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Pros and Cons of designing own history curriculum


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I designed two years of American history and I am pulling my own stuff together for SOTW.

 

Cons:

It is a lot of work!

 

Pros:

I get to pick the perfect books for us.

I don't have to tweak and be frustrated with something that is not a perfect fit.

I can more seamlessly integrate the arts, lit, science, writing, etc.

I was able to finally give up searching for the perfect program. This is the big one!

 

There are more benefits, I am sure. But that is what comes to mind immediately.

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For the ages in your signature? No. There are so many fabulous options already available that I felt no need to reinvent the wheel. I dug for the one that looked and sounded the most like us, and tweaked here or there to suit us.

 

I have pulled our own history together for logic stage kids. It does take a lot of planning work. I found it easier to do in 6 week chunks. That way I wasn't spending every weekend pouring over the texts to get the next week ready, but I wasn't planning so far out that the kids' needs would change and I'd have to scrap months of plans.

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I dunno. I designed a Native American/American West history study for my dd8 and ds-almost-10 to do this year. For me it was worth it because there wasn't anything that I could find "out there" that would meet my criteria. It was kind of a pain, but I am REALLY looking forward to doing it with them, so I think it evens out in the end. :tongue_smilie:

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I do, and I've looked at probably every curriculum available and cannot find one that is worth the price for us. (Every one available now has too much that wouldn't work for us. I either don't like the books, or the spines, or the busywork questions and activites, or the overall focus, etc.) In the end, what I want isn't available.:lol:

 

So, I make my own...and it is a lot of work. But, I like to do this type of work....a lot....so I think this works for those who don't mind doing all of this. I call it a labor of love.:001_smile:

 

I do think that for the ages of your children that your history curriculum can be very simple in design, yet still be fun and, most importantly, develop a love of learning.

 

ETA: Thanks RootAnn, your pros and cons reminded me of another great reason (pro) to designing your own...because you designed it, you know the material very well. This becomes even more important when your kids get older. :)

Edited by Kfamily
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Pros

- I'd be tweaking the program anyway, so might as well write the whole thing myself.

- I don't have to pay for someone else's plans since I'm putting together my own.

- Learning how to set goals, schedule a program, find resources, etc. is a valuable skill.

- If you want tests/quizzes, you can include them. If you'd rather lap or notebook the heck out of the studies, you can build it that way.

 

Cons

- It takes a ton of time.

- You have no idea how much time your plan will take. With someone else's program, they usually have some experience (or plan) for how long each week & how many weeks it will take.

- Being burnt out on the program before you have even started it because you've been working on it for so long. (This familiarity can be a pro because you could be so excited to have your kids do it that your excitement rubs off on them.)

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This is what I'm struggling with:

 

1. I really want/ed to do OT as history. I want my kiddos to know that Biblical events actually happened in history. So I decided to use The Story of the Ancient World by Guerber/Miller (along with a few other books). I like how she combines other civilizations with the OT history.

 

2. I am not someone who minds planning stuff like this out, but I find myself thinking long-term. Am I going to want to do this every year? I also have 2 more kids, hence, more planning as the years go on. I've also noticed that all the time I *thought* I would have to plan this Summer simply gets so easily derailed. So, then I find myself thinking how nice it would be if I could be happy with a curriculum that is already put together.

 

3. The two I am drawn to are AO and CMH. I used AO 1 (pretty much all but their history) and I could get caught up pretty quickly by just doing two readings a week from Our Island Story. Or--the same with CMH, which starts with Ancients and ties the Bible readings to history. I'm realizing I could still treat OT as history simply by adding OT events to a historical timeline.

 

Anyway, I'm really feeling like I need "homeschool mom curriculum therapy" right now!!

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I do, and I've looked at probably every curriculum available and cannot find one that is worth the price for us.

 

 

This.

 

We tried using just SOTW one year, and the kids wanted more depth. So I pick an inexpensive guide to help me plan so I don't forget anything important (history is not a strength of mine.) Then I pull from the book lists like AO, BF, Sonlight, VP etc. I see what my library has first and preread some of the ones we would be reading for a long time to decide if I'd rather just buy them.

