I recently received a review copy of the updated and revised 20th anniversary edition of Don’t Know Much About History, Anniversary Edition: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned. (DKMAH).
Perfect timing as we begin American history this year. My review will be ongoing as we us it in our homeschool.
Some of you are wondering why I’m not using a “Christian history” curriculum. I used several Christian history text with our first homeschool generation (our children ages range from 9 to 37). I later found out they had several flaws (Reconstructionism, Dominion Theology teaching Replacement Theology)
Now we use a variety of sources and verify facts as we learn (as we do with all studies especially Bible). I plan on using the book as follows:
HOW 12 Year Plan and Timeline
I am incorporating DKMAH into The Heart of Wisdom four-year plan. The Heart of Wisdom approach is a combination of the Charlotte Mason living books and Delight Directed approach (explained below).
We will use Don’t Know Much About History as our reference guide to use to go over the main events in American history chronologically as we place the events in our timeline book (creating a book this year, I’m tired of my dining room walls plastered with timelines).
We will study through the nine chapters (From Columbus to Obama) in DKMAH with living books in two years.
Teaching How to Study
Many books have been written on teaching children how to study. The problem is most teach how to memorize facts to pass tests. We don’t study for tests, we study to find out and understand.
Studying should consist of thinking, praying, digging, discerning, questioning, reflecting, gathering and organizing.
The more you understand, the less you have to remember. -RockHanger Craig A. McCraw
Study skills develop habits of mind, habits of action for the successful use of knowledge that cannot otherwise be attained.
DKMAH is a best-seller, I have skimmed the book and read the rave reviews. It has a slight liberal bias.
I will use DKMAH to teach my children to fact check and discern. We use The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia in the same way for world history–enjoying ease of chronological content while learning to discern about common errors and assumptions.
As we read we will question facts presented and then then refer to other books in our home library I have build over the last 25 years homeschooling (see Charlotte Mason below).
We study the Bible the same way with reference books and Greek and Hebrew lexicons to wade through thousands of years of myths and false assumptions. This is how to teach— not by filling a pail with our views but by igniting the fire to motivate them to study, to discern, to find out the facts.
Charlotte Mason Approach
Charlotte Mason suggest using living books instead of boring text books. DKMAH will be my study outline as I incorporate living books (biographies and novels). We will also use the Internet, You Tube, Tivo, and DVDs.
Download the free chronological history book list at the bottom of this page. Also see books by period at my Amazon bookstore:
- History: American
- Age of Exploration
- Pilgrims to Colonies
- Colonies to Country
- New Nation
- Pioneers and American West
- Woman’s Right to Vote
- Civil War
- Immigration & Industrial Era
- World War I
- Great Depression
- World War II
Delight Directed Approach/ Labooking
I will use DKMAH as a Delight Directed Study prompt. I will watch my children’s interest and I see a spark I will use it to introduce a biography, novel, Internet search, or video about the person or time period. It is soooo rewarding to see the children’s enthusiasm!
When I find a topic that hits the boy’s hot button we will create lapbooks. We did one this summer on the write Brothers (preparing for Civil Air Patrol). You can download the free lapbook templates here and color lapbook templates here.
Wading through Myths
Only one book is perfect. The rest will have flaws and the author’s bias. Author Kenneth Davis is very aware of wade through years of myths and false assumptions as he explains in his book:
Our historical sense is frequently skewed, skewered, or plain screwed up by myths and misconceptions. Schools that packaged a tidy set of simplistic historical images are largely responsible for fostering these American myths. There has always been a tendency to hide the less savory moments from our past, the way a mad aunt’s photo gets pulled from the family album.
On top of that, the gaping chasms in our historical literacy have been reinforced by images from pop culture. Unfortunately, highly fictionalized films, such as Oliver Stone’s JFK or Disney’s Pocahontas, make a much greater impression on millions of people than a carefully researched, historically accurate, but numbingly dull, documentary. Occasionally there are films like Glory or Saving Private Ryan that can stimulate interest in history they way few textbooks or teachers can. Since this book was first written, there has also been an explosion of cable television programming, including the History Channel, Discovery, and The Learning Channel, that offers excellent documentaries. But for the most part, mainstream movies and network television have magnified the myths and makeovers. It is important to understand that looking past these myths is revealing. The real picture is far more interesting than the historical tummy- tuck. And truth is always more interesting than propaganda.
Do You Find History Boring?
This book is a best-selling classic anti-textbook written inan question-and-answer approach. If you think history is boring this may a book help you connect the dots from past to present. As Davis explains:
Take the Versailles Treaty. (Please!) I know. The very words sound BORING. I can see your eyes grow heavy as you read the words “Versailles” and “Treaty.” But consider what that treaty, which supposedly settled World War I back in 1919, actually did. In one very clear and obvious sense, it laid the groundwork for another world war only twenty years later.
But look past that. You can draw a straight line from the Treaty of Versailles to the modern Middle East, Iran and Iraq, the Balkan countries of Europe, and even Vietnam. All these hot spots of the past few decades were created in the aftermath of Versailles, when the European powers carved up the world into colonies that they thought they could rule as they pleased.
When the CIA overthrew the government of Iran in 1953 during the Eisenhower administration, nobody thought about what it might mean in 25 years. At the time, Americans were worried about Russia and the oil companies. What did it matter what the Iranians thought? Restoring the shah to the Iranian throne in place of a government hostile to America seemed like a good idea. Until the Iranian people thought otherwise in 1979 and began the first wave of Islamic revolutions that have altered recent history.
The New Updated Edition
The updated Don’t Know Much About History, Anniversary Edition like the original, is organized along chronological lines, moving from America’s”discovery” by Europe to more recent events, including the Gulf War, the end of the Cold War, the Clinton mess, the crazy election of 2000, events leading up to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the New Orleans levees, the global financial meltdown, to the election of Obama. It also examines some of America’s hottest social and political issues, such as the death penalty, same-sex marriage. and school prayer.
The Ear Worm
On a side note, every time I see the book the music worm “Don’t Know Much About History” by Sam Cooke enters my brain and stays there for hours. That song reminds me of the other 60s songs “What a Wonderful Word” and “Chain Gang” so it’s not so bad. Did I just lose you with Sam Cooke? I’m not surprised, most homeschool moms are much younger than I. If you are my age, the song worm has just entered your brain for the day.
Free Chronological History Book List
Teach them to love to learn read real, living books! (30+ pages PDF)
Free Book Lists by Grade Levels
Free Unit Study Planner
Clcik on image for the printable PDF planner.
I will share what we found interesting or skewed in my on going review. I’d love to hear your views about this book. If you are studying American history this year leave a comment and we can compare notes.