Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Shifting Teaching Paradigms

by Rebecca Berg Manor

It's back-to-school time and many of you may be using our study guides for the very first time. It can be a big change if you're used to at textbook or a more schedule oriented history curriculum, so we wanted to write a bit about how to make this approach work best for you family. Today, let's take a look at scheduling, study guides, and subjects.
At BFB, we want our study guides to be seen as guides, not checklists, do-to lists, or something that holds undue influence on how you teach your students. The guides exist for you to use in the way that works best for your family. When using literature to teach history, it does take more time than it would if you're using a textbook. Textbooks are designed with efficiency in mind, not story. In order to make a literature-based approach work for your family so that they can glean the riches of a literature approach to history, it can be helpful to simply set the amount of time you want to spend each day or week on history/literature/geography. Then, within the confines of that time, do what you can. Do not be distressed if you do not complete an entire lesson in the time you've set aside for history. The study guide is a tool, not a master. If you set up history to be for three hours a week, stick with that as you've already determined that this is what works best for your family. This gives you control of your curriculum, instead of the curriculum controlling you. Try not to feel like you must complete three lessons each week or read four books a month. Simply complete what you can in the amount of time you allot for the subject. If the study takes you longer than a year, that's one of the freedoms of homeschooling; you do not have to follow an artificially imposed schedule. This also give you the ability to take diversions when your student comes upon something they want to explore further. Additionally, it gives you and your chilfen time to enjoy the literature and really delve into the historical characters, ideas and consequences, movements and upheavals, that make history so interesting.
For many this approach can be intimidating or it can feel like you are not accomplishing enough, but it can also be very freeing. Your students are digging into history as more than just dates and events. They're learning that history is the stories of people; people like themselves who lived at times that can inform our own and give us wisdom in how we live. In this way coupling history and literature becomes more than just social studies, it becomes a study in ideas and character and when viewed from this lens, it's bigger than a lesson plan or a four-year cycle in which the entire history of the world is covered on repeat.
Additionally, our study guides encompass more than history. Your students are learning geography with every mapping activity. They're being exposed to great literature and language with each reading assignment. Their written work counts toward language arts. Notebook illustrations count as art. Discussion questions develop critical reasoning skills. Teaching in such an interdisciplinary style takes the pressure off of feeling that each subject must be covered in a separate lesson. The separation of disciplines is artificial. Rarely does life fall neatly into separate categories and neither should our studies.

Later this week we will be talking about notebooking and how to make it more engaging for those of you whose students find it boring or challenging! Please post your questions and comments here and we will try to address those in the next blog post.

Don't forget to enter our Back-to-School with BFB contest. Details here.

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