Kids need history!
I loved history class in high school. That is, I loved the stories, the events, the social aspect of it all. I was fascinated by the people of the past that paved the way for the world I lived in.
But I didn’t like memorizing all the dates and places as if they were mathematical equations instead of real-life happenings and events my own grandparents probably lived through. I didn’t understand then what I do now. I’m a grandparent and I wish like anything I had understood my own better. I wish I had benefited from their experiences then as I do now when I research a book or try to tell my kids about their family beginnings.
History is not just the backbone of our country or the world.
It’s the reason we are here, living the kind of life we live. There is a special gift in that. Our kids don’t always think so, but someday they will be glad you opened that gift for them.
1) To find out where they came from/what kind of stock.
Tough times bring out the best or worst in folks. Learning exactly how really terrible the Great War was, how the dust bowl phenomenon changed the landscape of thousands of farms in the Midwest, or how the Great Depression brought poverty to millions, is especially significant when you realize your own family members dealt with these issues. The strength and tenacity of these people can be a source of pride for any young person. Knowing how strong their gene pool is just might encourage them.
2) To see how important decisions are made in hard times.
History has a way of showing us leadership positives and negatives. President Roosevelt had to make a lot of decisions in his presidency because of the bombardment of disasters that struck this country while on his watch. Some decisions were good, some were bad. Some decisions we now know in hindsight should have been different, but when pressed and squeezed, even the best leadership can end up with forced errors. There are no perfect solutions to every situation, and when put in the vice, leadership may not perform as we think they should. It’s easy to pass judgement until we know all the facts.
3) It sparks appreciation for freedom.
My first novel, Emancipated Heart, is the story of an American family stripped of their “freedom” by their own government. I wrote about it after being inspired by the historical events of the home-front during WWII. I have a new appreciation for freedom in the true sense of the word now.
The word freedom has many different meanings to our young people. Unfortunately, even adults apply it to things that lower its standard. It is my belief that the word has been distorted in relation to our founding father’s original intention. Freedom may mean different things to different people, and by learning about some of the events in our nation’s history, young people just might glean a new appreciation for the concept.
4) To get perspective on character.
I’m always amazed at the stories from the 30s and 40s about people helping people. The worst of circumstances are opportunities to reach out to others in peril. My grandparents were some of those people who knew the meaning of being good neighbors. They appreciated what they had, even when it wasn’t much. There was always room at the table for one more, always extra cream or fresh eggs to share with the large family down the road. It was the natural thing to do, born from the solidarity of down-and-out folks. This kind of character is best showcased by the lessons we learn from history, and excellent examples for our kids.
5) Gain topics for conversation.
What kid doesn’t want to sound smart?? Well, even historical trivia is a great conversation starter. And it’s a good way to start meaningful dialogue about all the things I mentioned above. I personally love hearing young people talk about something other than video games and the latest mall opening. There’s nothing wrong with a little nerd talk about the Stock Market Crash of 1929, or the immigrants that came to our shores through Ellis Island. Knowledge is cool.
We have so many resources at our disposal. Netflix, internet, lectures, and yes, even the local library. I hope you will seek them out and get your kids back into history class without letting them know! It could be fun.