What should be included in a homeschool history curriculum? Everyone has heard that “he who doesn’t know history is doomed to repeat it.” This statement has often been used to justify the study of history, but it doesn’t develop the idea to its fullest potential. I prefer British poet and statesman John Milton’s notion that education should stir our students “with high hopes of living to be brave men and worthy patriots, dear to God, and famous to all ages.”
As parents choose a homeschool history curriculum, they should ponder the idea that history studies should inspire children to be brave and worthy patriots. For very young children, the aim of any history curriculum should be to introduce the important people and places of world history. Students should be exposed to ancient history, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, American history, and recent history. The best curricula will ensure that they study each of these periods once in elementary school, once in the junior high years, and once in the high school years.
The ideal homeschool history curriculum for elementary students will include two things: good stories and memorization of key names, dates, and events. Very young students should be delighted to meet the major figures of history and to hear stories of their triumphs and defeats. At the same time, they should begin to assemble a mental timeline of world history. This prepares the way for them to make sense of their later history studies. Because young children need to build this timeline of history, many parents choose a homeschool history curriculum that teaches history in chronological order.
As students progress into junior high, parents will want to consider a homeschool history curriculum that gives students many opportunities to ask and answer good questions about history and to have good discussions with their parents and peers. Students at these ages want to know why a particular strategy worked for Napoleon or why the South lost the Civil War. In order to encourage this curiosity and discussion, parents will want to choose a curriculum that asks open-ended, thoughtful questions rather than simply providing multiple-choice answers.
Parents of high school students will also want to choose a history curriculum that encourages students to read and think about original documents. For example, an American history curriculum might direct students to read the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, and The Constitution in their entirety rather than reading about them. High school students should be able to read and interpret these original documents. A history curriculum for high school students should also offer plenty of opportunities for students to write persuasive essays about history, deliver speeches, and engage in debates. One excellent way for high school students to study the Civil War would be for them to debate whether or not the Civil War was primarily fought over the issue of slavery.
Although resources abound, families would do well to choose a homeschool history curriculum that inspires their children to go out and exercise their civic virtue. Students should be inspired by their history studies to be community leaders by voting or by fighting for issues that are just. With our discussions of the past, let us inspire them to be men and women who are brave and worthy citizens for the future.
Author: Jennifer Courtney