You know those surprises I've mentioned as I've dug into Charlotte Mason's volume, Home Education? Surprises like science instruction? Nothing shocked me more than Charlotte Mason's advice on teaching history.
The ongoing debate (in America, anyways) is whether we should start with the relatively recent history of America, or go back further into the history of the countries from which America took root.
But, this is not Charlotte Mason's focus in Home Education. Instead, she said to not worry so much about teaching an entire history, at least until our children are nine, but to thoroughly develop an understanding of certain historical figures, a single person, until the time period is understood.
Doesn't this sound sweet and simple? Let me clarify that I did not simplify this, but this is what Charlotte Mason recommended in Home Education. You can find my other posts in this series here.
"The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn 'outlines,' or a baby edition of the whole history of England, or of Rome, just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. " Home Education, page 280
Instead of reading outlines are books filled with exhausting dates, she recommended reading biographies about or autobiographies from famous people. These books should be, if possible-
- Old. "The early history of a nation is far better fitted than its later records for the study of children, because the story moves on a few broad, simple lines..." Home Education, page 281-282
- Not specifically for children. "For the matter for this intelligent teaching of history, eschew, in the first place, nearly all history books written expressly for children." Home Education, page 281
- First-hand sources, when possible. "...let them get the spirit of history into them by reading, at least, one old chronicle written by a man who saw and knew something of what he wrote about, and did not get it at second-hand." Home Education, page 282
- Include myths. "But every nation has its heroic age before authentic history begins: there were giants in the land in those days, and the child wants to know about them." Home Education, pages 280-281
- Read Plutarch's Lives. "In the same way, readings from Plutarch's Lives will afford the best preparation for the study of Grecian or of Roman history.."
- Read Shakespeare. "Let him spend a year of happy intimacy with Alfred, 'the truth-teller,' with the Conqueror, with Richard and Saladin, or with Henry V --Shakespeare's Henry V -- and is victorious army. " Home Education, pages 280-281
Home Education Curriculum: History
This section contains affiliate links as I share with you our curriculum picks. You can read more about this in my policies.
I'm not extremely eager to read Plutarch's Lives, but I did try to keep these recommendations in mind as I created our curriculum. One thing I noticed (that I mentioned in the introduction to this series,) is that the subjects aren't as isolated as they sometimes appear to be. Shakespeare isn't its own subject, it's a means for literature and for history. Myths don't need to be isolated to history. American myths look like folk tales, and I imagine we'll read some of those in literature.
With the previously mentioned things in mind, this is what I'm choosing for history during our first official year of homeschooling:
Native Americans- I chose to study Native Americans to approach early American history. While not all older books are culturally sensitive, I will use what Charlotte Mason referred to as "judicious skipping" and cut out any parts that are inaccurate or unfair.
The Book of Indians by Holling C Hollings- I made sure to buy a classic version of this book, as it looks like some reprints were copied incorrectly which make them impossible to read.
Benjamin Franklin- I wanted to choose an early American figure, and frankly, I think Benjamin Franklin is just fascinating!
I will also consider reading Sacagawea by Joseph Bruchac, but I will need to pre-read it first.
A friend asked me why I didn't coordinate the history time period with the art work (I sort of did) and the literature I chose. For two reasons: Charlotte Mason didn't say to do that in this volume, and also, since we are studying people and not necessarily time periods, it doesn't seem completely necessary.