Monthly Archives: October 2014

We don’t study history.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

In my family, we don’t study history.

We do, however, love learning about specific time periods or the history of specific things. In the last few years, we have intensely learned about ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, the American Civil War, and World War II… and several other time periods:

  • Kai has recently learned a lot about the Oregon Trail. I think that came about because I saw a graphic novel (at the library) about the Oregon Trail and thought Kai would like it, so I checked it out.  He’s read it a few times. We’ve talked quite a bit about it. I even found a website where he could play the old Oregon Trail game.
  • He became interested in ancient Egypt – primarily mummies – because we were at the science center in Seattle one day and Kai saw small sarcophagus and mummy figurine. He asked if we could buy the “Zommie”. We talked about how it was actually a mummy and discussed them quite a bit. We watched the Reading Rainbow episode about mummies. He wanted to know more. We read a ton of books about both the time period and mummies specifically. We watched a ton of things on Netflix about ancient Egypt and about mummies.  We also went to go see the traveling King Tut exhibit – even though he was only four and we knew he’d not remember much. (He still talks about the “kitty sarcophagus”.)
  • The American Civil War became an interest because one of our groups went to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument and the Indiana War Memorial right after we moved to Indiana. While Kai knew a bit about the time period before (and, in fact, it had started to kind of come up as interest to him right before this). We checked out a ton of books about the civil war and watching some things about it. We also ended up in the 1863 Civil War Journey area at Conner Prairie, a local interactive history park – which was pretty neat and very informative.  It’s been much more relevant here in Indianapolis, an area where the effects of war were very personally experienced and the fighting was up close and person. In Seattle, the fighting was far away (and Washington wasn’t even a state yet).
At the Indiana Bicentennial Train

Kai and a friend at the Indiana Bicentennial Train

That looks a bit like “traditional history studies”. But we’ve learned a lot about things that look less like “traditional history”.

  • The history of the internet and computers. My husband, Joe, and I talk to Joe a lot about what the internet used to be like, bulletin boards (the kind you had to dial into) and how you used to get online (I remember back when we had to lift the phone off the receiver and set it on top of the modem to dial out). We’ve talked about old games we used to play on the computer (like the earlier example of the Oregon Trail).
  • We’ve listened to the Beatles, went to see Beatles laser shows, played The Beatles: Rock Band, and talked a lot about them, their lives, the deaths of some of the group members, and some of the controversy surrounding certain aspects of the band.
  • We play a game called Timeline  (I included an affiliate link to Amazon here but that’s more so you know what it looks like than anything else). With Timeline, you have to build a timeline from cards that have various different things (like the discovery of something or the invention of something).
  • One of our homeschooling groups recently went to the Indiana Bicentennial Train. We spent a good amount of time learning about the history of Indiana through some activities including a walk through the history train (where we looked at a few old objects and pictures of things throughout the history of the state), talked about the preservation of old photos and watched a living history actor who talked about what “his life” was like during the centennial, when he worked on the trains.

Besides, who decides what is important to study? Even in public school, it varies. In every area I’ve lived in, the focus was often more localized. Different people I know studied things in-depth in school that my school barely touched on.

What even “counts” as history? In school, I often had history AND social studies. But that never made sense to me. I remember distinctly becoming annoyed that we learned about Greek mythology in one class but ancient Greece in another. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to study them together? But the study of the mythology wasn’t considered history. It was social studies.

One of the great things about unschooling is that we don’t have to separate things out by subject, there are no specific things one must learn, and we don’t have to stick to a schedule.

So when Kai was absorbing everything he could about World War II, we didn’t have to say, “Okay. That’s enough. Onto another subject.” We didn’t have to say, “Studying these planes? They weren’t in the curriculum, sorry.”

We just encouraged him to love learning and helped support his interest.

But we didn’t “study history”.

Don’t let it happen to you: 7 tips to help prevent your child accidentally being left in the car.

It happened again. Another baby was left in a car and later died.

This is so sad. But this guy doesn’t need any judgment. His baby is dead. She’ll never be alive again. He needs compassion. Already, I’ve seen nasty things posted about this. Even the article says he ‘forgot’ to drop his daughter off at daycare – the quotes being theirs.

Help from a toy: Keep a stuffed animal in your child's car seat when they're not in the car. Move it to the front when they're strapped in.

Help from a toy: Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat when they’re not in the car. Move it to the front when they’re strapped in.

But, as I read the article, I saw was looking for something. And I found it, at the end of the article:

“The father told police that he does not typically drop the baby off at daycare.

On Thursday, he told officers, he was not operating in his normal routine.”

Almost always, there’s a change in routine. We do so much on auto-pilot. We don’t want to think so, but it could happen to most people. But there are are a few ways to help remind yourself that there’s a baby in the backseat:

  • If possible, put the baby seat or booster seat behind the passenger’s seat. You have a better chance of seeing the carrier there.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat when it is empty. When the child is in the back seat, the stuffed animal comes up front.
  • If you have a diaper bag or backpack for your child, put it in the front passenger’s seat, where you’re more likely to see it.
  • Speaking of the back seat, if you have anything that you will need at your destination – even if it’s just your wallet – stick it in the backseat. When you go to get it, you’ll see the child.
  • Make it a habit – even when the child is not with you – to check the back seat. It only takes a quick glance, but the habit will save you. Again, the number one reason children get left in the car is that there was a change in routine. If your routine includes looking back there,
  • If there’s often a change in routine (for example: one day dad drops the child off at daycare, the next day mom does), ask the daycare to call you anytime your child is more than fifteen minutes late to drop-off.
  • If none of those appeal to you, a simple solution is to keep a set of sticky notes and a pen in the car. If the baby’s in the back seat, write yourself a note and stick it on the steering wheel, over the horn.

I’d also encourage everyone to read an article called Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? I will warn you: it was a difficult article to get through. But it entirely changed how I look at these tragedies.

Most people think it can’t happen to them. Or that it only happens to bad parents. Or forgetful ones. Statistics tell us that’s not true. It happens to people from all walks of life.

When these stories appear in the news, don’t use them as an opportunity to judge. Use them as an opportunity to remind yourself to be vigilant.

photo credit: MRBECK via photopin cc