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It Only Takes a Spark

Updated: Jun 13, 2018

Books > Curriculum

Books > Textbooks

Books > Workbooks


Books are free at the library.


I've never been a fan of Homeschool Curricula. I am so thankful to have avoided Homeschool Conferences for the first decade I homeschooled! I can't imagine attempting to find my way and navigate it with all these Curriculum Vendors hocking their wares.


This is not to say, that we don't use any, we do. But very little and never, not ever the way they tell us to use it.


I don't have an interest in doing so but I bet I could do a Google Search for Homeschool History Curriculum and spend a week sorting through it. Then, when I finished I would be like the moms I see on the homeschool groups every single day asking curriculum questions. I would have 30 different suggestions and I would still not know if it "worked". If my kids would "like" it and if we would finish and stick with it and get our money's worth out of the expensive package. Odds are, before long it would be for sale on eBay or some swap and sell board.


Instead here is how I roll. Let's take History for example. I follow a pretty simple process.


I am not being snarky when I say this, but it's gonna sound that way. I just read books. I actually enjoy books about historical events. I love history, always have. I love biographies and perspectives about the impacts of history on events and even historical fiction. I rarely read fiction, unless it's historical fiction.


Instead of wasting my time researching textbooks, asking for 10,000 opinions on forums and then having to read reviews, read the student information and the teacher information and gather materials and create lesson plans and all that jazz. I just read books. They read books. I read books and I talk to my kids about what I read, what they read. I read them aloud, we listen to audio books, we even do them as book club books as a family sometimes.


I know there are schools of thought about teaching history with a timeline approach. Learning ancient history first and then progressing through time as the children grow. Not a fan but I get it.


Instead, I prefer to start with a child's relevance and personal interest. History is happening everyday. Being informed about current events is teaching history. So sometimes the launchpad or the spark is what I'm reading. You are already doing this, I promise. You talk with your children about what's happening and engage them in the world's events, you do it everyday I bet. You just have to learn to go a little farther. This creates the spark.



This week Ireland voted to legalize abortion for example. A terrible human tragedy that is very important in our faith life. Simple sparks happened like "Where is Ireland again?" We look at the map. I point out it's proximity to the United Kingdom and remind him that the UK once ruled Ireland and that Ireland's history is complex and has been torn by violence.


Rather than try to completely explain this long and complex history from my memory, we just Google it. We read a brief explanation and then we check YouTube for "history of Ireland and UK" There are over a million results but the first page alone has dozens of videos from 6-12 minutes long that explain this history in a concise, creative way. We do this together while I make lunch.


Our little foray into the history of Ireland might take 30 minutes or it might end up consuming the entire day. We might talk about the modern music of Ireland - my son is a musician and so we approach history through music regularly. We might watch a movie that highlights a specific time period but paints a clear picture of the landscape, the language, the conflict featured and hopefully inspires. There are SO many!


We do keep a timeline binder. We add to it and put in the proper place in time. So he would write up anywhere from a paragraph to a page about the what we learned and notate the resources (because he is in high school and we are keeping records). I wouldn't grade it, correct it or have him edit it. These are his notes.


You might be worried this creates gaps. I'm sure it does. I'm also equally certain that every child who graduates every high school and frankly every college graduate has gaps in their grasp of history. All adults do. We need only watch a couple videos of college students who can't tell you who we fought in the Revolution to know that gaps exist for everyone.


Even more telling is the reality that homeschool moms are desperately searching for the history curriculum that will teach their kids more than they learned when THEY were in school. Because, well, they have gaps! Often homeschooling moms LOVE history curriculum because they are learning it finally! The truth is, they aren't learning it because the curriculum is amazing, they are learning because they are interested and as a parent they see how relevant history is to current events, politics and the direction of our culture. Relevance is why homeschool moms are passionate about history. Relevance is what will make history interesting to your children. Stick a pin in that thought okay, we'll come back to it.



If you allow your children, from the very beginning, or from wherever you are starting this new approach to explore history from a spark of interest, they will learn.


They will learn, remember and it will have relevance to them.


History is magnificent. You are probably, as a homeschool mom just awakening to what you've missed in learning history. Now, back to that pin. A curriculum didn't spark a love of history in you so why do you think it will for your child? Because it's written for homeschoolers? Because it's written from a faith perspective? No. It's still a textbook, despite cool artwork and projects. It's deciding for the child what they should find interesting about history instead of letting their sparks of interest catch fire and set their little brains ablaze. We learn best when we are interested.


Our job is to light the spark. If you have boys they might be fascinated by weapons of war, or the diseases that spread in prisoner camps. They might be enthralled to learn about what MRE's are and how, where and why latrines were dug.


You don't have to know the history backwards and forwards. In fact your kids will much more appreciate the experience and be engaged if they are learning with you rather than be lectured by you. Doing workbook pages where they regurgitate the answers they read on the previous pages, or being dragged through history by the ear doesn't create learning, understanding, or retention.



Go to the library and get books. Books on First Ladies, Art, Tanks, War, Countries you want to visit, Books on Audio, borrow movies. Spend nothing on curriculum and dive headfirst into history wherever you are then help them place that event in the timeline of history.


If this isn't exciting yet, then consider this. In the course of this incredible exploration your kids are learning how to do research. How to evaluate good resources from bad ones (with your help initially). They are writing, drawing, maybe they are building catapults, and want to camp out in a tent or visit a local historical site. They are learning about art, engineering, politics and so much more. They are creating their own unit studies (which moms love). They are accomplishing real learning. Learning that sticks, learning that fosters above all else a desire to learn MORE.


THIS is real learning. Every subject can be learned this way. Every day can be an adventure. Can you get excited about this?


Blessings, Robin





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