Quick! What is the most controversial class homeschooling parents must teach? Science or History? I think it is history! History and/or Social Studies are required subjects in every state in America. Like it or not, we must do it. Personally, I relish history. I enjoy the story telling. I enjoy learning about different cultures and places that I would love to see and experience. It is a thrill to travel and see the places I have studied—Hey! I do love to travel! Studying history and then going to see where it occurs takes travel to a higher level.
I also enjoy teaching my girls how to learn from history and apply it today. My girls are learning how to identify patterns in behavior through studying history. I go to great lengths to focus on the decisions made in history that have huge consequences. Even my six-year-old can tell you some of my pet phrases I have created showing how some decisions in history tend to repeat themselves often with dire consequences. I want my girls to have a love of history and a deep respect for people and events which happened in the past which impacts their lives today.
History and Social Studies are heavily dependent on interpretation which makes this one of the trickiest subjects I teach. I remember when I went to pick formal history and science curriculum when my eldest was in kindergarten. I thought science would be the harder one to pick because of my concerns with the evolution fairytale. I was shocked to learn that the history curriculum was the hardest to choose. I had to decide if I wanted to focus on history or on Social Studies which is the preferred topic of public schools. Why do they prefer Social Studies? They choose it because they can focus on groups and how they are the same and different rather than decisions, events, and outcomes. Therefore, political agendas of equalizing all groups yet recognizing group differences can be maintained and that some groups are more equal than others. Did you catch that? Politics drives the subject. If you were really looking closely at the last few sentences, you may have caught the racism inherently built into educational systems. Focusing on groups elevates and isolates groups. It also demotes groups. Focusing on decisions, events, and outcomes, focuses on patterns of behavior which can be repeated, or altered.
While you chew on that for a moment, add this to your plate: because the topics are so controversial and heavily dependent on interpretation, they rarely show up on the standardized tests to get into college or trade school. This idea alone, sends some homeschool parents running for the door to yell, “What’s the point!” I suggest you run to your bedroom and get on your knees and ask God what He thinks about it. It won’t take you long to determine that God focused on history not Social Studies. God focused on decisions, events, and outcomes. He rarely included dates. Christ liked to use His mega-wide angle lens to record some sections of the Bible, but He used His macro-lens and zoomed in close on individuals and how they lived their lives so we could learn from them. Since that is His view of history, we try to do something similar in our study. We also have lots of fun.
I have always used Mystery of History (MOH). I hope you find my review of MOH helpful. We started MOH when my eldest was in first grade. We did geography, map reading, biographies, and American holidays in kindergarten. A friend recommended we hold off with formal history curriculum until my second daughter was in “school” so that they could learn it together. This would also shield young eyes from the ravages of history which can be very bloody and inappropriate at times. Sometimes I wish I had heeded that advice. My youngest has heard things, even when glossed by me, that her sister never heard at her age. I sometimes wonder how it has impacted her life. I forged ahead because I really liked MOH and was looking into the future realizing that I had to move both of them forward even if the reality of history was distasteful. I have skipped some lessons in history that were not appropriate for young children--we can do that since we homeschool! I would have done this in any curriculum. I have used the extra CD with the coloring pages, note pages, and lapbooks with great success. The coloring pages are great to keep younger children engaged and older children’s hands moving who have the wiggles. The note pages come in a set for younger writers and older writers with a note page coordinated to every lesson. The lapbook is awesome! You can only purchase this CD at the publisher’s website. The series is designed to be used with a variety of ages at the same time. This is great if your kids are in different grades. The author even tells you how to adapt the curriculum for high school credit. There are fun activities for reinforcing learning. For those who give history tests, she has premade, cumulative tests that come with the books. Some people like to listen to the lessons being read to them in the car. I know one mom who gets her child with a reading disability to read the lesson text while listening to the CD to improve her reading comprehension of the material—that was smart!
No curriculum is perfect. One negative on the series is that this is a fast cruise through history chronologically. There is no stopping and delving into the details of any major event. For example, World War II, the actual war, not including all the events leading to the war, is 4 lessons. I find to compensate for the lack of depth, I choose biographies or time period books related to the lessons. I will provide more information on supplementing with books in a future post. A second criticism would be that a few activities for the younger children are lame. This never bothered me. I skipped them and either did the next activity or made my own. The last criticism is that the premade flashcards that are on the combination CD, are simplistic. There is only one fact on the card the size on a 3x5” index card. Most of the facts, I would never have chosen. I have never printed them. The extra CD with the lapbooks and note pages is not required to complete the curriculum. You only need the textbook and activity book. It even includes maps for geography. And for the cost conscious homeschool, this is designed to be used again—even three times to get through all grades. The activities and expectations change with the age of the child.
History comes alive when you engage all your senses and all your skills. For example, we have multiple cookbooks I have collected that let us eat the food from not only around the world, but also different time periods. I will cover that in a different post.
We also do a time line. I use pre-made drawings and the girls color them. Our time line is unusual. I will feature it in another post. I used a lot of the activities for the first two volumes. I used less due to time for the 3rd. It was also a second book that I refused to lug around. I have not used any of the activities for the 4th. I adapted Volume IV which is modern history with tons of war and inappropriate topics for young children by combining it with some emersion-style unit studies. We tacked on a unit from Currclick about “Women in History” and another “Famous People in History” lapbooks. When we skipped large sections of violent history, we would do these lessons on smaller, interesting topics.
During the Volume IV year, I also combined the reading of two of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and Prairie Primer materials as part of our read aloud time and history. I will also cover that experience in a separate post. I am planning on doing MOH a second time so that they get to add other interesting layers.
So, if history is not about passing the grand standardized tests created by people who do not know your child, why do it? One often overlooked reason you teach it is because you can teach your child a variety of reading, writing, and critical thinking skills in history that cannot be covered anywhere else. History is a great place to target narration skills critical for writing essays and research papers in the future. I started both girls’ narration skills primarily in retelling short books and history lessons. This was initially done orally. Now, they are written but at each girl’s level and pace.
In closing, history for me is not about dates, facts, charts, and note cards (oh gag!). It is about people, relationships, and how to learn about those ideas and personalities with an emphasis on the future. How will knowing about the hand of God during times of crisis help my girls identify it in their own lives? How will understanding the people and events that impacted the life of Hitler help them identify the warning signs in people and events around them? How will understanding diverse people groups help them be a better missionary? History is the backdrop to understanding people, relationships, and the interactions between them on the world stage with Christ orchestrating the show. And that my friend, is why we study history. We get to see Christ in history. After all, it’s HIStory.
How do you teach history?
What is your favorite part of teaching history?
How has teaching history challenged your thinking?
When you get a chance, check out my Resource List for some freebies and ideas.