Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

American History

Now that my beautiful baby is a great big 8 year old, he is now responsible for meeting the 3rd grade requirements of the state in which we live.

Ok. Let's put it all out there: 
  • Our state's homeschool laws require "180 days attendance" starting at the 7th birthday if the child will be private schooled (homeschool here counts as a private school), or 180 days of instruction at a public school starting in the school year that a child turns 7. Public schools MUST follow the state standards. Private schools (including homeschools) do not. The state cannot impose such definitions. Neither can the state impose a definition of attendance on private schools; public schools can only count full days, half-days count for nothing. 
  • That's it - no reporting; no other record-keeping; NOTHING. And we can define our attendance - so 5 minutes counts. 
  • But *I* am a Montessorian, and just because the state doesn't care what we do, doesn't stop me from teaching my son to be a responsible citizen. And part of that is following the Montessori practice of introducing the local education requirements (public school requirements or state standards) at 3rd and 6th grade (or the grade ending at age 9 or 12 in your local region if grade levels are marked different). 
  • I also want him literate in what the other children are learning. It is hard to be a responsible citizen if you don't speak the lingo - in a healthy way (I am not referring to negative issues). 
SO. Here we are. And this is how we address the fact that Montessori children DO speak a different lingo and DO have different foundations in their education. For those people who want to add things to the Montessori curriculum, THIS is the place and the mannerism it fits into Montessori.
(See? Montessori covers ALL the needs of the child - including the needs of the child entering into larger society, whether going on to a non-Montessori public or private school, or simply interacting with other people in society). 

As for our current situation: 

One thing we noticed right away is that despite my son's love for all things ANCIENT history - modern history is a bust. Now, I could SO easily wait for this interest to perk up - and I have faith it will - but the corresponding goal is responsibility - even if we really don't have an interest. 

The public school requirement is United States History. The requirements are loose enough to have plenty of wiggle room - and I LOVE that they actually WANT the children to make their own timelines! How Montessori!

So, NO, I will not be purchasing United States history timeline. I am sure they are beautiful - but this IS the child's work after all. 

He balked at the idea of studying such a topic. He has NO interest. Again: responsibility. So we do the work together. He will learn how to get over hurdles of things he is not excited about and still get the task done. We've been leading up to this for a long time and now here it is. 

(insert laughter!)

  • Reader's Guide to American History - available from a variety of sources, but this is where I got mine. It is NOT overly Catholic or even Christian in nature - I can't find any specific references anywhere. It is simply a fantastic resource guide to the main eras of US History, with book lists, date lists (very short - and we can turn those into our timeline cards!), list of names to be familiar with, suggested extension activities, and a list of educational standards the era addresses. There is a bit more but that is what I remember off the top of my head. Each era has only 2-4 pages, with lots of white space. It is a FANTASTIC framework! 
  • A History of the United States and Its People by Edward Eggleston. I have to admit I was not overly excited about this book at first. But it seemed the least terrible of the worst (and only) options available. The fact is, that history books come with a bias. Good, bad, indifferent - it's a bias. And I want my son to have a fair amount of balance. So, while we are devoutly Catholic, NOT ONE Catholic history textbook has ever or will ever cross the threshold into my house - unless a truly balanced one comes into existence (a possibility, however slim). Anti or Pro a particular religion, group of people, political correctedness, lack thereof - all are unacceptable - just give the facts please - and let the reader form his own opinion. BUT I did want an overview story of the history; then use the above guide for more specifics on topics so we can research the original sources.  I am surprisingly pleased with the first two chapters of this book. While the emphasis is still that Columbus "discovered" America, it does not unduly toot his horn either. It lays out the facts as they were known at the time of publication. This leaves us so much room to explore the meaning of the word "discovery", the Vikings, the early monasteries present on US soil, history of the Native Americans (called Indians in this book for obvious reason of publication date). I can handle the few idiosyncracies present. 
  • Use the story-based book together to read the chapters corresponding to an era in the guide book; visit the library to select a few books; perhaps watch an appropriate video; and create a timeline with notecards with the pertinent dates (use the notecards to either mount or copy onto actual "timeline paper" (banner paper)). 
  • Read the Little House series along the way. 
  • Call it good. 

  • Read the chapters aloud to mom on car drives; working on pronunciation, speech, diction and more - all while extrapolating where needed right in the moment. 
  • Child creates a list of research ideas (before even seeing the guide!). 
  • Timeline materials are already being gathered.
  • Family time; lots of discussion; child finds a way to meet the requirements while minimizing cutting into personal work time -- if we're going to do it might as well enjoy it along the way, he said to me today! 
  • He is really getting into it! 
(ETA he's still not "excited" about it, but he is responsible and thorough in all that he studies)

So yes, sometimes requirements are good things. Everything in balance.


  1. Funnily enough, we had a Native american come and visit our school last year (yes, I found one living just down the road from us, in England!) and he called his people "Indians". One of the children asked him why, and he said because that was what he grew up with on a reservation. He must have been mid - late fourties in age. It made me laugh because I had been so careful to teach the children to say Native American and then he didn't use that term once!

    1. That is so interesting! I am going to share with my son in the morning :) I think all the Native American/Indians I knew when I was a child also referred to themselves as Indians - probably for the same reason (it is what they were called growing up). My maternal grandmother is half-Irish and half-Native American, and I think she uses the term Indian as well.

      I will have to share these things with him and discuss what it all means - he'll love it :)