History (1): What’s the Point?

A few days ago I finished putting together a sequence on Medieval history that we will start covering next school year.  My outline of key points runs slightly over eight pages and took about four to five hours of work to compile.  I also have resources marked for each topic.  These notes include the book title and library call number or, in the case of my spine book (Usborne’s Medieval World), relevant page numbers.

I know that it seems like a lot of work, especially since my oldest daughter is only going into second grade next year, but it was very intellectually stimulating.  Plus, I follow the four-year rotating schedule recommended in The Well Trained Mind, so I should be able to not only use this outline for second grade but also for sixth grade as well.  The point of history instruction in grades one through four is just to plant seeds in my child’s brain.  Then in grades five through eight those seeds are nourished with more detail and emphasis.  Then in grades nine through twelve understanding really sprouts.

As I was going through all of the dates and facts and people between 400 and 1600 AD, I realized that a lot of history at this point coincides with the history of the Catholic Church.  So, since we are Catholic I probably put more emphasis on certain aspects than the average secular history book would.  This is because it has real relevance to my child’s life today as she is learning about her faith.

We will also spend three weeks studying Islam which is extremely relevant to her life as well.  We live in a very multicultural area, with a Mosque about the same distance from us as our Catholic parish.  On a daily basis we encounter women wearing the hijab.  There’s a halal grocery story near our house, and we used to eat at a halal Italian restaurant where Muslims would often say their daily prayers in the back dining room.  On a macro-level, Islam has been very much in the public consciousness ever since 9/11.

To me the point of learning history goes beyond the mere “You study history because that’s just what you do in school”.  I really try to make it as relevant to my child’s life as possible.  I will point out how a Church council in 325 led to a creed that she hears every Sunday at Mass.  Hopefully, she will understand some of the references that she comes across in cartoons, television shows, and music.

Down the road there are bigger realizations to be made.  For instance, every “hero” in history had his flaws and every villain may not have been completely irredeemable.  All saints were also sinners, and some extreme sinners became saints.  There are choices that we make that effect not only our own lives but the lives of those around us and maybe even the lives of those many generations removed.  Similarly, we may get caught up in circumstances beyond our control based on decisions that were made by others.

This is the point of studying history to me.

Explore posts in the same categories: Homeschooling/Education, Philosophy

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