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AmblesideOnline's Patio Chats:
26. History

Did you love history growing up in school? Would it surprise you to know that history is often the favorite subject of AO students? The way a subject is taught can make all the difference!

Charlotte Mason didn't teach history as a basis for background knowledge of random dates and meaningless battles and foreign names. That's not why we study history. No, we learn history because those people in the history books were real people with their own battles to face in life, and we can not only get to know those people, but we can look at how they dealt with the issues they faced in their own day, and perhaps take courage from their example to face our own battles.

When your child feels like he's really gotten to know someone from the past, perhaps Napoleon, or Catherine the Great, or Abraham Lincoln, he will never look at history the same way. He will have developed a relationship with that person, and, through that person, he will have developed a relationship with the times he (or she) lived in. He may want to learn to speak French "like Napoleon," or develop an obsession for anything related to the Civil War because of Abraham Lincoln. What has actually happened is that, through a relationship with a real person, your child has unlocked the door to the world of that historical era, and once one door is opened, others almost invariably follow. The child who was obsessed with the Civil War becomes fascinated with WWI, and then WWII, and wants to know everything about pre-war Germany.

Do you see what's going on? Connections are being made, relationships between one thing and another. Way back in Week 6, we said, "Education is all about building relationships between things and people and places and incidents." Those connections show that education is happening! And that tends to build on itself, spreading and broadening to include more and more things, to embrace more and more, all because of that first connection, which happened when a child "clicked" with someone he read about in his history lesson.

History is so much more than battles and political names and dates. It's a doorway to a whole new world for your child to think about.

Brandy Vencel and Karen Glass did a podcast on all things history at Afterthoughts: Should history be learned in two 6-year cycles, or three 4-year cycles? Should students memorize a timeline? What does it mean to "know" history? What is the point of learning history? How does Charlotte Mason's approach to history reflect her push against mechanism? Listen here:

"History, with its collection of interesting characters, is as good as a story because children can picture the scenes in their minds." [from Charlotte Mason's Vol. 6 pg 50]

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