Wednesday, July 05, 2006

History without Textbooks

Dear Spunky...

Do you have any suggestions for a supplemental history text for my elementary soon to be middleshool age children? We fight the anti American garbage at the public school each day.....I am on the local school board and fight it from that front......

We need a good text to work independently with the children.
My advice is to introduce to your children a few biographical books or historical fiction from key periods in history. Don't just hand the book to your child and say, "Here read this by the end of August." Sit down and read it together as a family. If your family is not accustomed to reading books together the children may roll their eyes a bit, but keep at it. Don't worry about getting a book that matches the reading level or interest of each child, or rushing to finish it. Read one book aloud and then go to the library and check out additional supplemental books at different reading levels. You'll be surprised how quickly the children become interested in history when it's not just dry facts and dates to remember.

Using biographies and historical fiction you may not cover all the events a textbook does, but you'll teach your children something greater - that history is just one big story of the lives of people and how they interact. Enjoy the time together. As they make connections with the people involved in their past, they will remember them and their significance in our history. Lessons from History is an excellent resource for historical biographies in chronological order beginning with the 1600's. Ambleside Online is a free online homeschool curriculum which offers many book suggestions. Two other possible resources are Ancient History from Primary Sources by the Bluedorns and Diana Waring's books and tapes. Another resource that many don't consider is the bible itself. Read through the Old Testament and do small studies on the historical figures mentioned. After all history is really "His Story" passed down from one generation to another. There's no better place to begin than "in the beginning."

To make the read aloud time more interactive, keep a globe or map handy to follow where the people lived and traveled. Allowing the children to draw while they listen is also a fun way for them to interpret what they are hearing. I also never minded if the children (especially the boys) played with legos or something similar while I read. Keeping their hands busy didn't seem to affect their ability to understand or enjoy the story. Ben and Me and Mr. Revere and I both by Robert Lawson might be two books to consider to get your family reading and enjoying early American history together.

If you are looking for one book that covers a larger span of history then I suggest Susan Wise Bauer's book History of the World. It is written in four volumes and covers history from ancient history to the end of the twentieth century. Another option for a strictly American history text would be The History of US by Joy Hakim. Both series are written more as a narrative and would work fairly well as a read aloud. We have used them both in our home. (Note: that doesn't mean I agree with all they write.)

After the summer is over, don't give up on reading together. The time spent reading together will cement the things they are learning in school. As an added bonus, I have learned more reading aloud to more children than I ever learned in school.

Anyone else with suggestions?

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