Lessons You Can Use
By Kathleen McCurdy
The Story of Me. History should begin with our own story. The history of the world derives meaning from its effect upon our lives. Children love to hear about when they were little, or reminisce about past family events. Baby books and scrapbooks you were always going to finish (or start...) are just the project for a child to take over with a little help. As she interviews family members about her story, she may discover that everyone else has a history too. An older child could help research the family tree; some have taken it back far enough to discover connections with national or world history. One of our ancestors was Jesse James, a cousin and namesake of the notorious outlaw, bringing relevance to certain periods of American history and folklore.
The History of Anything. Not only do people have histories, but so do places and things. Children can learn about their community and even the property where they live from books on local history at the library, or looking at plat maps in city hall. But older citizens in the community often have a wealth of stories and information to share—if anyone will listen. Even copies of old newspapers may provide insight into daily life of other periods.
The children’s history magazine Cobblestone has had many articles about the inventors of various things we take for granted. Looking into the origins or the past of the children’s favorite hobbies or collections can open up portions of history they never would have found in textbooks.
Timelines and Timetables. One thing that really helps in the understanding of history and its effects in the lives of all people is to look at the chronology of it. Memorizing dates and names may not be very practical, but when you place events and people in chronological order on a timeline, the child has the opportunity to exercise relational thinking. It isn’t necessary to be exhaustive, but as different people, events, inventions and such are discussed, the child can add them to his timeline and show how an event in one place might have influenced or caused an effect in another. For example, when Napoleon marched across Europe, the music of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky reflected how the people felt.
History in the News and Literature. As parents share comments on world events and daily happenings, children will pick up information about what is significant both currently and even long term. Holidays afford an opportunity to focus on events, famous people, or causes worth remembering. Reading biographies of great men and women of the past is one of the best ways for children to get the flavor of living in other times, as well as helping them understand why we honor them.
The history of our nation is replete with stories of courage and heroism, honor and personal sacrifice. Our literature, art, music, religions, and of course our museums all reflect the amazing story of our people—where we came from and how we got to where we are. History can become their favorite subject!
Other Lessons You Can Use
- Timetables of History - Gruin Stein, ed.
- Usborn Book of World History - Usborn
- We the People - Peter Spier (for younger children)