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Helping Your Child with History


Remember James Taylorís 70ís song with the lyrics, ďDoní know much about history, donít know much geographyÖĒ. If you really donít know much about it, donít pass those feelings on to your children. Itís not too late for you either. What you may have thought of as boring and a waste of time when you were in school, might be the very thing that a family can build upon for family outings, vacations, and memories. After all, history is memories and can be an exciting vehicle for a family bonding like no other.

Whether it be recorded historical events or local/family memories, these happenings can be a springboard for conversation and study. Not everyone is going to have the same intensity of interest that will have them running out to earn a BA or MA in history, but everyone has ties to the past and to other cultures.

In order to lay out a plan for family support and involvement in history, think of using these six suggestions to help . These ideas include: researching family history; watching educational TV programs together; having frequent meaningful communication; understanding the different kinds of history; designing home activities that enhance history, and making school connections.

1) Researching family history - History can be a habit that a family can develop, but it will take a parentís positive push toward developing an interest. An excellent starting point is to begin with family history. Sharing information and researching information about past family members can be an exciting endeavor for youngsters. Beginning a family tree is logical way to approach the journey in looking at people and events in a familyís past. There is excellent and inexpensive software than can be used to help set up a template for recording data that has been gathered about past family members. Children really enjoy being able to share some interesting tidbits at school about their relatives. What a way to hook children on history and research. What a way to boost a childís self-esteem.

2) Watching educational programming - Take a look at daily reporting and commentary about people and events. Watching the news together as a family can offer a multitude of topics for family discussion and debate. Other TV opportunities can include programs from the history channel or travel channel. Biographies are one of those things that are easy and enjoyable to which children can relate. Watching programs together as a family can be a rewarding experience for everyone. Besides TV, atlases, Internet access, magazines, and newspapers are important resources to have available at home. In addition, a family outing to the local public library is another way for families to access materials that relate to history and current events.

3) Everyday communication - Daily communication is a must. Children love to have adult conversations with their parents. Guide the conversations into worthwhile topics that include historical and current topics. Childrenís enthusiasm can be contagious. Finding out what they are interested in and what they think is humorous can be eye-opening. Adventures can and should include local library visits, weekend outings and family vacations. Vacations can easily revolve around historical perspectives because most every destination will have tourist information about he area. A tourist pamphlet or book will include history of the area, sightseeing suggestions, and other insights. The Chamber of Commerce of your vacation spot can be an excellent starting point, or a visit to a bookstore to purchase a travel book is another source.

4) Understanding different kinds of history - A parent can have a tremendous influence on how children formulate their opinions on the past and the present. Those homes that include lively discussions of a political nature can set the stage for a child to stay involved as an adult. However, a child needs to be given an opportunity to form opinions based on information from multiple sources. Taking a single news channelís view of the current events as gospel, is a dangerous thing. Children need to be encouraged to explore issues from various vantage points, and adults can even take a lesson from this. The same goes for looking at the past. History is more than just a school textbook. Children need to realize that there are different kinds of historical evidence and sources - original records, historical narrative, commentary, timelines, in-depth studies, and geographical information to name a few. Donít stifle their curiosity, and just keep encouraging them to expand their interests.

5) Home activities that are history based - There are number of hands-on activities a parent can do with a child at home that involve history but wonít seem like history. In studying other cultures and eras one of the most interesting parts of that study is the art. Studying and replicating some of the art from a historical period can be a fun family activity. Of course, the Internet is an inexpensive way to bring art into the home. In addition, cooking foods together from other cultures can also be a good learning experience. It is practical, too, because you have to eat anyway.

6) School connections - Finally, find out what the history or social studies curriculum is the for your childís grade level. Try to support those topics through home activities and discussions. By talking to your childís teacher, checking the school district web site, or reading the state department of education curriculum frameworks, an outline of the yearís goals and objectives can be obtained. This information should be useful in making parent support timely and relevant.

Get involved in fun and educational activities with your child. You will both benefit from the experiences and strengthen your relationship at the same time. Turn off the TV at designated times and do something of real value as a family. If you make an effort to spend quality time in helping your child embrace educational activities, youíll never again feel the need to sing, ďDonít know much about historyÖĒ

See the acclaimed Helping Your Child publication series of 9 booklets including Helping Your Child Learn History at: http://www.sbmag.org/Helping_Your_Child/Help_Your_Child_Index.html

No permission is needed to reproduce this story along as the About The Author statement remains in tact and includes hot links. mailto:barb@sbmag.org

About the Author

Barbara Snyder is a retired California Distinguished School Principal and Coordinator For Human Resources. She has a masterís degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She holds elementary education, secondary, community college, and administrative credentials. She is currently the publisher of http://EducationResourcesNetwork.com, co-publisher of Strictly Business Magazine, http://www.sbmag.org and Student Teacher Supervisor at Chapman University.


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