History (2): Segregated from Reality

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently finished compiling our Medieval history sequence.  While I was working, I had several different thoughts occur to me, including what I think is the purpose of studying history.

As I also mentioned in my previous post, a lot of Medieval history coincides with the history of the Catholic Church.  I realized that we probably don’t really need to set aside time for specific religious instruction next year because my daughter will already be receiving quite a bit just through her history lessons.  Even the three weeks we spend learning about the development of Islam will be important to her theologically as we compare and contrast Muslim and Christian belief.

At the time I was working on the sequence I also happened to be reading The Scarlet Pimpernel, which is set during the French Revolution.  I started thinking about how once we get to high school history this would be a great book for Bailey to read when we study that time period.  Then I started making a mental list of books to suggest in a literature-based curriculum for studying history at that level.

I thought about my experience of history class when I was in high school, and I realized that in a way my school had tried to integrate history and literature by having American history and American literature both done during the Junior year.  But I couldn’t help thinking how much better of a learning experience it would have been if we had read the Declaration of Independence while studying the Revolutionary War in history class rather than just as the next text in the Table of Contents in our literature text book.  Then I started imagining how awesome it would have been if the American history and literature had been integrated into one class with both teachers emphasizing certain aspects.

The university I attended actually offers what they term the “Humanities Semester”.  It is a nine-hour course that fulfills all history and humanities elective requirements within one semester.  It is led by a teaching team of at least three professors from different humanities fields (for instance, history, religious studies, and literature).  Unfortunately, I didn’t take it when I was there.  At the time I was over-flowing with humanities credits, but looking back I really wish that I had taken it just to experience such a unique teaching and learning experience.

This is what I aspire to achieve with my children at home.  Yes, I set aside specific times twice a week to focus on the subject of history.  But I don’t want them to think of history as just some school subject segregated from reality.  When we study history, it will not be an isolated set of facts, but it will meet theology, literature, art, and science.

We’ll be looking through The Rule of St. Benedict, an adapted version of The Canterbury Tales, and some of Shakespeare’s sonnets.  We’ll look at the art works of Michelangelo, Raphael, and the other Ninja Turtles.  We’ll delve into science as we discuss heliocentric theory and the purpose of leap year (which was set to every four years with the development of the Gregorian calendar).

I want my kids to see the connections that I present them, and then possibly be able to make connections of their own between events and attitudes of the past with their lives in the present.  When we segregate the study of history (and other subjects) into their own little isolated pockets of knowledge, as is often done in schools, it becomes harder to make those connections.  That’s why most kids find history as a class and subject so completely tedious.

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2 Comments on “History (2): Segregated from Reality”

  1. Kelly Says:

    I did take the Humanities Semester, the Medieval version actually.

    I wanted to say, don’t forget the music! You can listen to Hildegard von Bingen when you are studying monasticism. Lots of great stuff when you get to American history, too.

    • barboo77 Says:

      If you have any other music recommendations, please e-mail me some. That would certainly add a different dynamic as well. I’ve never even heard of Hildegard von Bingen. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.


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