Here is how we enjoy more restful history lessons. We do our history lessons all together as a family. I try to create an inviting atmosphere by spreading out pictures from our history books on the table that go with the day's lesson. I believe that this encouragaes deeper thinking on the lesson. It also encourages my children to ponder and wonder. I offer tea and treats, milk and cookies, or juice and baked goodies with each history lesson. I think this promotes an atmosphere of rest and communion.
We follow the Lectio, Meditatio, Compositio Liturgy:
1. Lectio (read)- gather, collect
2. Meditatio (meditate)- digest, pray, contemplate, discuss
3. Compositio (compose)- produce, create
First, we read a chapter from our history book. As I read aloud the chapter, my children sit and listen or sometimes color a coloring page to go with the story. We also look at maps and pictures from that time in history. I really like using the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, DK Smithsonian History: From the Dawn of Civilization to the Present Day, DK Smithsonian Children's Encyclopedia of American History, and other beautiful children's books.
When the chapter is done, I have the children narrate it (tell it) back to me. This is the digesting part. It is the taking of ideas and facts from the chapter and letting them become a part of us enough so that we can tell it back in our own words. Each child may take a turn narrating the entire chapter back one at a time, or one child will start, and then I will ask the other children to add to it. I may ask leading questions to help the narration along if necessary. This narrating naturally leads us into a deeper discussion of the chapter. We often talk about the most interesting or important parts. It also naturally leads us to making connections with other times and places in history.
Finally, my children draw a picture in their own blank-page lesson book to go with the story. They use pencils, colored pencils, and/or crayons to create their drawings. (If needed, they look to the coloring page or other history picture books for ideas and inspiration.) We then work together to compose a few sentences that summarize the most important parts from what we read. I write the sentences on the board. My children copy these sentences into their lesson books on the page with their drawing. My older children may compose an extra sentence that goes into more detail.
An Ordered Education
I believe that when we follow this lesson liturgy, we are teaching our children more than just the history. We are teaching them that learning is about taking our time and that good learning takes time. We are not rushing through just to get it done and check it off our list. We are slowing down and savoring the history of our world. We are reading. We are narrating. We are thinking. We are creating and composing. I believe that when I do our lessons in this way, I am cultivating a love of history and a love of learning. I am helping to order my children's affections. I am giving my children an ordered education.
The Story of the World
We use The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. It is a chronological history narrative in four volumes. We plan to read through one volume each year. After I read through all four volumes, I plan to circle back around to the beginning and start over. As my children reach school-age, about 6 years old, they will join in the history lesson at whatever point we are at in the history timeline. That way, all my children will do all four volumes at least once or twice. My children will get the benefit of hearing the story of history when they are very young and continue hearing it as they get older and older. I believe that The Story of the World is perfect for all ages, grades K-8. Depending on their age, all children will get something from each lesson, each according to his or her own level and ability. Like Charlotte Mason said, we are spreading the feast in front of our children. Each child will take what he or she can from it. They will fill up on the ideas and facts that are fitting to them.
I also like to use The Story of the World Activity Book. It has questions to ask, if you need a little extra help leading the narration and discussion. It also has a sample narration. I often use this to help us in coming up with our history sentences. The activity book also has coloring pages and map work to go with each chapter.