 

We used the SCM guide last year (only $15!) for Middle Ages, and this year I'm using Truthquest b/c I liked their choices for spines better for Early American.

 

I probably won't continue to plan my own in middle school on up, but I just hate paying all that money for a program for elementary.

 

ETA: As far as planning out the whole year, usually only planning about 9-18 weeks works best for our family (books end up taking longer or shorter than I think, you'll find something extra at the library, or a cool video you want to add in from Netflix, things like that.) When I've planned an entire year at a time, it has never once happened the way I planned. :) I just try to decide where in history we want to be at for the end of the year, then plan a quarter at a time.

Edited by Homemama2
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I did it one year and I think it just takes way too much time.

 

I find that even if I want to add my own materials/touch to the year, I'm much better off tweaking an existing program than writing one.

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This.

 

We tried using just SOTW one year, and the kids wanted more depth. So I pick an inexpensive guide to help me plan so I don't forget anything important (history is not a strength of mine.) Then I pull from the book lists like AO, BF, Sonlight, VP etc. I see what my library has first and preread some of the ones we would be reading for a long time to decide if I'd rather just buy them.

 

We used the SCM guide last year (only $15!) for Middle Ages, and this year I'm using Truthquest b/c I liked their choices for spines better for Early American.

 

I probably won't continue to plan my own in middle school on up, but I just hate paying all that money for a program for elementary.

 

ETA: As far as planning out the whole year, usually only planning about 9-18 weeks works best for our family (books end up taking longer or shorter than I think, you'll find something extra at the library, or a cool video you want to add in from Netflix, things like that.) When I've planned an entire year at a time, it has never once happened the way I planned. :) I just try to decide where in history we want to be at for the end of the year, then plan a quarter at a time.

 

:iagree: That's how it really works on the ground -- even if you buy something, you end up changing it to suit your needs as you go. So, I would be cost-conscious and not expect everything to go as "planned" -- whether it's your plan or someone else's.

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This uses the Grueber/Miller books. It may or may not be what you are looking for. She just finished it recently so not many people know about it.

 

http://foundationspress.com/our-homeschool-curriculum/world-history/

 

:001_smile: I just purchased this and was going to recommend you look at it. It is recommended for 4th to 8th grade. :001_smile: Teaching History with the Bible as our main text is precisely what I have wanted to do. I have been buying and reading everything....

 

I'd also recommend Veritas Press as a timeline if you want heavy Bible.

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I design my kids' history programs b/c I have never been able to find anything that meets our needs. I owned Sonlight when I first started homeschooling and it gave me an idea of how easy it would be to build my own and set our own pace and select our own titles. When I first started designing my own, I followed a similar pattern as SL.

 

Over time, I stopped following that format and created one that reflects our family's priorities and goals better.

 

When I design the courses for my young kids, it is not very time consuming. The large amts of time I spend planning is devoted to higher grade levels.

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I design our own history. This time of year is my busiest time of year. Putting your own plans together is sooo time consuming, but it has too many benefits for me to stop.

 

I can pick the resources best suited for my kids and put it together in a way that will engage them.

We can go slow and deep and not be behind.

We can deviate from the traditional worksheets, tests, and paperwork because I don't add it to our study.

It is free or cheap (we use the library heavily).

I get to know the material quite well.

 

I was thinking (a bit enviously I might add) of what it might be like to just be able to buy a program and use it without needing to spend the time preparing. I know it wouldn't work well for us though. I don't want to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes the various wheels available don't fit on my child's wagon without a lot of work anyway.

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I'm almost done planning our World Countries & Cultures for this year, and I plan to make our own history after that. I have a VSL and I haven't seen any actual curricula that would work well for a VSL. It's taken a lot of planning, but I love what I have laid out.

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I'm in the process of putting something together for this year, and yeah, it does feel like a lot of work!

But then, last year, history almost didn't get done because all of us dreaded it so much that no one was motivated to do it. (This was Medieval history mind! Shouldn't have been boring at all!)

 

I had a bit of a breakthrough however, early in the year that I just didn't have the energy to follow up on then, but am really thinking hard about for this year.

