“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)
HOW TO TEACH
“…history is the pivot upon which our curriculum turns.” (Vol. 6, p. 273)
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:
- Who was __________ in this story?
- Should _________ have done what they did?
- What do you want to remember from this story?
- How is X like Y? How are they different?
- What does this remind you of?
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.