A History Natural…Or Not
Some kids love studying ancient history. No matter what curriculum or activity you present to them, they’re ready and willing. Their brains automatically see the connections between past and present events, between ancient discoveries and modern-day conveniences, and between people groups and places then and now. But other students, especially those who struggle (or just have no natural interest in history), don’t make those connections on their own. History bores them to tears and leads to a lot of frustration because they don’t see the point of studying something that happened so long ago. Ancient history doesn’t feel relevant to what’s happening in their lives today.
If you have one of those children, don’t despair! (Or if you’re one of those parents who is putting off ancient history studies because you are one of those people yourself, take heart. You can do this.) Here are some ways to help disinterested or struggling learners see the relevance of ancient history and hopefully spark some interests that will result in lifelong reading, research, and documentary-watching:
Hide the curriculum.
If you feel you need curriculum to help you stay on track, keep it hidden somewhere, bringing it out only when you’re planning lessons. A lot of history curriculum is dry and boring to non-history lovers, and you can do a lot with ancient history without using curriculum.
Read living books on the topics you’re studying.
These days, there is good children’s literature available for almost every topic. There are companies that sell living books for educational use, but searching the card catalog for your local library, browsing your local bookstore or secondhand shop, and visiting a favorite online bookstore (which often sell used copies of books too) all offer great options for discovering living books related to your current topic. If you’re studying ancient Egypt, for example, look for books that present that time period with engaging stories. This will often spark questions that lead to further reading and offer some cool project ideas too.
Speaking of projects, searching the internet, Pinterest, blogs, and more library books will give you ideas for projects relating to your topic of study. The interesting thing about projects is that, like reading great books, they often lead to questions that you can then research together, which will lead to more in-depth learning about the time period.
For kids who struggle with feeling like ancient history is not relevant to their lives, it’s crucial that you help them make connections. Going back to ancient Egypt, you can point out building techniques used in the pyramids that have influenced today’s architecture. You can talk about the Pharaohs and how ancient Egyptian government was run, finding any similarities and differences to the way things are handled in your own country as well as other countries you hear about in the news. If you’re studying ancient Greece and Rome, you can lead into conversations about the parts of United States government and culture that are derived from those two societies. After you start the conversation, your child’s questions and further reading and research may extend the learning far past what you had hoped!
Bring it to life.
Whenever possible, take field trips that will expose your child to what you’re studying about ancient history or will present a concept that has direct connections to something from that time period. When children can see history come to life through reenactments, traveling exhibits, and artifacts from ancient civilizations, they often become interested in finding out even more.
Watch movies and documentaries.
Movies based in fact and documentaries dealing with the ancient civilization you’re studying are also good ways to interest your child in ancient history. Documentaries can make connections and open up new discussions for you, too. It can be interesting to see a documentary about an archaeological find that archaeologists disagree about, either what the artifact is or the history behind it. These documentaries often follow the search for answers, which demonstrates scientific reasoning and how that ties into history.
Whatever methods you use for making ancient history relevant for your struggling learner, be prepared for certain topics to resonate with your child and become interests that last a lifetime. As a child, I was fascinated by ancient Egypt, and I’ve never gotten over it. I can’t resist historical fiction or a movie dealing with the time period, even if only loosely based in fact. And I’m always on the lookout for documentaries about King Tut, the pyramids, the Sphinx, and other ancient Egyptian information. Sometimes all it takes to make history relevant is to show kids how interesting and exciting it is. So dig into ancient history together and have some fun!