This is the fifth installment of the Tressays Virtual Homeschool Convention.
I didn’t know what I wanted to write about today. We are getting to the subjects which are not my favorite and which I teach with much less confidence. We all have those subjects. The ones we don’t like. The ones we struggled with in school. History is one of mine.
I didn’t struggle with History. As a kid, I never saw the point. I crammed the day or two before the test, memorized all the dates, took the test, and promptly forgot it all. I mentioned my 9th grade World History class yesterday. In that class, I also had to write two large research papers. I wrote one on Ancient Egypt and one on Ancient Greece. We spent weeks in the library researching for these papers we all had to do. I think back and realize that these reports were really just away for Mr. W to get out of teaching. I learned a lot in the library during those weeks, and it wasn’t about ancient civilizations.
So if we can’t send to the kids to library everyday and call it history, how then should we go about it?
Well, there is the classical way to teach history. Susan Wise Bauer does a great job of explaining classical education in her book The Well-Trained Mind. If I were to give you a general summary with the way I understand it , I would tell you to teach history chronologically in 4 years increments. Repeat. Repeat again. In grades 1-4 you teach a general overview of the history. In grades 5-6 you do it again asking more questions. And in the high school years, you do it again. This time with rhetoric. In high school, you ask the kids to think about what they have learned.
For example, in the grammar stage (1-4) you could read all about the Revolutionary War. Maybe color a picture. Or not. Have the kids write a narration of a couple of sentences. In the Logic stage (5-6) the kids would read about it. Again. They would need to go deeper. Learn the players. The reasons behind the war. The major dates. The end. The winner. All that good stuff. In the rhetoric stage (9-12), the kids would study it again. In a perfect world, they would remember all the stuff they learned about in the logic stage. Instead of learning it all again, they could instead answer the question, “Was the Revolutionary War a just war?”
Like I said. In a perfect world.
I am not familiar with the Charlotte Mason method of studying history. After a quick google search I found that is seems similar, but more gentle. I will let you google it for yourself. It seems there are many websites that have schedules written out and book lists for you.
There are so many books out there to help you study history. Different curriculums to help you make your way chronologically in 4 years. Which one should you use? Should you use any at all? What to do? What to do?
I am just going to write about my experiences with history. It isn’t real pretty, if I am going to be honest with you.
We started with Story of the World when my kids were in 1st and 3rd grade. We worked through it minimally together. They didn’t hate it, but they didn’t love it either. My son took the book from me and read the entire thing by himself. After that he wasn’t interested in it much. He was ready to move on. But no! We couldn’t do that. We had to do it together! He was only in 3rd grade. I should have taken a giant chill pill and should have let him read whatever history he wanted. My daughter, who was in first grade at the time, remembered none of the history she had learned. All that time! All those coloring pages! Yesterday when I brought down the Egyptian cat, she didn’t even remember making it. Freckle Face was 1 during that year. I was busy. My husband was finishing the last bit of his sea duty on the USS Kennedy. I was tired. Why, oh why, did I stress about history? It was because The Well-Trained Mind told me to. I wanted well educated children and this was how to do it.
Instead, I wish I would have read to the kids. Maybe done a narration. I could have focused on ancient history, but I could have skipped all over the place. It wouldn’t have mattered. I should have let it be fun. Early elementary school history is not rocket science. The other thing I would do is teach my kids a few important dates. Not because I think it is necessary at this age, but to keep the Nosey Nellies standing in line with me at the grocery store at bay. You know the ones that I am talking about. The Nellies that think it is their job to make sure you are educating your kids. “What day was the Declaration of Independence signed? Hmmmm?” Oh, those people! I am not witty enough or brave enough to keep those people at bay. It is just easier to have a few tools in my arsenal.
As the kids move into the later elementary years, it is time to start paying a little more attention to history. You can study in chronologically if you want. Or not. I do like the idea of studying history as a “whole picture”. Even in 1775, the United States was influenced by events happening in other countries. I like the idea of a timeline. We tried to work on one. It was one of those things that got pushed to the side as we had less and less time. I am thinking about starting one with Freckle Face. Maybe we can complete just one timeline. That would be nice, but I am not going to break down if we don’t get to it.
In high school, I think it is important that kids learn to write about history. The sad fact is that you are never going to cover all of history. Never. Let me say that again. There is no way that you will be able to cover everything that happened in history. You are going to have holes. This is why I think it is most important that the kids learn how to read it, interpret it, and write about it. I am not sure if I am doing a good job or not. I pray that I am. Time will tell, I suppose.
Do you know what I find most frustrating about history? It is so open to interpretation. There is always a slant. It could be Christian, non-Christian, liberal, conservative, environmental or whatever. It drives me bonkers. Primary documents really are the way to go when studying history in high school. Do I do that? hahahaha! No. I would like to have a life outside of homeschooling. Can we read a few of them? Sure. I had a website, that I can not find now, that outlined how to read a primary resource document. This one is simliar and will give you a good start.
Here is a nice link to some primary documents in United States History. That is just a beginning. If you are independently wealthy you can purchase primary resource document from Jackdaw publications. The resources on the internet seem limitless. If you are creative and enjoy planning, you could create your history study. Just be sure to post it somewhere and link back here, so we can all benefit from it. Just kidding. Kind of.
This past year I purchased the Abeka United States History textbook. My kids hated it. I mean hated it. My oldest frequently came to me frustrated with the slant he found in that book. My daughter would read it only when prodded and threatened with removal of the TV. I wish I could tell you that we had a good year. We didn’t. I am hoping this year is better.
Side note (and I am not even kidding):Freckle Face just asked me who fired the first shots in the Revolutionary War. Fortunately, Matthew is up and was able to answer the question for me. I guess all is not lost.