I was the kid in history class saying ‘why do we need to know this stuff anyway?’. And I was that kid throughout high school.
Even in college, I remember thinking ‘This is sort of interesting but it’s not useful’.
No one had ever told me that history was interesting. Or that history was important to understand (and not just memorize).
Still, when my kids were old enough to start working on ‘real’ subjects, we added in history. We had to, it’s one of the core subjects. Every kid has to learn history. We worked through a history book that wasn’t my favorite and my kids didn’t really enjoy.
They groaned every time I said ‘it’s time for history’.
And they couldn’t repeat any information that I presented them with.
But something changed that year. I realized I didn’t have to teach them history. We didn’t need to spend 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week working on a subject that they couldn’t even remember.
And I realized that for young kids, history doesn’t really matter. At all.
5 Reasons Why History Doesn’t Really Matter
- Kids don’t retain information without interest. There are some kids that can learn any information any time they want. But it seems to me that most kids learn a lot more when they are interested in the topic.
Even with interest, we cannot expect young kids to retain all of that information. I don’t mean to sound like a downer or suggest that kids are somehow too stupid to learn. I just don’t expect my young kids to remember all of these details about history that they really need to know one day down the line. So why spend 6 weeks now covering a topic they can learn in 2 days later, especially when they aren’t going to remember the information anyway?
- History isn’t worth much without understanding. We’re probably all familiar with the quote ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” by George Santayana. But I would extend it to ‘Those who cannot understand the past are condemned to repeat it’.
Understanding history is far more important than just knowing history. It’s not enough to know about Hitler. We need our kids to understand how Hitler got to power and how he was able to cause such destruction if we hope to have kids who can stop a future Hitler.
- They can learn everything they need to know about history in high school and college. This isn’t the best argument because it could be applied to everything. Why teach kids addition – they can just learn it in college.
But I do think it fits with #1.
Even if kids are interested in the topic, they’ll need to relearn a lot of it when they’re older. So why focus on the heavy stuff when they’re young when they have to relearn it anyway?
- There are better things to learn at this age. There’s nothing wrong with spending time on history. Except when you consider what you’re leaving out to spend time on history. What if you could spend that time learning a language, learning to code, practicing art, or anything else?
It seems many homescshoolers run into the problem of not having enough time in their day. So don’t spend that precious time on a subject that doesn’t need your time.
- History books teach it all wrong. This is the most important point, in my opinion. History books are teaching our kids all wrong. Not that they’re teaching an incorrect version of history (although they often are…) but that they aren’t teaching the right way. History books are almost all boring. They spend pages discussing imports and exports, who won this war or that war, and describing territory lines.
And for a young kid – double yawn.
History books are teaching our kids to hate history.
Wait, but history is important
I have to come clean.
I do think teaching history is important for young kids. But not for the reasons other people think.
There is only one reason that I think teaching kids history is important.
- Getting kids excited and interested in history at a young age increases the chance that they will be excited and interested in learning about history at a more important age.
My only goal in teaching my kids history is showing them that it’s awesome to learn about.
At 7 years old, I don’t expect Logi-Bear to understand the complexities of World War I. And trying to get him to understand why WWI happened, the after effect, etc would be like pulling teeth.
Why would I put us through that when he’s 7 when he could learn it at 15 much easier?
Here’s the problem though. Kids at 15 already think history is boring and they’re usually reluctant to read history or learn history.
Where are we going wrong?
We’re not making history exciting and interesting to them when they’re 7.
Logi-Bear cannot tell you what year Columbus sailed the ocean blue. But he can probably tell you how humans “invented” fire. Because fire is awesome and Columbus is not.
He won’t be able to tell you why the Egyptians built pyramids but he can probably describe, in detail, the different organs they placed in Canopic Jars.
And I hope that when he’s 15 he will remember all the fun we had learning about history and still feel excited to learn more.
That was confusing. Is history important or not?
If we insist on using stuffy old textbooks that bore kids – history is not important until they’re much older.
If we’re willing to find ways to make history exciting and interesting for young kids – history is incredibly important.
How Do I Make History Exciting?
The next step – making history exciting – will totally depend on your kid. But I won’t leave you hanging. I have a list of ideas and of course, an entire curriculum designed to be fun and exciting.
- Reading historical fiction. If you have kids who like to read or enjoy being read to, historical fiction may be your best friend. They won’t learn everything possible, but their understanding of what they do learn will be far superior to memorizing facts.
- Videos. Have a visual learner? There are tons of videos between Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, your library, etc.
- Art projects. I’ve seen entire art curricula based on history. But Pinterest is a great place to start as well.
- STEAM Projects. Similar to art, there are curricula based on STEAM projects and history.
- Focus on just the parts that interest your child. Do they like clothing, inventions, maps, etc? Just look at that part of any given culture or time period in history and focus there.
- Jump around in history. While many people make the argument for learning history in a chronological method, don’t feel tied to it. Some kids prefer jumping around and following their interests.