For a brief time, I just read from An Island Story. They loved it. I would read the selection the night before and take notes on what interested me so that we could talk about what we had read and discuss it. In this way, they got to where history was more interesting to them. I'd like to sort of enlarge on that idea for this year, and also to take on a more multi-stranded approach such as Ambleside Online uses. I'm not sure how I'll end up doing with history this year, but in our case, the story is the thing to make it stick and we are bored stiff with SOTW.

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I like the idea of doing different strands of history. I plan to continue with American history. I also don't like a ton of projects--and I don't find my kids really need them. They're pretty happy with the books we've read and good discussions.

 

I'm kind of thinking something like this:

 

Story of the Ancient World (for OT/Bible)

Child's History of World (for broad overview)

And then American history books

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I like the idea of doing different strands of history. I plan to continue with American history. I also don't like a ton of projects--and I don't find my kids really need them. They're pretty happy with the books we've read and good discussions.

 

I don't like projects, but sometimes it is nice to do something related to what we are studying. I certainly have no patience with coloring pages, and I don't even like doing a lot of history narrations on paper. I found that when I used my notes we got a lot talked about that wasn't even in the text, and the retention was better.

 

I like the multi-strand approach to history as well, but getting it all done is going to be a job. Especially working on my own using mostly library resources. Thank goodness I've got a good library!

 

Sigh. I really, really just want to read. So I put together a list of my favorite books -- The American Story: Beginnings to 1860. I BOUGHT all the books, so I will not burn out on working the library this year. I painted two old dresser drawers (one red, one blue), added pretty ribbons, put date labels (e.g., 1776) on each book, hung up a few famous photos, and that was that!

 

We will read through our drawers. :)

 

I don't know whether to call you an inspiration or....you are wayyyyy, way more organized than me!:tongue_smilie:

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I "designed" our study last year -- if you could call it that. :tongue_smilie: I decided not to start a 4-year history study with twin Pre-K'ers, just because my oldest was in First Grade. We read, ate, played, sang, danced, and crafted our way "Around-the-World." We had a blast! As I type this, two of the girls are actually singing "Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, boop, boop, Austria, Belgium and Netherlands, boop, boop, France and Monaco, Geeeeeeeermany are all in Western Europe!"

 

This year (2nd/K) and next (3rd/1st), we will read through US History. "Designing" this was what I needed, because everything out there was JUST TOO MUCH. I don't want lap books. I don't want crafts (unless we want them, for that we have a few resources, but they're not essential). I don't want recipes for Johnny cakes (unless I want to do this, then I'll find a recipe online in 2 minutes). I don't want to make a coonskin cap. I don't want skits and plays. I don't want timelines (this time around). I don't want notebooks. Nope. Not gonna happen here. I think ;) we will make the Plains Indians diorama, LOL, and perhaps a paper wigwam or clay pueblo..... :lol:

 

Sigh. I really, really just want to read. So I put together a list of my favorite books -- The American Story: Beginnings to 1860. I BOUGHT all the books, so I will not burn out on working the library this year. I painted two old dresser drawers (one red, one blue), added pretty ribbons, put date labels (e.g., 1776) on each book, hung up a few famous photos, and that was that!

 

We will read through our drawers. :) I am SO excited to approach History (and Science) with the Read-through-the-Books-on-the-Shelf-and-Talk-About-Them method, and I know it will be enough at this age, with everything else we're doing with Bible, Literature, English, Math, Music, Latin, French, Soccer, Swimming, Drawing Instruction, Composer Study, Nature Time, and life! Whew! For me, if History and Science were BIG PROGRAMS, I would actually lose interest in doing them, and spend the rest of the year feeling guilty about it. Too much would feel overwhelming and demotivating.

 

By lining up a very nice collection of books to read through and discuss, we are going to learn so much and still be relaxed and happy. We are also building up our home library. We're able to read and re-read favorite books more than once, in or out of "order," and make our own connections. We can add crafts and other things if we want to, but they're not essential. And the girls will learn a lot on their own. In fact, because all three girls are such strong readers, they have already been reading through the History and Science books.

 

New books!?!? :party:Oh, Mommy! You're the BEST Mommy in the WORLD. May we read them?

