How to Study the World: Six Ways to Plan a Simple, Excellent, Affordable Curriculum


How to study the world

Learning history should be like eating candy; children should crave it and it should be handed out with joy!

(This post does not contain any affiliate links! I  hope you have been following along, but if not, you can catch up on this series by reading the introduction, language arts part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5  and math part 1 and part 2)

There are actually different layers to the study of history:

layers of history

Of course, most of us have experienced the outline/overview type, since this is the way the subject is usually approached in schools and via textbook learning. Unfortunately, this is the greatest depth the majority of us have ever gone, and this is why so many of us hate the subject. I vividly remember sitting down as a youngster to read a chapter in my high school history text and waking up an hour later thinking it was already morning (it was that boring)!

how to kill history

I also remember how books such as The Once and Future King captured my attention and made me want to learn more; all about King Arthur, about the Holy Grail, about the Crusades, etc.

how to bring history alive

Everyone loves a good story, and history is just that; a continuous string of narratives of human beings and their trials and triumphs. Studying these stories as simply events and dates is like stripping a scrumptious chicken of its flesh and leaving only the bones–nothing much left in the way of soul-nourishing food.

It is the storytellers that bring history alive to us, that make it accessible, that bring us into contact with places, ideas, and experiences that can become as fresh in our minds as in the days they occurred.

Then there are the details; such as the way President James Garfield was murdered, not by a bullet, but by the incompetency of his doctors, and the connections such as how our state of Colorado was bombed by the Japanese in WWII, or how Hitler owned a ranch in Colorado (which he stole from some Jews) and it was actually under his control! There is something about finding out the secret particulars of the past that drive my children to dig and explore like greedy prospectors yearning for gold.

Within all of this inquiry and exploration we are all finding out about the terrain, climate, political regimes of nations, how the people were governed, built houses, their inventions and discoveries, diet, dress, etc.

This subject is all the more fascinating and captivating if taught from the right perspective.

For instance, if we are merely the products of years of evolution, if life had its beginnings in a pool of muck, then we are simply a bunch of highly intelligent apes muddling around senselessly, and what we do from day-to-day can have absolutely no lasting value, and therefore to study the past is simply meaningless.

However, if we were created by a living God Who is intrinsically interested in His creation, then we should be able to study history and see evidence of His dealings with and plans for humankind. This is where our historical studies begin: with the moment God spoke and there was light, and where they will ultimately end; with the return of Jesus Christ to the earth to usher in that “better city.”

From this perspective we can see that most of what we ourselves have learned about history (if we were taught with typical curricula) is slightly skewed, and even horribly distorted. This is precisely where we begin to re-learn and discover right along with our children.

If you aren’t familiar with just what a Christian worldview is and how we got to where we are today, here is a link to the YouTube playlist for a video series by Dr. Francis Schaefer entitled How Should We Then Live:

There is so much more I have to share, but unless I stop here and reflect, the wait will be even longer and it will make for a super-long post. I hope that you don’t mind if I publish a portion of what I have so far, and give you the rest (including bunches of links and some free downloads) on this subject later…