Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Using a Literature-Based History Curriculum

We read chapters of all four of these books during school today.  Although science and math are my least favorite subjects, the book on Archimedes is fascinating.  (Who knew Pi and parabolas could be fascinating?)  A Single Shard is a delightful book about a young boy growing up in ancient Korea learning the pottery trade.  This book is so good my son who is in college asked us to only read it when he is home so he won't miss any of it.  Set during the time of Jesus' ministry in Israel, The Bronze Bow has a gripping plot and is full of information about the Zealots, the blacksmith trade, Jesus' preaching on the sea of Galilee, and life in the ancient Middle East.   After reading Rowland Bingham - Into Africa's Interior, I am ready to go to Africa--after I get my malaria shots, of course.  (His first two companions died shortly after arriving there.)  

Since I first discovered using a literature-based history (or social studies) program about twenty years ago, I have been a huge fan of the idea.  And not only I am a fan of it, I use it.  I have used literature-based history curricula for sixteen of my eighteen years in the classroom (or the living room when I was homeschooling).  

Here are my reasons:
1.  It is far more interesting, intriguing, and captivating.
2.  My students learn more.  
3.  I learn more.
4.  It makes learning (and school) fun, not boring.  (When my husband would enter my history class to take the 3rd-6th graders to recess, they would sometimes beg him to wait so that we could finish reading the chapter.)  

Although I do use text books as supplements, I don't think I would ever use anything but a literature-based curricula for history.   I have heard the argument that students need to learn how to read, study, and glean information from text books.  And I agree.  But in most cases, for a majority of the time, I believe that my students (of all ages from kindergarten to 12th grade) and I have learned and retained far more information from literature (both fiction and non-fiction).  
English, math, and science can be accomplished sitting in desks or at a table.  However, for us, history is a time to ponder and relax on comfy seats.  Above is my current history "classroom" (I still haven't unpacked my framed stuff which goes on the walls).  Below is our history teaching area at our former school.  (Yes, schools can have couch areas.)