I decided pretty early on in my research about homeschooling that a chronological study of history was sensible and appealing. After all, history has a clear path to it — it begins at creation and moves steadily toward the present day. Why not study it that way?
Like most of us, I didn’t study history chronologically when I was in school. In fact, other than a brief study of state history in sixth grade, I don’t remember studying history very much at all in school until I had US History from the Civil War to the present in 8th grade. After 8th grade we moved to a different school district, and I took a year of Ancient History in 10th grade, and another year of US History from the Civil War to the present in 11th grade. Lucky me to get the same thing twice! I guess if we wouldn’t have moved, I might have gotten the first part of American History sometime after having gotten the second part.
Despite my lack of history study at school, I grew up in a family that loved and appreciated history, and we watched many historical movies and documentaries at home. My mom passed on to me her love for European history (especially the history of England), so in college I selected the History of Western Medieval Europe and The History of England as humanities electives.
While I did enjoy all this exposure to history, it was very disjointed. I knew a lot about a few time periods, while knowing next to nothing about other important time periods (like the Revolutionary War or other early American history).
With Miss M, after dabbling in a bit of light US History and World Geography in her Kindergarten year, we embarked on what I planned to be a 4 year history cycle when she was in 1st grade. We covered world history from creation to about 1600 using Mystery of History, then switched to US History, which I plan to cover over two years. Then we’ll go back to Ancient History.
All of that is a backdrop to a recent conversation I had with Miss M:
Me: Mrs. B___ told me that this book [a book about the underground railroad] was her daughter M___’s favorite about that topic.
Miss M: Oh, is the B____ family studying American History this year too?
Me: No, they study history a little bit differently than we do. They study different picture books, and use those to inspire their studies of different topics in history and geography. I prefer a chronological study of history, so that’s what I planned for our family.
Miss M: Oh, so what does chronological mean again?
Me: It means studying history in time order, from the beginning until now
Miss M: That makes sense. Like we started this year at the beginning of American history, and we are moving closer and closer to now.
Me: Right, but we started a couple years ago, way back at the beginning of time. Do you remember that?
Miss M: Oh, you mean those books we used to read?
Me: Yes, Mystery of History
Miss M: Yeah, those seemed kind of like a bunch of random stories. You mean they were chronological too?
Me: (wanting to smack my forehead). Yes, they were definitely chronological. I guess we should have kept up on our timeline. Maybe then it would have been a bit more obvious that it was chronological!
Do I regret using Mystery of History (volume 1 through the first half of volume 3) in first and second grade? No, but I now can look back on it and see that we could have done “something else” and her overall memory and understanding of history from Creation to 1600 might not be all that different. She definitely enjoyed it most of the time while we were reading MOH those two years, and she always looked forward to our history time together.
Will I continue with a chronological study of history? Yes, if nothing else because it does make sense and seem easier to me as far as planning goes. We may even repeat Mystery of History again, since Miss M will get a lot more out of it as a 5th-6th grader (and Mr. E will be a 2nd-3rd grader when we wrap back around to ancient history!). But maybe we’ll also take more time for tangents or “out of timeline” topical studies. After all, there is so much history to learn that a person can easily spend a lifetime learning about it!
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