Friday, March 8, 2013

What Do You Use For Curriculum to Teach Them History?

There was a time in my life when I didn't enjoy history.  The first 25 years of my life to be more specific.

It was so BORING.  There are dates and names AND locations AND political stuff all together and none of it is related to anything that matters much with what's going on right now.

Axis powers
Dust Bowl

And then I found I was going to be teaching history.  Not just any history.  ALL of history.  
Like I've done with other things, I went looking for some good tools.  Basic tools that I could use to get started with my littlest guinea pigs children and see if there was some way at all that I could make this horridly miserable stuff teachable.

To at least cover what the law requires and get through that junk as fast and efficiently as we could.

I had no idea how much I was going to come to LOVE history!  

I started with a series of audio CDs from Diana Waring Presents! and I played them while we were doing our most idle tasks.  We listened to her speak through events and cultures of Ancient History while folding laundry.  Van rides to Town were more interesting because we heard about the intrigue involved with the Byzantine Empire.   I learned about folks like William Wilberforce and his influence on the slave trade globally from his place in England.
These CDs were not only engaging but they totally changed my understanding of current policy and politics.  Right.  CURRENT politics gained a whole new meaning for me when I realized that:

  • The Dark Ages weren't all that "dark" outside of Europe.
  • In Europe, Vikings were raiders & invaders.  In Russia, they were traders.
  • The national boundaries established in Africa were often set by people who not only didn't live there but hadn't a clue about the languages of the people there.
  • Until relatively recently, defeat by an invading group of people, though often tragic, was a very normal part of a group's existence.  It was not assumed that all cultural unions would survive for all time.
  • The French Revolution and the American Revolution had very different methods & goals.  And it shows in their different outcomes.
  • The composer, Joseph Haydn, died shortly after Napoleon attacked Vienna.

These simple audio history CDs became the beginning level of our history education plan.  While they are detailed and complex enough to engage older learners (like me!), these programs are very engaging.  Diana Waring uses a story-telling style to relate a wide range of events and personalities that have influenced world history.  It's a massive undertaking and we've been very pleased.

After this stage, our history plan becomes a whole part of our house.

This is a pretty sad picture of our timeline.
BUT, to see it in its full glory, I would need a crazy amount of pictures and interactive video or something. Our main timeline is over FIFTY FEET LONG and we love it!  

Timelines are a great way to have history integrated into your home and your home school.  They fit into all kinds of learning styles, too. 

Here's our biggest sub-timeline.  It's only about 6 feet long and covers just a few thousand years.

 When you take on the task of a timeline, think of these benefits:
  • High traffic and high visibility locations are going to ensure more opportunity for making teaching moments and the great moments when your children are just gazing around and pondering what they see.
  • Visual cues are great for ALL learners!  Do you want a single color to denote discoveries and inventions?  Music notes in picture frames for the arts? Ribbons can mark the time span of an empire or a ruler.  Maybe your colors can denote geographic locations.
  • Multiple timelines are a great thing!  Make a sub-timeline for a time of history your family enjoys.  
  • Include as many people in the construction process as possible.  Having a part in the project sparks interest for all ages.  (Any friends or extended family that might want to contribute?  Bring it on!)
OK!  Timelines sound great!  But what do I put on them and how do we find our facts? That's the part we love the very most AND the part that makes the foundation for all our elementary and junior high grade level history curriculum.


Back when I told about how I teach them to read, I ended by saying that my kids read 30 min per day as part of their daily assignments.  Every other book they choose (after they complete the required reading for the end of their phonics instruction) needs to be nonfiction or historical fiction.  We have a huge library in our own basement and over 50% of the titles meet this requirement.  Even if we didn't have this resource in our home, I would still choose this plan. A story that shares the facts with engaging the mind and emotions of its reader is a powerful learning tool.  Don't pass it up! 

Of course, you can use other resources, too.  Movies, historical markers, museums, vacation spots and relatives can all contribute information for your timeline.  Where does "Old Yeller" fit on the timeline?  When was the local library built?  What other events happened in the world during that time?  

Whew!  OK.  I'll try it.  But where do I find history books for my eight year old?  or my twelve year old?  Or my guy who only wants to read about railroads, cars and things with wheels or explosions?  I have a tool for this, too!  All Through The Ages by Nothing New Press is the mother lode (another history word!) of all booklists!  I have a copy of the second edition book.  Though I will loan out my math stuff, let you check out books from our personal library and would even let you run some newborn laundry through my washer, I don't loan this book to anyone.  Come visit my book.  I'll bring my book to visit you.  But it stays with me - it's THAT valuable.  It's about $30 as a soft cover and around $20 as an ebook from the publisher.  Get this book.  Just get the book.  

[Updated with current URL & pricing: 7-15-2013]