Sunday, July 20, 2014

Which sequence do I want to follow to teach history?! And to combine, or not combine kids?!!

Oh my word, there are as many ways to approach teaching history as there are dandelions in my yard.

My head is spinning. I've tackled the phonics curriculum and math curriculum decisions for right now and I guess I'll move on to thinking about history. I have time to read and think it over.

Some people take a classical 4-year cycle: ancients, medieval, renaissance/early modern, modern-present. You'd do a year for each time period and cycle through it three times over the course of the 1st-12th grade span. You go deeper each time.

Or you could do a six-year cycle.

Then there's the school of thought that the little kids don't need to deal with ancient history from the get-go. Do a sweep of world history perhaps, but focus on the modern-present era, namely American history while they are little.

BUT if I did a bunch of American and more modern history and then jumped back to ancients when Johnny was 4th or 5th grade, then my baby would then be starting out with the ancients.

That brings me to the question of whether to keep all children in your family studying the same time period, or put them on their own cycle?

Because yeah, if you're keeping them all together then what will that look like for child #2 and child #3?!

It's all well and good for the firstborn. I guess the second kid will jump in at the middle ages or something, but in theory hear some of the earlier stuff if they are in the room for read-alouds and discussions.

I made a chart of when my kids will all start their more formal learning. I based it on the local cutoff dates for K (must be age 5 by like August something). I also think I'd like them to be 18 at graduation, rather than 17. I was 17, but turned 18 a few weeks later which was fine. My December X2 and late September babies will have their birthdays mid-year or toward the beginning of the year.

So again, the grade label is pretty much for social purposes. Academics are done on a per-child level.

I color-coded the 4-year spans pretending we'll do a classical history cycle and starting over again with each color, to see how that might look.

So no pretty matchup, here. Johnny is 2 grade levels ahead of Vivie, and Vivie is 3 ahead of Amelia. Johnny is 5 grades ahead of Amelia.

If I wanna combine some kids, it would be easiest to combine either Johnny and Viv, or Viv and Millie, rather than trying to combine all 3.

Or, I could have Amelia join Johnny's cycle in kindergarten, and slide my little color-coded thing back a level. Then change up her focus in high school since she'll be by herself for 3 years (maybe she could do her 4 years of high school credits starting in 8th, and then pick her favorite periods to go in-depth in 12th?).

I think I prefer that vs. sliding Amelia forward one notch.

To me, the 4-year cycle and going chronologically makes sense, except I do wonder about those first 4 years. Does it even matter to a child at that age? One of the drawbacks of this is the availability of literature for the ancients for the 1st grade set. Sure, there are books like Usborne or Eyewitness varieties. But literature? Meh.

Plus, you have to consider the opportunity cost. If I'm doing ancients in 1st and medieval in 2nd, there perhaps won't be enough time to do some of the wonderful, age-appropriate read-alouds from the modern-present era. Or perhaps it will just need to be more limited. Can't do it all. Know what I mean? By following one path, I can't take another at the same time.

I could try to combine until the child hits 8th grade, and then have them do their own thing for high school. Yeah I think that makes sense. High school is a whole 'nother thing.

When I think back to my own education, I know we did state history in 4th grade. I cannot remember anything else from elementary "social studies." Probably American history, and I have no idea if world history was involved in any way. (Maybe it doesn't actually matter that much? The eras studied in elementary?) In middle school, it was "social studies" for 6th and 7th, and then 8th grade was "U.S. History."

In high school, I did world geography, a year of U.S. history, and a semester focusing on WW2 because I liked the teacher so much. I wanted to take world history, but the teacher who taught that class was pretty bad (I had him for something else) so I opted out.

(I took a break here and pulled up some pages from my old middle and high school, as well as Indiana state standards to see what I might have been taught).

....ok. So, I think no matter what I put together, it's going to be ok.

Anyway. There are a lot of ways to approach the sequence, and there are a lot of ways to approach how you even teach it in the first place.

Rather than try to answer the question, "what is the best way to teach history?" I'm going to look at "what is the best way for ME to teach history to MY kids."

I'm going to explore some ways to handle this with my 3 kids and I will report back.

I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on any of this.


  1. So anyway, back to Veritas. The writers developed the 2nd-6th grade history to be used by grade, but they said it is flexible enough to be used across grades, and I can definitely see that. I also bought a supplementary book (not through Veritas) called "All Through the Ages" which is an incredible reference book, dividing books by era, grade, and type (historical fact, historical fiction, reference, narrative, biography, that sort of thing). Basically, if you're studying the Pilgrims, you can use the book to find appropriate books for each of your children's ages, for example, and according to the type of book you are looking for. I plan to use it to tweak book recommendations for each kids' age. But anyway, as to how Veritas works, the key is the timeline cards. One card per week, and you memorize/study them chronologically. There is a timeline song each year for the 32 cards for that year. Each card/week has a number of worksheets and activities that you can choose from to do. You don't have to do all, but pick those that are age-appropriate and interest you. Then the back of each timeline card has a few paragraphs on the history event/person, and a number of suggested additional resources to read on the subject. The wonderful thing about Veritas is that most of the books they use for additional resources can be bought used on Amazon for really cheap, and I also think they are good books. I've been impressed with the ones they recommend. I also think that although it would be ideal for every kid to start 1st (or 2nd) grade with the ancients, if they're going to go back through the cycle again, and if they got minimal exposure before while the siblings did it before them, it minimizes that drawback. For example, Hans is in 1st grade this year, and we're studying the ancients. Gretchen is doing the song, the timeline, and the fun activities right along with us. She won't be doing as much reading, and obviously at age 3, everything is optional, but she's getting enough exposure so I think it will help her when she's ready to "officially" be a part in a few years, and all of a sudden she jumps in during the middle ages. . . because it really WON'T be "all of a sudden." She'll have some informal frame of reference.

    So anyway, that's my very long reply. . . I brain dumped back at ya!

    1. Nooooooooooooo Blogger! Stink :(

  2. WHAT??? Did it not publish my first half of my comment? AGH.

  3. *Quel sigh* I had a MUCH longer comment typed, all about my opinions about Tapestry of Grace, Story of the World, and Classical Conversations (all I looked into in depth), and why we chose Veritas. Agh. I haven't the heart to re-type right now. Basically, my point was that they all have things to recommend them, but for us personally, Veritas made the most sense.

  4. I just typed a whole long comment and blogger ate it. Bad blogger!

    1. Noooooooooo! WHAT IN THE WORLD! Ok new rule, apparently my blog is a stinker and before pressing "submit," do a quick copy-paste of a long comment in case. GRR BLOGGER


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