 

I couldn't say no. :blush:

 

One yr I just left my ds alone and let him read through our partial series of American Heritage Junior Library books. (I am not sure the exact number we have off the top of my head but I am guessing around 17-20) http://www.valerieslivingbooks.info/american.htm He declared (and has since stated yrs later) that he learned more that history that yr than any other.

 

I am taking a similar approach w/our 8th grader this yr except she is reading world history via the Horizon-Caravel books (which I don't own as many of) w/ some of the Time Life Time Frame books incorporated. http://www.amazon.com/Time-Life-Frame-25/dp/B000LTUVTK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343415693&sr=1-1&keywords=time+life+time+frame+series She is excited about the approach.

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This is what I'm struggling with:

 

1. I really want/ed to do OT as history. I want my kiddos to know that Biblical events actually happened in history. So I decided to use The Story of the Ancient World by Guerber/Miller (along with a few other books). I like how she combines other civilizations with the OT history.

 

Well I'll just be the voice of sanity and point out to you that VP history *does* exactly this and creates a framework that you can plug Guerber or anything else you want into.

 

Don't reinvent the wheel. Either *simplify* and focus or use someone else's structure. By simplify and focus I mean pick up a spine, read it, have fun with it, move on, call it good. I have a lot of hindsite now where I know that would have been good enough for certain ages/stages. By using someone else's structure, I mean you start with say VP, use their cards (or even their online self-paced classes, which are AWESOME) to create your weekly plan and plug your preferred literature into it. That way you get the benefit of opening up their catalog and seeing all the books and extras they've already correlated to each week with those cards. That's a lot of work done for you that you don't have to do, kwim? And the pdf tm comes with lots of goodies (hands-on, etc.). So don't reinvent the parts you don't HAVE to reinvent.

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Have any of you designed your own history curriculum and glad you did it? I'm in the process of doing this, but it is a lot of work and I'm starting to wonder if it's really worth it.

 

Thoughts?

 

I have and it's been very worth it for me. I got tired of spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on programs I ended up tweaking until they didn't resemble the original programs much anymore. Sometimes I'd end up ditching half of the books in a literature based program because they didn't work for my kids. I'd dump out of projects and find different ones that worked better for us, or I'd have to work my rear off FINDING projects for programs that just didn't have much to begin with.

 

It was nice to use a scaffold of an already designed curriculum, but still...nothing ever fit quite right. I consider my tweaking years the years with training wheels before I finally rode off on my own, lol.

 

When I finally decided to totally create a curriculum from scratch I was really happy with the end product. I knew the material better and we ended up enjoying ourselves so much more. Otter also ended up retaining everything so much better. There's nothing that can compete with a fully customized program tailor-made for your own child!! :) I cater to my son's strengths and weaknesses to help him be as successful as he can be. I also want him to enjoy what we're doing so I keep that in mind when choosing which books/materials to use.

 

It's also soooooo much cheaper. Even though I always end up buying some of the books, I also make liberal use of what my library has available.

 

It is a LOT of work but it's work I enjoy (er, actually LOVE), so it's worth it to me. I'm down to homeschooling only one child though so I have more time to actually work on big projects like this (and I don't stop at history, so it really IS a lot of work).

 

I also have the added bonus that when I share stuff I make, I know others are having a little easier/more fun time too...(for those of you who like my stuff and don't want to take the time to create your own). :D

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I do a mix. I pull from resources that I like but tweak them to fit us. For example, I know that we almost always like the Sonlight Literature/Read-alouds and readers, and often (but not always) like the history. So I might pull lit, biographies & readers from Sonlight to go along with another history spine. (Sometimes I also pull books from other sources). You can almost always tell the time period from the description or back cover or first couple of pages of a reader, so it's pretty easy to put the books in order. I don't schedule everything to match exactly or decide ahead how long it will take to read it. Instead I keep a listing in order with my best guess as to how long it will take. I also keep a list of optional books in case we get way ahead, or I will drop a book if it takes us longer than I thought. I give myself enough structure without over-scheduling to make things flow well.

 

I find it rewarding and fun to make up our own history course, but I don't totally reinvent the wheel.

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I'm planning on doing it, soon, hopefully...

 

I've looked at so many history resources and they just don't work for us, they don't get done!

