Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaching History

I've been trying to formulate my thoughts about the best way to teach history to young children.  So after reading up on the subject for a quite a long time now, I think I am finally getting an overall picture of a good approach.  I've been reading a book by Jacques Barzun, a famous intellectual, who wrote extensively on the subject of good education.   Here are some of his thoughts which are in agreement with the ones I read in a few other books as well. There doesn't seem to be one comprehensive resource for teaching history to kids, they all seem to fall short either in scope or depth.  The reason for this is because history and the forces behind it are very complex and cannot really be taught or understood on one foot especially by a child.  Therefore Barzun suggests (and in general this is the approach taken by Classical Education and to some extant by the Charlotte Mason approach as well) that when children are young one has to concentrate on geography and stories from history to give them a panoramic view which when they are intellectually mature will serve as a framework for them to understand the larger picture by reading and researching history in depth, usually starting in the teenage years.  So when children are young, it's a good idea to read good quality story books with historical themes, as well as animal and plant atlases, to look at maps or a globe, to learn about the diversity of people and climates around the world, teach flag recognition, etc.  Field guides, travel guides and travel diaries could also be very useful.  When you look at it that way, suddenly there are many ways of teaching the subject without feeling like you are trivializing it and not doing it justice.  A jewish parent will still have some homework to do to make sure the materials are appropriate and chances are some modification will be required but this seems to be a good overall direction to follow with history.


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