dates, and places to seeing our kids diving in and discovering all kinds of fascinating things? Here are two answers to
get you started.
First, history needs to be learned
as a story. Stories have details.
Have you ever wondered why you fell
asleep in history class? It’s simple. His-
tory textbooks are summaries of events,
condensed versions of the stories with
lots of good stuff left out, so that many
summaries can fit into one textbook. If
they were to give the details of each story,
the textbook would be thousands of pag-
es! The problem is that when you take out
the details, the story becomes only a brief
recitation of facts—which usually leaves
a student bored and disinterested.
Here’s an example. If you were to read
about Marco Polo in a textbook, it would
say something along the lines of, “Marco
Polo was the first European to record his
extensive travels across Asia. His stories
became well known, causing many other
Europeans to become interested in find-
ing out about the rest of the world.”
When I’ve asked audiences what they
know about Marco Polo, the answers I
get are usually, “Isn’t that the game you
play in the pool?” He has, thanks to text-
books, become a fact to memorize and
forget. Unless, of course, you remember
his name as a swimming pool game.
The actual story of Marco Polo, however, will not put your kids to sleep. I
guarantee it. He had some of the most
incredible adventures of all time! Here’s
a taste of his story:
His father and uncle, returning from
years of travel across central and east
Asia, decided to take 17-year-old
Marco with them on their return trip
to the court of Kublai Khan. Just getting to China took them three and
a half years, including traveling on
the famed Silk Road. This was not
a simple journey, either, with nice
hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.
Instead, it was filled with dangerous,
hair-raising, swashbuckling stories—
like ferocious bandits attacking their
caravan during a sandstorm, and the
Polos barely escaping with their lives.
Once arriving at court, the ad-
ventures continued for Marco. With
his three years of travel experience,
his knowledge of several languages,
and his intelligence, he evidently im-
pressed Kublai Khan. Over the next
nineteen years, it seems Marco may
have served as a government official,
traveling to various provinces in
China, because he later wrote exten-
sively about the things he had seen.
Even leaving China to return to
Venice was a two-year adventure,
which included being robbed of
most of their treasure. However,
they managed to stash away the rest
by sewing the gold coins into their
jackets. Once they arrived home, it
took a while to convince their family and friends that it was truly the
Polos, after an absence of 24 years.
But, wait; that is not the end of the
story! How Marco Polo came to be
imprisoned during a battle on the
sea between Venice and Genoa, how
he told his stories to his fellow prisoners, how one of them wrote down
the stories which were soon published and eagerly read all across Europe—all of this belongs to the epic
adventures of Marco Polo.
And most of us don’t even remember
In the study of history, then, it is vital for
students to learn the stories. Offer stories
of people and events through biographies,
historical fiction, audio CDs narrated by
a good storyteller, movies, documentaries,
online articles, and, occasionally, textbooks. (Note: these sources are not all the
same quality. When Hollywood moves in,
facts often move out.)
Secondly, history encompasses
more than rulers and wars.
Why is it that world history textbooks focus on Napoleon and ignore Beethoven,
when they both lived in the same time
period? Is one more important than the
other? There are two answers to that
Napoleon’s conquest of Europe had
tremendous repercussions which lasted
for more than 150 years. In a very real
way, he changed the world. That’s important to know.
Beethoven was one of the most influential composers of all time. To musicians all over the world, to budding musicians and up-and-coming composers,
and to people who enjoy music, the life
and times of Beethoven are potentially
more interesting, and at least as important
as Napoleon. That’s important to recognize.
When it comes to history, don’t limit
yourself and your students to the history
of wars and of kings, because the subject
is much bigger and richer and exciting
than that. As we’ve already discussed,
history enfolds all kinds of areas. To have
your kids dive into history, all you have
to do is fill in the blank. “The history of
________” filled in with a topic they love
will motivate your kids more than you
Finally, my personal opinion is that
world history is unlike anything else
you will ever study. There are tantalizing
questions that may never be answered,
there are multiple theories of “why. . .?”
and “what if. . .?” and “how did they. . .?”
and there are new pieces constantly coming to light through archaeological digs
and discoveries of old writings. Strange
though it might seem to folks who slept
through their high school history course,
this is one of the most dynamic and intriguing subjects on the planet.
So, let your kids dive right in.
A pioneer in homeschooling, author of
the Experience History Through Music
series and History Revealed curriculum,
and international speaker—four continents and counting!—Diana Waring cares
about how people learn as well as what
they learn. Follow her witty and practical blog at dianawaring.com/blog; check
out her fast-paced, God-honoring, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-in-suspense world
history products, and discover America’s
history through folk music in the new
Experience History Through Music series.
Learning has never been this fun!
Don’t limit yourself
and your students to
the history of wars
and of kings, because
the subject is much
bigger and richer and
exciting than that.