 

DH & I have decided on an approach to history that makes it interesting and important for us. I do plan to pull bits and pieces from all the bits and pieces I have :lol:, but essentially I'll be designing/writing it from scratch. It's exciting but I keep procrastinating!!!

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It is a LOT of work but it's work I enjoy (er, actually LOVE), so it's worth it to me. I'm down to homeschooling only one child though so I have more time to actually work on big projects like this (and I don't stop at history, so it really IS a lot of work).

 

I also have the added bonus that when I share stuff I make, I know others are having a little easier/more fun time too...(for those of you who like my stuff and don't want to take the time to create your own). :D

 

Yes, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Your American History course was the basic structure I used to come up with our own American History I for this year. You DID save me a ton of work, Jenn. :D:D:D

 

And it just goes to show that there's flexibility in how to approach a study. You incorporated plenty of hands-on stuff, because that's how your son learns best. My girls are eager readers and talkers. So assembling a wonderful set of books -- "You mean, books we can KEEP? FOREVER?" -- reading the books aloud, talking about them, and putting little reminder notes on our wall seemed to be the best way to go for this year.

 

But I also have to keep in mind that THEY like to do crafts, cook, color, sing, build, create, put on impromptu plays, and go places. :001_huh: Well, they do. I say, "THEY do." ;) So the glue and scissors and tape will come out (sacrificially), but I just can NOT find the energy to make hands-on projects the cornerstone of any history that I'm responsible to "teach." :svengo:At least, not without drugs. I admit that when I need inspiration for hands-on ideas, I will head on over to Guesthollow.com. :001_smile:

 

Who knows? I'm working out these days, so the energy level is rising. Where's my glue stick? We'll let you know how it goes as we work our way through the year.

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History is content. Content isn't a hill worth dying on. Remember to spend your time and money on skills before content.

 

You CAN just go to the library, see what is available that week, and bring it home. Don't forget the DVDs.

 

The Mark Twain workbooks all went on sale at Currclick. Remember you CAN just read workbook pages aloud and not have the student do them.

 

http://www.currclick.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=345

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I'm pulling together fairly simple American History for my 4th grader this year.

 

We're going to use the Core Knowledge books 2nd-6th (What Your X Grader Needs to Know), and I went through and put all the readings in chronological order. We also have the book Everything You Need to Know about American History Homework which has some good short readings. The "heavy" content will come from Guerber... I got the combined volume of The Story of the 13 Colonies and the Great Republic from MP.

 

So taking those books, readings coordinated and in chronological order, adding in some good historical literature (including the Maestro books) and some units on government and election... we're done.

 

Now... check back with me in a few months to see if it worked at all, LOL!! :D

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Dh and I both love history, and I plan it myself since I can't find anything that fits what I want to do.

Even though it is a good amount of work, it is our favorite subject.

I look at other programs to get ideas for spines, timeline resources, read alouds, and projects.

 

I second the idea of looking at the VP history cards. You can use them to see how to chronologically place the Bible readings among the other readings in your history spine.

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History is content. Content isn't a hill worth dying on. Remember to spend your time and money on skills before content.

 

See, I actually believe the exact opposite. I wrap skills around content. Content is what makes my kids' eyes light up and tackle the skills without giving me any grief or being bored out of their gourd. :D

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History is content. Content isn't a hill worth dying on. Remember to spend your time and money on skills before content.

 

I also disagree with this.

The above statement is reflective of a belief in the progressive education philosophy, which was championed by John Dewey and adopted by entities such as the public schools over the last century. The progressive educational philosophy was developed largely as a response to classical education.

FYI.

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I think negating skills over content is actually an oversimplification of educational philosophies, especially w/in the context of the OP.

 

The OP's oldest child is 6. While history can definitely be used to inspire interest and love of a subject, (and in no way am I suggesting that it shouldn't be!) basic skills such as reading, proper letter formation, understanding how to use language properly (and though not classical, imho, math,)etc should be placed a fundamentally higher priority over "subject matter" during the primary grades.

 

True classical education did not address educating 6 yr olds. Studies were hierarchial (grammar, logic, and rhetoric were the first areas of study.) The trivium were subjects, not ages, and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music.and astronomy) were advanced studies after the mastery of the trivium. The focus of the trivium/quadrivium were to train the man for freedom vs. training the man for economic/livelihood purposes.

