Making History Sticky
- Friday, December 31, 2010
When we use purposeful fun to teach history, we serve our children by opening up new horizons that will enrich their lives and may eventually translate to vocations or ministries.
Any formula will fail if the elements sit independently on the counter. Someone must care enough to combine them. In our adhesive-making formula, the parent completes the picture. Our children crave our involvement. We have all heard the words, "Mom, come see!" or "Dad, will you do something with me?" We will likely influence our children to loathe history or love it based on whether we choose to discover its truths with our children or remain aloof. This is where we set aside the laundry or our need for "alone time" and consider our children's need for interaction first (Phil. 2:3-4).
Trying a new formula involves risk (at least perceived risk), and formulating sticky history is no different. In this case, we must break free from a previous bond to the scope and sequence approach to learning. Hulcy, who taught in public schools before coming home to teach her own children, explains that the public school system designed scope and sequence because teachers frequently moved on. The scope and sequence approach provided a standard to ensure that teachers covered everything necessary and that students would complete a full course of study regardless of teacher turnover. While you need to follow an obvious sequence for math and phonics, I encourage you to break the bonds for history and other topics and use only a suggested scope as a checklist to be sure that you teach vital topics. We want history that sticks to brains, not brains gummed up by irrelevant frameworks.
So what does learning history by discovery look like in our homes? The following suggestions might be summed up as Sticky History for Dummies (like me). I have arranged these suggestions so that the first letters form the acronym TRrIMMED. Think of your package of sticky history being TRrIMMED with a lovely bow of discovery learning.
Toss the Text?
For some moms, the first item in the acronym sounds like a license to toss the text, but not so fast! Jan Bloom, in her book Who Should We Then Read?, defends texts when she states, "A good textbook is like a guide pointing out the particulars of the scenery on a tour through time." She cautions us, however, to choose texts carefully. You will find insight for making text choices in the introductory pages of her book and in Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks.
Bloom compares texts to grocery lists, giving dates, names, and descriptions. In Who Should We Then Read? she tells us, "This is useful information for comparisons and record keeping, but the numbers are easily forgotten. If, however, the shopping list is used to recall what was created with the ingredients listed; what it looked like, how it tasted, when, and with whom it was enjoyed, the memory remains long after the ink on the list has faded . . . when the stories of people and their predicaments are told with skill and vividness, history becomes memorable."
Reading real books from various genres, especially biography, historical fiction, and nonfiction, enriches our children's understanding of history. You will find excellent sources for suggested history-related reading in Duffy's and Bloom's books, with Duffy's suggestions listed by historical period.
Recently, our 21-year-old son returned home for an extended stay. I felt convicted to renew my commitment to read aloud with my family when he remarked, "Mom, why aren't you reading together in the evenings? It's one of my best memories from growing up." Reading aloud strengthens the family bond while it enhances children's grasp of history.
Role Play and Reenact
Your daughter won't soon forget taking a gallop around the yard on a stick horse dressed as Queen Elizabeth I in all her finery. Your son will form lasting memories of past explorers when, dressed in buckskins, he paddles his cardboard canoe in the basement. Make costumes, even simple ones, and have your children reenact great moments in history. When your child wonders, "What was it like to wash clothes by hand in a wooden tub?" simulate the pioneer experience in your backyard or basement. As children role-play the history they study, they form more tangible memories that stick so they can recall them later.
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