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Teaching History

There was a part of me since my youth wanting to be a historian. I loved history for there was nothing boring about it. At age 18 I was redirected to engineering and math. My love of history has never abated. I was a voracious before having children. There were historical happenings being researched by me. Along come children and history takes the backseat. My research is on hold for my time is dedicated to my family.

This summer we have started a different study of history. We are listening to some history lessons each night. Doing this during the school year is not feasible. We simply do not have the time with all of the activities going on. An hour or two a night listening to a type of history lecture isn’t a bad way to spend an evening. We do not even have to do this each night. Upon reaching the end of the time, we started a discussion about what we listened to. The two youths or should I now say young adult and youth were not prepared to have this discussion. They were forced to provide information about the topic we listened to and their opinions.

If some university were willing to hire me as a professor without a masters degree let alone a doctorate, there is one part of my class lecture I would include. You see, four to six books would be required for my class. In time I would write a hundred or so page booklet about the class for the student to use. There would be two exams and a final. All of this is standard for a history course. What would make my class possibly unique is what is done in class. My lecture would not take the full 50 or 55 minutes. The last fifteen minutes or more would be class participation worth at least 25% of the student’s grade. The student can’t miss a class and they MUST engage during the class. A discussion about the lecture and what was read is the last part of my class. There are no right or wrong thoughts. This is where a student can grow and begin to think and understand what they are hearing and reading. Once you get past the facts of history, you now have opinions.

Last night our discussion was do you think Alexander, Caesar or even Napoleon are great? Why do you think they are or not. Alexander the Great is great for some reason and do you agree? Does killing hundreds of thousands of people justify you as being great? Are you looking at their military prowess only? Would you consider Ghengis Kahn great? Yes, he brought peace and security to the people of the steppe but at a cost of 20 to 50 million lives? Is he still great and does his military prowess continue to make him great? If so, then should we not consider Adolf Hitler great, too? Stalin should be considered great even though he doomed millions. Is Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou not great for he didn’t conquer countries and kill millions? (Yes, I want you to look up the archbishop.)

If I have the chance to teach history there would be reading, lecturing and discussions. Homeschooling can provide a similar opportunity. We as parent-educators need to read the books, listen to any lectures and be willing to engage our children in discussion. There can be a disagreement but no one is wrong. Sometimes there is no answer.

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