When I graduated from “the school of the yellow bus,” I knew next to nothing about history. Yes, I made good grades. Yes, I graduated valedictorian. But very little about history had stuck. There was no reason to retain that list of events and dates past the test day, because I had no personal relation with what had happened. It didn’t matter to me.
But, thankfully, over the past 17 years of homeschooling in a Charlotte Mason way, I have developed an appreciation for history and personal relations with the people involved. How? By using Charlotte’s methods of teaching history, I have learned along with my children and enjoyed doing it!
In today’s installment of our Subject by Subject series, let’s take a look at how to teach history in a Charlotte Mason way: through living books, narration, and a Book of Centuries.
Living books are a key component to teaching many subjects in the Charlotte Mason Method. A living book is a book that makes the subject come alive. It is usually written by one author who has a passion for the subject, rather than a committee who has been hired to dispense facts. A living book touches the emotions and fires the imagination, making it easy to see in your mind’s eye the events that are being described. It contains ideas, not just dry facts.
We’ve written at length about living books over the years. Below are a few links that will give you more details and equip you as you select living history books. If you would like our suggestions for living history books, take a look at our free SCM Curriculum Guide and/or use our CM Bookfinder.
So you read a portion of a living history book. Then what do you do? You require the child to narrate. He should tell back in his own words everything he can remember from the reading. Narration demands a much higher thinking level than true/false, multiple choice, or fill-in-the-blank questions. You are asking the child to pay full attention and compose a mental essay, in a sense.
Narration may seem easy until you try it for yourself. Charlotte encouraged adults to use this method to help them learn too. When you understand its potency, you will see why Charlotte used it in teaching many subjects.
Here are some links to more details on narration.
Book of Centuries
The other great tool that Charlotte used in teaching history was the Book of Centuries. It’s basically a timeline in a book. As you read about (and narrate) people and events in history, jot them down on the appropriate pages in the Book of Centuries.
The genius of this idea comes to light when you add a person to a page that already contains someone or something that occurred in the same century. Now your brain makes the connection: “Oh! He lived at the same time as _____.” A connection that your child makes for himself will have the deepest impression and last the longest. And a Book of Centuries is a prime tool for helping your child make those mental connections.
When the children are old enough, each should have his or her own Book of Centuries. Charlotte’s students received theirs at about ten years old. During the younger years, you can compile a family Book of Centuries.
My Book of Centuries (yes, the parent should have one too!) has become a great companion and record of the fascinating people I’ve met through living history books. Now history makes sense!
You can learn about a free basic Book of Centuries template and an expanded deluxe version in the article, My Book of Centuries: A Great Joy.
Charlotte recommended that history be taught in chronological order, which makes sense since so much of what happened was based on cause and effect. So make sure you work your way through history sequentially, but don’t feel like you need to force other subjects to coordinate with the time period you happen to be studying.
Charlotte advocated natural connections, like history and geography. But you don’t have to limit your picture study, let’s say, to your current historical period. You can select artists from a variety of eras with distinctly different styles. The key is to enter them into your Book of Centuries as you go along. Then when you progress to that point in history, your child will have a wonderful opportunity to make a mental connection when he sees that “old friend” looking out at him from that century’s pages.
Whether history is your favorite subject or a lot of forgotten dates from days gone by, you can enjoy watching it come alive alongside your children when you use Charlotte’s wonderful methods of living books, narration, and Book of Centuries.
SCM at NICHE Conference in Des Moines, Iowa
This weekend, June 8 and 9, Simply Charlotte Mason will be at the NICHE Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Sonya will be presenting these workshops:
- Laying Down the Rails: The Power of Good Habits in Your Homeschool—Friday, 1:00 PM
- Charlotte Mason and Her Methods—Friday, 2:30 PM
- The Quiet Schooling of Nature—Friday, 4:00 PM
- The Early Years: Homeschooling Your Preschooler—Saturday, 9:15 AM
- Learning with Living Books—Saturday, 1:30 PM
- Looking Past the Fear—Saturday, 3:00 PM
We will have all our products at our booth in the exhibit hall, available at special conference pricing (and no shipping!). So if you’re in the area, stop by and say hello. We would love to see you there!
This is part of the series: Subject by Subject
How to teach each school subject in a Charlotte Mason way.
- A Generous Curriculum: Subject By Subject,
- Three Basic CM Principles: Subject by Subject, Part 2
- Teaching History: Subject by Subject, Part 3
- Teaching Geography: Subject by Subject, Part 4
- Teaching Spelling: Subject by Subject, Part 5
- Teaching Bible: Subject by Subject, Part 6
- Teaching Handicrafts: Subject by Subject, Part 7
- Teaching Science: Subject by Subject, Part 8
- Teaching Foreign Language: Subject by Subject, Part 9
- Teaching Music: Subject by Subject, Part 10
- Teaching Writing: Subject by Subject, Part 11
- Teaching Literature: Subject by Subject, Part 12
- Teaching Grammar: Subject by Subject, Part 13
- Teaching Beginning Reading: Subject by Subject, Part 14
- Teaching Art: Subject by Subject, Part 15
- Teaching Poetry: Subject by Subject, Part 16
- Teaching Math: Subject by Subject, Part 17