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”.

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