HISTORY

HISTORY

WHY

“It is not too much to say that a rational well-considered patriotism depends on a pretty copious reading of history, and with this rational patriotism we desire our young people shall be informed rather than with the jingoism of the emotional patriot.” (Vol. 6, p. 170)

“He who reads history in this way, not to pass examinations, nor to obtain culture, nor even for his own pleasure (delightful as such reading is), but because he knows it to be his duty to his country to have some intelligent knowledge of the past, of other lands as well as of his own, must add solid worth to the nation that owns him.” (Vol. 4, pp. 74-75)

“It is a great thing to possess a pageant of history in the background of one’s thoughts. We may not be able to recall this or that circumstance, but, ‘the imagination is warmed’; we know that there is a great deal to be said on both sides of every question and are saved from crudities in opinion and rashness in action. The present becomes enriched for us with the wealth of all that has gone before.” (Vol. 6, p.178)

LINE-UPON-LINE

Children learn about their own country's history first and foremost. Their first three years of school are solely focused on their own country's history, while later years they learn about their country in tandem to others.
In Form II (years 4-6) children learn about a neighboring country's history, one that greatly influenced the history of their home country. In America's case, this would be Britain. However, if the child's family has immigrated to American from a foreign country it would be more appropriate to learn the history of their ancestral country. In high school, this history will morph into Wester Civilization,
Year Five will add Ancient history, including Biblical, Roman, and Greek time periods.

HOW TO TEACH

“…history is the pivot upon which our curriculum turns.” (Vol. 6, p. 273)

Gather books and elect additional materials; maps, paintings, documents,  music, etc. Prepare a question focus to use in study of a topic or time period. This is usually a phrase, but a map, painting/picture, also works well. Prepare “sentence stems” for copywork and writing exercises (see Writing section). 

The first three years of history is focused solely on American History. Year one children receive an introduction to history by reading heroic stories and tales told before recorded history. Charlotte Mason called this the “Heroic Age.” In years two and three. children read a spine to get an overall view of that historical time period, which is enriched with biographies and historical fiction. 

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” (Rudyard Kipling,1907)

Each year is focused on a century, and that century is broken down into topics, usually two to four topics per term. To begin the study of a topic, ask your child to generate questions based on a question focus, write them down, and use them as reference for future lessons. The questions your child asks will largely determine which books you choose. You can also have your child generate questions in the middle or end of the topic to deepen your study. 

In subsequent lessons review the child’s questions and ask them to summarize the previous reading. Read for the scheduled time (spine or biography) and ask for narration afterwards. Besides a normal oral narration, your child may elaborate on what they learned by recording answers to their questions, drawing a picture, and/or acting out a scene from history reading. Projects/tasks will depend on your child – a particular person or event may spark a desire to draw pictures, act out a scene, or write a short book compiling their favorite stories.

Questions

Your child’s questions should replace the learning objectives usually outlined at the beginning of a textbook lesson. Curiosity and a desire to learn is manifested in the form of questions, so your job as a teacher is to nurture a child’s natural curiosity, encourage inquiry, and utilize their questions to guide your lessons.

The most effective way to do this is by using the Question Formulation Technique (from the Right Question Institute). If you have not read our Question article, I encourage reading it before continuing on. 

I prefer to begin a lesson or unit of study with the question formulation exercise to assess what my children already knows, what they don’t know, and what they want to learn about a topic. But you can do it anytime during the course of your study. For a unit of history, I provide a few “Captain Ideas” for you to choose from for a question focus, but you can use maps, paintings, or create your own focus instead. Once your child has brainstormed and decided on a few questions to focus on for their study, record them in the child’s copywork notebook or on a blackboard.

Books + Things

Now that your child has a clear focus of what they want to learn, it’s time to look for answers. Living books and real things are the best lesson material (see Books + Things article); spines, biographies, documents, family history, maps, paintings, and artifacts are the best sources. A notebook to record their findings is also necessary. 

Make sure the questions are visible and reviewed at the beginning of each lesson, and that the child is encouraged to add questions to their list as they read and learn. One way you can do this is by assigning one question to the top of a copywork/notebook page, and as the child discovers quotes and information relevant to their question they can add it below as their copywork for that day. 

Narration + Discussion

One of the foundational tenets of a Charlotte Mason education is narrating after each reading. There are many benefits to this practice and most children thrive with this tool. However, narration may not work for all children. If your child freezes up, or simply dreads narrating, try asking your child  open-ended questions to begin a relaxed discussion on the reading of that day. Here are some sample questions that work well with history reading:

  1. Who was __________ in this story?
  2. Should _________ have done what they did?
  3. What do you want to remember from this story?
  4. How is X like Y? How are they different?
  5. What does this remind you of?

Application

Remember, the goal of teaching history is to create historians. You are helping your child become someone who loves history and knows how to find it; not simply filling checking off a list of dates and facts to remember. Your child should be an active participant in their education and choose how to apply and represent the knowledge they’ve learned. How to historians apply/represent their knowledge? Research, books, documentaries, museums, replications, etc. Your responsibility is to provide the guidance, support, and materials for them to complete their self-chosen project.

RESOURCES