History Helps

I offer these ideas as just one way to teach history. There are many, many effective alternatives. Some moms have fewer children and more time to do large projects. Others are very crafty. There is not just one right way to teach history. Choose what works for you and enjoy the time with your kids. We chose this way because a Charlotte Mason education is a smorgasbord of ideas. I want to have enough time to spend on many other areas as well.

First of all, in order to help keep the time frames separate in my children's minds, we study World history on Mondays and concentrate on American history at the end of the week. We also keep a wall timeline for world events, but separate, personal notebooks for US history. Although it was a concern of mine at first, my children have never confused the two time periods. I think this is because the times-culture, clothing etc... are so utterly different from each other; or maybe it is just that children are smarter than we give them credit.

For World History, I read the week's passage from my favorite children's history book, Child's History of the World and then my child narrates, colors the picture on the colored timeline index card and we tack it to the wall timeline. We don't do anything else, but immediately move on to the next subject. This takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Occasionally (usually once per term), we make one major crafty project together that goes with the time period. I remember making a salt dough map of the Egypt and the Nile River one year. For the Greek period, we baked clay pots from Sculpey clay and painted black images of people and animals on the sides in the style of Greek Art. One year we made a Roman soldier's armor. But I kept it to just ONE organized project per 12 week term that took two or three days to complete. This helped keep me sane and the kids happy.

They almost daily acted out stories from the school books with dress up clothes, cardboard trumpets or Playmobils, etc…but most of the time I had nothing to do with these little quick projects. WE DON'T DO ANYTHING ELSE.

For US history, each child begins keeping a student-made notebook called "MY AMERICA" in year one when we began reading This Country of Ours and continue the book until the end of year 3 when we finish the history book as well. This binder is medium-size and is where we keep our Thursday US HISTORY copywork. Every day of the week, the copywork subject varies- poetry, literature, famous quotes, and history.

I use special paper for this notebook depending on age and ability. For year one, my child is just learning to write, so I use paper with only 3 large lines. There is a place to draw a scene at the top of the page and there are writing lines at the bottom.

For second grade, we use 4 lines, usually during term 1 ,5 lines for term 2 and 6 lined paper for term 3, gradually adding more lines as the ability to write neatly and quickly increases.

In third grade we only use 6 lined paper.

In fourth grade we do not record the 20th century in this book but keep a century chart.

Once a week, after we read This Country of Ours and my child has narrated orally, she works for 10 to 15 minutes copying a phrase or sentence that we choose together from the book while looking at the model I have written on the dry erase board or you can have a model made for you for free at the Zaner- Bloser site and print it out. Then she works for 10 to 15 minutes drawing a scene or person from the day's reading. Sometimes we add clip art to mix it up a bit. I've used pictures from old history textbooks that we have found at library sales and bookshops.

Each page is kept in a clear protector and we make simple dividers from construction paper to represent major historical time periods.

Grade 1 The Explorers, Colonies
Grade 2 Colonies, Revolutionary War
Grade 3 A New Nation, Civil War, Growth of America

The notebook includes three basic maps too. We have a map showing the 13 original colonies and each time a new one is studied, we add its name to the map. We put a map of Lewis and Clark's route in our book and It also includes a map of the Civil War. We highlight the major battles mentioned in This Country of Ours, using a different color for the North and the South. Lastly, each time we learn about a new state added to the Union, we write its abbreviation on a blank US map showing state borders and we color the state.

So this notebook includes history copywork, drawn narrations and a few maps-nothing more. I feel historical sequence, rather than dates, is important at this stage so we don't write most dates down until the second history rotation during the older years.

I've learned that our children's successes often depend upon my expectations. If I settle for semi-neat writing and pictures hastily scribbled on the page, that is exactly what my children will give me. But, whenever I choose to believe in my children's incredible abilities and encourage them, all the while, expecting perfect execution, they deliver. They enjoy doing their best when they are allowed to work strenuously in short intervals without the chance for fatigue and boredom to settle in. These are very important principles in a CM education along with a gentle but unwavering mama.

Now, here's a little Show and Tell for visual learners like myself.

(click on each picture to enlarge)

A section divider
First Grade- We used 3 lined paper all year.

Second Grade -we used
4 lined paper for term 1
5 lined paper for term 2
6 lined paper for term 3
It can be printed from:

Third Grade- We used 6 lined paper for all three terms. Notice the gradual switchover to cursive. We also use president clip art. Here's a free resource.

one step at a time...