Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Homemade History - How I Did It

Since my two children are at polar opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to knowing anything about ancient history (with the exception of the Greek gods, thanks in large part to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series), I struggled to find a history curriculum that I thought would work this year.

M1 had already covered the basics once by using Story of the World, so using that as a primary source was out.  I looked into some unit studies, but I gave them up as not deep enough for M1 or too advanced for M2, assuming I could find studies on the topics I wanted to cover, anyway.  History Odyssey, by Pandia Press, looked the most promising, as it covers a wide range of topics and uses various resources to do so, but... I don't know... it all just seemed so paper-based.  Where were the activities?  When did the kids get to have fun?  Looking at the lesson plans, it seemed like everything was 'read this,' 'write that.'  No, thanks.  Story of the World may not be the greatest history curriculum out there, either, but at least there were ways to illustrate what the kids were learning with a few activities now and then.

Finally, I gave up.  I sat down with the Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World (one of the several history encyclopedias I own at this point) and asked myself, "What do I want them to learn?" 

I came up with several topics.  I knew I wanted to start with prehistory.  Mankind's history is rich to us, yes, but I felt the kids needed to know something of the world before we came along.  After all, at this point we're nothing more than a blip on the timeline of the universe.  I knew I wanted to dig deeper into some of the civilizations - Egypt, Greece, Rome, China - and touch on the technological advances, the gods, the humanities that made up these peoples. Finally, I had my list.  Next it was time to put it in order.  So I did, assigning a certain number of weeks to each civilization.

Then came the hard part - finding resources.  I started by picking out reading selections for each week from the encyclopedias that I own and scouring our library's web site for corresponding fiction and/or nonfiction works.  Then I moved to external resources.  I made several purchases from Teacher Created Resources, specifically the books on Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Mysteries in History: Ancient History. About the same time, someone pointed me toward Map Trek: Ancient World, and I purchased the ebook version of it.  It's a bit too Christian-centric for my liking, but I can pull out the maps that are relevant to me and ignore the rest (I will happily not use the maps on Noah, Abraham, and Solomon, for example).  When combined, these books provide a fairly solid basis for a number of activities we can do throughout the school year.

Something else I wanted to provide for the kids was a video reference library.  M2 is visual, so reading might have been enough, but M1 is auditory and watching videos or playing computer games really helps him get information tucked away in his often-overly-active brain.  Whether the videos are about tribal cultures, archaeology, or even a demonstration of an ancient technique, I wanted them to have something to do on the computer, if possible.

As we go through this curriculum, I plan to share what we've done, from the dry stuff like the reading, definitions, and questions about our existence (M1 is old enough that he needs to start comparing our lives today to the lives of those who came before) to the fun stuff like the timeline, art projects, and videos.  I would love feedback and further suggestions, if you have any!


melissa brooks said...

Great plan! I have been wondering what to do for my 1st grader when we start in a few weeks. I'll be keeping an eye on your blog to get some ideas. Thanks!

Addlepated Monkey Mama said...

I do homemade history, too! I was very gratified when my son said that history was his favorite subject this past school year. Of course, that may have been because we covered the Revolutionary War, which appeals to his bloodthirsty imagination. :)

We're only 2/3 of the way through our first pass through history, so I don't have any resources to suggest for the Logic Stage. We did watch some excellent episodes from the BBC series What the Ancients Did For Us

Sarah said...

Thanks, AMM! I'll have to hunt those down.

Kim said...

A couple of years ago, I bought a roll of paper and adhered it to the wall by our staircase - from the bottom of the stairs, all the way to the top. We did an epic timeline, starting at the hypothesized beginnings of this earth billions of years ago, and ending today. Nothing detailed was included. Only the eons, epochs, ages,etc... On the timeline, we notated major events like one-cell creatures begin to appear, mammals develop, dinosaurs die out, homo sapiens appear...stuff like that. It was an education for all of us.
And spread out in large scale on the wall, we really got a visual on what a short time humans have been around compared to the vast passage of time.

Sarah said...

What an amazing project, Kim!