Education Guides

Helping Your Child Learn History

Imagine that you wake up one morning to find out you have no memory! You"re not able to remember who you are or what happened in your life yesterday or the day before that. You"re unable to recognize your children, and you can"t communicate with neighbors and other people because you no longer know how to greet them, and you can"t understand what they are saying. You don"t remember what the words "elections," "wars," or "movies" mean.

Just as having no personal memory deprives us of a sense of our own identity, having no historical memory deprives us of a sense of our national identity and, in the words of Mrs. Lynne V. Cheney, noted author and wife of the vice president of the United States, of "a perspective on human existence." Knowledge of U. S. history enables us to understand our nation"s traditions, its conflicts, and its central ideas, values and organizing principles. Knowledge of world history enables us to understand other cultures. In addition, without historical memory, we miss a great source of enjoyment that comes from piecing together the story of the past—our own, our nation"s and the world"s. Our historical memory is enriched by our understanding of geography, which lets us better see the physical context of cultures and environments around the world and across time.

By showing interest in their children"s education, families can spark enthusiasm in them and lead them to a very important understanding—that learning can be enjoyable as well as rewarding and is well worth the effort required.

We hope that you find this booklet a valuable tool for developing and reinforcing your child"s interest in and knowledge of history—and that you and your family may increase your appreciation for why such knowledge is important.

Children are born into history. They have no memory of it, yet they find themselves in the middle of a story that began before they became one of its characters. Children also want to have a place in history—their first historical questions are: "Where did I come from?" and "Was I always here?" These two questions contain the two main meanings of history: It"s the story of people and events, and it"s the record of times past. And because it"s to us that they address these questions, we are in the best position to help prepare our children to achieve the lifelong task of finding their place in history by helping them learn what shaped the world into which they were born. Without information about their history, children don"t "get" a lot of what they hear and see around them.

Although parents can be a positive force in helping their children develop an interest in history, they also can undermine their children"s attitudes by saying things such as: "History is boring," or "I hated history class when I was in school." Although you can"t make your child like history, you can encourage her1 to do so, and you can take steps to ensure that she learns to appreciate its value.

To begin, you can develop some of the following "history habits" that show your child that history is important not only as a school subject but in everyday life.

History Habits

Habits are activities that we do on a regular basis. We acquire habits by choosing to make them a part of our life. It"s worth the time and effort to develop good habits because they enhance our well-being. The following history habits can enrich your life experiences and those of your child.

Share family history with your child, particularly your own memories of the people and places of your childhood. Encourage your parents and other relatives to talk with your child about family history.

Read with your child about people and events that have made a difference in the world and discuss the readings together. (The list of publications in the Resources section at the end of this booklet can serve as a starting point for choosing materials.)

Help your child know that the people who make history are real people just like her, and that they have ideas and dreams, work hard and experience failure and success. Introduce your child to local community leaders in person if possible and to national and world leaders (both current and those of the past) by means of newspapers, books, TV and the Internet.

Watch TV programs about important historical topics with your family and encourage discussion about the program as you watch. Check out library books on the same topic and learn more about it. See if the books and TV programs agree on significant issues and discuss any differences.

Make globes, maps and encyclopedias (both print and online versions) available to your child and find ways to use them often. You can use a reference to Africa in your child"s favorite story as an opportunity to point out the continent on a globe. You can use the red, white and green stripes on a box of spaghetti to help her find Italy on a map and to learn more about its culture by looking it up in the encyclopedia.

Check out from your library or buy a collection of great speeches and other written documents to read with your child from time to time. As you read, pause frequently and try to restate the key points in these documents in language that your child can understand.

Enjoying History With Your Child

As a parent, you can help your child want to learn in a way no one else can. That desire to learn is a key to your child"s success, and, of course, enjoyment is an important motivator for learning. As you choose activities to do with your child, remember that helping her to learn history doesn"t mean that you can"t have a good time. In fact, you can teach your child a lot through play. Here are some things to do to make history both fun and productive for you and your child:

1. Use conversation to give your child confidence to learn.

Encouraging your child to talk with you about a topic, no matter how off the mark he may seem, lets him know that you take his ideas seriously and value his efforts to learn. The ability to have conversations with your child profoundly affects what and how he learns.

2. Let your child know it"s OK to ask you questions.

If you can"t answer all of her questions, that"s all right—no one has all the answers. Some of the best answers you can give are, "Good question. How can we find the answer?" and "Let"s find out together." Together, you and your child can propose possible answers and then check them by using reference books and the Internet, or by asking someone who is likely to know the correct answers.

3. Make the most of everyday opportunities.

Take advantage of visits from grandparents to encourage storytelling about their lives—What was school like for them? What was happening in the country and the world? What games or songs did they like? What were the fads of the day? Who are their heroes? On holidays, talk with your child about why the holiday is observed, who (or what) it honors and how and whether it"s observed in places other than the United States. At ball games, talk about the flag and the national anthem and what they mean to the country.

4. Recognize that children have their own ideas and interests.

By letting your child choose some activities that he wants to do, you let him know that his ideas and interests have value. You can further reinforce this interest by asking your child to teach you what he learns.

How to Use This Booklet

The major portion of this booklet is made up of activities that you can use with your child to strengthen his history knowledge and build strong positive attitudes toward history. And you don"t have to be a historian or have a college degree to do them. Your time and interest and the pleasure that you share with your child as part of working together are what matter most. What"s far more important than being able to give your child a detailed explanation for the concepts underlying each activity is having the willingness to do the activity with him—to read, to ask questions, to search—and to make the learning enjoyable.

In addition to activities, the booklet also includes:

Some information about the basics of history;

Practical suggestions for how to work with teachers and schools to help your child succeed in school; and

A list of resources, such as federal sources of history, helpful Web sites and lists of books for you and for your child.

Some Basics

What Is History?

"Once upon a time . . . " That opening for many favorite children"s tales captures the two main meanings of history—it"s the story of people and events, and it"s the record of times past. To better understand what history is, let"s look closer at each of these two meanings.

The Story in History

Unlike studying science, we study history without being able to directly observe events—they simply are no longer in our presence. "Doing" history is a way of bringing the past to life, in the best tradition of the storyteller. We do this by weaving together various pieces of information to create a story that gives shape to an event.

There are many possible stories about the same event, and there are good storytellers and less good storytellers. Very rarely does one story say it all or any one storyteller "get it right." A good student of history, therefore, tries to determine the true story by looking to see if a storyteller has backed up her story with solid evidence and facts.

The history with which we are most familiar is political history—the story of war and peace, important leaders and changes of government. But history is more than that. Anything that has a past has a history, including ideas, such as the idea of freedom, and cultural act


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By Courtney Lynne I am an analyst by profession and trend researching is my passion. I also loves to share my knowledge. Get me on Google + and Twitter Find us on Google+

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