Teaching History - Why We Need An Overview of What We Want Our Children To Know
© Beverley Paine, Feb 2007
History, like geography and cultural studies in general, are embedded in the society and environment curriculum. It hasn't been taught as a distinct subject for a couple of decades that I know of... which makes sense as it's hard to separate history from geography anyway. How people behave is usually determined by the lie of the land they find themselves in... Our whole way of life is derived, in one way or another, by the way we use the land. If the land we have isn't as useful as we need or want people usually migrate... This creates the history of the world!
Gaps in knowledge and understanding in the school system (or homeschool) come from the teacher not having a good overview of the whole curriculum and then making a sensible and practical plan to achieve curriculum goals and objectives.
There are many ways to teach the same material: we used excursions and shared reading to cover what we considered to be important learning in the area of history. As well as being very efficient and catering to different learning styles, the children enjoyed learning in this way. Homeschooling lends itself to such an approach. You don't have to spend a lot of money, although some museums, etc are expensive, but they only need to be visited once or twice during the primary years and again during the high school years.
We also did a lot of walks around towns and cities and talked about the architecture, how people use the space, why they use it this way, imagining what everything looked like 50, 100, 150, 200 and even thousands of years ago....
I found it useful to read the outcomes based SA curriculum because rather than telling me what knowledge the children should learn it offered a guide to the kind of skills and abilities I wanted my children to achieve. Most of all I wanted my children to understand why people do what they do in the way they do, and for them to value diversity while developing their own values. I wanted them to understand that there are things that we and they do in their everyday life because of our cultural heritage and that patterns of migration meant people, nations and cultures change. I wanted them to understand the impact that technology has on how people live and how they use the land so that they can make sensible choices for themselves as they grow.
Television documentaries and current affairs programs played an important role in our curriculum. We also listened to the radio - usually ABC Radio National - as there are a lot of programs that offer a great deal of information and insight into Australian history and culture, as well as providing a limited insight into the rest of the world.
In our early years of homeschooling I had a chart that roughly followed children's development in the areas of society and environment. It began with the child and family at the centre and focussed in the early childhood years with learning about family and relatives, the function and role of people in society that they come into contact with, learning rules like road safety and for playing games, where they live, different people's occupations. This grows as the child grows and can grasp a better sense of time and place. It's no good teaching a child something he can't grasp conceptually yet.
It is possible for children to learn history and geography without being taught it in incremental doses, but I think that if we want our children to have a comprehensive understanding and knowledge base then it's up to us as homeschooling parents to have some kind of overall plan of what we want our children to know and the set of skills they need to be able to use that knowledge to enhance their life and the lives of others.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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