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Elementary History - Interest-led?

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Does anyone do only interest-led History in the elementary years? I am so unhappy with every history curriculum we've tried. I'm seriously considering ditching the actual curriculum and just following rabbit trails. Then, in the Middle School years, use curriculum.

 

I'd love some thoughts or links that explore this concept.

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No, because a student doesn't really have enough background, imo, to figure out their own path of study in this area.  I've had success with creating my own units.  We did a modified Ancients study in 1st where I gathered resources for 4-8 weeks' worth of study about a culture, blocking them into the various subjects to create a nearly full unit study (even math, where we learned how different cultures learned to count and what systems they used).  It was easier on my son than bouncing around and it gave us a chance to get really into chapter books and build upon previous knowledge.

 

I would do more of an interest-led study in upper middle school or high school, when a student can use more resources and has a better idea how the world fits together.

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No, because a student doesn't really have enough background, imo, to figure out their own path of study in this area.  I've had success with creating my own units.  We did a modified Ancients study in 1st where I gathered resources for 4-8 weeks' worth of study about a culture, blocking them into the various subjects to create a nearly full unit study (even math, where we learned how different cultures learned to count and what systems they used).  It was easier on my son than bouncing around and it gave us a chance to get really into chapter books and build upon previous knowledge.

 

I would do more of an interest-led study in upper middle school or high school, when a student can use more resources and has a better idea how the world fits together.

 

That may be what I was thinking ......... Thank you for your thoughts!

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Does anyone do only interest-led History in the elementary years? I am so unhappy with every history curriculum we've tried. I'm seriously considering ditching the actual curriculum and just following rabbit trails. Then, in the Middle School years, use curriculum.

 

I'd love some thoughts or links that explore this concept.

 

Yes.  We do.  We follow rabbit trails that come up in literature, science, news, talking about different things, etc.  It isn't necessarily totally child controlled, but neither is it completely mom controlled.  It also isn't x followed by y followed by z.  It is more fluid than that.

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Yes.  We do.  We follow rabbit trails that come up in literature, science, news, talking about different things, etc.  It isn't necessarily totally child controlled, but neither is it completely mom controlled.  It also isn't x followed by y followed by z.  It is more fluid than that.

 

My friend is doing this.  she has an 8 yo and a 4 1/2 yo.  She mostly checks out books from the library and see what museums are available in her area.

 

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We do. Usually she gets to pick a culture and I design the units. It is so easy to do and history is our whole family's favorite subject. I usually spend a day or night finding good, age appropriate videos and books and then I find some arts and or crafts and we usually find an authentic recipe. Usually I download some worksheets or vocab or venn diagrams, etc (Brainpop is great for this.) Voila! Unit study! We also try to work in a field trip if there's any way possible. For China we did the Chinese new year festival at the Chinese cultural center. Egypt meant several visits to the museum. We lucked into the ability to visit the ruins at Lamanai when we studied ancient mesoamericans, and we kicked off our native American unit this year with a road trip to Oklahoma. (We're continuing American history and this year we're headed to New Orleans and also a frontier day type-thing at a local ranch.)

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I don't have time or energy to make units, mercy. My dd was one whom curriculum fit. She was straight ADHD, no other disabilities, and she could do that more typical blend of curriculum and piles of literature, occasional crafts, boom done. My ds, on the other hand, is totally himself. With his autism and restricted interests, he is not going to get the big picture of history, is not going to care about the social/narrative nature of it, is not going to engage with the topics unless he sees how they connect to his own interests, etc.

 

So I think it's reasonable to look at factors like that and see what you're trying to fix. If you're saying homeschool curriculum is cr*p, sure I'm with you there. A lot of it is not developmentally staged, not well done, not going to fit many learners. But if you're saying your kids aren't engaging with the topics because they have their own interests, that's a different piece of data. And if you're saying they don't really engage with social stories and narratives, well that's fine too and helpful to put into words. That's like me, I don't get the flow of history, can't see how it fits together, don't give a rip about all the stories of history, etc. All the things that make history HISTORY for people don't work for me.

