the area with your family fulfills requirement 10c (“Plan a walk. Go to a park or a wooded area, or visit a zoo or museum with your family.”). If you can add a city hall, justice building, or other historic location to your tour, you will complete requirement 4f (“Visit an important place in your community, such as a historic or government location. Explain why it is important.”).
Learn about the good, the bad, and the ugly of California: all by looking at our flag.
Article by Sarah J. Wilson
Article by Sarah J. Wilson