The Five Elements For Learning Holistic History

I believe in the complexity of the human story, and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say, “this is it.” Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing . . . this is the way I think the world’s stories should be told: from many different perspectives.

secular homeschool history

—“Chinua Achebe: The Art of Fiction CXXXVIV,” interview by Jerome Brooks in The Paris Review, Issue #133 (Winter 1994-5)

History is traditionally taught through use of a single textbook. This method presents history as a linear, exact, and one-sided series of events when it is, in fact, a complex, subjective, and multifaceted discipline. In an attempt to portray objectivity, history textbooks inadvertently reveal the issue of subjectivity in history. Compartmentalizing history into a simple recounting of events actually highlights the subjectivity by presenting only one point of view, although there are almost certainly many perspectives. Teaching history in the common manner leads to many missed opportunities in education. Students need methods that allow them to explore this complexity, to learn how to think critically about history as presented, and learn to express themselves effectively.

A Comprehensive, Holistic Approach Is Best

The fact that history education is driven by points of view cannot be avoided. Every history lesson is shaped by the presenter’s interpretation of what happened, how it happened, and why students need to learn about it. Biases are often not obvious and may even be unintentional. But how could a simple list of historic facts contain bias? To understand this, it may help to consider which facts were included and which ones were excluded. Why were those decisions made? And what do we know of the motivation and background of the person or persons who created the list?


Is there a better way to teach history? How can the subjective nature of history be turned to an advantage as opposed to an inconvenience to avoid or ignore? How can history be used to encourage holistic thinking and the development of critical thinking skills rather than to impose linear thinking and political and social opinions on students?

The Five Elements of Teaching Holistic History

holistic history, secular history curriculum, secular homeschool history curriculum

Students should learn how to examine multiple resources, read historically significant literature, develop and strengthen critical thinking skills, practice and refine written and verbal expression, and study world geography and its significance throughout the history of humankind. To do this, they should take a multidimensional approach history, and here are the elements of that approach.  

  • Use Multiple Resources
    • Primary
    • Secondary/historian
    • Hands-on
  • Read Literature
    • Historic fiction
    • Biographies
    • Classic literature
  • Employ Critical Thinking
    • Inquiry
    • Analysis
    • Logical reasoning
    • Evaluation
  • Write and Present Research
    • Written reports and summaries
    • Oral reporting
    • Interviewing
    • Rhetoric
  • Learn Geography
    • The effect of geographical location on World and U.S. History
    • Labeling and coloring regional maps

With these methods, your student will learn how to approach history with a critical eye towards comprehending and evaluating different points of view  and developing a well-rounded view of history.

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Kate Johnson is owner of Pandia Press, a publisher of secular curriculum for private and home schools. Their History Odyssey courses are available for grade levels elementary – high school and range from ancient through modern history as well as American history. Pandia Press also publishes REAL Science Odyssey which includes biology, chemistry, astronomy, earth & environment, and physics.

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Lisa Hawkins: Building a More Powerful History Curriculum with Primary Documents: The Study of the Past as Window, Mirror, and Lamp

 

How can an old photograph, some ancient statues, and a colonial bestseller equip you to teach the past better? How can you make history be not only a better window into the past, but also a useful mirror for the present and a vital lamp into the future? See how your history education can be much more than learning about the stuff that happened before today. A well-considered history curriculum, using primary documents in creative ways, can become a powerful ally in your quest to cultivate critical thinking, healthy self-reflection, and productive social engagement in your children.

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Building a More Powerful History Curriculum with Primary Documents:
The Study of the Past as Window, Mirror, and Lamp

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Lisa Hawkins was born and raised in New York City, although she also lived for some time in Miami, Puerto Rico, and on a commune in San Diego. Presently she lives right outside Philadelphia. She majored in history at Swarthmore College, where she also earned her high-school teaching certification. In addition, she completed graduate work at Widener University with a focus on English and education. Lisa worked for four years at an inner-city classical high school, where she taught American History and American Literature and served as Dean of Students.
In 1997, she earned her Masters in History at Temple University, and soon began teaching college courses for Drexel University and Peirce College for adults returning to school. In 2005, she started teaching online as well, and to date has independently created more than a dozen different college courses, ranging from survey American History courses, to the History of American Business, Colonial History, Revolutionary History, and Western Humanities surveys. She has been awarded “Outstanding Adjunct Faculty” by one of the universities she currently teaches for. Lisa also teaches history courses online for homeschooled high school students, both AP and non-AP level and is a writer of homeschool curricula for Pandia Press. Despite all her experiences at the high school and college level, and despite her appreciation for the more profound academic and cultural expressions, she nevertheless is a shameless fan of The Simpsons, Napoleon Dynamite, and MST3K. She has also joined the rest of the world with her love of the ‘beautiful game’ and has been recorded by her own children frenetically celebrating the goals scored by her favorite English Premier League soccer team.

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