SCOPE + SEQUENCE
HOW TO TEACH HISTORY
“…history is the pivot upon which our curriculum turns.” (Vol. 6, p. 273)
Charlotte Mason believed that religious and historical knowledge were the two most important subjects in school. Why? Because history is a web that connects all the subjects: religion, math, science, geography, politics, and the arts. History contains the results from all the human experiments from the beginning of time. By studying history we can avoid the mistakes that others have made, or continue to repeat them by choosing to exclude or ignore certain parts.
Charlotte Mason was different from her other Classical education counterparts in that she believed in stirring young children’s hearts with stories of interesting people events from history before attempting memorization of dates and facts. If the child’s heart was stirred by stories, their mind will remember the facts later on.
In Charlotte Mason’s method students would study one century, or time period, each school year. Once they reached the present day they started over again at the beginning of their country’s history. The whole class (or family) studies the same time period, but at different depths depending on the age of the child.
HISTORICAL TIME PERIODS
First-year students always started with the “heroic” age of their country’s history. For most of us this would be 1000-1700 of America. The next year they would jump in to whatever time period the rest of the family is studying. To see an example of this cycle laid out, click on A Delectable Education link in Resources.
Books + Things
“[T]hat the history we teach may be the more living, we work in, pari passu, some of the literature of the period and some of the best historical novels and poems that treat of the period; and so on with other subjects.” (Vol. 3, p. 67)
“History textbooks are not effective in helping children make meaningful personal connections with the past. Studies report that students at all grade levels name history as their most boring class and point to their textbooks as one of the major reasons.” (Children’s Literature, p. 173) Interestingly, the American Textbook Council was established in 1989 to review social/historical textbooks used in schools. The reports from 2000 and 2004 show serious concerns with the textbooks used by most schools: poor writing, and an “alarming absence” of engaging stories. Another reason to avoid textbooks is that they are selected and written by a few people. The only way to expose children to diverse ideas and voices is to read books by diverse authors.
More problems with history textbooks is that they try to cover too much and they ignore the most important reason for studying history: people! Charlotte Mason attempted to reconcile this by utilizing three different books for history:
- A Spine which gives a broad overview of historical time period. Almost like a textbook, but more narrative-based and “living.”
- Biographies focusing on individual people during that time period. Authors do hours of research and choose the most interesting stories of the person, and create a narrative of this person’s life from birth to death. Biographies can be chosen by parents/teachers, but as a child gets older it is more meaningful to give him a list of options and let him choose based on his interest.
- Historical Fiction affords the opportunity for children to live vicariously in other times. Authors of historical fiction take an event or person from history and add fictional (yet accurate) details that make the story more interesting.
When choosing history books, avoid children’s books where the author over-simplifies an event or gives their unsolicited opinion. I avoid books that label people as “bad” or “good.” Instead, allow the person’s actions to speak for themselves, and let children form their own opinions!
As with all books, history books should be “living.” If your mind drifts to other things, and you find the text uninteresting, then your child will, too.
A child begins filling out a “century chart” in year three, and years four and beyond they keep a “book of centuries” to record dates, events, and people from all subjects together in one place. This allows the child to see patterns an cause-and-effect they may not have seen before.
Printing photographs, paintings, or maps to look at before a lesson can help capture your child’s attention. Once you’ve capture their attention with a map or photograph, ask for a delayed narration (child relates what happened last reading). Then, read the books aloud (to younger students) or tell your child which pages to read.
Questions + Discussion
“[A]void giving children cut-and-dried opinions upon the course of history while they are yet young.” (Vol. 1, p. 288)
When they are finished reading, ask for a narration, either oral or written. For children that are very visual, occasionally print out blank graphic novel templates and ask them to record their narration as a graphic novel.
Develop the habit of writing down any and all questions they think of while reading, either on Post-it notes or on the blackboard. Avoid giving your opinion on an event or person, but instead ask your child what they thought and why. Ask for evidence or proof, if they can find it in the text. (see Questions post for more ideas)
“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)
*For more details on how to teach subjects along with booklists and printable files, download the Curriculum Guides available in “Downloads”