Learn How to Make History Come Alive

Philip Campbell, author of the highly respected Story of Civilization series from Tan Books, has put together a useful guide for teaching history. If you struggle with teaching history or are simply looking for some new techniques to help make your children’s experience of history a better one, The Catholic Educator’s Guide to Teaching History is worth reading.

Campbell begins by discussing why we should learn history. Most of us have faced the question from our children “Why do I need to know this?” often said with a long whine and perhaps some eye-rolling. Campbell goes beyond the famous quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” to explain that history has long been a core of the liberal arts. “Understanding the things that came before our own life experience is essential to understanding.” Studying history helps us to understand our own country and current events as well as help us learn about particular subgroups in specific regions of the world.

So, then, how can we get beyond the history is boring attitude that so many of our children may have? History isn’t boring if it is presented as story rather than a dry series of names and dates and events. Campbell maintains that elementary school aged children should learn primarily about people, middle school students should learn about events, and high school students learn about ideas (the whys behind the history). He then offers specific suggestions for how to teach history to each age group as well as suggestions for activities.

Campbell then moves on to discuss how to help your child learn how to take notes in history class, use primary sources, and evaluate bias in historical and modern news sources. He offers suggestions on how to grade and how to approach teaching history from a Catholic perspective (which is not the same as teaching Catholic history). Perhaps one of the most helpful areas of this book is a list of suggested readings for each age group.

The Catholic Educator’s Guide to Teaching History is not geared only to homeschoolers but to all Catholic educators. As a homeschooler, you might not find the chapter on “Delivering a History Lecture” to be particularly relevant unless you are teaching in a co-op setting. However, the rest of the book offers a great deal of solid information that you can use to help make learning history a more interesting part of your homeschool life.  

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Author: Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, editor of "Today's Catholic Homeschooling", is the mother of two biological sons and one adopted daughter. She is in her fourteenth year of homeschooling. She has a B.A. in History and Fine Art and a Master's Degree in Applied Theology. She is the author of "The Crash Course Guide to Catholic Homeschooling" and "The Power of Forgiveness". She blogs at spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com