Monday, 27 January 2014

Back to the Future!

Why, I wondered had history become so much more vibrant and exciting in the last few years since I began home educating? As I sat rhyming off dates of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the sinking of the Titanic,the Chernobyl disaster,The first World War I realised that I hadn't 'meant' to learn them, they'd just happened because I was interested.

Why I was interested was another matter- for me, history starts with people and I usually come across them (both real and fictional) whilst reading books. Yesterday, for example , I was reading a book The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse and found myself looking at the role of prehistoric caves in the French Pyrenees as a refuge for the Cathar communities in Medieval times. If I had started with a text book looking at the role of the crusades and religious wars I would probably have closed the book but in this case my interest was picqued by one fictional character who could have been any one of us.

That's why I think I'm attracted by people  like Anne Frank, or Schindler or Ghandi because they make me realize that history is just  the everyday things that happen to everyday people but in the past , and it can happen again in the future.

I've realized that the technological revolution we're going through now, is not all that different from the Industrial revolution. It is having an impact on where people work, how many are needed to do a job,and competing with local retailers.

One of the most useful books I've bought is Eye Witness to History by John Carey  which is a compilation of eye witness accounts ranging from the burial of a Viking to an execution during the French Revolution,it brings home the enormous importance of us recording the most insignificant events and customs which we take for granted and encourages us to open our eyes to the world around us.

My son, on the other hand who has the same passion for history as me,sees things from a very different viewpoint. Being Autistic,it's not people and their emotions which interest him. He thinks logically, with far less emotion than me , and,  whilst the reasons for war would concern me ,he would be far more inclined to simply announce that 'war is stupid and futile' but then go on to investigate the strategy of war, what weapons they used,how the geographical terrain and weather affected the campaigns and how, if you have to go to war, to lose the fewest men! He would make a good military leader!

Books and programmes like Horrible Histories and Victorian Farm, together with historical dramas and films have also played a massive part in feeding his passion and I can't recommend highly enough anything at all by Michael Morpurgo whose books filled our earlier years and still now slip in and out of our life as the book takes us!

 Like many Autistic children he is a visual learner and if you ever read Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin you'll begin to understand that their brains are arranged like computers-as each piece of information goes in it is stored and filed in the appropriate file so building up a picture of a subject which once stored is rarely lost.

So if memorizing facts and figures is a struggle then 'don't'. If the interest is there it will come. You need to fuel the passion first and once your child is on fire then they'll teach themselves.


  1. My daughter, now 10, came to history because of her love of people and stories. She now particularly enjoys the My Story and My Rotal Story series, and is developing s passion for women's history, in particular powerful women.

  2. Well this web site might just suit her Katherine - it's all about girl power :)