When our oldest child started kindergarten in 2002, my husband and I were primarily concerned with making sure he learned the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic. By 2nd grade, just enough science and history come through the curriculum to satisfy us.
But as he approached his upper elementary school years, we were disappointed in the amount – and substance – of the history lessons being offered via the North Carolina public school curriculum. In fact, his 5th grade teacher even told us the 5th grade team at his school had decided NOT to teach social studies at all that year because there wasn’t “enough time in the day.” Instead, his teacher promised social studies would be incorporated into the other subjects in order to meet North Carolina’s curriculum requirements. We did not approve.
Not too long after, news reports detailing the use of inaccurate history books in public schools caught my attention. I read or listened to enough of these reports to make some changes. I ordered a reputable collection of history books called “The Story of the World” by Susan Wise Bauer and a copy of “The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia.” My decision: I would teach my children history.
Image source: SusanWiseBauer.com
Image source: Macmillan
Fortunately, we attend year-round school so I can use a few days here and there during their 3-week breaks to read the chapters to them. I don’t ask too much. It is their break, after all, and they need time to play, relax and recharge during these breaks. But they don’t mind learning just a little, and I reward them with “Borders Bucks” they take to the nearby Borders to buy a book or two. We simply read 2-3 chapters at a time—in chronological order, record the important events and their dates on a homemade timeline, and follow the reading up with a fun comprehension activity.
Usually, they choose the “Legos option,” and recreate something they learned about, like an Assyrian siege tower or Roman battle. My daughter, who is the youngest, likes to draw what she has learned. During an Ancient China lesson, I asked them to create five new “pictograms.” They used existing pictograms to form ideas, which required them to comprehend how the ancient Chinese used this early communication method.
Upon researching for this blog post, I found a timeline compiled by Google detailing the chronology of news reports focused on inaccurate history books being used in public schools. Startlingly, the first report surfaced in 1990 – a year before I graduated from high school! You can see this timeline here.
There are many other reports not included in this timeline, but this will give you an idea of how many there are. I’d be interested to hear other comments on this topic so please share your thoughts.