The elementary years are a per- fect time to begin your study of history by introducing your children to the significant
events and famous men and women
of the past. Step back in time and look
closely at how these men and women
lived and what they accomplished. Children often find it fascinating to imagine
what it was like to live long ago or in a
faraway country. What did people eat?
What kind of celebrations did they have?
How does our life today compare with
the way people long ago spent their time?
When studying the whole of history, it
is often beneficial to start with the creation of the world and follow with ancient, medieval, and renaissance history,
continuing with the story of this country—colonial America, the American
Revolution, the Civil War—and concluding with the modern era to the present
day. Our family considered history as a
continuous story, focusing on the important events, while learning about the
significant people of each time period
through their biographies.
How do we create a study of history?
We plan, read, narrate, and illustrate.
The first thing to realize is that your
child has several years to study history.
Many people believe that memorizing
dates and other details can be saved for
a later time, when your child has more
of an understanding of the passage of
time. Timelines are a wonderful tool to
visualize the passing of the centuries. I
also found it helpful to focus on the key
people of the past and read about their
accomplishments and failures. Knowing
who George Washington is and why he
is important will be used by your chil-
dren in the future, as they discover more
about his achievements and how they
influence us today.
Make a list of the important men and
women you would like to include in
your study. They may already be in your
chosen history curriculum, or you may
choose to add them, including their biographies to supplement your reading.
(See the sidebar if you need some inspiration in creating a list.) There are many
lists on the Internet that can help you
identify the important figures from various time periods. In addition, The Well-Trained Mind1 includes several lists of
important people to cover in the various
time periods of history. Taking the time
to plan your year will make it easier for
you to gather any supplementary books
when they are needed.
With so many biographies and history
books available—and little time to read
them all—how do you choose the best
ones for your children? If you have al-
ready chosen a history curriculum for
your family, you may find individual
chapters in the book that cover famous
people or recommended books selected
to accompany their studies. Since I en-
joyed exploring more than one approach
to teaching children, we had a lot of fun
with reading and hands-on projects.
As you read through your history book,
Children often find it
or biography, ask your child to recite
back to you what you have just read.
You may want to record their words on
a digital voice recorder and write them
down. Help your child remember the key
points if they forget. If your children are
older and able to write, have them jot
down a summary of what you have read
or what they can read themselves. Your
fifth grader could write a one-half to one
page summary of their studies from your
curriculum or any biographies read. Us-
ing memorization along with narration
in your history study reinforces your les-
sons and helps your children remember
important facts and people. Memorize
the US presidents, the first ten emperors
of Rome, the Ten Commandments, parts
of the Constitution, or the Gettysburg
Address. You may also have your child
memorize important facts about each
by Cathy Diez-Luckie
History in the Elementary Years
fascinating to imagine what
it was like to live long ago or
in a faraway country.