Saturday, November 24, 2012

Breaking It Down- History

History is a “content” subject as is Science and Bible. In Math, a “skill” subject, you really need to learn things in order. You must know how to add before you can subtract. Content subjects are not that way. It is possible to learn about the Civil war before the Revolution, for example. I do believe it is best to learn History in chronological order if possible. It helps it to make sense of things and increases understanding of cause and affect. But if it doesn’t work out that way, your child won’t explode or anything. 

I began at the beginning and taught Creation and early Bible history to my oldest. Then I went on to early civilizations, Egypt, Greece, etc. As each child hits about six years old, I insist they join in our class (Actually I don’t usually have to insist. They all like History). I just have them jump in right where we are, so this year’s six year old will begin with the late Middle Ages. I will continue until we have studied right up to today, then I will start over. Each child will jump in when they are old enough and get what they missed when I start over after moderns are finished. It will take between four and seven years to complete one cycle, so each child should get the entire World History at least two times.[1]

(You know how I said earlier that life changes and so will your school? Now, some ten years later, having just gone through three years of my mom's final illness, I no longer teach History this way. I needed a way during this time to make sure my kids got what they needed with less from me. 
I use grade appropriate Abeka book’s History/Geography curriculum. Their Geography is excellent and their history is good, too. Their art and literature books include art history and even a bit of music. This left more time for me to spend with individual tutoring in the skill subjects, something I was desperately needing. My children are enjoying telling me what they study each day, so it’s a win-win for us right now. I may go back to the other way as we get back on track and recuperate from a few hard years of life.
The following principles apply to any good, interesting history book.)
I use a book called The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. This is written in story book format aimed at a first through fourth grade understanding, but because Mrs. Bauer believes in stimulating the mind with fine literature and difficult writing, these are written with complete, intelligent sentences, unlike many works aimed at this age group. I do not find it too childish for me to learn from (I read half of the second book to myself the day it came in the mail, it was so interesting), so I use it for my thirteen-year old also. 

I read one chapter to all of the children together. I have the older ones do a narration (report) each week on whatever history we are studying. The younger ones may draw a picture to go with it if they wish (they usually do) and then tell me the story in their own words. I write their narrations down. 

We also color the picture in the accompanying activity guide (often a coloring book rendition of a famous piece of art from or about that era.) 

We do any other projects in the book that look like fun but are not a lot of work (making sugar cube pyramids or Grecian shields from cardboard for example). 

I then read any part of The History of Art for Young People that goes with our story, (art appreciation). This is a chronological book detailing art movements throughout history. The older children look up related sections in our Kingfisher and “History Of The Horse” books and report back to the rest of us. 

We have begun to listen to music from each era now that we are close enough in history to have some samples. I read a brief biography of each musician once per week from God’s Gift of Music and then we listen to his works.

If we have time and energy, we may check books out of the library from or about the same time period to read together. We read children’s versions of the Iliad and Odyssey when we studied Ancient Greece, for example.

You can find Story of the World, Kingfisher Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World or Usborne Illustrated History of the World at the library or local bookstores (or of course The last two are visual encyclopedias. If you can, check out copies from the library to decide which one fits your family best. 

Look for similar books written before the 60’s. The ancient History is the same, but newer books tend to filter everything through political correctness. This is a bad thing because they actually change history (One public school textbook publisher actually taught that the pilgrims held Thanksgiving to thank the INDIANS! A blatant lie. The extent they will go to to avoid mentioning God!) 

Many children’s reference sections have a Kingfisher that they do not let leave the library so it would be available every time you visit if you can’t buy your own book. You can use one of these as a “spine” to follow through History or you could just go down the history section of the children’s library and pick out a few books that catch your interest. If you begin at the front of the aisle and just work your way down, you will cover all of History in roughly chronological order.

Another alternative would be to follow Ambleside Online or An Old Fashioned Education's reading lists. The books on their lists are almost all available for free online. Also, check out what is available through Amazon's Kindle. Many, many good books completely free!

Adam and Eve
Noah, dinosaurs
Early Civilizations
Babel, Mesopotamia, Sumer, Abraham
Joseph, Pharaohs
Moses, Judges, David, Solomon
Assyria, Babylon
The prophets, Daniel, Plato, Confucius
Alexander, the Maccabees
Christ, New Testament, Caesars
Middle Ages
Knights, kings, Crusades, Castles, Islam
Bach, De Vinci
Luther, Calvin, Newton
Age of Exploration
Columbus, Magellan
Age of Colonization
Pilgrims, Australia
Industrial Revolution
Weaving, trains, tractors
Early modern
impressionism, revolutions
electricity, , cars, evolution
Post Modern
The sixties, Culture Of Greed, the Me Generation, the fall of The Wall

Another option would be to start with a world history article on Wikipedia follow the links wherever they lead. Since anyone can write and correct articles, it is pretty well balanced and up to date. I don’t see why an entire curriculum couldn’t be made up of such searches.

We then color a map from the activity guide that goes with the Story of the World and find any places on the globe and world maps. In fact, I have put a couple of world maps under a clear piece of plastic on our dinner table so we can learn geography at meal time (Thank you Michael and Debi Pearl for this idea). Most libraries have maps and atlases you could use if you need to. Looking things up will help your children (and you) to become familiar with the lay out of the world and help you understand the evening news better. 

