Friday, March 18, 2016

High School History

True confession: I hated history growing up. In high school, if I was having trouble falling asleep, my standard self-medication was pulling out my US History and Geography textbook and reading a few paragraphs.
Fact retention was horrible, too. If you asked me, "When did Columbus land in America?" I could remember because my mom taught me, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." But if you asked me when the pilgrims stepped onto Plymouth Rock, my answer would be, "...sometime after Columbus?..." And if you asked me when knights, castles and fiefdoms occurred, I'd say, "6th grade!" When was World War I? "Before World War II?" I totally had the war of 1812 pegged for date, but didn't know the why's or wherefore's of the war.
Stepping into homeschooling in 1992 was a learning experience for mom (me). I learned in every subject, but this is supposed to be about History, so I'll try to stay focused. I first began teaching History in 1st Grade using Ann Ward's Learning at Home 1st Grade, which I got used for $25. From the beginning, our home school budget was next to non-existent, and I taught using whatever I could get my hands on. Sometimes it was used A Beka. Many years it was totally library books, often guided by units from KONOS.
When my oldest was in 7th grade, my friend Marcia Somerville was starting a high school co-op for HIStory (later re-named Tapestry of Grace), which dove-tailed history eras with literature and writing assignments based on the same era/topics. My daughter wanted in, so as a 7th grader she started working at a quasi-high school level. (I've since learned that she did not really deeply read all assignments -- those early years when the materials were being created, no one really had done high school yet except Marcia, and we all just told our kids to read what they were told to. They tearfully tried and failed, but told us they'd read what they'd only skimmed because they wanted to go to co-op and were not allowed to unless they had done their homework.
My Tina was in the first co-op from 9/98 to 6/02, and we parents called them the Twinkies (even though the students didn't like that). My son was born a week or so after our Year 2 Medieval feast (baby belly below is difficult to see).

Here's a photo of our co-op when we had our 1960's celebration, even though I can't see all the Twinkies in the photo, but a lot of parents. I'm in the middle holding someone else's child! My son, in a red shirt, is by my shoulder, in my hubby's arms.

Here are the Twinkies. My beautiful daughter is front left.
Daughter #2, three grades behind Daughter #1, started in the next round of co-op (four-year cycle from Creation to present day) in September of 2002 and attended four years, ending June, 2006.

As Becky was finishing her high school years, my son was beginning his elementary years. We dabbled in Tapestry at the beginning, burying his dead hamster as a wrapped mummy, but I had never done Tapestry with a 1st grader. It wasn't coming off as a good fit.

I stumbled across Ambleside Online as it was in its formative years, and we stuck with it clear to high school. My son had never transitioned to willingly reading the assignments on his own (can we say "resistant"?). I had been reading out loud all assignments, which I loved, but I could no longer keep that up. 

As my student entered high school, we had an opportunity to try Veritas Press Omnibus I and Notgrass America the Beautiful, but we keep gravitating back to Tapestry as a general spine when other things seem to get stale. Recently we've been trying a Compass Classroom history, but again not thriving. Not sure if we'll stay in Compass to finish the year or go back to Tapestry.
Having my son resist his school work is taking a lot of the joy out of it for me. Next year he will probably take his high school course (20th Century History) at the local community college. He will be in 11th grade, and it is looking like dual enrollment is, for us, the only approach that will enable him to excel.

Overall, though, I guess I'd have to say that my favorite approach to learning high school history is Tapestry's integrated approach to studying the historic era in all subjects simultaneously - literature, composition, art, music, Science. It enables information to mesh better in the brain. However, no one curriculum is perfect for everyone, and many people find it difficult to pick and choose what they will do from the Tapestry smorgashbord -- it is overwhelming. I used to struggle more with that, but am now able to see it as a framework, so that I can have an order to follow and suggested assignments -- I don't have to reinvent the wheel.

If this idea interests you, go to their website and download one of their sample units and give it a try. Let me know what you think about homeschooling high school history!

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