Thoughts on “Social Studies”

I put those words in quotes because in the surveys we sent out we got a lot of snide comments (really) about using that phrase as a catch-all to include history and geography. A majority of the home educators among us didn’t like that phrase AT ALL.

Call it what you will, but tell me what you think about it. I will preface this by saying I’m a loyalist. I love the curriculum company I purchase from (Sonlight) and it would take something really major to make me switch. That said, there are times the history texts put ME to sleep. I know my kids are wishing we were doing just about anything else but reading Diary of an Early American Boy. I also realize that’s a book in the science portion of Sonlight, but it’s a history book, trust me.

Many of the books used in Sonlight contain a lot of evolutionary material. I’m not afraid of teaching my kids about the theory – they need to know about it so they can defend against it; I do, however, get tired of it being so dominant. I oftentimes edit-on-the-fly as I’m reading to them just to avoid the discussion (true confession). These aren’t things that are going to make me stop using Sonlight, but I would really love to have something more engaging (and less evolutionary) for my kids in this department.

One of our teacher surveys had this to say:

“Geography and History are my subjects. Secular material gets pretty sketchy in geography because it is so hung up on an evolutionary viewpoint. Some of my history curriculum, on the other hand, has a heavy Fundamentalist Baptist bias; for example, one of Columbus’ flaws was that he was a Catholic, according to my teacher manual (so was everybody else in Western Europe during Columbus’ lifetime).”

What do you think? Do your kids love history, no matter what? Are you satisfied with the materials you are using (or your school is using)? What, if anything, would make it better?

7 Comments

Filed under How Kids Think

7 responses to “Thoughts on “Social Studies”

  1. Lorri

    Both of my children enjoy history – my 8 yr old girl’s favorite subject she says. My son likes it but ESPECIALLY if it includes: wars, fighting, guns, America, soldiers, Indians etc.

    To be honest – not a whole lot of my history or “social studies” happens from a textbook. I’m not finicky about using secular texts b/c I can work around the false info – same with “Christian” textbooks that may have a questionable interpretation of things also.

    We enjoy reading historical fiction or kids’ history books …the old ones that I can come across…we just finished reading one of the Santa Fe Trail – kind of boring for my girl but my 5 yr old son really enjoyed it.

    We watch DVDs, read stories from vintage kids magazines from the 40s and 50s (usually a more conservative view) and books from the same period (in the past yr we’ve read about Santa Fe Trail, Abe Lincoln, Zeb Pike etc). We also read once in awhile from “The Story of the World”.

    But if a book on a historical character or event looks interesting at the library I’ll snag it. Reading “real” stories about an event or person is more interesting than reading a textbook lesson…even if it is historical fiction.

    Some of the above I let the kids read on their own and others I read to them – we plan to begin reading about Martin Luther this month in honor of Reformation Day.

    I think using textbooks alone to teach “social studies” makes it dry and boring. Since we homeschool – I sometimes need to remind myself that I don’t HAVE to follow the textbook. I can skip what I want and supplement all I want and go off on as many “rabbit trails” as I desire.

  2. Megan

    Lorri – you may have just unknowingly given me permission to give up on Diary of an Early American Boy. *grin* I have a really high-need to check off boxes which can become debilitating at times!

    I totally hear what you are saying with the dry and boring texts. This is one of the reasons we go with Sonlight (because most of the books are as you say – historical fiction, not as bland as, say, A Child’s History of the World – we read it too, but if that were all we read, I’d give up I think.

    Do you think a monthly/weekly publication can add anything to this area of Social Studies and/or Science? I’m thinking less about rewriting a whole curriculum and more about partnering with what’s currently in play. What would be helpful to folks from a publication that took a direction like that?

    (Is my question even making sense?)

  3. kim

    Im not a teacher, but I used to be a student (wink), and completely tuned out during history, geography and the like. It was often taught in a manner that was too boring for me to handle.

    Once in hs I was in honors courses, so it wasnt for lack of being able to get it, it just bored me.

    I do have a love of politics and it is a hobby, and I have often thought back to my education and evaluated which teaching methods made me enjoy “history, current events, social studies, geography” and which ones put me to sleep.

