Thursday, May 17, 2012

Seeing History

It's one thing to read about an historical event in a book, and quite another to see the place where it happened, or view a re-enactment.  You can see the words on the page, but when you see the place, the photographs, the artwork, or the artifacts... it's a different perspective.  Visual aids like maps and timelines can also be extremely helpful in understanding the events of history.

Make use of the museums and historical sites you have close by, and consider including a couple of these kinds of stops when you're on vacation as well.  Even if it's not something that ties into your current history study, it's fun to be able to say, "Remember when we were on vacation and we stopped at ------? That's where this event happened!"  Pull up the pictures on your computer (or out of your scrapbook, if you're a more faithful scrapbooker than I am!) for the reminder.

We happen to live within reasonable driving distance of Gettysburg and several other Civil War Battlefields; Fort McHenry; Washington DC; Harpers Ferry; and Historic St Mary's City.  Visiting the places mentioned in the history books is powerful and meaningful.


On vacations, we have been able to visit St Augustine, FL; Genesee County Farm museum in New York;  and the Mennonite Village Farm Museum in Manitoba.

But you don't need to leave home to go on 'field trips' - check your local library, or Netflix for DVDs.  The popular NEST Entertainment and Schlessinger Media educational films, and other similar titles, are usually easy to find at the library.  Often the TV shows from The History Channel or National Geographic channel and the like are available on DVD as well.  Our family has thoroughly enjoyed the series Cities of the Underground, for example.  (You may want to preview these, especially before viewing with young students.  Any time they are in caves below the cities, they throw in "millions of years" references.  More disturbing might be the commentary on events of war or pagan rituals and that sort of thing.)  We also enjoy an HBO series of shows called The Inventors' Specials that portray children interacting with characters like Da Vinci or Marie Curie in the historic setting.  Movies, even fictional stories, that faithfully portray a time period can be a great insight into daily life of the time.

Look for artwork that portrays the events or daily life of the artist's time.  Again, the library and the internet will be great resources. Thanks to the invention of the camera, we can actually see people and places and events from the 1800s and on.

Maps can be a rather abstract concept for younger children, but being able to compare the size of the Roman Empire over time and how much of Europe the Romans controlled is best grasped by looking at the maps. Knowledge Quest has some of the best historical maps that I'm aware of.

Timelines are another wonderful visual representation of history and are particularly helpful in understanding chronology.  Often the order of events is far more important than the specific dates on which the events took place.  We found it very interesting to make a world history timeline and see what was happening in other parts of the world at about the same time that the Chinese were building the Great Wall or inventing paper.  There are many ways of doing timelines, and you can purchase products that will help you with this.  For a few years, we simply put a long strip of butcher paper on the wall in our stairwell, with a basic timeline in the center.  Then as we studied history, we added significant events and people to our timeline, using a color code system.  Seeing a timeline of events for a specific country or period of history is just as helpful.  For example, I was in high school before I realized that the Old Testament is not organized in chronological order - that the prophets spoke during the times of the kings; that Job happened before Israel was a nation (probably around the same time as Abraham); that Ruth took place during the time of the Judges; and that Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel are not separate events from the Exile. A timeline really helped me - as an adult - put all that together in my mind.

What are your favorite ways to visualize history? I'd love to see your comments (and I would be honored if you'd also follow my blog using one of the options in the sidebar)!  Then make your way to the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to see what the other 65+ bloggers who are participating in the 5 Days of... Blog Hop! are sharing today!



Stefanie said...

Field trips to the actual sites are our favorite.

Jenn said...

I am loving this series! From our field trips, I've always collected brochures and such, intending to use them to make notebooking pages with our lessons....but I never have. Too much procrastination. lol.

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