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I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided and that is the lamp of experience.  I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.   –Patrick Henry

I hear from so many moms who dread history.  I remember taking it in school, and it was definitely on the bottom of my list of preferences!  Here are some thoughts that might help make it FUN! (If you are unfamiliar with the different learning stages, check out my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

History is the story of anything that has ever happened.  Science, art, music, religious history, family history all contribute to the history of the human family.

Use good books-real books-rather than textbooks for your history study.  Biographies, auto-biographies, family histories, scriptural history, historical fiction, maps; documents and speeches are great places to find inspiring and edifying stories.  Scour second-hand stores, grandma’s attic, sales, etc. for great finds.  Before you spend money, ask around or check resource lists to find history worth reading and re-reading.  Some older books may have uninspiring texts but wonderful pictures.  Save the pictures for a time line and discard the text.  Look at maps, atlases, photographs, literature, or the arts and music of the period and/or region you are studying, or the books will have great information but no illustrations.  Find related pictures in other books and combine them to help bring history alive.  Help your children see that all people are worth our understanding and respect.

Many have found it helpful to study history in a four year rotation.  Ancient history, medieval and renaissance/reformation, early modern history, late modern is a fairly common division.  Our family adds summer units on anything not given enough time during the school year.  Constitutional studies, worldviews, religious history are just a few things we have found can use extra attention.  Having a plan lessens the probability that one time period will be studied at the expense of another.  (i.e. American history without world history, or getting stuck on the Civil War and never moving on to the 20th Century, for example.)

All levels

Memorize poetry, speeches or short documents.   Perform scenes from history in period dress.

Play the games of previous eras.  Try foods from different ages and cultures.

Study the origins of the holidays we celebrate.  Study the special celebrations of other cultures and times.

Cook unfamiliar foods.  Listen to music that corresponds with what you are studying.  Learn to identify different cultures and periods through the senses.

Interview someone with a first-hand account of events you are studying.  The Depression, the Second World War, the home front during war-time.  Write it down!  Take pictures!  Or make up questions to ask those in the more distant past and research to find answers.  Hold a Q &A dressed in the costume of the time.  What did they learn?  What was hardest?  What do they miss?

Keep a written time line to help younger children understand the passage of time. (Grandpa, Martin Luther and George Washington did NOT all live at the same time.)  It also orders events as you learn, helps you understand how events relate to one another, and is a way to review what you have covered in a moment.

Discovery level

Dress up and re-enact famous (or not so famous) events of the past.

Read biographies.  Our children need more heroes!  We live in a day of celebrities; we need to find true heroes to learn about and emulate. Helping them see what made great people great can encourage correct choices and character development.  Help them start their autobiography.

Study maps of various times.  Draw some with changes in political divisions or include voyages, battles, etc.

Focus on the basics of the history.  Save negative or controversial topics for older learners!

Analysis level

Now is the time to begin writing papers and researching events in history.  Begin by aiming for two-three pages per week (or so) of researched, relevant, cohesive writing.

Look for documents, drawings, and maps in their original form.    Writing and printing changed over centuries.   Try reproducing some methods used in the past.

Study maps and geography as you study history.  Political boundaries change.  Our world evolves in surprising ways.

Outlining a short section of a book helps with study skills and retention.  The two page sections in a DK or Kingfisher History book are great for this.

Look at relationships between events in history.  Discuss how they interrelate.  (Example-the American, French and Russian Revolutions are all within a relatively short time.)

Have a history notebook with a time line and a place for longer reports and papers.

Get and use a copy of the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.  Definitions change with usage.  Some words fall out of use.  To read what Washington really meant in his Farewell Address you may well need it.  Scripture study reaches new depths as you use it!

Study current events.  Introduce the “tweenies” to the world around them and some of the issues they will face.

Remember how young these children are.  Use wisdom in introducing troubling events-the Holocaust, the terrors of war, the darker side of slavery, etc.-to your family.  It may be wiser to save these topics until your children are a little older.  There will be time.

Application level

Read primary sources from the various times and place.  Use an 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.

Read the literature, mythology, and poetry.  Read speeches and philosophy.  And talk, talk, talk.

Write papers using argument and opinion.  Learn to make comparisons and to express viewpoints with clarity.  Write a letter to the editor or become involved in cause you feel strongly about.

Learn about our Constitution, and the laws of other lands.  Read the Richard Maybury “Uncle Eric” books if you haven’t already.  Become aware of how government works and what our part is in it.  They’ll be voting soon.

This is the time for your adult-in-training to internalize the deeper lessons of history.

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