    For me personally, it made the world of difference to have the material made real, rather than just a reading assignment (snore). Visiting historic sites, having guest speakers from other countries or backgrounds, hands on projects, lively debates, all made the lessons interesting and real.

    Some of the comments thus far have mentioned boring texts as well as activities that make learning more interesting.

    If I were to develop a curriculum re: “social studies” I would want to incorporate a variety of experiential learning options, to help the children connect to the material and make it more interesting.

  4. Lorri

    I think it could. I have enjoyed secular magazines for the kids such as “Kids’ Discover” – are you thinking of something like that?

    One thing I am currently bored with is how publications always seem to have to go with what is traditionally for that time of the year. I know some things would be inappropriate at certain times of the year – but the traditional things are not “new”. I mean what more can be said about Christopher Columbus?? Sure today I talked with the kids about CC – but do we have to have fall taken up with Halloween / Witches / Thanksgiving / Pilgrims and right after Thanksgiving having things focused on Christmas and Jesus birth etc??

    If there was to be some sort of supplemental publication I’d like for it to be on something “new” or from a new perspective. Not that history is new – but do you know what I mean??

    Sure there are the basics that every child needs to know – but how about the little known historical characters or events? How would your publication be different from what is already out there?

  5. Rose Bexar

    I’m with kim; this is one area where I find interdisciplinarity hugely helpful. And I’m a history buff. There’s just so much to *do* with history and geography–trying foods from different times and different places, making costumes, learning some useful phrases from other languages, learning songs, reading literature, watching documentaries and movies, going to reenactments, visiting historical sites and museums, and soooo much more. AmericasLibrary.gov bills itself as a site that presents history “the way kids like it,” and from what I can tell, it’s certainly the way *I* like it. But starting every geography course with “This is a map…” gets really old, and expecting students to do little more than memorize names and dates in their history lessons fails to recognize exactly what the past has to teach us.

  6. i absorbed a LOT of geography just from traveling/moving. we not only lived in different states, our family lived in different countries as missionaries at times. during my high school, i was in the US at a boarding school with a large number of MK’s and learned a lot about their countries (not the recommended way of learning geography!)
    in the christian school where i grew up (associated with a church) in the 50’s, the church had a huge missionary conference every year that permeated our school. we got to know them in class, chapels and as they ate and stayed in our homes. that is another way i learned geography. there was always a map handy and many family friends were missionaries as well. in this day of the internet, it would be possible for our children to be “penpals” with children of missionaries in other countries. it is a good way to develop a love for the country that they have as well as a heart for missions–as long as it isn’t divorced from mercy ministry anywhere.
    when i think of ecuador, i think of HCJB and many friends we have known who worked there. i also think of the 5 martyrs who were killed the year i was in 6th grade…
    when i think of belgian congo (i’ve forgotten the newest name for the country), i think of my 7th grade teacher who was martyred there a few yrs. later in one of the uprisings, leaving a family behind, after a month in prison. i remember how much he looked forward to going to that country…
    when i think of jamaica, i remember 7 wonderful yrs. (well, at least 6, once i took my watch off!) with a warm people who were very hospitable…a time when my children were born…a lot of growth…
    i’m sure you get the drift! geography represents a lot of people to me. it will be alive when we help it be that to our kids.
    in a magazine, spotlighting a country/state and tying it to some faces that could be characteristic would also be helpful. ex. interview of child of farmer in central/southern IL, child of plant employee for CATerpiller in peoria, inner city child in chicago. the former two would not be stereotypical…most people think of chicago for IL, but most of the state is not like chicago. helping kids/families get to know their states and the uniquenesses of the states as well as the countries. all are parts of what makes history interesting.
    i think that as history and geography are integrated, they can be very interesting. often, in history, the geography has had an effect on the history. if they are studied separately, that doesn’t get covered. must go. m

  7. Lorri

    I would appreciate a publication that would include by regions/states, current (or on-going) events that would be useful in educating our children. ie. Civil War Re-enactments, Living History Museums (and include the websites if there are any – as it’s always helpful to get additional information on events, where they are exactly located, fees, hours etc.)

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