History - Where Do We Start?
I've been thinking about history, this week, and how to explain our approach to the Board of Studies. It's ironic that so much of what we do looks less impressive than traditional school methods, yet we are finding it far more meaningful. Hmm, I'm sure I've encountered this problem before...
Anyway, about this history curriculum...
I know that many homeschoolers advocate a chronological approach to history. It's simple and it's logical - but it doesn't seem to work for us. The reason? I just don't know how to convey real meaning when studying a topic that answers questions which haven't yet been asked. I guess this approach could trigger new questions and generate its own interest, but what happens if everyone is asking different questions entirely? Do we abandon those ideas to concentrate on questions more relevant to the era we've reached in history? Or do we contrive to make the thought processes of our minds conform to the period of history which we're scheduled to be studying?
I don't think this is much of an issue until we start to develop an inquiring mind. Until then, any number of subjects could provide food to ponder.
It seems that the problem of curriculum begins when our natural curiosity is stirred to such a degree that it craves satisfying answers. Answers that are relevant to its inquiry. And, not answers to someone else's questions.
As our unschooling has developed, I've found that we can build a whole curriculum around the study of history. Science, languages, maths, geography, etc - they all find their place and their relevance in history.
For example, we recently read a classic, Victorian novel together and our interest was sparked in feminism, politics, geography, economics, music, art, fashion and, even, science. Although, we started learning about the nineteenth century, a rabbit trail of discovery took us through the Classical era of eighteenth century music, back to a study of the Greek civilisations, followed by Roman history, and then back to our own times, as we compared and contrasted our lives with those of the past. In this case, the historical reading initiated a study of different disciplines which, though centred upon one era, meandered both backwards and forwards in time.
It, also, works the other way around - from our reflections on our everyday lives to a curiosity about the past, as we strive to understand and find personal meaning to our modern-day existence.
In recent months, our family has been interested in simple and more sustainable living. This has led to research into the history of domestic progress, feminism, home skills, crafts, economics, education, politics, science, religion, geography, socialism and more. In this case, the sparks which intiated the study were contemporary questions, relevant to a real-life situation.
In both studies, our knowledge of history has improved and our understanding of the world, based on historical evidence, has been extended. I don't think this would have worked nearly as well with a chronological approach. We could have tried to relate history to our current situation and thought processes, but it would have been contrived and it would have left unanswered those thoughts which occupy us now.
I think that God often leads us down some very unexpected paths. The final destination doesn't change but there are rabbit trails of discovery, along the way, which are relevant to our current experiences and purposeful for our soul's progress. Sometimes, personal needs and circumstances will be the trigger for our learning and, sometimes, a natural curiosity for God's world, at some point in its history, will teach us God's ways.
I think the important thing is that our learning needs to be relevant, at each stage of our journey - that is, relevant to the thoughts and ideas which God is presenting to our minds, right now. I'm not sure that a chronological approach is the most effective method for making those connections. Letting God lead us along a path which meanders in and out and back upon itself may seem risky to educationalists, but, where God is the source of all meaning, I feel it could just be the most logical approach, after all.