Saturday, October 26, 2013

Recording History: A Precious Source

Technically we are supposed to be following a curriculum that has Sean studying history from 1,000 A.D. through 1865, but I'm not so sure that he got what I wanted him to have for fourth grade. For fourth grade the students who use this curriculum study ancient civilization to 1,000 A.D.

In public school there was a lot of focus on state history and geography. There was some ancient civilization info in there, too.

Last year I know he studied Mayan culture, and the history of writing, but we are starting with the fourth grade ancient civilization stuff just to be sure he has covered ancient civilizations thoroughly.

I bought a book online, Passage of Time, that is pretty good, however I didn't realize it was going to be focused on India. I'm using it in conjunction with some other sources. I'm using it as a guide, and then we are jumping into it deeper as we go.

I do love that it starts with ancient civilization and works through to modern times.

We started by talking about the tools that historians use to gather information. One of those tools is oral history. To illustrate how a historian might gather information about a time they don't know much about, I suggested to Sean that he think of some questions to ask my grandmother, who is 91.

Now let me just take a moment to explain that my grandma is awesome. She is still driving, still living on her own without assistance, and is just amazing.

I gave Sean an idea of the timeframe she was born in, then I asked him what his earliest memory was, and how old he thought he was in that memory. He said he was two years old. So I told him grandma might be able to remember back to something that happened when she was two or three, and that would mean it was sometime in the 1920s. (At that moment I wasn't certain of the year she was born.)

He seemed in awe of that, and started brainstorming the questions he would have for her.
He wrote down several that were to do with where she grew up, what kind of house she lived in, what the cars were like then, and what it was like during WWII.

Once we were at her house, he set up his video camera and got to work. He did such a great job. He thought of other questions while he was interviewing her, and I suggested a few while we were there, too.

He captured great footage of her talking a little bit about her early childhood, and she had great information about how everything was rationed, about how the Japanese were taken to Internment Camps, and how scarce goods were during the Great Depression.

This was a fun, yet very meaningful, history project. Someday I know he will realize how fortunate he was to have done this one.

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