One of the subjects Elena most wants to study next year is ancient history. She is currently fascinated by ancient Greek & Egyptian history and mythology, and also the Roman Empire. This is helped in no small part by Rick Riordan’s books that modernize traditional Greek, Roman & Egyptian myths for young audiences. (I think they’re fab) It also doesn’t hurt that one of our favorite tv shows to watch as a family is a documentary style archaeology program from the UK. They talk a lot about Roman and pre-roman history.
I think it’s great that she is so interested in these subjects and I want to encourage her to continue learning about them. (she’s already teaching herself to read hieroglyphs) I’m wary though of the tendency we have of taking a really Eurocentric view of history. There is a big world out there. Most of it has been influenced by European and American colonialism. But much more pre-colonial history survives than I was ever taught in school.
I want Elena’s understanding of world history and human culture to be broad and well rounded. Euro-American history may be “ours” genetically and culturally but the history of other peoples, and other places, is just as important. If not more so.
I’m thinking of including study units on the history and culture of ancient China, ancient India, the Mayas and Incas, Persia, and an assortment of pre-colonial north american groups. I’d like to include some African history as well, beyond Egypt, but honestly I don’t even know where to start looking. That will take quite a bit of research.
As much as I want to include cultures from all over, I need to be careful not to try to cover too much. This is one of the areas I continually need to seek balance when planning lessons. Trying to include enough material, but not too much. Trying to encourage Elena’s interests, and also introduce new material. It can be a difficult tightrope to walk especially as her interests change.
Last year we focused on US history, mostly 1600-1800, and it was a lot of fun putting lessons together. Elena and I both particularly enjoy thematic lessons, ones that combine different subject areas along the same subject matter. For instance, one of our Handwork lessons was planning and cooking a four course meal. We found and used recipes from the American colonies circa 1750. The research was almost as fun as the cooking. The resulting meal was tasty and also a good springboard for conversations imagining what life would have been like in colonial North America.
That is one part of my reluctance to buy a ready made curriculum. Now that Elena is eager to take more control of her education, we might really enjoy putting together activities for the different lessons. It is undoubtedly more work to do it that way though. We have had less opportunity to dig into the subjects we’ve covered this year, for various reasons, and I miss it. It will take some serious family discussion to sort out where our priorities around this are for the coming year.
How do you decide which subjects to cover? What areas do you seek balance in your homeschool?