 

So, fundamentally what is the definition of skill over content in terms of young children? If skill is defined as mastering the use of language in order to eventually be intellectually equipped to pursue science (science as defined in the classical sense........encompassing philosophy, theology, math, sciences, etc ), than focusing on skills as the foundation of intellectual development, especially in the younger yrs, is classical. However, if skill is reduced to meaning knowledge-based education and fundamental tools/skills which focus on employability over forming the mind to think, than yes, that is the antithesis of classical ed.

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Not to hijack, but since it is about designing a history curriculum (and in it's broadest sense I'd say that would be pulling together your own books, setting the scope and writing the discussions and tests whether you do this orally or in written form) can I ask about multi-stranded history?

 

I'd like to do this. I get the idea of SWB that a chronological approach to history is her recommendation. Let's just say I'm not sure I agree with history in the younger ages being taught chronologically. I'm not sure the concept of time really means that much in the younger grades. (After being asked if dinosaurs were alive when I was a little girl!:tongue_smilie:)

What I'm looking for, my vision, is to present history in a story format, without being too particular as to whether those stories are all from the same time period. I'd sort of like something like the century book or a timeline to put in on, but only as a way to say that a story came from a certain time. I don't want to be fettered with having to stay all in one time period. I'd rather be perfectly comfortable discussing Marco Polo, then going up the river with Lewis and Clark, then setting foot on the Moon and tying that all together with the idea of explorers. Does that make sense?

Am I going to ruin my children doing this?:001_huh: Or is this a reasonable thing to do when it comes to history?

Edited by Critterfixer
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Not to hijack, but since it is about designing a history curriculum (and in it's broadest sense I'd say that would be pulling together your own books, setting the scope and writing the discussions and tests whether you do this orally or in written form) can I ask about multi-stranded history?

 

I'd like to do this. I get the idea of SWB that a chronological approach to history is her recommendation. Let's just say I'm not sure I agree with history in the younger ages being taught chronologically. I'm not sure the concept of time really means that much in the younger grades. (After being asked if dinosaurs were alive when I was a little girl!:tongue_smilie:)

What I'm looking for, my vision, is to present history in a story format, without being too particular as to whether those stories are all from the same time period. I'd sort of like something like the century book or a timeline to put in on, but only as a way to say that a story came from a certain time. I don't want to be fettered with having to stay all in one time period. I'd rather be perfectly comfortable discussing Marco Polo, then going up the river with Lewis and Clark, then setting foot on the Moon and tying that all together with the idea of explorers. Does that make sense?

Am I going to ruin my children doing this?:001_huh: Or is this a reasonable thing to do when it comes to history?

 

I am not sure what is meant by the term multi-stranded history, but what you describe is the way we approach history and I haven't ruined my kids yet. :lol:

 

I see it as a tapestry or web w/strands intertwining and weaving in and out and there are many ways to learn about those connections. HTH

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I am not sure what is meant by the term multi-stranded history, but what you describe is the way we approach history and I haven't ruined my kids yet. :lol:

 

I see it as a tapestry or web w/strands intertwining and weaving in and out and there are many ways to learn about those connections. HTH

 

Well, good. I'm leaning this way as I'm preparing for history.

I picked up the term (or made it up) after reading through LCC this summer. It seems to refer to teaching multiple chronological periods of history at the same time. But even they seem to divide it into times that never touch: American History, Ancient History, Medieval History, etc.

 

I don't like that. At least not at this time. I may be all about chronological progression in the higher grade. Don't know. But I'm remembering how I felt about history at the age my boys are right now (8 years old). It was all about the stories, the people, the places. I tend to remember those with great fondness, and remember that even later in life, my best friend and I never got into a canoe without pretending to be Marquette and Joliet or Lewis and Clark. I want to see the same carryover into play with my boys.

 

Maybe you could recommend some resources that you've found to be engaging with this age range? I've not had much trouble with finding Medieval and Ancient history, but American History seems to be a little harder. I'm not exactly sure why, but our best library seems a little short on early American History resources. The one I have in town has more, mostly because being short on funds, they don't tend to throw out the older books.

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