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Making Peace with History

Posted on Friday, May 28, 2010 in History, Thoughts on Education

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Like most homeschool moms at the end of the year I find myself itching to jump into the Land of Possibility for next fall, rather than wringing out the last official school days of this year.  I’d rather imagine the potential for great learning moments and Google the books we’ve yet to purchase than attend to the  task of keeping everyone’s spirits up for the home stretch.   As I  race to used curriculum sales and imagine the perfect planning weekend away with friends, I’m surprised to find that the subject I’m most excited about is History.

Let me give you my own history with History.  I remember thick textbooks with timelines and pictures that seemed completely unrelated to me.  Late night sweat sessions as I tried to absorb enough facts to pass the multiple choice test the next day.  It didn’t bother me that I didn’t care about the subject and by college I fully committed to naptime during my summer class on the Middle East.  I secretly prided myself on being a “here and now” kind of girl, a time that was obviously more relevant than anything previous.  Even learning the background of my major, theater, fell flat against the passion of being onstage in the moment.

Who knew I would marry a man who, if he had been a history teacher, would have regularly donned a revolutionary war costume and staged mock battles on the playground?  Did we discuss the compatibility of a husband who watches documentaries as a way to relax after a long day and a wife who thought their only use might be post-traumatic therapy from high school history class?  Don’t even get me started on  how we both felt about museums full of artifacts.  I remember one particular conversation (one sided, that is) as I read my novel and he read his non-fiction, when I realized he’d been silent and staring at me expectantly for several moments, and I hastily responded, “All I heard was pirates, pirates, pirates.”

Fast forward to the realization that instructing our children at home would mean, that’s right, teaching the darned subject.  Yawn, boring, why not pass it over to my husband?  And that’s what we did some years when we weren’t squeezing  it into a unit study which made it a bit more palatable.

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Why then as I think about next year, do I find my heart beating a bit quicker as I look through my great finds for our coming year of American History?  I think it started with the excitement of my children who have caught their father’s enthusiasm. No one told them that loving other time periods is nerdy or boring, so instead they travel (with playmobiles or costumes) regularly to 17 and 1800′s.  Secondly, those documentaries have started to woo me in the same way that my husband has absorbed my love of brownie batter (granted, his obsession is probably healthier than what I gave to him).  I sat late into the night with him catching the final discs of John Adams with Paul Giamatti. (yes, I know it’s not a documentary, but close).

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All of the above, combined with some great books over our 5 years of  home learning, has finally lifted the veil on history, allowed it to shed it’s bad reputation, and showed it’s true nature: stories. Story after story with characters made even more intriguing by the fact that their feet tread this earth at one time.

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Story is something I already love, passionately.  You mean I get to share stories, go on adventures, and even discover the existence of a woman flier during the time of Amelia Earhart with my exact same name?

That’s what I want to be, a teacher of stories already told and a conjurer of stories yet to be written.

(Please don’t tell my husband because this is a slippery slope I walk.  There was the documentary last week on a frozen baby mammoth that made me want to reconsider my tender feelings toward history, and I’d still rather make art than walk through floor after floor of of african masks and fertile god statues.)

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