©History is the Hook, 2021
“How do I use History is the Hook in my home or classroom?” Fair question. Here are seven simple steps to learn every subject through chronological history.
Choose a subject you’re interested in. Choose works and activities you enjoy. Choose an inspirational and knowledgeable mentor. Choose a motivated group of peers to learn with. Choose a comfortable environment, conducive to learning. Let your students choose topics, activities, and works that excite them. Choose where, what, when, why, how, and who in all your learning to keep the stress low and the passion high—for both you and your students.
For example, I knew my young children were already fascinated with Biblical heroes, as well as King Arthur and his knights, so I was able to quickly interest them in the heroes of Greece and Rome, the pharaohs of Egypt, and Gilgamesh, not to mention the tribal heroes of Africa and Ancient America, when we started our ancient studies. They inhaled the myths and fables of the ancient world. We read and discussed and did activities, together and separately, in the family room, the kitchen, and the back yard. Other families embarked on this ancient study with us, so we had built-in peers. But you could hand-pick others to invite to periodic discussions or activities if you are not associated with a bigger group.
Study the topic or work. Read a book—or several, listen to a song, examine a mathematical concept, observe a performance or sporting event, experiment with a scientific principle, contemplate a work of art. And read, listen, examine, observe, experiment, and contemplate some more.
Read, listen, examine, observe, experiment, and contemplate.
Keeping with our theme of heroes, we eventually studied the Trojan War, reading The Children’s Homer, by Padraic Colum, and Tales of the Trojan War, by Kamini Khanduri (Usborne Library of Myths and Legends), which my son looked through again and again, memorizing the heroes’ names, actions, and strategies. We built weapons with blocks, Legos, and PVC pipe, foam, and duct tape. We scoured our art books for paintings and sculpture that related to Troy. We drew our own pictures and made up our own stories. Activities for older students might include analyzing military strategy, mapping the battles, or building a model of the Greek ships, the funeral pyres, or the Trojan horse.
Discuss your study and thoughts about the topic or work with a mentor and a group of peers. Several discussions are even better than one! It’s productive to have ideas from several points of view as you are learning.
As we first read about the Trojan War, we discussed Achilles’ character, his short-tempered and changeable nature, and the consequences of his actions—positive and negative. We talked about Paris and Helen and how their choices affected so many people besides themselves. We pondered courage and friendship and loyalty and creativity. My son admired the Greeks because of Achilles, Odysseus, and other flashy heroes. I championed Hektor, because of his reluctance to fight and his love of, and duty to, family and country, even though I believed Paris and Helen were in the wrong. My daughter enjoyed watching how the gods and goddesses trifled with both sides. We were able to look at the story from the paradigms of others and understand more about the event and about each other.
Connect that topic or work to another topic or work. Discover connections you might not have thought about. The discussions you have had should help you look outside your own thinking. Observe how many connections you can make—what unusual links can you find to your original topic?
We had earlier enjoyed learning about the Greek gods and goddesses, especially from D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. But as we learned about Troy, we got to know the myths and the personalities of the gods and goddesses in more detail. Would they be gods we would like to worship? We also compared the Greek and Trojan heroes to other heroes we had learned about—scriptural, historic, and mythical. How was Achilles like or unlike Gilgamesh, Arthur, or Abraham? What about hero-leaders of today—politicians, actors, athletes? How did the Trojan War heroes compare to them? How does the war compare to world conflicts historically or today?
How was Achilles like or unlike Gilgamesh, Arthur, or Abraham? What about hero-leaders of today—politicians, actors, athletes? How did the Trojan War heroes compare to them? How does the war compare to world conflicts historically or today?
Explore those other connections as they relate to your original topic. Or let the exploration take you down a totally different path to learn new topics.
Studying the Trojan War led us even more into the culture of Classical Greece. We looked at Greek writing, ate Greek food, learned about Greek architecture, Greek drama, Greek government, Greek athletics, and Greek art. We watched a travel video about Greece and discovered what it is like today. We compared its history, arts, and government to Mesopotamia, Egypt, and other ancient cultures we had already studied. My son compared Ancient Greek military and weapons to the knights he knew about and to modern practices and tools.
Apply your newfound knowledge, and the connections and explorations you have discovered, in a tangible way. Create a project, write a paper, make a work of art, make up a new game. This is hands-on, practical application, but it can still be creative and innovative.
One of the topics we studied in Ancient Greece was the original Olympics. We joined together with a few other families to hold an Ancient Olympics. We made laurel leave wreaths to wear and torches to hold, divided up into teams from different cities—Athens, Sparta, Corinth, etc.--and had a torch relay, games contests, and a poetry reading. We ate food like olives, feta cheese, hummus, grapes, and pita bread. Many of the students, and mothers, ate feta for the first time that day. And they will never forget that!
When you have applied as much as you can, to your heart’s content, choose a new topic; study, discuss, connect, explore, and apply. And then begin again. Forever.
After our study of Troy, we moved on to South America, where the Olmec and Chavin culture began to flourish about the same time Troy died. We had already learned about the pharaohs of Egypt and dynasties of China. Being able to connect and compare these cultures to each other and to our own is a huge benefit to studying chronologically.
Years later, as we again studied the Trojan War through translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the discussions went even deeper, the connections, explorations, and applications were even more powerful, because we had chronological hooks to hang everything on—a positive factor for studying in cycles.
Use these seven steps to beef up your chronological study and include all topics in your learning—math, art, science, music, literature, government, geography, writing, and physical education. It’s simple to learn when you choose from the timeline, study your chosen topic, discuss what you’re learning, connect your study to other topics, explore the topic and its connections, apply what you’ve learned, and repeat over and over. This is great education!
Bonjour! I'm Bonnie. I love learning, travel, reading, writing, photography, and all things French. I am especially passionate about agency education, the humanities, and using history as the hook for all learning!
©History is the Hook, 2021