CM 3 Audioblog #22 Simple Approach to Implementing Diverse History Lessons
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CM EP 22
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Now, on to the show.
My simple approach to implementing fabulous history lessons, by Erika Alicia, from Charlotte Mason City Living.
Women's history month, African American History month, Hispanic Heritage month are every month in our home. Always has been and always will be. I didn't think that was going to be an issue when we started following Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education. However, as I excitingly began learning more about a CM education, I hit a bump on the road when it came to the topic of literature. In particular, with history. There appear to be a lack of multiculturalism within book titles I found online, which didn't reflect the rich diversity of our family.
Thanks to the dear friends who got me started on this CM journey, I was able to understand that Ms. Mason's philosophy didn't lack diversity. In fact, it was way more inclusive than what it appeared to be online. Her methods are what I needed to focus on, and then I could choose whatever resources to implement them. So, I had to go to the primary source to find her guidance in this area. Ms. Mason's six volume series. In Volume Six, Ms. Mason writes, we introduce children as early as possible to the contemporary history of other countries. As the study of English history alone is apt to lead to a certain insular and arrogant habit of mind. Substitute English with whatever country you're in. For me, it would read, as the study of American history alone is apt to lead to a certain insular and arrogant habit of mind. I would even add that the study of a one-sided American history alone is apt to do the same, and in the process, cause underrepresented groups of people to feel inferior or invisible within the history of their own country.
Whether it was history, literature, or geography, Ms. Mason's heart was for her students to have an abundant and diverse feast that would enable them to grow in knowledge, compassion, and service. She wanted them to think outside the box, and how they could be of service in their home, in their community, and in their world.
I fall in love Ms. Mason's heart more and more each day because it was one after the heart of God. God's heart is for His people. All people. Everywhere, regardless of color, culture, or country. He wants His children to know they are all created with a purpose, and are chosen, as well as precious in His sight. That message is clearly set when they're reading books that reflect these truths.
So, how do we diversify our history lessons when it can appear to some as if Ms. Mason didn't? Whether that's the perception based off of online suggestions or CM curriculum. My friends, Min, Simone, and Marianna, who are leaders in different capacities within the Charlotte Mason community, and are also my co-hosts for our podcast, Charlotte Mason For All, have taken me under their wing, guiding me in my CM education. One of the things they always push for is to go back to the source, to read Ms. Mason's words without all the outside noise. It's kind of like our Christian walk. We can use devotionals and read books about God and about walking with Him, living with Him, living for Him, but they can never replace the Word of God. It is our primary source as Christians, and requires us to not only read it, but know it. The Psalmist says I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.
So, if you have an opportunity to follow an educational philosophy that is Gospel-based, that gives you principles and methods to help you not only provide a broad education, and peace in your homeschool, but can also help transform your entire home, your entire family, for the better, then you need to go to that source. That's what I was advised to do, and that's what I did.
So, this is what Ms. Mason has to say when it comes to history.
Next, in order to religious knowledge, history is the pivot upon which our curriculum turns. Volume Six.
Once intellect admits us into the realms of history, we live in a great and stirring world, full of entertainment and sometimes a regret. And at last, we begin to understand that we too are making history, and that we are all part of the whole. That the people who went before us were all very like ourselves, or else we should not be able to understand them. If some of them were worse than we, and in some things, their times were worse than ours, yet we make acquaintance with many who were noble and great and our beats with the desire to be like them. Volume Four.
I think her words here are self-explanatory. After the Bible, history is the next most important subject in education. It's a learning about the past so you can understand the present, as well as understand your place right now in history. But listen to this quote on how she felt about diversity.
We cannot live sanely unless we know that other peoples are as we are with the difference that their history is as ours, with the difference that they too have been represented by their poets and their artists. That they too have their literature and their national life. Volume Six.
Do you hear Ms. Mason's global mentality there? Do you hear her inclusivity? She's not only acknowledging that other peoples have their own history, poets, artists, literature, and national life, but that it's crazy for us not to intentionally learn about them and understand them. As a result, Ms. Mason had her student's study neighboring nations. And then, the rest of the world, through history, geography, and foreign language lessons. In essence, history is not an isolated subject. It is organically connected with other areas of study, hence, you can add diversity through subjects such as geography, which is history's secret weapon. There's also artist study, composer study, poet study, foreign language, singing, dancing, literature, including school books, free reads, and what you read for tea time, or whatever you call this special time together. I love how a CM mom told me she was going to rename tea time to cafe con leche time, with her students in their Cuban home.
The problem is, we often think Living Books can only be old classics and that composer study can only be classical music, and art study can only be European art. There's so much other rich diversity in this beautiful world God created. A multicultural aspect should be spilling over to the rest of your studies, and even into your home atmosphere, because if not, it's like counter Charlotte Mason, since learning about other cultures was essential for her. She believed in giving students a broad view of the world, an understanding that we are all made in the image of God. Moreover, it's the unity of cultures that create a cultural mosaic of our world, and in turn, reflects who God is.
So, it's about a balance and giving the whole feast. The complete feast. We should still learn and enjoy the more traditional history of our county, however, it should not be at the expense of learning about other cultures on a consistent basis. There should be a more even balance of giving all different perspectives in order to teach our children discernment in the light of God's Word, and to view history, a complete history, through the eyes of God. How can you balance it out? The very Living Books you choose are the key. The key to diversifying your history and the key to keeping that balance.
Here's what Ms. Mason says about history books.
But let the mother beware. There is nothing which calls for more delicate tact and understanding sympathy with the children than this apparently simple matter of choosing their lesson books and especially, perhaps, their lesson books in history. Volume One.
Delicate tact and understanding sympathy in choosing their history lesson books. You know what that tells me? As a mother, I have to carefully, wisely, prayerfully select my history books. How can you pray more effectively and intentionally for your child? Go back to Ms. Mason's principles, in particular, her first and her last. Number one. Children are born persons. And number twenty, we allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and spiritual life of children. But teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual helper in all the interests, duties, and joys of life. Their continual Helper is yours too, and He will guide you to truly understand who your child is as a person, and He will help you discern what they need for their individual education. The Holy Spirit will guide you.
You know what else Ms. Mason says? In hardly two households would the same plant be practicable. That every mother may strike out a course for herself including what seems to her the best, as her circumstances admit of. What you study in your home is going to look different than in mine, and vice versa. A family dynamics are different. Our children are different. Our callings are different. Ms. Mason did not believe in a one size fits all education. You meet your child where they're at, and instruct them as the Holy Spirit leads you. She gives you the principles and the methods, and you, as the parent, choose how you're going to cook up that living feast for them. In my home, our living feast may have a more Caribbean flavor, a little seasoning, a little sofrito, and that's okay. I just wanted you to understand that before I share some specific examples, because sometimes, we, as homeschooling parents, feel trapped or subconsciously forced to follow what everyone else is doing, or the resources they're using. I pray that Ms. Mason's words free you of some of those pressures that can stifle you, and in turn, bring you to a place of surrender to the Holy Spirit's lead, allowing God to be the Supreme Educator in your home. That being said, let me share the simple approach I use to diversify our history lessons for our homeschool.
Like I said in the beginning, learning about women of any racial background and people of color is a constant, not only in our homeschool, but in our everyday life. Yet, what I did find was that I wasn't providing opportunities to learn about any white males at all. My daughter would still learn about George Washington and other important figures because they're ingrained in our American society. You can't live here and not learn about them somehow. Nonetheless, I needed a balance. A way to merge various sides of our history. But how could I merge both worlds? Well, as always, Ms. Mason had an answer to my question.
Spine. For my daughter's form two, Ms. Mason encourages the youth of a spine, which is just a book of historical events told in chronological order. They give structure to your history plan of study. Like, the way the backbone gives structure to the body. It should be a living book that tells a story in a narrative form and not a textbook with dry facts.
Biography. The other book Ms. Mason encourages to use to teach history is a biography. Let him on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the waves of that period, though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age. Ms. Mason's words. Basically, let your child's read a living book about the life of one single person so they know this person so intimately and in turn, they learn about the history of their day. So, if I taught history through quality literature, then it would be more meaningful and enjoyable. Brilliant and right up my alley.
Neighboring countries and ancient history streams are added to the history rotation for form two. For more informal history studied throughout the grades, forms, you can look at a delectable education's helpful breakdown of the history of rotation used in Charlotte Mason's PNEU schools. Their rotation and podcast are just guides to helping you in your planning. You can choose how you want it to work for your family. For example, we don't study British history. Instead we're focusing on American history and we'll be studying Porta Rican Caribbean history. I'll go more in-depth on this topic later on.
??? history through the years, an overview of a Charlotte Mason history education, and her customizable history stream chart are also excellent resources, giving the big picture of the history requirements through the forms in a very inclusive way. Historical fiction, when carefully selected, can help bring a time period to life and gives the student a similar experience as that of a biography book. Ms. Mason gave me an easy fix to my complicated dilemma. Her method of teaching history allows me to personalize my daughter's history plan so that her heritage is celebrated while still learning about the rest of the world's history. Now, I use a spine, which includes historical events and all the white males history I wasn't covering before, and, I get to choose biographies and historical fiction that focus on people of color as well as women of any racial background. It's a perfect fusion in our home.
Here's how our simple history format looks on a weekly basis for my ten-year-old fifth grade form two student. Once a week, she reads twenty to thirty minutes from the following during her morning lessons. A spine, a biography, of either a woman of any ethnicity, or a person of color each term. A narrative text on ancient history. In the afternoon, a few times throughout the week, my daughter reads a historical fiction book that's also either on a woman of any ethnicity or a person of color.
Usually a student her age is expected to read historical fiction on her own, but since it's just the two of us, it becomes a read aloud together. We're wrapping up the Little House series, which we usually listen to during lunch or in the car. That's how I've chosen to implement diverse books. For those who are interested in diversifying your history, you can take a similar approach. For example, you can alternate your biographies and historical fiction, so it focuses on people who differ from you somehow, whether the differences are ethnic, cultural, gender based, of learning differences or some type of physical limitation. Our differences are endless. You could also read books that have a different perspective on a shared experience. For instance, in form one, your child is reading a picture book on Christopher Columbus. Maybe your next book can be Jane Yolen’s encounter, which tells of Columbus' arrival in the Caribbean from the perspective of a ??? child, who were the indigenous people of the islands.
Giving two sides of a story provides a broader perspective for your children to decide for themselves what is right.
You can take those same suggestions for older kids. We just wrapped up the Little House series so now, for the summer, we'll be reading the Birch Bark House, which is from the perspective of a young native American girl, during a similar time period. We hope to read the entire series.
So, what about history streams for those of us with multicultural or multiethnic backgrounds. For those of you unfamiliar with the term stream, it simply describes another focus study of different countries or time periods, such as ancient history. You add a stream to your school year, which you study simultaneously with your nation's history. Neighboring countries and ancient history streams are added to the history rotation for form two, which are grades four to six.
When Ms. Mason speaks on neighboring countries, it may not necessarily be the one physically closest to your child's nation, but it can be the country that has had the most impact on their country. In men's posts, I mentioned above, she talks about what she calls a heritage history stream. Men's heritage history stream is a fourth stream added, which focuses on the heritage of a family when the first three streams aren't enough for multicultural or multiethnic families. Adding another stream, that focuses on your country, or countries, of heritage, is such a meaningful option for families to have. Now, for Americans who use Charlotte Mason, the most common choice for their neighboring country stream is Great Britain, because of its historical ties to the US. However, like I described in a poem I wrote many years ago, found on my blog, our family's cultural history is just as important as our American one, therefore, for our homeschool, instead of studying American and British history, we'll be focusing on American and Caribbean history, with the focus on Puerto Rico. Again, this is what is best for our family, and it is not a decision I made lightly. My husband and I have been on a lifelong journey of cultural self-discovery. He knew very little of his heritage growing up, and I was taught so much of it, but found it nowhere else. Then, when I learned that the neighboring country I choose for my child's schooling is the one she'll focus on until she graduates high school, it sealed the deal for me.
This is how the Holy Spirit has led our family. And Ms. Mason's method of teaching history allows me to personalize my daughter's history plan so that her complete heritage is celebrated while still learning about the rest of the world's history.
I just wanna clarify that diversity is inclusive of all cultures, including those of European descent. So, I'm not saying you no longer learn about European history, or your country's traditional history. It's about a healthy balance, a whole and complete feast that Ms. Mason emphasized, that represents more of the cultural mosaic of our world. Yes, it can be difficult to find the resources to dive into other cultures. But remember, we're living in different times than Ms. Mason did, with way more options and accessibility. Thanks Amazon.
For example, Ms. Mason encourages the spine, but what if there is no spine for your child's nation, or for your neighboring country? Then you can substitute the spine with books that tell of tales and heroes of that country and find books about the country's history. It may not be a traditional spine, but if it is in narrative form, and has literary power, that is more than enough.
What about classics? First off, classics didn't start off as classics. Secondly, a classic is not a classic because it's Eurocentric or because it's old. Instead, it's a classic because of its universal truths, and with all the beauty, as well as all the flaws of humanity. Therefore, modern books can also be classics. Think about it. The classics started out as modern books of their own time, so for us, we too have modern living books that will be considered classics in the future. Ms. Mason's pursuit was for the best books of her time to share with her students. If she were alive today, she would be including modern living books that reflect the diversity of our world. You can read more about this in my living books post.
Also, don't discount the literary power of picture books for your older students. All you need is the right one, with powerful words and images that bring living ideas into your home, and into your child's heart, regardless of their age.
Another key point to make is what may be living to one family may not be to another, or may resonate with one student and not the other, even in the same family. Finding the right books may be challenging, but it is not impossible. It'll take work on the parent's part. you must be proactive in searching for the necessary books. Theodore Roosevelt said nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. If diversifying your history plan is important to you, then you will do the work to make it happen. I've compiled an ongoing list of multicultural history books with over one hundred fifty multicultural books that can be used in your history plan. I share a freebie here as a resource for those interested in implementing a multicultural history, and if you subscribe, you'll get my monthly notifications of when that list has been updated.
Another helpful post is African and African American resources for early modern history, where Amber, from Heritage Mom, shares some wonderful resources to infuse African, African American history into your homeschool.
Ms. Mason's methods give you the freedom to personalize your family's history plan. Remember, it's about following Charlotte Mason's principles and methods, not a curriculum. This is just one simple way of how I use her principles to meet our family needs. If a multicultural education is important to you, then I encourage you to explore some of the suggestion I gave or figure out your own ways to implement diversity in your instruction. Or, you can contact me for a consult. If you're feeling a bit of fear over attempting something new, then pray. The Holy Spirit will empower, equip, and enable you to create the history plan that is just right for your family.
Thank you for joining us today on the Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I would love to meet you in person. All of the Great Homeschool Conventions have been rescheduled to 2021. Go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com to find a convention near you.
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