I don’t recall having studied “history” (vs. social studies) prior to high school. My earliest recollection of having enjoyed the subject was in my third year in high school. As soon as our teacher appeared, she would take a piece of chalk and begin to sketch the Mediterranean Sea with its surrounding land on the board that span one wall of the classroom. Continuing from where she left off, she would talk about Mesopotamia, Egypt, or Greece. Then, the whole period would go by quickly.
I have always been interested in history. This is most likely the reason why I was immediately attracted to homeschool methods or programs that teach from an historical framework. The abundance and popularity of this type of curricula made for young children further justifies our taking up the subject beginning first grade. We find it helpful to study history in four-year cycles: ancients in the first year, middle ages the next, renaissance period the third year, and modern times last. Susan Bauer’s “The Story of the World” (volumes 1-4) written for early grades is our introductory spine to the course for the first cycle. In the second four years, our familiarity with the subject allows us to discover connections and discuss the ‘whys’ whereas the last cycle (during high school years) is undertaken with the intent of expressing in writing reactions to what is studied in more depth. We use a mixture of Sonlight cores and Tapestry of Grace as the kids grow older.
We are seeing the difference of studying history with a “world” perspective. In social studies classes, his immediate community becomes the younger child’s subject of study. About this method, The Well Trained Mind comments,
This intensely self-focused pattern of study encourages the student of history to relate everything he studies to himself, to measure the cultures and customs of other people against his own experience. And that’s exactly what the classical education fights against – a self-absorbed, self referential approach to knowledge. History learned this way makes our needs and wants the center of the human endeavour. This attitude is destructive at any time, but it is especially destructive in the present global civilisation.
The goal of the classical curriculum is multicultural in the best sense of the word: the student learns the proper place of his community, his state, and his country by seeing the broad sweep of history from its beginning and then fitting his own time and place into that great landscape.
As immigrants, we also attempt to integrate a study of Canadian history into our more American oriented curricula during the last two years of the cycle.
Thus, we learn about the first pilgrims along with the first voyageurs. We read about the birth of the 13 states while reading about the spread of trading posts across Canada. We sympathise with the whigs while understanding that it was the loyalists who fled across the border who peopled Canada.
Now that we have come home to the Philippines, our recent pondering about U.S. Imperialism has begun to spark questions about our own nation’s quest for independence. When the older kids saw the movie trailer of El Presidente (a film about the first Philippine president) recently, they expressed a desire to watch it. (Hopefully, by the time the DVD version is released, they can watch it without English subtitles.) The American War for Independence, the French Revolution, the Tagalog War (as the Spanish called it) were all about freedom. The common people of France, the Minute Men, the Katipunan – they all fought in the name of liberty.
Our study of history provides a backdrop for our literary studies. It has been to our advantage that we have always been open to American curricula (despite our heritage and where we lived during our early years of homeschooling). We realize and will have to admit that some of the best written literature (Pedro’s Journal, The Sign of the Beaver, Johnny Tremain, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Huckleberry Finn, Scarlet Letter to name a few), are those penned by our neighbors across the border. In a similar manner, history serves as a background for the music and art we appreciate or the crafts we create.
Unlike the ‘skill’ subjects such as math and writing, history, as a ‘content’ subject provides a usefulness in our homeschool. Exposing ourselves to the story of the world from beginning to present gives us something to read-aloud, to ponder, to discuss, to think through logically, to write about,…and very important in homeschooling, something to look forward to. It gives us a context upon which to move along our academic pursuits. Most importantly, history is first and foremost, God’s story. Our survey of people and events of the past never fails to provide us with numerous illustrations of the spiritual truths we reflect upon.