A homeschooling blog we created to share our stories and adventures as we live and learn as a family.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

History, Geography, and Cultural Studies: How We Learn It

We are winding down our school year and I thought I would recap what we have learned this year, and how we went about it. Last week D finished up his year-long study of world history from 1849 - present. Since he began homeschooling almost three years ago we have been using the Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer to study history and geography. We follow a classical approach, breaking world history down into four units, studying one unit per year. The summer before he began homeschooling we read Volume One, Ancient Times together and D was hooked! During second grade he learned about medieval history, in third grade he learned early modern history (from late Renaissance to the gold rush) and this year he finished up the fourth volume, from the gold rush to the fall of the Berlin Wall. D listens to a chapter or two on CD per week or reads them from the book, and does a corresponding map to go along with the learning he has done.

I think that there is no easier way to make learning history tedious than to give kids text books and to ask them to memorize dates and take tests, only to regurgitate information that they will quickly forget. I want history to come alive for my children, and I want them to always find meaning in what they are learning. So we read lots of historical fiction, take lots of field trips, and do lots of projects. This year D has read Farmer Boy, The Sign of the Beaver, David Livingstone Foe of Darkness, Number the Stars, Meet Addy, Stawberry Girl, Snow Treasure, Anne Frank, Life in Hiding, and Harriet Tubman, Go Free or Die, and has listened to the novels of Patricia Reilly Giff on CD just to name some favorites. We visited Plimoth Plantation, and yesterday went to Old Sturbridge Village for the first time! Next month we'll head to Battleship Cove to check out some WWII era subs. D was so very lucky to be able to travel to Greece and Rome with my dad and his wife last summer and to visit the ruins, museums, and cathedrals of many of the historic places he'd learned about over the past years.

Public schools seem to focus on U.S history, which makes sense in a way. It's good to know about the country where you live and ours is a very large and diverse country to be sure. But I want my children to be curious about the world around them and accepting and knowledgeable of other countries and cultures. So we focus on world history, but I also try to find creative ways to introduce U.S history each year as well. D has learned about famous presidents, important documents, the three branches of government, and the 50 states - mostly by reading books, watching movies (Brainpop and School House Rock are favorite sources)and playing stack the states on his ipod. Our new favorite book is the Scrambled States of America and we can't wait to get the board game!

J has been learning all about world culture this year. We use the book Around the World in 80 Tales by Saviour Pirotta and Richard Johnson as a jumping off point to learn about the world we live in. It's a book of folk tales from around the world. So we read several stories each week, and then put a flag sticker of the country we've been reading about from her Flags of the World book into a passport that we made in the beginning of the year. We also use globes and puzzles to learn geography. So far she's 'traveled' to countries in North America, South America, Africa, and Europe and this month we'll be reading and learning about Asia. We try to do a project for each continent - for example, we made clay beads last week when we were reading about Africa. When we learned about North America we did some crafts with quilting squares and made a southern-style meal. We also read lots of historical picture books and early chapter books for young learners. J loves the Little House books and some other favorites are the D'Aulaire's books of famous people (we love Abe Lincoln and Columbus), Follow the Dream, the Story of Christopher Columbus, Farmer George Plants a Nation, Martin's Big Words, Paths to Peace, Squanto's Journey, and Across a Dark and Wild Sea.

Happy history learning!

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