Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Challenges of Teaching History (and what is working right now)

History has always been a challenge for me to teach. My boys lack interest in this area. I find subjects they like on occasion but usually they lack interest. It has always been a challenge for me to teach history in a manner that appeals to them.

I'm not a big hands on person . . . .  well I am, but it's not a fun activity with my boys. I then had to remind myself that I made this statement a few  years ago when I had boys that lacked fine motor skills that made a lot of the projects my doing (to hurry up and just get it done).

I have gone back and forth on teaching them together or apart or some combination for history. Teaching apart is really too time consuming for me. I don't have enough time to plan two separate plans and the time to teach at different times even if covering the same time period. The problem we run into when I teach them together is finding material that is at each of their levels (they are three grades apart). When we do a combination of both I just can't keep it all straight. I've spent a lot of time researching materials, looking at blogs to see how other families handle history, and many hours in prayer.

Our game plan for this year was a state study for Tyler (because I did that with Caleb at this age) and Middle Ages and Renaissance with Caleb. After a ridiculous number of hours later I realized yet again this wasn't going to work. The only changes I had made from previous years was the amount of time I spent planning (much more than normal). I did realize that text books or very thick living books were not going to work for. If you are not a history lover, reading detailed filled books (no matter how enjoyable mom finds them) isn't going to help you gain any interest in history. Keep the reading light and dig deep when an interest is found. Now what do we use to accomplish this? This sent me back to the drawing board.

I become inspired on Jessica's blog, Shower of Roses and I really was intrigued on how she taught history in her home. This made me take a second (or third or fourth, I've lost count) look at Home School in the Woods products. Long story short, I did lots of pondering and figured out how to make these products work for us. I think the biggest obstacle in that decision was the fact that Home School in the Woods products are not Catholic. 

After two months we are all happy with our history journey this year!

Want some details? I have combined the boys together and we are using The Middle Ages Passport along with Catholic historical fiction and Saint books. Using Living books is the BIG factor that makes this work for us. The second thing that makes this work for us is that the readings from Middle Ages Passport are living and the length is reasonable and most importantly they keep the boys interested. We do some of the activities suggested. We are also keeping a notebook of the activities. (We won't be doing any lapbooking.) The notebook will come to use when we are finished and need to review over everything we have learned. We have skipped some of the "stops" on subjects that we had a nice living books or topics I just didn't think the boys would care one bit about. We are currently skipping the section on knights just because we have already read so much (from other sources) that it's not necessary to read any more.

I plan to have this finished in the next month. (We may need another month as I was looking at the books I'm still wanting to read.) We will pick up The Renaissance and Reformation after Christmas break in January (looks like February now). Most likely I will use Catholic books to cover the reformation.

 After that I hope to spend a few weeks on Missouri history before school ends (standard fourth grade requirement in Missouri-Caleb could use the review). Next year I plan to start where we left off with American History last year using The Early 19th Century and continuing along that path.

No ideas yet on what high school history will look like in our home.

Some books we have enjoyed with the Middle Ages Passport:
Augustine Came to Kent 
Favorite Medieval Tales 
Saint Benedict 
Saint Dominic

Still on our list to read (or just started):
Francis and Clare 
The Blue Gonfalon (Emmanual Books has this one.) 
Crossbows and Crucifixes 
Saint Catherine of Siena 

Want some scheduling details? We have been spending two days a week (40 minutes to 1 hour each) on history. The boys also have a "history/science book basket" that they do one day a week in addition. Tyler picked up the Favorite Medieval Tales book to read recently, but Caleb tends to pick science books to read. These books include some random books from the library and some that I purchased but didn't have time to formally assign. Favorites included Ye Castle Stinketh and others in that series. Ones that are still in the basket and not read (and no one seems interested) include The Art of Catapult and Oxford History: The Middle Ages

I'm planning on doing a post just like this on how science is working for us this year later in the month. 

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