Tuesday, February 12, 2013

History with Living Books (The Subject I Enjoy Teaching Most)

I am fascinated with history and my favorite way to learn history doesn't even require the breaking out a teacher's manual, worksheets, or craft supplies, but rather with books...not any book, but living books. The best part is you aren't limited to just use of one particular book, but can also include biographies and historical fiction. Charlotte Mason says:
Education is the Science of Relations; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we must train him upon physical exercises, nature, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books... - (Preface to Home Education Series)
One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child's intellectual life. - Charlotte Mason (School Education, p. 280)

Spine books we are currently using.
So how does history with living books look like in our house? We rely on three kinds of living books. The first is a spine book which present a certain time period. Personally, I think these can be hard to find (especially in the the high school years), but you can also just use the table of contents to plan out your history course for your school. Since we follow Ambleside Online in the younger years we use their suggestions. Out of all the books we have used the Genevieve Foster books rank the highest.
 Genevieve Foster books which are great favorites in our house.
Biographies we have used or will use.
The second type of book that we like to include are biographies. Biographies are a great way to learn about a person and the time period in which he lived. Again, this particular type of book can be dry as dust so you have to look for the 'living' stories. Thankfully, there are a lot of great sources for finding them.

 Historical fiction that has been used or will be used.
The last type of book we use, and my personal favorite one, is historical fiction. These books tend to have the kids sneaking ahead in their reading to see what is going to happen, or if you're reading aloud they are begging for "one more chapter." Not only can historical fiction be exciting, but it it is exciting to me as a mom to see my kids being able to put in story in it's historical time frame or to connect-the-dots so to speak.
With our use of 'living books' for history we implement oral and written narrations to help them retain and understand the material. You could also do notebooking or lapbooking as a means of retention. Timelines are also another way to record information and helps a child see the bigger picture.
One last thing I want to mention is that sometimes a book that is highly recommended may not be the best choice for your student. Don't be afraid to look for the right book for your child. There are so many great resources for books available that there should be something to will fit your needs. (I am still looking for a better American History spine book. Any recommendations?) Also, though don't be hesitant to look in newer books that have been written. Every once in a while I do come across a book written in the last few years that fits the 'living book' category and jot it down to use when the time comes.
History is a favorite subject both for mom and kids, which I think is a testimony to the power of 'living books'!
Recommended resources:
All Through the Ages by Christine Miller
TruthQuest History Guides
Foster Quintet Package
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  1. History has become one of my most favorite subjects to teach in our home school! So many great books to use!

  2. History is a favorite subject here, too. We utilize living books as well. I can't imagine studying history any other way.



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