Our History Curriculum

I have always loved the word watershed.  Perhaps it’s all my childhood hikes near the Continental Divide: I have always known that right here, the country’s waters divide: half flowing east, half flowing west. 

I can’t say I’ve had a lot of watershed moments in my life.  But I had one last week.

I have planned for years to follow the trivium concept of a four-year classical history cycle:  Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance to Civil War; post-Civil War.  We used Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World for three years and were very happy with the first two years.  The third year was equally engaging, but I felt like I had whiplash all year– everything was just moving too quickly.  So our fourth year, we used Genevieve Foster’s Abraham Lincoln’s World.  It was equally broad in its focus on world history (rather than just American History), but spending a year on a much shorter time span really helped me.  But what now?  

I think the 20th Century is a hard time for younger kids to study.  I have a hard time putting my finger on why, though.  Is it that there is such an abundance of primary sources available, and yet because it’s so… present?… it can be much more disturbing than ancient history (though atrocities abound in both periods)?  I don’t think that’s the only reason, but clearly there’s something about it that makes it hard.  It’s no wonder The Story of the World, Volume 4, took awhile to come out; there are no Genevieve Foster books on 20th Century figures; and The Mystery of History has yet to produce a book for the fourth year of the classical cycle.

I digress.  Thank you for bearing with me.

For these reasons (and others), I elected to return to the ancients for next year’s history study.  I looked at a lot of reviews from cyberfolks I respect, and I came up with The Mystery of History for next year.  Very excited, I placed my order and waited… and it arrived!  Hooray!  I opened it, read a lesson at random… and had my watershed moment.

I think the reason people love The Mystery of History and other curricula like it is that it has looked at the history and made all sorts of amazing connections for us.  Great.  Except that sometime in the past year, I have become a Charlotte Mason educator.  And I don’t want someone else to do all that mental work for us– I want us to do it ourselves.  I want my children to engage thoroughly with the text (of whatever we’re reading) and connect history with science with Gospel with literature with art… you get the idea.

So I returned MOH.  I know it is a blessing to many, and could have been a blessing to us.  But I have faith in my children that when we sit together to enter a living book about Theodora or Caesar or Hannibal, we’re going to discover some really marvelous connections ourselves.  And that’s why we’re home, doing school together.


3 thoughts on “Our History Curriculum

  1. When my SOTW volume 4 came in the mail, I read the table of contents and thought, how on Earth am I going to include M in this? Then I read the introduction and thought, well, I'll do ancient with M and have B read modern to himself and give me narrations.

    Then I listed out all that we have to do for both boys and thought, there's no way, I have to combine them somehow, there's only so many hours in the day, and K doesn't sleep at night!

    So my plan is to have B read SOTW silently, and give me narrations, but have M share in read a louds of biographies and literature books that aren't too… anyway, that's the plan for now.

    Do you use the content questions in SOTW? B's narrations are really thin unless he's practiced details with the questions in the activity book. But M gets completely flustered if he doesn't answer as many as B, or answer them perfectly, and then he melts down. At least next year's plan should remove the competitive nature of history for M.


  2. I think the quality of our narrations goes in cycles. When J is more interested in the topic, his narrations are full of great detail, but sometimes I get a very cursory narration. Then I try to shake up how it's presented: do a puppet show, or draw me a one-page comic of the chapter, etc. That seems to draw out more detail. O's are improving. His are best when I ask him to narrate a very short passage (3-4 verses of scripture, or the first sentence of a paragraph, etc.) I never used the SOTW questions because I don't want to be quizzing them. I want to hear what *they* heard.
    How's your foot?

  3. Good being – foot up, remember to take the pain med before it starts hurting…and don't walk around harumphing because the house is being run differently than I do it…

    Your comment points out the part of Good Miss Mason's theory that I'm still agnostic about (convince me please, you probably are doing it right!) We aren't supposed to repeat readings, or quiz narrations, but my guys are really zone-y. When I switched to asking the detail questions, then asking for a summary, B seemed to know better what I meant by tell me what happened, as if he needed an example of what a summary with important details was.

    I actually do (usually) do know what their impressions are because of their interruptions (cool! They did what? Ugh How does a guillitin work? etc) and for days afterwards they will ask me questions about motives and details.

    I think the loose discussion does help them make their own connections, but the form of their narration sure got smoother (for B) when we went through "Writing with Ease" which did include content questions.

    The other thing I don't get is why no repetition. As an adult reader, I often re-read books, certainly the Bible.

    I have only read the Andreaola and Lavin summaries, not the Mason originals, so I might not get the underlying ideas quite correctly.

    It's so exciting to have someone to ask about methods, the only other two ladies I know who use Charlotte Mason are super busy right now until Lego League time.


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