History, History Everywhere

A Multifaceted Approach


 As it appeared in the August 1994 issue of

The Catholic Family's Magnificat! Magazine

Copyright 1994. All Rights Reserved.

by Elizabeth Yank


What is the nickname for the U.S.S. Constitution? Which War did it participate in? Do you dread those history questions when playing Trivial Pursuit ?


When history is a laundry list of disjointed facts, figures, and events, then people connect it with something medieval, and certainly not as entertaining as watching "Home Improvement." History need not be dusty, dull, and dry as burnt toast. By employing a multifaceted approach to learning, we see the potential for learning and discovery all around us. History becomes interconnected with life. We see history everywhere. A multifaceted approach to learning utilizes a variety of senses; visual, aural, tactile, and kinesthetic, to enrich the child's learning experience.


Even though your child may exhibit a particular learning style, don't pigeon-hole him. If he is a visual learner, elaborate upon his learning style. Build off his strengths. The greater the number of senses involved in the learning process, the greater the child's capacity for intelligence and memory retention. For example, why do we easily recall song lyrics? Because our minds receive two sources of sensory input. The lyrics are imprinted along with the melody. Perhaps the greatest benefit to this learning approach is that the child's interest level dramatically increases.


Using the Multifaceted Approach to Teaching History


In history, once you've sparked the child's interest, the distant past fast-for-wards into the present and becomes a living reality. To effectively teach with this approach, consider a diverse assortment of possibilities. These resources vary with the uniqueness of each community as well as the limitations of your pocketbook. A sampling might include plays, lectures, or interviews.


To enliven a study on the Civil War, you might visit a museum, look at photographs, witness a reenactment, or read a soldier's diary.


After reading The Story of Helen Keller our family watched the movie based on her life.


This movie was a natural outgrowth of the children's interest in Helen Keller and not just an added project tacked on. In fact, their interest in her life began with A Picture Book of Helen Keller, which lead to reading The Story of Helen Keller, and then reading Helen Keller's Teacher.


While the main focus of our curriculum is good books and life experience, these additional resources spice up our curriculum. By giving it character, depth, and meaning, alternative resources enhance the flavor of the subject that is being studied. Because too many spices can lead to indigestion, spice your subjects accordingly. A good teacher knows when the student's interest is lagging and moves on. Too many extras can lead to homeschool burnout.


Basically, the multifaceted approach draws upon life experience when it is more valuable than a book, when it makes common sense or logic. If you want to learn how to cook, you cook! If you want to garden, you garden! When life experience is not possible, then a good book may be your best bet. If you want to learn about China, it's a bit impractical to fly there. Unless you are a veritable well of knowledge, the substance of the approach is good books. Good books build suspense by holding the reader spellbound until the last page. They create an affinity of mind and heart by evoking the reader's imagination and feelings so that he too can say, "I have experienced that sorrow, anger, or joy." A good book does more than transmit information It imparts worthwhile knowledge.


With a multifaceted approach, there is no one-size-fits-all curriculum. Each family is unique. As the children grow older, their likes and interests change. At the same time, however, there may be a certain body of knowledge you wish to always teach - for example, the history of the Church.


Living Books and Other Materials


In our family, the foundation of our curriculum is based in outstanding Catholic textbooks combined with "living books" ("Living books" is terminology used by Charlotte Mason to describe books which are real, tell a story, or make the subject "come alive." Whereas textbooks paint the overall picture, "living" books splash on the color adding fine detail to the canvas.) For example, to personalize a study on the French Revolution, you might read St. John Vianney's childhood. Because most Catholic history textbooks are out of print, they are virtually impossible to find. Therefore, one of the advantages of going with an established program, like Seton or Our Lady of the Rosary, is that they use accurate Catholic history texts.


By comparing a secular textbook to a Catholic one, you will notice the distorted, missing, and inaccurate information. Secular textbooks remove vast amounts of information that they so not consider relevant or politically correct. (In one book, we read that Maryland was named after the queen of England instead of the Queen of Heaven.) Likewise, some Christian texts are openly biased against, if not hostile to, the Catholic Church.


Weighing all these variables, find the books and materials that fit your family. Since every person has a different teaching and learning style, this approach is compatible with any other approach from a structured curriculum to unit studies to unschooling. Tailor the curriculum to be as elaborate or as economical as your budget, time, and resources allow.


Before you skip history, because you think it's just an extra subject, seek alternative ways to teach it, find books which capture the imagination, and incorporate it into your reading and/or writing program. When the drama of history rivets your attention, and seizes your imagination, it is a fascinating subject.



Elizabeth Yank and her husband homeschool their family in Milwaukee, WI.

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