I can still hear my voice a few years ago as I said these very stupid words in a conversation with a fellow homeschool mom: “Meh. I just don’t love teaching history. I mean, it’s okay, but it’s not my favorite.” And honestly, that was putting it mildly. I felt like history just got in the way of other, more important subjects like math and spelling and sentence structure. I didn’t have time to make it interesting, either. I had decided that “projects” and “enrichment activities” weren’t my thing. I wasn’t “that kind” of teacher. We were firm in the basics, and I was just fine with that.
So, it shouldn’t be any surprise when the kids began wilting right before my very eyes! They had no trouble doing the work, but it had become a grind. But, y’all know that part. You know I switched to notebooking and all that. What you may not know is that everything began revolving around history. When the light bulb went off (just a few scant weeks before our school year began!! yikes!) — I finally realized I was neglecting the one subject they REALLY love. I knew that if I wanted to see the life back in them, I was needed to start out with history as our foundation, and build our learning around it. And it had to be full sensory learning. We needed to see, taste, touch, smell, and hear it. I had to stop teaching so one dimensionally.
Time to be “that kind” of teacher.
One of the first things I noticed as we changed our approach was how naturally it happens all on its own, and how little I had to do to encourage it. Language, science, geography, art, literature– they all spring eagerly from history. When we begin a lesson (using Mystery of History), a dozen paths open up for us to follow. At first, I looked down those paths with trepidation. It took me a while to feel comfortable jaunting off on our own, all willy-nilly and free. I felt like I was breaking all kinds of rules. I worried that we were so far off the recommended schedule, we’d just fall off the edge completely.
But, now I understand.
There is more in this world than I can possibly teach them. I can’t get through it all. What I can do, is teach them to love the moments when they are learning, so they’ll never want to stop! Maybe we were supposed to finish the lesson on the Byzantine Empire and move on in a day, but we don’t. We stay there for a while. We camp out, rebelling against the schedule… feeding our curiosity. We read more, poring over examples of art and architecture in extra books from the library. We learn the story of a specific monastery and why it was important. We take a morning to create our own mosaics. We take the words, “Byzantium” and “Justinian” and “icons” and we stitch happy moments to them, with all our senses. Hopefully, these ties will anchor them in our minds, and they will become more than just vocabulary words on a worksheet. They become part of us. Part of OUR history.
Ultimately, that’s what we are. A people of history. Of place. We define ourselves by the relationships we have to others, to places, to events. I am so-and-so’s mother. wife. daughter. friend. My family came from Ireland and Wales and that means something. I am a Christian, and I am tied to the history of the Church in a very real way. I am an American, a woman– all these things MEAN something that we can only comprehend when we know the HISTORY of that thing.
It’s not just a subject. It’s the axis we’re spinning on.
Allowing it to be the center point of our school day has taught them so much more than I imagined. They are learning the history of who they ARE. I didn’t recognize this void before– this question I had left unanswered for them. But, I see it now. The satisfaction and relief they feel are evident, as pieces of the puzzle come together. They are relating it all together, connecting the dots, understanding themselves through the lens of what has gone before. History makes the picture clearer, and not only for them. For me, too. I am gobbling up history right along with them, and it just makes me hungry for more. How lucky am I, that I get the chance to do this when my own student days are long gone? I feel like it’s a second chance to learn something really, truly important. I get to see where I fit in this picture, too.
It’s just amazing, this homeschooling thing. I am daily blessed that this is MY slice of history. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.
There’s nothing meh about it.