Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some history reflections and links

As I have written previously, I've been looking for a history curriculum for a long while now but all to no avail.  I didn't come across a single one that I 'd find suitable, most were too slanted one way or another or hopelessly PC or had a very clear political agenda.  It seems the study and teaching of history has really suffered in the recent decades. Historical revisionism is very prevalent these days even when it doesn't go by that name. It's really quite disturbing.  The many falsehoods written and prapogated about the Arab-Israeli conflict is just one blatant example (see here for a good article demonstrating the above)but unfortunately there are others.  Now, I could understand  that sometimes there could be different interpretations of  a single set of events even propaganda but what we are seeing today is an elimination of facts if they don't suit someone's fancy or an invention of a whole new set of facts out of whole cloth. One sees it in books, articles, academic lectures, etc.  In general, once upon a time a person couldn't be considered truly educated, unless he was a student of history. This was how one learned about how the world works, what makes human beings tick, what lessons could one learn from the past that could be applicable for the present and the future. These days one sees tremendous ignorance, confusion and distortion, as well as the inability to understand that by discounting the past, one cripples oneself in the present.  So I decided to follow the living book route a la Charlotte Mason and continued to read up on the subject. There is a lot of interesting and valuable reading material out there - some of these are living books in their own right.  Here are a few:
Practicing History by Barbara Tuchman- lots of great perspective on history teaching, learning, writing etc.  She also lists some great history writers of the past to illustrate what great historical writing is all about.  Probably all her many other books on history are living books and a worthwhile read too.
Begin Here by Jaques Barzun - even though the author applies himself mainly to the critique of public school education there is still plenty to learn for anybody interested in the subject.
Unqualified Education by Gareth Lewis - there is a whole section in this book on learning history at home, with lots of great suggestions as to how to go about it, as well  as a discussion of what is wrong with the way history is taught today.  I disagree with the author's political views but he has a lot to offer as far as practical educational advice is concerned.
Finally, I stopped looking for a curriculum per say and started looking into how people learn and teach history in their home and then I started to find some interesting recommendations.  Some vintage history authors came up, one was Helene A. Guerber's history series in particular.  And some of these books are available in the public domain and some have been republished and some made available as ebooks.
Many years ago, back in the States, we lived next to a great library, one of the interesting things in that particular library was that they had a few shelves of these really old books one could borrow.  My children were too small at the time but I took some out for myself and was greatly impressed with the quality of content and language.  So these might be very useful in our history studies.  Here are a few links where some of these  books are available for the modern reader.
Heritage History - lots of old books in many categories, as well as ebook files for very reasonable prices, illustrations, maps, study guides.  I would pre-read the ones that are of interest to make sure there is nothing objectionable in them, some creative editing might be required in some places when using as a read aloud. So far I was favorably impressed.
Mainlesson.com - another site where on could read these oldies online, they have a companion website where these could be bought as books or ebooks.
Project Gutenberg also has some of these but I like the format better on the above two websites.
So I think this is the plan for now, to start reading to the kids about ancient history with some of these, after all ancient history hasn't really changed.  I also keep a list of other living books that are of a more recent vintage that might be interesting to us.  I've read a few chapters from the Guerber Ancient histories and they were really very engaging, well written and informative.  We'll see how it goes:)


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