Laying the History Framework

Charlotte Mason reflects,

“Let him … linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”

I also think of what Elizabeth Goudge calls in Green Dolphin Street “the scarcely comprehended influence of things past, yet alive forever.”

At Craigmillar Castle just outside Edinburgh

I mean, it helps if you can take a leisurely trip abroad, sure, to start to paint history vividly in a child’s mind, meandering through world-class museums and racing up the spiral staircases of crumbling castles. But there’s a lot that can be accomplished with just your library card, too.

A really foundational book for Pippin was A Street Through Time, recommended to me by my advisor. It really populated his memory. ASTT led us to the same illustrator’s A Child Through Time: The Book of Children’s History, which we found at the gift shop of the truly splendid Baltimore art museum, the Walters. My big kids have spent hours upon hours peering at the detailed illustrations, with their little jokes and treasures. Scout adores the little Roman girl’s jewelry; Pippin is enchanted by the Viking boy’s life. All this to say: GOD BLESS YOU, STEVE NOON.

If audiobooks are a big hit in your family, try the explicitly Catholic series Story of Civilization or else A Child’s History of the World, both of which Pippin has listened to for fun. (J and I really enjoyed the “medieval” volume of Story of Civilization, too.)

Having a few reference points has also helped. Before or after Jesus, duh. But also personally interesting ones: when in relation to the Middle Ages? (That’s an easy enough one to learn as an adult, as they’re usually figured as 400ish-1400ish, or the fall of Rome to when things started to heat up with Columbus and the rest.) We also use the dates of our home (1940), our friends’ plantation home (1840s) and the older farmhouse on their property (1740s) to relate events back to his experience. And we tend to situate events in this century as they relate to my Granny’s birth in 1929.

I try to give him books for reading practice on topics he finds interesting already, especially history

To me it has seemed like it’s most important to just find an area of specific interest for your learner in the early grades, and then try to relate lower grade history reading back to that period or people group. When Pippin was in preschool he was fascinated by the Civil War, and so we read anything even vaguely age-appropriate we could find. Once we knew we were heading to England and Scotland, I made his kindergarten studies all about King Arthur and Robin Hood, and this exposure helped enkindle a love of knighthood that made our trip all the more special and has broadened the area of his personal interest, which now includes topics like Vikings as well. In the meantime, we plug away at Classically Catholic Memory’s timeline to give him a skeleton that will later be fleshed out by his reading.

At the Robin Hood Experience in Nottingham this summer

I’d like to introduce the concept of a book of centuries eventually, but this doesn’t seem particularly useful until your child is reading and writing well. It does seem like it might work better than festooning the walls with a long timeline, though, which would almost certainly horrify my husband.

How have you made history come alive for your kids, whether homeschooling or not?

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