America’s story of liberty is one of the greatest detective novels ever written! It is teeming with characters of intrigue and “who-done-its” waiting for us to uncover the clues of who they were, how they lived, what they did, and “why-they-done-it.” And it is more important now than ever in our nation’s history to pass the torch of that liberty onto our children.
Unlike public schools, homeschoolers have the extraordinary opportunity to create a virtual time machine when it comes to teaching our children their nation’s history. We need not confine them to dreary textbooks or subject them to revisionist history. Rather, we are free to unleash creative learning through thoughtfully chosen living history books that proclaim the truth of America’s extraordinary heritage. Vivid biographies, colorfully illustrated books, quality historical fiction, and award-winning classics draw students in and delightfully transport them to another time and place. Add to that some carefully crafted, hands-on activities and you have a surefire recipe for successfully igniting your young patriots’ hearts and minds!
But at what point in history do we begin? There is one school of thought that believes in starting at creation and inching their way chronologically through time. That seems logical, but it delays our nation’s history until later in our children’s academic years. While our family believes it is essential to teach children Biblical history from the get-go, we have always taken a different approach to the rest of history…and it all begins with a spark.
Consider for a moment how youngsters spend their free time. Girls are often engaged with dolls and playing house or dressing up like pioneer girls and princesses. They may enjoy watching Little House on the Prairie or reading the American Girl series. Boys, on the other hand, often pretend they are cowboys, Indians, Revolutionary or Civil War heroes, Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett.
By observing our children’s play we can discover what sparks their interest. Discovering that spark is “key” to making learning more fun, teaching more enjoyable, and is crucial to helping them better retain the information learned.
Have you ever wondered why children so often pretend to be frontiersmen and women or other famous historic Americans as opposed to, say, Egyptian Queen Nefertiti or King Tutankhamen? It is because people like Davy Crockett, Pocahontas, Daniel Boone, Sacajawea, George Washington, Dolly Madison and a host of others are among our greatest American icons. Their lives and contributions left a lasting impression on our nation’s consciousness and represent much of who we were, are, and what we can still become. They are among the heroes who helped make our country great, remain outstanding examples for our children to emulate, and who stand ready to teach them what it still means to be a true patriot.
Now granted, if our children were natural-born Egyptian citizens living in Egypt they would no doubt pretend to be the Egyptian kings and queens of old, and we would inevitably teach them that nation’s history from an early age. After all, we would want them to grow up to be good, patriotic Egyptian citizens. But our children are not Egyptians. They are Americans. And their “play” tells us all we need to know about the history that most sparks their interest.
Moreover, the abstract study of early civilizations is often better suited to more developed, older minds than those of younger children that thrive on more concrete material. That is why ancient civilizations and world history are typically taught in the high school years. Our young sons would have never related to an abstract King Tut like they could bulletproof George Washington or Egypt’s Amarna Revolution like they would their own remarkable American Revolution.
Hands-on activities and field trips present wonderful opportunities for children to benefit from more concrete, tangible experiences. We would never have been able to travel to Egypt to see the pyramids or Sphinx, but we might very well visit a Native American village or a famous Revolutionary or Civil War battle site in our own country. The more concrete and tangible our children’s educational experiences, the more young patriots can better relate to those who’ve gone before them, the times in which they lived, and the roles they played while shaping America into the greatest nation on earth. The more our children relate, the more they can absorb, and the more they absorb, the more we can help mold them into the American patriots of tomorrow.
Don’t worry. Your kids will have plenty of time to study ancient and world history, and even re-explore American history, in the upper grades. But for now, why not just follow their lead and allow them to direct you through their innate spark? Future generations will be glad you did!
Photo by Scott Glenn (acsskidsteer)