Posted in Teaching Tips

One can bring order to the mass of knowledge a student must learn by studying history in chronological order and relating other fields of study to this core material. History is well suited for this role, because history is simply the account of everything humanity has done, thought, invented and dreamed about since the beginning of time. There are two ways to study history: 1) chronologically and 2) interest-directed. And of course these two can be combined.

To study history chronologically is to start in ancient times and work your way through to modern times. One idea is to divide history into four divisions:

Ancients BC 5000 to 400 AD

Medieval/Early Renaissance 400-1600 AD

Late Renaissance/Early Modern 1600-1850 AD

Modern Times 1850-Present Day

Consider spending one year on each division. If you begin to do this in first grade, the student will study all of history three times: in elementary school; in greater depth in middle school; and, finally, by using original sources in the high school years.

Interest-directed study is when people investigate areas of personal interest. This latter approach is probably more in tune with one of the goals of home education, to instill a love of learning into our children so they will be life-long learners on their own. A strict chronological study could well interfere with this process, but not necessarily, especially if the parent’s enthusiasm and interest in the subject is high.

For example, you have planned to spend a couple of months studying the ancient Greeks, then another few months studying Rome. Your boys, however, spend all of their spare time playing cowboys and Indians, while your girls are fascinated by the dresses of medieval princesses. Ancient history looks pretty boring to these children. So grab the teachable moment! Change your plans and investigate the American West of the 1800s, whose political system no longer included Royalty, connecting it with what was happening in NZ at that time, who still retained Royalty, and trace that Royal line back to medieval times, looking at their mode of dress and how different it was from the simple designs of ancient Greece and Rome, whose climates were much warmer. Plotting this all on a timeline adds a new visual dimension. (Many children will take to noting information or cut/draw-and-pasting illustrations on their own timelines as they come accross items of interest.) There: you’ve combined discipline, structure and schedule with sensitivity to the children’s interests and studied a lot more than history while you were at it!

From Keystone Magazine
January 2001 , Vol. VII No. 1
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig