Random Thoughts on History & Homeschooling

Why yes, that picture of me to the right IS with an actual Sidonian sarcophagus, obviously influenced by Egyptians, with heiroglyphics (that you, sadly, can't see in this picture) all over the body. Yes indeedy. And yes, I (or Silas) could have reached out and touched it, since there was no separating glass or little beeping lasers to tip anyone off if I had. But , you'll be pleased to learn that I acted like an adult and restrained myself, opting instead to just marvel and take it in.

One of the thing I have learned as a homeschool mom is that the way I learned history in school was absolutely THE most boring way one could learn about our world.
  • Disjointed- with no "spine" for understanding where the stuff fit in... a large amount of Texas history, a little US history, even less Western history and no complete "world" history ... and you end up with a jumbled and incomplete view of how things fit together, and no real sense of the progression of world events.
  • Dull- Year after year was spent reading paragraphs jam-packed with dates and so politically corrected that it effectively eliminates the real story. It was often presented in a way that treated every side of a battle as equally admirable (unless you're studying the nazis). Studying history this way, even the amazing heroes and heroines of the past become just names and dates to memorize. It all blurs together and dulls the mind.
  • Taught by people who had seemingly no real interest in it. Is it OK to say this out loud? Nearly every one of my history teachers in school was a coach who took more interest in baseball, track, football, tennis, you name it, than they did in history. Dull, dull, dull. If you can imagine a full year of monotone memorization, that pretty much sums up my history courses-- particularly the high school ones. (I actually DID enjoy Texas history in Jr. High, but come on-- what Texan doesn't love Texas, yaknowwhatImean?) :)
I'm not trying to set it up so that homeschooling then becomes "The Answer" for this problem, but I'm telling you, I love the way that Sonlight brings history alive. For example, because of a book we read last year, our oldest son has begun to have a context for understanding WWII at an age-appropriate level, grasping how it affected the average people in France on an emotional level as well as informational level.

The curriculum that we've begun using as our "spine" for history this year, The Mystery of History, brings world history and biblical history together into a comprehensive, understandable whole. It has been refreshing to approach history in a logical way, rather than starting in the middle somewhere. It may not be everyone's preference, but we enjoy it... and we have such a greater awareness of the world that biblical characters lived in, by knowing the other things going on in the world at roughly the same time.

I love the way that homeschooling affords us the time and freedom to explore interesting things in real life that enrich our understanding of the world and its history. Here are some pictures of recent explorations we've done here... (sorry in advance-- some of the pictures are blurry from those times when we couldn't use flash).

Our oldest son and I enjoying the centuries-old tile work in the harem portion of the oldest surviving palace in the world.

Doug & the kids in front of an 8th-century B.C. Hittite lion.
(It amazes me that this is only about 150-200 years after King David.)

The boys inspecting an Egyptian-type sarcophagus found in Lebanon.

Studying a Greek-style sarcophagus up close. (The exhibit we saw was from a "city of the dead" that was discovered by a Turkish farmer as he worked his land in the early 20th century. It included an astounding number of Greco-Roman and Egyptian style sarcophagus' and burial chambers.)

They also had the opportunity to climb up into a kid-sized example of the Trojan horse.

Just hanging out in Ephesus about month ago.

The boys had an incredible time exploring the ampitheater at Ephesus.
(Yes, I was calling out, "be careful! Don't get to close to the edge of the steps!")
Just over 2,000 years old, Ephesus is sometimes named as the best preserved city of that time period.

They had a blast pretending to be Roman soldiers and strong gladiators as they stood under the ruins of the archway that led into the Ephesian gymnasium.

Because we live overseas, we obviously have different opportunities than you do if you are in the States, but there are things there that we would also love to see. (For example, the King Tut exhibit.) Mainly, I just wanted to share some of the things we've gotten to do and express my gratitude for the freedom and opportunities we have as we study history in our homeschool.

(Please note that you can click on any of the above pictures to see a much larger picture.)


Carletta said...

We just went to see the King Tut exhibit yesterday. It was so cool!

My oldest is going to be a 3rd grader next year and we're going to start studying history formally. I am still trying to figure out what we'll use, but one thing is certain - we will NOT study history the way I learned it in school. I hated the subject back then.

I have heard so many great things about Mystery of History that it's definitely one I'm looking into.

LLMajer said...

You might be a Texan if...you studied an insane amount of TX history vs. US history and you learned it from a football coach who mispronounced most of the Spanish words and Indian tribe names, LOL! Thanks for the memory! I also loved TX history, but when I majored in history at UT, I was amazed at what else was "out there" but still, it was massively pc'ed. Thanks for sharing these incredible pics! I am planning to take the kiddo to see King Tut, too!

Laura said...

Holy Toledo. Those pictures are both NUTS and AWESOME! Hooray!

My school uses Veritas for both Bible and History, and I love, love, love it. The "spine" you're talking about is totally there. There's such a strong sense of flow and progression and significance. We have a great opportunity to discuss the wise/unwise and godly/ungodly choices various world leaders made, and it's incredible how quickly my students notice the moral tone of a period in history.

Oh! And tee-hee... did we go to the same high school, or are they all like that? I think my history classes were taught by the baseball coach, the volleyball coach, and the assistant football coach (although he was great)! LOL. As if this whole learning-history business isn't all that important and so we're just going to give history classes to the people who practice their golf swing in between passing out worksheets... Ha.

This is one of my favorite posts ever. Those pictures are fabulous. Thanks! :)

Luke said...

Way to restrain yourself and not touch [smile]. It is so tempting at times.

Great post. I did have a World History teacher in high school who was great, but the rest of it? ...oh yes. You are so right.


Sandi (aka Mrs. M) said...

Wow...all that history at your finger tips. I can imagine it makes things more real for your boys to see and touch it. Great pictures!
Things of the past fascinate me when I think of who, what and the fact that a real person who lived hundreds ofyears ago touched the very same thing. Love it!

We love history around here. I am hoping to use MOH our next cycle through history.
We are doing American history right now and I am learning so many things I never learned in school. The only thing I remember was having to memorize the Gettysburg address for extra credit....couldn't say more then the first line now LOL! And my history teacher in high school was a football coach...too funny.

Homeschool Dawn said...

Wow! What wonderful experiences! Thank you for sharing. If we had an unlimited budget, we would tour the world as part of our schooling.
I saw the King Tut exhibit recently, too. Both of my sons really enjoyed it.
We are about to begin a study of the American Civil War. There are so many places to visit in our area that I don't know where to start!

Nancy said...

I think you're absolutely right about the way history is usually taught. It can be so fascinating when you do it right, and homeschooling gives you that freedom! Thanks for posting this and making me think about ways I can make history interesting for my 6-yr-old!

Belinda said...

ehem...I have been in Texas all my life and I have to say I had a real History teacher(once) and soemtimes coaches taught MOCE and Home Ec. and Health(nothing like learning that from some big burly guy!)... Thanks for helping me bring that to mind:(

Anyhoo, we use My Father's World and it has been wonderful. My kids love it and have a real sense of History in sequence rather than the pitiful patchwork type you spoke of. You are absolutely right about that, I can't believe we learned anything being taught that way! Actually, I don't think I did.

Brenda said...


Can we come visit?????

How cool!

Rachel said...

So stinkin' awesome. We use "Story of the World" by Peace Hill Press, which is all the better because it comes with the whole text books on audio CD. Hello, car trips!

Also, did you make your hat/scarf in that second photo? Cute cute cute. I knit. Do you?

Christine said...

You share so many of my beliefs about history. My education involved a very disjointed view of history. I love chronological learning, because it really is such an excellent frame, and it really does make sense that way. We use the Mystery of History as a spine, as well. Having a spine for the study of history, and using historical fiction and other literary works, really seems like an excellent method. Blessings!

Joy @ SAH Missionary said...

Wow! That is some really cool stuff that you've been able to see! We are also doing Core 1, but I wasn't loving CHOW, so I switched to Story of the World since I didn't have access to MOH. I think MOH sounds like a great option. I have to say, I totally agree with you about history the way I learned it being TOTALLY boring. I am loving learning along with my kids this year, and ahem, I'm actually learning a lot that I didn't know! :)

Jess said...

I remember going to the Tut exhibit in DFW in (I'm pretty sure) 5th grade. Not sure if it was a year before or after... but somewhere around that.

Exactly. We know all about the Alamo and coonskin caps and virtually nothing about WWI, and absolutely nothing about India or China (which, together, make up 1/3 of the world) or other important events/places in the world.

I'd love to hear more of your thoughts about Veritas... I don't know anything about them.

It IS hard. I remember in the Hermitage (the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, when I was 13), there were Picassos and more without glass, without anything but an old babushka (grandma) sitting on a chair asleep in the room. Astounding! Maybe I wasn't so restrained back then, idk. :)

I think you're right. I also wonder if that method of teaching, jumping from one topic to the next, following our interests, etc., has contributed to the collective ADD-like attitudes we have as a nation. I'm not sure we learn much when we have no systematic disciplines in our learning. All of the great learners of the past seemed to have approached the task with much greater sobriety, structure, and effort at very young ages than we require of even our college students in America.

Yes, come! We'd be glad to host you if you can afford the plane tickets, LOL. There's a whole world of history here in this place... it's breathtaking in its reach, depth, and preservation.

No, I didn't... I think it was a gift from a Dick's Sporting Goods sort of store. Thanks for the compliment, though. And no, I don't know how to knit, but I keep telling myself I should learn.

Thanks, all, for reveling in the history we've been able to see/hear/and touch (in Ephesus, not in the museum). :) It's fun to have like-minded people around who will ooh and aah over it with me.

Laura said...

Hey Jess,

Veritas is a publishing company that publishes Christian classical curriculum (say THAT ten times fast) with a reformed perspective. The whole company was sort of inspired by Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson.

I can't say enough about Veritas's history and Bible curriculum. It's so organized!

We also use their Omnibus, which I would definitely marry if I were PeeWee Herman, I love it so much! I'm teaching 8th grade Omnibus this year. How it works is, the students read primary sources (like Augustine's Confessions, great books (like Beowulf), and fun stuff (like the LOTR books), and the textbook and I turn it into a combined History, Literature, and Theology course. It starts in 7th grade with the ancients, and continues in 8th grade with the church fathers, middle ages, renaissance, and Reformation.

The website is veritaspress.com. I have this weird feeling that you'd love it. Especially Omnibus, although I know that's a ways down the road for y'all!

Rachel said...

I'm getting more and more excited about teaching my hypothetical children!! I feel like I'll learn as much as they will, too!

Tanya said...

Just another fan of Sonlight and Mystery of History chiming in!

History was very boring when I was in school, too. Just cramming in facts and dates so that I could pass the test....the forgetting everything I temporarily memorized. My high school did have a neat program for juniors and seniors, though. Instead of taking the normal history and English classes, we could take Humanities.....those were fun classes. I learned more about history and English in those semesters than I did the rest of my schooling experience.

But, I will say that I have learned even more about history in the 4 years of homeschooling than I ever have. I get so excited about what I am teaching the kids, and then they get excited, too. (Not all days are like this, but you catch my drift).

Miss Amy Smarty said...

How right you are about history classes! I thank God that I went to private school...and took from teachers who HAD to love their job because they got paid in peanuts.

About the King Tut exhibit...I went through it, and maybe I am just ignorant, but I was disappointed because King Tut is not actually there. It leads up to him being there...and you get in the final room, and it's the gift shop. Of course, now I see he's not allowed to leave Egypt. But the way it was advertised (being called "KING TUT", and having the picture of his sarcophagus, which is NOT there either as the main picture on the advertising) and costing almost 30 dollars a person led me to believe otherwise. It was still a cool thing to see, but I was sad when I left.

Amy said...

What incredible opportunities! I LOVE seeing all these pics. I used to think that history was so boring and so not necessary. Thankfully, I'm able to homeschool my children and I've learned how history truly is HIS-story! It's exciting, and my children think it's the coolest!
Thanks for the reminder to see King Tut...we just moved back to the DFW area and my m-i-l can get discounted tickets to the exhibit through her company. And, she works right next door to the museum, so the children and I will ride the train into town and pick her up and go see the exhibit. Grandma and King Tut! Woohoo!

Bless you,
Amy B.

Claire said...

My dream for homeschooling was that we would be able to travel to the places we were studying instead of just reading about them. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened, but I sure love looking at your pictures.

We love Texas, too, even if we live in California. We've been to the capitol of Texas, but not of California! :)

darci said...

wow, the places you've seen! your kids will hvae so many amazing memories!

Anonymous said...

I'm confused how you use MOH as a spine with Sonlight (or something like Veritas Press). Could you (or someone else) please explain?


Jess said...

Hey Kelly,
I'll share what we do.

Mystery of History 1 follows, almost exactly, the lay-out for Sonlight Core 1 (and I think, very similar to Core 6). So I use Mystery of History as the basic history text, adding in the supplementary materials. So instead of using the "spine" that Sonlight has set up-- an Usborne book and Child's History of the World/Story of the World, we use Mystery of History to tell the "meat" of the story, and then supplement with the same read-alouds, Time Traveler, and other books that fill in more specifics or flesh out the ideas we've outlined/addressed in broad strokes with the MOH curriculum.

I hope that makes sense. So, the way we do it, we're still getting the rich literature and additional materials that SL offers and does so well, but using a linear, Biblical history for providing the bigger overall view of history.

Jess said...

I'll add this-- I did alter the scheduling of some of the readers slightly to fit the MOH layout, but by and large the way that SL lays them out follows quite closely with the MOH plan.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation, Jess!


Anonymous said...

I have one other question. SORRY!! So do you read the lesson from MOH then read a SL book (taking a few days to a week), then read the next MOH lesson and SL correlating book?

I've always been curious about this.


Leah said...

Hey Jess - bit off topic but meant to ask, is that a 'ring sling' you're wearing in the first pic? LOVE the colour, just trying one out with little M at the moment...

Jess said...

We pretty much follow the same exact SL schedule, with only a few alterations-- Time Traveler & the Tut's mummy book are backed up a bit to concur with ancient Egypt study... and I think I slightly shifted the Rome things closer to their target time... it really took little time at all to make these alterations to the schedule and we just follow the rest as is.

It's not a ring sling... it's just 2-3 yards of stretchy fabric. I lay it out on the ground and eyeball about where the center would be, fold each long side in towards the center line, then fold it again, then fold it again (all towards the center)... then tie the two ends together in a knot. Then I slightly tugged and adjusted until it fit the way I want to carry him. I did a ring sling a long time ago and while it was easy enough, this is a solution I've found that I like that uses less fabric and doesn't require the rings like the other did (since I don't have easy access here to good sturdy rings).