 

So then you go ok, if we know the parameters of why it's NOT working, then we can decide if those parameters were important or if they weren't even important. For instance, with my ds, at the age where he is, using his area of perseverative interest as a way to approach history MAKES SENSE. He has one major thing he's into, and it happens to occur in history. So it's ok to chain and go hey you could also be interested in xyz, but reality is using his area of particular interest to get into the history time periods works better. So for him, I just bought a pile of DK Let's Find Out! books. They're on a level he can engage with, both for maturity and reading, and they have books on time periods. We do a lot with reading through pictorial encyclopedias on time periods or topics. Beyond that, he watches a ton of videos.

 

For him, with the issue of timeline and details vs. big picture, a more concise resource is going to be better. I have a timeline but we haven't done one together yet. I think it will be a connector for him.

 

For me, as a history hater (avowed, determined, 40 years), Veritas Press is about the only thing that has ever made sense. It let me finally see the big picture. I had no clue events overlapped. History with books is taught as hundreds and thousands of years of seemingly endless details. So doing something that gets them the big picture is good, but it doesn't have to be every year or all the time. It's just an issue to do at some point.

 

The other thing that I think is important about history education, something that you sort of *assume* is happening in good curriculum but isn't necessarily or isn't connecting with the student, is analysis. And think about that. We've broken down here content, timeline, and now analysis. Analysis for history is something you can outsource. You can say ok I want him to THINK about history or social studies or geography and how these things connect, and the THINKING piece isn't something I'm going to bring to the table. Content, easy to make happen. Timeline, easy to make happen. Thinking, analysis, that's where it's more iffy and more time-consuming. 

Social Studies  This is Carson-Dellosa's listings for Social Studies. What I'm beginning to do with my ds is weave these things in as independent work or seat work. Social Studies « Books | Teacher Created Resources  This is another where I'm getting things. I'm starting him on one of their non-fiction comprehension social studies books next week. I've been using a picture study book that I think was from Carson-Dellosa and it's really good! 

 

So even though what I'm exposing him to is just random topical books or pictorial encyclopedias, I'm bringing in some of that extra layer of thought. For us it's really fun! Using Primary Sources Workbook Grade 3 / Ages 8–9 $9.99 Print $9.99 eBook  Here is one we're using. I forget which grade we started with. It has differentiated reading levels for the text and very nice questions to make them think. That's the piece I don't bring well, the make them think.

 

Down to Earth Geography, Grade 3  This is another series I want to weave in, again to make him think. 

 

https://cdn.teachercreated.com/samples/3641s.pdf  Look at this and imagine how something like this could pair with your eclectic mix of books for your oldest. It would bring the debate and analysis he's ready for but still make it easy for you.

Edited by PeterPan

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More or less.

 

We started out trying to make the history cycle fit us, but it didn’t. My elementary aged daughter is a voracious reader, so I would simply dump books in her library bin and she would read what looked interesting to her. If something especially caught her attention, she would ask for more, or we would do projects, or something. We listened to Hakim’s Story of US on audio during long car trips. Nothing organized or sequential. We have plenty of time to fill in holes and get a former grasp on the timelines later.

 

We’re currently doing Cultural Geography that I’m putting together myself because I wanted her to have an idea of what the current world was like. After that, I intend to return to doing interest-based exposure.

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What we do isn't entirely interest-led -- I use a combination of SOTW and Core Knowledge read-alouds to give them a general outline of Things That Happened, but how long we linger on each topic, how many related books we read, what projects we might do, and any rabbit trails, are (mostly) up to them.

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I did this with my two oldest. They are absolute history buffs. When they were in the younger elementary years we just checked out library books. I generally did the picking. I would basically search for books that covered topics that we hadn't hit upon yet. We never really did units. One month we might look at a book about life in Rome and the lives of some of the saints. As they got into their later elementary years they read a lot of historical fiction and I chose a few read-aloud to go through with them with the goal of giving them a better picture of the scope of history. At this point we're still fairly interest led; they get to pick educational library books on whatever history topics they find interesting. I also use R&S history 9 and on the side we're watching a long bbc documentary series on the cold war. When we finish that we'll probably find a documentary series on the history of the middle east crisis. We don't do much writing on history issues but we discuss things all the time. Occasionally I assign some sort of essay. I'm just reluctant to kill their enjoyment of it.

