Sunday, March 18, 2012

H is for History class and history timeline

...a subject I despised in school.  I don't remember being taught any story, just basically a listing of facts and dates.  Memorizing facts and dates was definitely NOT my strong suit.  (I think that's why I did well in math, beyond memorizing the basic facts most study was comprised of working through problems and learning through doing - it wasn't memorizing an outline or random facts.)  But, back to history.  We use a classical Catholic curriculum and our history is based more on stories - big picture stuff.

I've found that focusing more on dates than on the story we lose much of the understanding.  One example, "In 1492 there was a great conquest, Europe sought more land to the west..." (yeah...I do think that date is important if for no other reason than everyone knows it).  Why didn't Queen Elizabeth immediately fund Columbus's expedition?  Because their funds were going to fighting a war.  Now, simply studying American history one year and memorizing dates, studying European history another year and memorizing dates...these two don't automatically mesh in everyone's brains.  Now, I am not saying that putting more of an emphasis on dates will automatically NOT give someone the big picture.  Some people can mesh the two quite well I am sure.  But, in my experience going through the school system, that didn't happen.  At least for me.
We've used Famous Men or Rome, Famous Men of Greece, Story of the World vol. I, American History sing-a-long CD, etc.  My kids look forward to history.  It's the one class that we all gather together  (except my 12th grader who has her own PSEO history class) while I read and those kids that choose to, color accompanying pictures while I read (currently from the Story of the World Activity book).  Sometimes I stop and we discuss things along the way, sometimes I read all the way through and have the kids answer the questions afterward.  I also bought the audio CDs and used those at first (I figured with a new baby history wouldn't have to stop for a diaper change, etc.)  But, honestly, the kids didn't particularly like the voice, it wasn't engaging.  And, I found that I was able to stop and emphasize something that was really important when we came to it when I read.  I love asking questions like, "How was life in Athens different from life in Sparta?"  The youngest gets to answer first...up to the oldest, and they can't repeat an answer someone else already gave.  Puts a bit of of pressure on those older kids and reinforces to all that the younger kids have something important to add as well.  My younger kids, especially, would enjoy having history more than one afternoon a week.  But, I simply can't fit it in more than that.  And, it's one of the classes that works best for us to do an entire chapter or two in one long afternoon session rather than break it up throughout the week.

I highly recommend add a century history timeline.  Did you know that Joseph Hayden (composer), Daniel Boone, and Napolean all lived at the same time?  Most history books that I have seen don't address music or art history.  That's another subject.  But, by taping their pictures on our timeline we were easily able to see that and discuss it.  What a funny contrast.  Hayden with his wig and Boone with his skins - living at the same time in different parts of the world.

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