Thursday, May 21, 2015

Homeschooling History and the Power of Interest

As a kid (and even now as an adult) I loved history and learning about how people lived so long ago. I could hardly wait to explore history with my own children once we decided to homeschool. I loved the idea behind the Story of the World Series; teaching history chronologically in the four year cycle just made so much sense to me. So we began 1st grade with Story of the World: Ancients. I wanted to bring this awesome subject to life for the boys, so I went all out with the activities and crafts, trying to make it an immersive experience. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm and perfectionism took over before we were a third of the way though the book. If I couldn't do it the way I wanted to, I didn't do it at all. There was always something I needed to find or buy or print out that wasn't ready when I needed it. In the craziness of trying to figure out our first year of homeschooling and then becoming so sick with my pregnancy with Lady Bug and then moving to a different state, it got dropped.
2nd grade I don't think I even attempted Story of the World. We did a Knights unit study, learned about the history of a few holidays, and watched some Horrible Histories (the BBC live action show.) New baby, depression/PTSD; so much for the 4 year cycle taking only four years.

3rd grade we kept to the planned schedule for three weeks. One week of Story of the World happened. Then co-op and other activities threw me for a loop, and I never got back to a regular schedule. By this point I'm feeling like a complete failure and wonder if I should take "Classical" off my blog/school name as we clearly don't met the standard to call ourselves that.

Despite all the awesome things about history, my kids just weren't interested. They had their own, other favorite subjects. They were so much more interested in learning science and how the world works and figuring that stuff out than caring about how people used to live. But the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade, Early Bird memorized the entire AWANA's list of verses by listening to Builder Boy's old cd every night. He was so excited to become a Sparkie (next level up) in the fall that he intentionally listened to it every day for months, and every night as he went to sleep. I've known for a while that Builder Boy is a kinetic learner; now I knew that auditory learning was really good for Early Bird. So I got Jim Weiss' audio recordings of both Story of the World 1 and 2, determined that the boys would at least listen to the stories and learn something, even if it meant giving up on my idea of what history was going to be for us. I figured that Early Bird would memorize the stories listening to them, and that maybe Builder Boy might retain some of it if he built with blocks while he listened.

(Link to
What actually happened has both surprised and delighted me. Early Bird (age 6) has not listened to them much, and still doesn't seem very interested in it. (Though he has recently become obsessed with Robin Hood, and we're running with that.) Builder Boy, on the other hand, though this was not his learning style strength, has flourished with listening to the stories! It started off with the legends and god stories of the ancients. He loved listening to them, retelling them, and soon drawing illustrations to go with the stories and then making his own. Pages of comic book styles stories of his own twist on these stories. He recognized "Hercules" on a street sign and told me about him. He read the comic style legends books I bought him. He was hooked.
Then he got to the part about the ancient Romans and empire building and he took off from there. He listens for an hour at a time or more; several chapters at a time. He re-listens to them for a few days, then moves on to the next ones. Because of his interest in the topic, he went through almost two years' worth of the history cycles in one month. And he's retaining the information; talking about it, drawing it, playing it, building it. He's connecting what he learns from Story of the World with what he's watched in Horrible Histories; building famous ancient buildings in Minecraft. He is actually excitedly looking through the history encyclopedia we have. And then the Children's First Encyclopedia, the Children's Amazing Places Encyclopedia (thrift store find), Living Long Ago , and other history/world related books. He's almost finished with Story of the World: Middle Ages and is asking for the next book on cd. Which will have Leonardo Di Vinci, which will probably set off his inventing obsession even further.

Minecraft Stonehenge
So, what have I learned from this? Interest is the best teaching help there is. Interest can not be forced. Was I wrong to try to introduce history before they were interested in it? No. Is waiting until they are interested the best way to teach history? Probably not for most kids. What am I going to do about history from here on? For now I'll capitalize on Builder Boy's interest and let him listen to all 4 cds of Story of the World and leave it to his own interest to fill out the learning. I need this 4th grade year to mainly focus on writing, and history will have to be a hobby that year. But 5th grade I intend to start the 4 year history cycle over again, going wider and deeper.

1 comment:

  1. I love this! I'm always stressing about Boobear meeting the right standards, blah blah, but let him run with his interests (nearly always science related) and he's way ahead of the pack. He didn't care about reading at all and didn't want to learn - until I promised I'd still read to him and he realized he could read his science books if he learned. So he's trying now. It's amazing what some interest can do!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...