I have such a hard time answering when someone asks the seemingly simple and small-talk question, “What are you using for history?”
The answer feels like nothing and everything.
Nothing because I’m not using any prepackaged or planned history curriculum. Not AO, not MFW, not CC, not SOTW, nor any other acronym. There is no one cohesive plan. We don’t have any time reserved on the schedule for “history” as a subject.
Everything because this year we’ll be listening to the audio of all four volumes of Story of the World, the boys will have read Child’s History of the World (several times, of their own free will), Pages of History (because a friend let me in on the good deal Veritas offered CC), a huge stack of biographies (not assigned, just available), bits and pieces of all sorts of Eyewitness books and other historical atlases, and also read Story of the Ancient World and the ancient section of Kingfisher World History.
On the shelf also sit Famous Men of Rome and Famous Men of Greece, and they’ve been picked up voluntarily. The Egyptian Echo and The Greek Gazette sit alongside Cat of Bustabes and Archimedes and the Door of Science. A stack of paperback tales and legends and myths of Greece & Rome awaits attention. D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths & Norse Myths are favorites.
Draw Through History is out and available. My second son in particular enjoys drawing Alexander the Great and his war elephants. Both sons, of course, enjoy drawing battles, and history provides them with plenty of material.
During Circle Time we chant history sentences I’ve pulled from the timeline image captions on History Through the Ages. We also sing along with a song version of Veritas Press’s 160 timeline cards, from Creation to “Modern America.”
So we do a little bit of overview with the timeline song and listening to SOTW. We focus on ancient this year with our history sentences and the books I have out as school-time-reading selections. And there’s biographies of all sorts and times available.
My overarching goal for the elementary years is simply to spark interest and give exposure. I do hope to get some “pegs” of important people and events into their heads so they can place other people and events in approximate context. I am also dubious about material “studied” in the early years actually sticking through adulthood. Besides, history for this age must be presented more clear-cut and generalized than it really is, and I don’t think we do them any favors if the idea that history was black and white and clear cut sticks with that long. Instead, I want them to find history fascinating. That underlying interest and attraction will fuel future historical studies, when they come of an age to actually study.
So far, it’s working.
And, better yet, this method requires way less energy and direction from me.
It’s not totally hands-off, but it’s not a teacher-led study, either. I lead the history bits we learn during Circle Time. I keep the stack of ancient books available and appealing. I tell them, “I want you to read for an hour from any of the books in this pile.” I tell them, “I want you to read one chapter from this book and write 4 sentences about it.” And, then, I just leave them to pick up and browse whatever strikes their fancy, ensuring we have the leisure and calm times for such fancy to strike.
After all, in a house full of small children, dedicated time is not only difficult to find, it is also always subject to unignorable interruption. Good thing these little interruptors are cutie pies.