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"Curriculum" means "the course of study offered by an institution of education." If you are doing history, you have "curriculum," even if you don't have a published text or other guide of some kind.

 

When my children were young and we were hsing (early 80s), no one I knew talked about doing history chronologically. We just did...history. Field trips, fiction which happened to have a historical element (e.g., Little House books), field trips, living history days, all that fun stuff. When dc were 10 and 13, we did Vol. 2 of KONOS, which is chronological American history, beginning with the early scientists, then the early explorers. We did the the following year with younger dd. After that, older dd was taking classes at the community college, and she considered being a history major, because she loved history. Younger dd did BJUP world history, then American history, then on to community college.

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For what it's worth and just as an aside I recommend Faces magazine as well as Dig magazine. I recently subscribed to them in an effort to boost social studies (history, cultural) access around here and I am quite pleased with their cotent for my 8 yr old. They both design their issues thematically which allows more in-depth learning. I use their content as a springboard for rabbit trails.

 

National Geographic also proves helpful in this regard. For example, their recent issue on Costa Rica & happiness is timely as we plan our summer trip to that country. The issue in December on 'the real Jesus' put an archeological perspective on this holy man.

 

In terms of current events, I like News-o-Matic on our iPad. It's quite kid-friendly and informative in a multi-media format. I like that it ties in geography as well. The real bonus is its multi-lingual component though (we make use of that!).

 

All these things mentioned above are just enhancements (or add-ons) to a robust history curriculum. But they sure are well worth it!

Edited by Earthmerlin
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For what it's worth and just as an aside I recommend Faces magazine as well as Dig magazine. I recently subscribed to them in an effort to boost social studies (history, cultural) access around here and I am quite pleased with their cotent for my 8 yr old. They both design their issues thematically which allows more in-depth learning. I use their content as a springboard for rabbit trails.

 

National Geographic also proves helpful in this regard. For example, their recent issue on Costa Rica & happiness is timely as we plan our summer trip to that country. The issue in December on 'the real Jesus' put an archeological perspective on this holy man.

 

In terms of current events, I like News-o-Matic on our iPad. It's quite kid-friendly and informative in a multi-media format. I like that it ties in geography as well. The real bonus is its multi-lingual coomponent though (we make use of that!).

 

All these things mentioned above are just enhancements (or add-ons) to a robust history curriculum. But they sure are well worth it!

I also wanted to add that we still discuss history topically....as current events take place or holidays arise. For example, today's MLK Jr day and so we're talking about why we've the day off--his life and legacy.

 

Also, have you considered local living history days or historical reenactments? We'll be looking into those as the weather turns. It sounds like a fun way to bring things to life!

Edited by Earthmerlin

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Really good thoughts, everyone. Thank you so much!!! We are currently away - on a little history trip, in fact. We are in Richmond - we saw the Terracotta Army exhibit and visited some Civil War battle sites.

 

I will read over everything again when we get home.

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For enhancements, I would recommend "Horrible History" books for maybe your oldest or/and the second oldest. Also, Kids Discover magazines for all ages. Maybe Nathan Hale's hazardous tales and Chester comix for the oldest. We tend to let DS(10) read what interests him and gets him reading, so my recommendation might not be suitable for some families. But, these were read over and over by DS. 

 

Also, you could play games like Oregon Trail Card Game and Timeline game.

 

Enjoy your trip!

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Yes. We spent a couple of years on Greece and Rome learning about mythology. There's a lot of lit to choose from. Then we studied Vikings. I had planned to spend a year on Little House, but that fell flat, so I moved onto something else. This year we're studying pirates. We just took a field trip to see some replica ships. My oldest spent a year studying weapons through the ages. He'd draw from books and design some himself. Grandpa designs his own knives, so it's not that unusual to us.

 

All you need is a small interest and then follow through with literature and non-fiction books. Our viking unit started when my middle was loving the How to Train Your Dragon series. 

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