Hi friends. Something neat I wanted to share with you this morning, that any of you who are using the Classical model of education will especially appreciate…it’s an absolutely  inspiring interview with Jim Weiss on the difference between teaching HISTORY in order to memorize important facts, names and dates, versus History as storytelling
I just loved this interview–especially Jim Weiss’s stories of Sir Francis Drake (2:55) and Harry Truman (6:02). I could listen all day to history being taught like this!

I have a feeling that those of us who claim to “dislike” history had it taught to us in the driest of manners.  We can do better for our children if we embrace it as an opportunity to share with them the fascinating stories of this world, from Creation until present day–stories filled with characters and situations that deserve to be retold.  And who among us doesn’t love a good story? Weiss says history is not just the “kings, queens, presidents and explorers” only, but “history is everybody,” and there are countless characters and stories simply waiting to be brought to life–stories of ordinary people like us, who have experiences and emotions and struggles that are human, and not altogether unfamiliar to our own. 

For us, history is less of a subject, and more like the core of our homeschool learning experiences.  It provides us with more rich reading material than we could possibly go through in a single school year. It is the favorite subject of both of my school-age children, and mine as well.  Each week, as we travel around the world to learn of new peoples, empires, and places, we all end up fascinated and wanting to dig deeper, and to know more.  Most weeks, I am learning these stories right alongside my children, for the first time (at least the first time I can remember!). 

Do you want your children to “love history?”

If so, I suggest that you rely only minimally on textbooks.

While we use Story of the World curriculum as our barebones guide, history absolutely comes alive in our home-school because of  the use of Living Books. 

What are living books? 

Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. 
Living books make the subject “come alive.” They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form. You might be surprised to find that living books are available for most school subjects — even math, geography, and science!

Are you studying Ancient Rome? Don’t just tell your kids that Christians were killed in the arenas.  Share stories of individuals…how about Perpetua, who was separated from her infant as well as her whole family, imprisoned, and eventually martyred in the arena, alongside members of her church, because she would not renounce her faith…tell them how her courage and trust in the Lord moved the hearts of the guards to faith in Christ.

Get to the Library to grab some good books that and tell your kids the living stories of the past.  

This past week, the kids AND I were fascinated by the stories of the great Mongol ruler, Kublai Khan, and of that most famous traveller and adventurer, Marco Polo, because of an incredible picture book we checked out from the Library.  Together, bit by bit each day, we were drawn into Polo’s dangerous and marvelous adventures into the deep, mysterious east, until we felt we were there ourselves. Contrast that to the slim paragraph we find in an encyclopedia describing Polo’s life, or even the 3 pages in our textbook that offer little more.

Yes, for us, the teaching of history and literature go together, hand in hand, as we open these Living Books, filled with stories of real-life people who have gone before us, encountering various struggles during significant periods, times, and situations.  

History can be taught anytime, and all the time.  

Is the school morning too busy to fit in our history lesson? No worries, we simply “teach” history during tea-time, or as we snuggle on the couch, or before bed, by reading aloud from one of of these living books.  Of course we don’t call it school, we call it story time.  But this much is true: it’s reading and learning at its finest, and the children, even our 4 year old, sit mesmerized as we tell them the great stories of the past.  

This is why my children love history, and why the words, “history is boring” won’t soon be heard from their lips.  So get to the library, bring home a few of those living stories, and watch as history comes alive in your house too.  


Linking up This Week with Trivium Tuesdays

3 thoughts on “History as Storytelling

  1. Amy Maze

    I’m right with you regarding living books! I love looking a lists of great books to go along with the history time periods we are studying. I’m going to play this video right now while I’m getting dinner ready. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Crafty Homeschool Mama

    Hi Suzanne, and I know MOH also comes highly recommended. I wonder which I would have chosen if I had seen SOTW and MOH side by side from the beginning… And amen to the multi-tasking! How else would we even manage to survive? 😀
    Blessings, Joanna

  3. Kyle Suzanne McVay

    Wow thank you for sharing this we love Jim Weiss and twaddle free audio books. One of the reasons we love MOH is the way she retails historical events. Of course we are constantly listening to Henty or some such book giving the time period a rich texture. I agree a purely textbook approach at least for us didn’t ignite a fire. But they scream and cheer for the characters in the historical novels. I am definitely going to listen to it tommorow while washing the dishes, constantly multi tasking.

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