Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How We Do History

This is the first in what will eventually become a series of posts looking a little closer at how we are tackling different school subjects at various ages and stages.   Because we recently got our history timeline up and running, I thought I'd start there for you this week.

Originally I had planned to start with Simply Charlotte Mason's History Modules this year.   But, when we realized that a) we were going to be in language school this year and b) I read numerous threads on the SCM Forum about families finding that their first graders didn't really connect well with some of the resources used in Module 1, I decided to hold off on these for a couple of years.  Currently, my plan is to start the SCM History Modules when Michelle is in Grade 3.  This still gives us time to go through all 6 of them by the time she finishes middle school, leaving our options for high school wide open. the meantime, I was looking for something simple that would lay a good foundation for future in-depth history studies.   And what I landed on was the Heritage History Young Reader's Curriculum (also a helpful review here.)  This is a good fit for us right now because a) it uses e-books which reduces the amount of books we have to move around with us during these next couple of transitional years, b) it is simple and very flexible, and c) does present a good overview of World and American history.  We plan to use this curriculum this year and next - which will get us through our major transition to Africa as well.

To begin with I have chosen to use Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans for American History, Thirty More Famous Stories Retold for World History, and The Book of Legends.  We read American History 2 days a week, World History 2 days a week, and Legends once a week.  Every couple of paragraphs, I stop reading and ask Michelle to tell me about what I have read so far.  At the end, I have her tell me something interesting from the story that she remembers.  (This is what Charlotte Mason called 'narration'.)  Then, when applicable, we color and add a figure to our timeline.  I usually do a little review and ask her about a couple of the people we've already read about each day too.  And that's it folks!  Simple.

This is our timeline. 

We are mostly using the Homeschool in the Woods timeline figures, supplemented with stuff I hunted up online when someone I wanted to include wasn't included in the set.  I printed these onto sticker paper (brilliant idea from one of the other moms on the SCM Forum!).  I went ahead and printed up all the characters that I thought we'd cover this year all at once which was a bit tedious, but now it's done.   I also did figures for the Bible characters that we'll cover through our morning Bible stories to add to the timeline as well.

Before we started reading our history stories we spent a week putting some foundational events onto it.   We went through the days of Creation for the "In the Beginning" page:

(There is so much controversy over the exact dates of early history, even among Christian, creation-based resources, that I opted not to use dates on events before 2000 BC - everything before that just goes onto the "In the Beginning" page.  For our purposes now, I think it is good enough to establish the fact that God is the one that created the earth in the Beginning, and that all the rest of history flows from that Beginning.)
Then we added our family (the kids, us, and their grandparents) into the AD 1900 and AD 2000 centuries:

Then we added The Birth of Jesus to the middle of the timeline.

We talked about how dates marked "BC" are events and people that lived before Jesus was born and that we count backwards from there all the way back to the beginning.  Dates marked AD happened after Jesus was born, and we count forward all the way up to now.   She has really connected with this idea, which surprised me because I thought it was a little abstract for a 6 year old.

After each Bible or history reading we color our stickers, and stick them up in the appropriate century. We count back how many centuries it takes us to get to a certain date, which gives us an idea of how long ago something happened. I'm not worried about her learning any exact dates yet, but I do want her to gain an understanding of the scope of history, and to be able to recognize names and maybe a few facts about key historical people.  These are hooks or scaffolding to help us build a framework for more in-depth history studies later on.

And that's it folks: how we are handling first and second grade history!

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