Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How Do You Do History?

A few days ago someone on the AO list asked, "How do you do history?"

Since I adore learning about history, I had to answer and thought it would be nice to add my response here at the Woods. What follows is slightly altered, but I changed very little:

My children are 7 & 11 and we are doing Y2. My kids are retaining a lot of what they are learning (they tell dad all about The Little Duke, AIS monarchs and battles, etc. and we talk about these historical people and events in conversations throughout the day), so while I am far from a perfect teacher, I think we are doing something right, at least in the history dept. ;-)

We do three main things:

1) read the selections from AO, and they take turns narrating.

2) draw or print a picture from the Internet and place it on our timeline(s).

3) point out on our map(s) where the events occurred.

Now the details; for the reading, I follow the AO weekly guidelines and for history, we always do narration. We read a full chapter of Our Island Story at a time, for The Little Duke we read anywhere from 3 pages to nearly a chapter at a time. We finished the D'Aulaire books; Leif the Lucky and Columbus, and read some from This Country Of Ours (TCOO). We are also reading Story of Mankind (SoM), but I'm finding some parts hard to follow myself and not getting the best narrations, so we may switch to Child's History of the World (CHOW) and perhaps read SoM later. My 11yo is really interested in the U.S. Revolutionary war, so I may let him read those chapters in TCOO now. He's read books about Paul Revere, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others. The timeline really helps when you jump around in history like that. A child might be able to figure it out in their mind, but I believe it helps to see it chronologically. For the timeline, there are countless ways to do this. I took a long piece of freezer paper (see pics above) and made tick marks every 100 years 2 inches apart, starting at 3000 BC and ending at 2010 (I'll add more paper later or make a new timeline). I got the instructions here:

I have seen other really neat ideas like the moms who tack a string to the wall and add cards with the different events/people with paperclips or clothespins. Here are pictures from a really neat blog: http://higherupandfurtherin.blogspot.com/2006/12/our-historical-wall-timeline.html

One benefit of this style is the ability to add and take away, however, we've not run out of space on ours yet. I like having one large timeline and making other smaller ones for specific periods or countries. I know a lot of families make a "Book of Centuries" and I'd like to do something like that in addition to the timeline here in the near future. The reason I want to add something else is that my boys and I really like the animal lapbooks they've made and I thought it might be neat for them to keep personal little notes (written narrations) and drawings about history in book form. I made some little books when I was in school and I still have and treasure them. They were tagboard covered in pretty wallpaper with blank paper stapled inside. So simple, but I thought it was the neatest thing when I was a kid. I'd really like to learn how to bind books, so I figured what a perfect way to learn; by making our own little history remembrance books.

We also have a vertical timeline of British Monarchs, made just like our other timeline, but done vertically, for no other reason than I wanted to do it differently than the main one. I had read that idea on Susan's website. We are pasting up a picture and description of each monarch as we go along in OIS. We have done an inventor/invention one and will do a US history one like it. If we stick with SoM, I'm going to do a special one just for it, so I can keep all those characters straight! For the mapwork, we have a large world map on the wall that is laminated so we can make little pictures of boats, people, castles, or whatever and tape them up and move them around. We had such fun moving Paddle (from Paddle to the Sea) along on his journey last year. We also have the Blackline Maps from Knowledge Quest found here: http://knowledgequestmaps.com/

We pull out the specific area we are studying and tack them up on the wall next to the dining table (also our study area). The drawings are simple and can be easily copied into a BOC if you'd like. I think it's good to have children hand draw maps. We also have a large US map and it's good to have one of the state/province you are living in.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Moose tracks in the snow!

I'm not a huge fan of cold and snow, but I do try to "bloom where I'm planted" and I'm an avid believer in getting outdoors and breathing fresh air. I'm one of those strange types that actually enjoy shoveling for the exercise and outdoors aspect, and take great pride in trimming up the edges and doing a nice job. I always make specific hills the kids can play on (they do help shovel, too) and every year, I help the kids build at least one fort and tunnel, sometimes more.

I try to appreciate the snow and now I have another reason - animal tracks! We have been aware of tracks for years and have often noticed bird tracks and the tell tale moose droppings, but I'm not sure we were ever able to put together a story quite like we did these past few days.

Last week we put up a bird feeder in the middle of the woods out back, so we could be sneaky in our bird watching, which was quite fruitful (we got a lot of action out there) until we went out Sunday and most of the bird seed was scattered all over the ground. The feeder was still hanging there, and we were left wondering for a minute until Ealom noticed some funky tracks in the snow. Apparently a moose had wandered along our forest path and thought the seeds might be tasty. We followed the tracks back towards the house and discovered that there were actually two trails next to each other with one being smaller - a mama and baby! How exciting! Well, yesterday we were coming back from our walk out to the feeder and noticed that the moose tracks went over toward the yard, which we hadn't noticed the day before. The boys were running all over the yard following where the mama had walked around the snow people and snow horses without stepping on them and they saw where she did her business. Then they found the baby tracks and saw that it had walked around their snow fort without stepping on it either (but Aidan was disappointed that it hadn't gone inside). :-) Then we followed the tracks out the other side of the yard and saw where baby did it's business. The boys were quite impressed with how small baby's little nuggets were compared to mama's.

We all found a new appreciation for the snow, as we would've missed so much of the story if the snow weren't there to help us.