Tag Archives: history

Of historical importance

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It seems peculiar that I should feel the need to write something in defense of spending so much time with history.  There has been such a push in education, however, in recent times to concentrate almost exclusively on “necessary” academic subjects, the three Rs, that is reading, writing and arithmetic.  Even science and foreign language take priority over history, cursive and art, which seem relegated to extras, or even worse.

For us, however, history seems to be at the heart of our academic day.  And I don’t mean the memorization of dates, quotes and people, but the love, deference and analysis that we give to the study .  I do not pretend to know enough to speak intelligently about educational philosophies, although I researched them heavily before beginning our home education.  If pressed into explaining what I am attempting to do with my guys I guess I would say we are definitely eclectic, influenced most by unit studies and Charlotte Mason.  As you can see in the blurry photo above, we happily make use of Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World and supplement periodically, trying to find “living books,” which fit best into our current study.  Although Bauer is closely associated with classical education, her history works well with narration and my own ideas about literature-based learning.  I am not necessarily concerned that my children remember every important detail, but more that I am able to point the way for them to educate themselves, not merely while they are “of school age,” but far beyond. I want to teach them to teach themselves, to learn how to learn, and to love learning.

The question is not, -how much does the youth know when he has finished his education- but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and therefore, how full is the life he has before him?

Charlotte Mason in School Education

What follows are a few simple reasons we find history significant to our studies:

1.  It is a means of incorporating multiple disciplines, such as reading, narration, writing, and geography, as well as developing other skills like note taking.

2.  It is easier to appreciate art and literature through the ages as it relates to major historical events and shifts in thought.  Not convinced art is significant in and of itself?  Some argue it is what defines us as human.

3.  It is a built-in venue for teaching writing and thinking.  Beginning with narration (or retelling stories) we can make use of historical events as a natural springboard for writing summaries, analyses and eventually drawing important connections.

4.  Closely tied to number three, the careful study of history teaches us to think.  There are no obvious or objective answers in history.  We glean from it what we will.  A proper study of history forces us to be critical in our view of world events.  Learning how events are interconnected, or how one event may precipitate another, is an important exercise for growing minds. Particularly important for middle schoolers who are naturally black-and-white in their thinking, history provides a way for us to discuss the morality, meaning and potential consequences of major decisions, thoughts and events.

5.  It helps us appreciate where others have been and where we are all going.  It is difficult to understand the present, and project appropriately about the future, if we do not have a grasp on the past.

6.  It helps us to appreciate different cultures, foods, languages and peoples.  Training our children to accept others begins early.  History is a natural way to cultivate this.

In spending our days looking through books on the Vikings, Napoleon or what precipitated the Great War, we are not merely looking up a date or a concise list to satisfy the requirements of an essay question.  Rather, we are the ones asking the questions.  We are drawing pictures and maps.  We are questioning who we are, and are learning to express it.

*Does your family enjoy history?  Is there a beloved subject you and your family find yourself defending?*

JERUSALEM: as seen in IMAX

Following the beliefs and backgrounds of three young women in the holy city, National Geographic’s film Jerusalem also delves into the historical and religious significance of the world’s three major religions.  Each religion – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – are each represented through the eyes and appreciation of each of these girls.  Their stories are similar, even in their ethnic diversity and families’ religious beliefs.  Each is narrated individually and interspersed with historical and archaeological facts until the final scene when we see them “coincidentally” walk past one another at a city-center marketplace.  Impressive cinematography, respectful religious retellings and tidbits honoring the human in us all are showcased throughout the forty-five minute short film.

My boys and I invited a homeschooling mom and her eleven-year-old son to join us at this IMAX presentation.  As I sat chatting before the movie began with the mom, a native Hoosier, she recounted to me her memories of the old cinemax theater in town and the short film they would often show just prior to the main feature on Indiana landmarks and history.  She confessed she would get teary-eyed watching familiar scenes of her home state.

“You love your home,” I said simply.

And this was, indeed, a primary theme, a similar thread to be unravelled from the stories of all three women in Jerusalem.

Home.

It is not to be detached from hope, history, the future, promises and peoples.  The pride that each of these girls articulated in the film, and my Hoosier friend, as well, was evident.  It left me, however, with a bit of melancholy or light ache that I, myself,  do not possess, nor am I likely to possess, that  sense of home, or belonging.  The ache exists not only because I do not belong to any one locale, but also because I sometimes feel a need for it.   I have long been without a true sense of  home.  And yet something in me recognizes and appreciates the reverence others cherish as they look on their hometown or culture.

To feel a sense of reverence and belonging to one place is to hope for its perfect fulfillment as it has been promised to us all.  One day we will be home, and it will not be in the historical Jerusalem, but in God’s ultimate city, a place where we will all be at peace and feel at home.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings but you were not willing!

Luke13:34

Title Character

Adam.  Noah.  Job.  Abraham.  The ancients.  Isaiah.  Jeremiah.  Hosea.  Amos.  The prophets.  Joseph.  David.  Peter.  Paul.  Timothy.   The good guys.  Pharaoh.  Goliath.  Herod.  Pontius Pilate.  The bad guys.  The Bible is full of colorful figures, inspiring stories, tales of adventure, faith and didactic warnings.  Touted as heroes and lofty examples of goodness and godliness, I learned these old stories at the youngest of ages.  As some have no recollection of learning to read, I have no recollection of first hearing these foundational narratives, to the point that I remember at seven years old bragging to an aunt that I knew all the stories in the Bible.  As we were on the way to church she asked me whether or not I knew about Stephen.  She was teaching a children’s Sunday school class that morning on the first Christian martyr.  I stared for a moment, wondering if she were teasing.  Stephen was a modern name.  He sat behind me in class.  Was Jeff in the Bible, too?  His seat was in front of mine. Surely, there wasn’t a Stephen in the Bible?  Obviously, I hadn’t learned every story.  Still, I knew quite a few.  After all, I had parents and teachers who read to me faithfully.

In teaching our children, we point to these biblical figures with the intention of instruction.  We look to them to emphasize faith, kindness, forgiveness, obedience, and self-control, all the Christian virtues.  And yet, in doing this, we might be missing the point.  Missing the point of the entire Hebrew and Greek texts.  Because, just as in great novels or epic tales, there is a main hero or heroine, so through the pages of the Bible there is one main character, the driving force of every story, the purpose in each parable.  Each pericope can be distilled into a single word, the Word, God, the title character.

Perhaps he is explicitly in the forefront, given credit for his omniscience and providence as in the lives of Joseph, Daniel, and ultimately, Jesus.  Or maybe it is more implied and his name is not even mentioned as in the book of Esther.  Regardless, the story of the Bible is not a collection of tales featuring warriors, prophets, poets and kings, but rather the singular story of God.  Over the centuries, he has brought his finger down into the history of humanity, he speaks his word and his creation chooses to follow the story….or reject it.  Regardless, he is always the author and title character.

Even now, millennia after the cessation of written words of divine inspiration, I am living a portion of God’s story.  Although we may not be able to validate the existence of God-breathed words today, surely we continue to bear witness to God-breathed lives. Knowing we are a part of a greater story does not necessarily diminish the pain we may experience in this world, but if we strive to understand it properly, it can keep us focused on what is important.  Our life is not our own story.  It is God’s.  Just as he led former slaves through a dry sea, a runaway king across naturally hewn caves among the wild hills, just as he led a Jewish scholar to Caesar in Rome, so he leads me, and you.  On the written page, in modernity, for all time, he is the title character.