I never formally studied Geography, myself (wasn't even offered in my schools), but my mother had a big wooden puzzle of the United States when I was a child that I loved to put together. To this day I can take a blank map and fill in all the names of the states (OK, I do still switch Vermont and New Hampshire). When one is mentioned in the news, I have an immediate picture of the place and have added any facts I have learned about each state (such as its major industry) to my head as I hear them.

As an adult, I have studied a world globe and learned many of the same things about countries. This is the most enjoyable Geography curriculum I have ever found. My seven year old discovered on his own that a country in Africa is named after a man in our church, Chad. He will now always remember where Chad is (The country. The man moves around too much).

There are now many online games and smartphone apps with geography puzzles. You compete with yourself to get faster and faster putting the country, continent, or world together. 

Some geography supplements I have used are:
  • Twin Sister's Productions States and Capitals songs (as well as world geography, Presidents, and preposition songs)
  • Operation World- Intervarsity Press's book of countries that tells you briefly about each countries' history, focusing on religion and their prayer needs for today.
  •  Abeka Book's World Geography in Christian Perspective. Similar, actually to Operation World in its focus on religion, though it is very thorough all around. I have used it as a read aloud to younger kids than the intended high school. 
  • Civ- OK, this is one of Hubby's favorite computer games, but my kids have learned a lot of history and geography by playing it.
 There are several geography books I would love to experiment with, but haven't had the opportunity yet.  
  • Mapping the World by Heart- teaches you how to draw the entire planet, in detail, from memory. I've read enough about it to know that the method is simple and doable. It sounds like a lot of fun. For more information, I am afraid you have to google it.
  • Legends & Leagues- These are stories about Mr. Legend and Mr. League who travel the planet (and time). In the course of the books, children learn how to read maps as well as stories and history from different cultures. There are accompanying workbooks. For more information, see Cathy Duffey Reviews.
  • Geography Through Art- study the world through its art.
Libraries also have art books (including the one I am using) that you can look up art works in. Jot down the names of any artists you come across in your reading and find them when you get to the library or ask the librarian to help you find artists from a certain time. Or, again, you could look them up on the internet which gives you the option of printing copies of the major works.

My children have enjoyed Child Sized Masterpieces. This has post cards of famous works arranged in different levels. The first level has two identical cards for each of several famous works of art. The child matches the identical cards. The next level, the art works are different works of the same style by the same artist. And so on in difficulty.

You can also go to the skill and craft section of the library (Or better yet, now that it is 2016, YouTube. You can watch people doing the crafts as if you were in the same room) and check out books covering the skills mentioned in your History reading. 

Have the children read the books or watch the videos or do them together. Do a report on the skill discussed or do any projects that are practical (You could probably experiment with weaving but making purple dye from boiled snails like the Phoenicians did may be beyond you, though I bet someone on YouTube has done it.)

Check the biography section for books about people you have read about and do a half page (or bigger) report there also. (Actually, I don't usually tie biographies to our history line. they just have to read a certain number of biographies a year or I pick them in our night time reading.)

You can make a timeline by putting one page in a three ring binder for each thousand years up until around 400a.d, every hundred years from 400-1500, and one for each decade from then until now. 

Or you can tape papers together to form a wall hanging. 

Or you could make a master timeline and photocopy it. Have the children fill in the parts relative to each lesson. (See the appendix) If you are lucky, you may be able to find end roles at newspaper offices or butcher paper still on the role. These are cool for timelines as well as many different kinds of art projects. Amazon has a number of nice pre-made timelines available, too. And Cathy Duffey lists a number of timeline resources.

An alternative to the chronological study is to study everything you can find at the library about one region at a time and follow just its History from ancient until modern. You would look up everything you could find in History, geography, science, biographies, literature, crafts, etc. on Israel. You could wind it up with an Israel party, dressed in costume and eating Israeli foods, listening to Israeli music and playing Israeli games. Then you would move on to Egypt and do the same. Then Greece, Rome, Europe, Asia, Africa, Indonesia, and the Americas.

It will probably take four to seven years to go through History either way, but you can be sure your child will have a very thorough understanding of the world by the time they graduate this way. Even if all you end up doing is reading your spine to them and marking maps, they will get much more than many college graduates!

All papers can be filed in their History notebooks. They can write their own History books this way. These can also contain lists of important people, and summaries of library books. 

Another idea is for each child to write their own booklet of each chapter of the book you use as your spine. When we do this, they draw a picture for the cover, write a narration of the chapter from our “spine,” color a map and the picture from the activity guide, write a summary of all the research from other books we have available, and include a master time line. They can add a “Historical Fiction” story of their own if they wish. We staple it all together in booklet form. 

  • Read a chapter in your “spine.”
  • Find the location on a map and/or draw your own map to go with the story.
  • Mark the story on a timeline.
  • Write or draw narrations (reports) on the reading (Young ones dictate to mom, older ones write their own.)
  • Draw and/or color a picture to go with the story.
  • Read any supplemental (artists, musicians, crafts, skills, literature, etc.) books from the library or internet. Narrate some of them.
  • Keep a list of important people with a brief biography.

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