Thursday, November 11, 2010

This Home Schooling Life: Learning History Without the History Book

I have not felt like the best mama these days.  My kids have had a lot of scrambled eggs for dinner, cereal or even boxed mac and cheese.
One activity in a day wears me out.
There have been days when I let them watch a movie in the afternoon just so I can take a nap.  Mostly this is for Lilly--the boys are perfectly capable of playing quietly by themselves and letting me sleep.
But Lilly is 2.
And well, she is Lilly.  Nuff said.
I can seem to get the beds made but the tub does not get scrubbed. 
I am just so very tired.
And often very, very sick too.
Sometimes sitting with them doing school and the way they lean on me or want to sit on my lap makes my skin crawl.
I know.
I am terrible.
But when I am so nauseous I can hardly stand, I really don't want anyone draping their body over me.
Thankfully, the school work we are doing together is really a lot of fun.  Especially the books.  We are reading some amazing books.

I mean really, very, wonderfully, amazing books.

Like this one.

We finished it today and I cried multiple times as we did.  James did too, so we can't just blame it on hormones.
It is a beautiful book.
I learned more about Abraham Lincoln from reading this 1939 childrens' book than I learned in all my years of reading from history books and sitting in college history classes.
We learned what an incredible man Mr. Lincoln was.

He started here: in a log cabin in rural Kentucky.

He attended 1 year of school when he was 6.  After that he educated himself.
His neighbors thought he was "queer" because he read a book while plowing the fields.
He practiced speeches while sitting in the woods observing the deer, squirrels or rabbits.
He learned to be a lawyer by reading books.
His was a unique education and strong encouragement to offer that to my own children.

The book was our first introduction to the Civil War.  

And while we have learned about slaves before, this picture really spoke to us.  The day after the war ended, Lincoln walked into Virginia and was greeted by freed slaves who surrounded him with great joy and tears.

But far more than the beautiful illustrations and the events of Mr. Lincoln's life, this book showed us the kind of man he was.  Included are words from his speeches, like these from the days after the war ended when he welcomed back the Southern states, "with malice toward none and charity to all."

So inspired were we by Mr. Lincoln that we explored more and learned the song, "Dixie", (Lincoln's favorite song) we read the Gettysburg address, looked at pictures of the Lincoln Memorial and the battle field of Gettysburg.

It is such a powerful way to learn history.

My boys are developing a strong interest and understanding of the history of our country.
And it is all through reading books like the one above.
By reading stories about real people, the events that make up the beginnings of our country become real to them.  They matter and they make sense, because we care about the people who are living these events.

Thus far we have covered the Separatists journeying to America on the Mayflower, some of our nations' founding fathers like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, the Revolutionary War, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, the travels and trials of the pioneers like Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family and the wars with the Indians, whom the pioneers displaced.

We have not picked up a single history text book nor have we studied these things in chronological order.  And you know what, it is so freeing to learn history this way!
I am amazed at how easily the boys make connections between the events, places and characters we learn about.  Mr. Lincoln's cabin reminded them of the log cabins Laura and Mary lived in.  The slaves desire for freedom reminded them of the Pilgrims.  The make these connections themselves--it all makes sense.

Besides developing an understanding of our nation's beginnings, we are also learning geography.  We read each book with a map and trace the routes of these people we know and love.  They know where New York is and it actually matters to them because that is where Almonzo grew up.  Illinois matters too because that is where Mr. Lincoln lived.  Cape Cod and Boston are "real" places to them now.

One of my favorite parts about teaching my children in the Charlotte Mason style is the use of "living books".  As a life long lover of good books, this kind of teaching and learning fills my heart and soul.  It makes learning come alive.
What more could I ask for?


Even if you are not home schooling, or using the Charlotte Mason methods of education, I urge you to look at and use the book list from Ambleside.  It is a free curriculum and the books they recommend are extraordinary.  There will be many you may not have heard of and it would be a shame to miss out on them. Don't think the books are beyond your child's grasp.  I assure you they are not.
We are using the book list from year 1 and William and Lilly both sit and listen.  Good literature draws you in, so that you don't mind if you have to work a bit to understand it.

Here is the link to the Ambleside book lists.
And here are a few of our favorite history books thus far this year:
Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar Parin d"Aulaire
The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (we're on book 6)
The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh

Some of these books you can find at your library.  Others you might have to look for at used book stores or find online.  I hope you will look for them, because your family will enjoy them so much.

Now, it is time to make lunch and read some more books!
Happy reading!
Love from,


Lillian said...

Very inspiring Greta. I want to read those books myself....because I have never been able to make myself read and enjoy text books

katie said...

You are so inspiring. I don't know how you do it. I especially think you are Super Mom as you continue to blog, teach, etc. with your pregnancy. You rock!

Annie said...

Thanks for sharing the link to the book lists. We are going to be using these lists. Wish I had known about them sooner! Reading is such a wonderful way to learn and so much more enjoyable than text books.