Candid Reflections

March 4, 2008

Learn It, Live It, Love It

Filed under: Homeschool, Mindful Reflections — candid reflections @ 12:19 pm

I love to study the history of our world, it’s my favorite academic subject.  I didn’t always feel this way however.  In fact, I rather loathed the subject during my own school days – it was the cause of much agony and mortification to my juvenile little existence.  Even now, my palms moisten when I picture my schoolgirl self standing in front of the history class, butterflies ripping apart my insides, praying that my oral question would turn out to require a multiple choice guess rather than having to pull out some random fact from between my ears and humiliate myself with my ignorance.  My route to learning history as a kid was kind of a hodge-podge:  Start with a glimpse at the Native Americans during this grade, throw in a  little state history here, a bit of wrestling there, and now she’s ready for some American history, good…that about does it, she should have the gist of it!  By the time I graduated from high school, what had I but to conclude that, despite a few incidental cavemen, some fire, and a wheel; the world began when Columbus discovered America and the rest of the universe pretty much revolved around America.   

By the time I began homeschooling my children I had learned enough about my own learning style that I knew I needed to come up with a plan, and it needed to be good.  My pea-sized brain hadn’t been able to sort and efficiently incorporate the events and eras of history that were randomly presented to me, so how could I expect my kids to?  To be able to really appreciate and understand the material, it had to make sense to me.  I’m a big picture sorta gal…I need to know where things fit in and how they relate to each-other.  I can’t describe how excited I was when I’d stumbled across a book called The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer.  This book, among others, describes the classical method of education and gives a great format in applying it to every subject.   When I read the method for teaching history classically, the clouds parted and the birds started singing…”of course,” I thought, “you start at the beginning!” What a revelation!

We’ve been homeschooling for seven years now and we’ve just begun to break through the tip of the iceberg in the history of our world.  We divide history into four periods, spending a year on each one: Ancient, Middle Ages, Late Renaissance/Early Modern, and Modern.  In each period, we take a look at the whole world.  If we can gain an understanding of the people on each continent, we will better understand their reactions to one another as our study of history unfolds.    

The first year we study the Ancient world, beginning with creation.  We study the ancient civilizations and we marvel at their wisdom and accomplishments.  We love to see the many ways that our world today has been affected by ancient peoples as the Greeks and the Romans.  During this year my sons make spears and shields, they play that they are Vikings at sea, Gladiators fighting in arenas, or Barbarians – just being themselves.   

Second, we study the Dark and Middle Ages.   Wow!  Starting out very gloomy with oppressive crusades, famine and plague, but ending hopeful with exploration and dreams of independence.  During this year my boys are knights defending their kingdoms, and sentries on lookout duty.  One day I saw one pretending to nail something to the door, when I asked him what he was doing he replied, “I’m just nailin’ up the 95 Thesis.” 

Third, and currently, we study the Late Renaissance and Early Modern times.  Thanksgiving is fun when we are studying this era, they have a pilgrim and a Squanto costume, of course.  They’ve already lead many an exploration expedition in the forest that surrounds our home.  They’ve informed me that things are well on the home-front.  Oh, and you can imagine my relief when my oldest son fulfilled his obligations in the war of 1812 without even a scratch!



I had to tell him that no one ever reads this blog in order to be able to post these pictures.  In case you were reading though, he wanted you to know that this hat is his version of a shako.  I can’t verify the spelling, it’s straight from his mouth.

Finally, we study Modern times.  They love to draw pictures of the Red Baron and study about the Wright brothers.  Then there’s the World Wars, the advancements in arsenal,  the Iron Curtain, Koreans, Vietnam….so much to study, so much to take in.  They love to see the advancements in travel: ships, aircraft, automobiles.   They have all the camo they could hope for, and my yard becomes a land mine during this phase of history. 

We began this outline of study when my oldest was in first grade.  After we finished all four years, we simply jumped back to the beginning and started over again.  The first time through we get exposure and begin building a foundation just looking at the facts, the second time through (beginning at 5th grade) we really immerse ourselves in the material, making connections to demonstrate our understanding.  The third time through (9th grade and on) we gather the knowledge we’ve previously learned and apply it in an expressive way, demonstrating our own ideas and understanding about what we’ve studied.  So by the time my kids graduate, they should have studied world history about three times through.  Maybe I’ll know me some History facts by the time my youngest graduates, do you think?   (You can google the word trivium if you want to gain a better understanding of the three stages of learning theory.)

I want to package up the big picture for them.  I want them to understand History and learn from the mistakes of men.  I want them to live peaceful lives and appreciate the lives that were given for the freedoms that they experience.  I wish that every child might truely understand the importance of History, to learn from and be transformed by it.  And I thank God that He is here to direct us and protect us through it, when we simply ask.      Amen.   


  1. You are an inspiration. We have three young sons and every time we talk about home schooling people look at us like we have some strange kind of insanity. Thank you for the post.

    Comment by kruvczuk — June 13, 2008 @ 10:23 am

  2. Thanks for stopping by kruvczuk! Yah, we’ve gotten those looks as well, and to be honest – sometimes I think I was insane to choose this! But for the most part, I am very pleased with our lifestyle of learning at home. I get to rediscover things like science and history with my children as they embrace them for the first time. I love the paths and trails that their interests lead us because we are able to set our own pace, and I love to watch them (aside from math facts, drills, etc.) be excited about learning. I’ve found that the sceptics are less sceptical as they see that our children are not the recluses they feared them to be, and they actually can learn at home! It definitely helps to find other homeschooling families to draw ideas and support from, and there is a wealth of materials out there to read. I am definitely grateful for the opportunity to teach my kids at home, and I wouldn’t trade the time we’ve had learning together! Best wishes to you!

    Comment by candid reflections — June 14, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

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