Sunday, April 1, 2012

History doesn't require NoDoz

I have a confession...growing up I hated history class.  I took more than my fair share--Honors American History, World Civilizations, etc.  The books seemed like an endless list of dates, places, and names  with an occasional battle thrown in.  I could certainly memorize the facts long enough to get an "A" on the text but then I flushed the system out to prepare for the next chapter.  Then one day in my Junior year we had one of the school secretaries subbing in class.  I don't know that she had any formal training, but she obviously had a love for English history.  She threw the scope and sequence out the window and began telling tales about the mysterious disappearance of two princes in the Tower of London and Jane Grey, who ruled England for nine days between Henry VIII's son Edward and bloody Mary.  Suddenly these historic figures had flesh on their bones.  When I set out to teach history to my own son, I wanted to make sure I did it in a way that wouldn't require him to take NoDoz.  I've found some great products to help me.

History Via the Scenic Route

I'm sorry to say I think this 4 cassette workshop by Diana Waring is out of print, but I did find several used copies listed on Amazon and eBay.  I know the Indianapolis library used to have a copy and maybe other large libraries still do.   If you're the type who wants to build your own history curriculum, Diana can help you put "flesh on the bones" by including art and music, making recipes for the time period or county, reading "living books" instead of trying to summarize a lifetime in a single paragraph like textbooks tend to do.  

A modern textbook might mention the Patrick Henry is famous for saying "Give me liberty or give me death,"  that is, if he hasn't been squeezed out of the text entirely.  How much better to hear the whole speech, recited with the passion that sparked the Revolution?  Read it to you kids and if they're old enough, have them learn it themselves.   We read that the pilgrims suffered during the Mayflower voyage or the plight of soldiers during the Civil War and then go on to the next sentence without any thought.  Why not learn to make hardtack biscuits and eat them for every meal one day to see how monotonous it really was?

(Side note:  Diana Waring will be offering monthly history lessons for the new . She just posted on Facebook that April's lessons will be about missionary Betty Greene)

Janet & Geoff Benge Books

The Benges have two great series:  Christian Heroes Then & Now and Heroes of History.  Both series follow the same format: the first chapter ends with a cliff hanger that occurs later in the story--Daniel Boone escapes his Indian kidnappers, John Adams is about to be attacked by English ships at sea,  David Livingstone is attacked by a lion.  Once the reader is hooked, the story goes back to the subjects childhood and he must read several chapters before learning how the problem is resolved.  These books make great read-alouds and more than once I heard "Don't stop now" at bedtime. 

The Heroes of History all deal with Americans (or those who had a part in exploring or colonizing America before it was a country).  They may not all be Christians, but their stories are shared in a Christ honoring way.  Current titles are: John Adams, Clara Barton, George Washington Carver, Meriwether Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, William Penn, Harriet Tubman, George Washington, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Daniel Boone,  Alan Shepard, Benjamin Franklin, Captain John Smith, Christopher Columbus,  Douglas MacArthur, Orville Wright, Ronald Reagan, and Theodore Roosevelt.  The newest title is Davy Crockett. 

Christian Heroes Then & Now all have missionaries as subjects.  If you are studying history by continent, I'm sure you'll be able to find at least one that traveled to your area.  My introduction to the Benge books was a free copy of Gladys Aylward given out free at a homeschool convention (I was at one last week and they still make this offer).  Her real life  was so much better than The Inn of Sixth Happiness loosely based on her story.   I also found that I could read Corrie Ten Boom with my young son when I didn't want to expose him the the brutality found in The Hiding Place

If you choose to make these books the spine of your history studies, YWAM publishers offers separate unit study books that will add geography, creative writing, arts/crafts, and cultural foods to the biographies.

 All through the Ages

As much as I love the Benge's books, there's still a lot of history that they don't cover.  I still want to find living books though.  I could look through homeschool catalogs like Beautiful Feet, Sonlight, or Vision Forum.  Then I could look at lists of  winners of the  Nobel Prize or Newbery Award.  Finally, I could check suggestions in Honey for a Child's Heart or Books Children Love.   I still might not find the time period or biography I'm looking for and now I'm worn out with research.  OR I could look at one resource, All through the Ages by Christine Miller.  The first section of the book lists titles by time period from antiquity to the modern era.  The titles are then broken down by grade level (1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12) and finally listed by Overview, Specific Events, Biography, Historical Fiction, Culture, and Literature of the age.   The author is mentioned and there is a brief sentence to describe the book, followed by a code telling which resource recommended the title.  Here's an example Under the Reformation:

4-6  Biography  Luther the Leader - Virgil Robinson (wonderful children's biography of leader of the Reformation)  VP

The VP stands for Veritas Press.  The second section of the book has titles listed by Geographical area, then comes a section of Science and Math titles, a History of the Arts, and Great Books of Western Civilization.  All in all there are more than 300 pages of recommendations.

I'm please to say I love history now.  My son and I have been learning Missouri History through living books this year:  The Explorations of Pere Marquette,  A Boy for a Man's Job,  The Great Turkey Walk, even Laura Ingalls Wilder's travels from De Smet to Mansfield, MO in On the Way Home.   Be sure to check out the Blog Cruise for other History Resource suggestions.


North Laurel said...

Thank you! You've included resources that I had no idea about. All of them! That's awesome :)

Kym Thorpe said...

What a great post! I love what you said about the historic figures having flesh on their bones when their story was told well. That's how I feel about history too. Off to check out the All through the Ages resource!

Missouri Mama said...

Isn't that the wonderful thing about the internet. We're like one big homeschool support group sharing great finds with each other.

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