"So what differences do you notice in these TV shows?" I asked my children.
We had just watch six TV shows back to back: Make Room for Daddy, Leave it to Beaver, Dick Van Dyke, Brady Bunch, Family Ties, and Home Improvement.
"In the older shows, they were so polite to each other, but as time went on they became rude to each other."
I was shocked. I was expecting them to notice rebellion to parents or fashion or hair styles. Out of the mouth of babes.
We were studying the 20th Century and watching TV shows back to back from different decades in chronological order as our history lab for the week.
While I wanted to show something to the children, I learned a valuable lesson myself: TV shows can be a great way to travel back in time in history class!
Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy made their debut in 1915 and three years later starred in their own book. Created to look like an old-fashioned rag doll, the toy was an instant success, a reminder of the good old days when the world was turned upside-down by World War I.
Barbie was introduced to the world in 1959, named after the daughter of Ruth and Elliot Handler. She was tall and glamorous, fascinating little girls' hearts everywhere who bought clothes, houses, and campers. Ken, named about Ruth's son, joined Barbie in 1961. I remember playing Barbies with the neighborhood girls in the 1960's.
When we studied the 20th Century, we played with Raggedy Ann during our 1910's study and Barbie and Ken for the 1960's. For boys, G.I. Joe Action Figures were marketed in 1964. I often used friend's brother's G.I. Joe as an extra Ken doll. G.I. Joe is a soldier with very cool weapons and vehicles. Boys love to play with them, but don't call them dolls--they are action figures.
One thing that's fun with Barbie dolls is to see how fashions changed during the second half of the 20th Century.
Even today, 100 years later, you can still purchase Raggedy Ann dolls and Barbies for little girls.
Dolls go all the way back to the beginning of history. Adam probably made dolls for his daughters. Paddle Dolls were found in Ancient Egypt archaeological digs. The Ancient Romans used clay, wood, ivory, or rags to create dolls for their children to play with.
Pioneers and Native Americans made dolls from dried apples or corn husks. During the nineteenth century porcelain dolls became popular. Paper dolls made a comeback too in the Victorian Age. Paper dolls have been popular at various times in history.
In our house we believe history should be fun!
One way we love to learn about the past is by playing games together. Historical games, that is.
Chess is a great way to learn about the Middle Ages. The knights role in the game of chess is to protect the more important pieces on the board like the king and queen. That's the way it was in the Middle Ages. Back in the days of knights and castles, the knights protected royalty and high church officials.
How many of you remember a beloved Teddy Bear from your childhood? What's the history behind the cuddly stuffed animal? Well, it all started back in the first decade of the 20th Century. President Teddy Roosevelt was out hunting and happened upon a cute bear cub which he refused to shoot. It was a popular story at the time! Everyone loved that bold, courageous Teddy Roosevelt refused to kill a little bear. Soon, there were little Teddy's Bear Cubs being sold to children. We know them today as teddy bears.
The game we call checkers ("Draughts" in Europe) can be traced all the way back to the Fertile Crescent in Ur where archaeologists unearthed a similar game in one of their digs. Of course, we play checkers when we are studying American history, too.
When you teach history, don't just expect your children to memorize facts.
Become investigators together and solve the history mystery.
When did it take place?
Who was involved?
Where did it happen?
Why on earth did it happen?
It all starts with curiosity and a sense of adventure. I will often start with an interesting story like this...
A royal couple was visiting a city in their realm on their anniversary. They were very much in love. But, they had enemies. Those enemies tried to kill them as they were on the way to big get-together. The enemies tried to bomb their car, but instead of hitting them, they hit people in the car behind them. After returning home to rest, the royal couple decided to go visit the folks that had been shot. They felt so sad they were hurt. On the way to the hospital, they were forced to take a detour into a side road. While they were trapped, a gunman shot both of them. They reached out to hold one another. The handsome Duke said to his beautiful wife, "Live, darling, for the children." I am so sorry to tell you that they both died. And that's how World War I began.
Now, I have made it personal and gotten my children's interest. What's next?
500 years ago on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Whittenberg Door. He was protesting some of the things church leaders were doing in his day like selling forgiveness and elevating human traditions above the Word of God.
You see, Martin Luther tried desperately to do enough to be right with God. He struggled with guilt and agonized over his standing before God. One day, while studying the Scriptures, he came across this phrase: "The Just Shall Live By Faith." It changed his life! He realized that Christ had done it all! He just had to receive grace and forgiveness! Wow!
Once he understood this truth, he just had to speak out!
You see, the Roman Catholic Church was in a terrible state. It's hard for us to imagine because the Roman Catholic Church today is not in the same place. In those days, men could buy an office in the church so many non-Christians were in important posts. But even then, many godly men and women were serving in the church as priests, abbots, nuns, and monks. Their hearts were grieved.
The Reformers (Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Calvin, Tyndale) were all members of the Roman Catholic Church. They did not want to live it; they wanted mess cleaned up. Unfortunately, the clean-up did not come in time and now we have many denominations today.
However, we can look back to the Reformation and be grateful for the return to biblical teaching on Salvation, Grace, Faith, and the Authority of Scripture. The Reformation brought us the Five Solas.
The Five Solas
History is fascinating! What fun to explore other time periods, meet exciting people, and watch historic events unfold.
Immersion is a great way to learn and remember history. Simply immerse yourself in the time period by listening to the music, tasting the food, looking at the art, creating some of the crafts, and digging deeper into the people who made things happen, the places where they happened, and the events that did happen.
History immersion is made quite easy with history labs. We added history labs to our historical studies years ago, inspired by Diana Waring.
As a homeschool mom, my goal was to "travel back in time" for a visit. We cooked, baked, crafted, created, and enjoyed all kinds of things from whatever time period we studied. Studying pre-American Hawaii, we made a paper mache volcano and hosted a luau. Investigating Ancient Rome, we dressed in Togas, ate lying down, and had a Roman slave sale. Learning about Archaeology, we had our own archaeological dig after we created the different artifacts for each different layers of our tell.
When I was asked to teach history at a homeschool co-op, I decided to have discussion time followed by history labs. The children read at home and we discussed the time period together in a relaxed way, often laughing and doing some "imagine if" kind of thinking. The labs became an instant hit, so I kept doing them. Soon, I realized that the best part was that for most history labs, all ages could do the lab together. I loved that! We loved learning together as a family.
I'm not sure which we love more about history: historical literature or history labs. Let me tell you a little about history labs you can do in your homeschool or homeschool co-op.
History is exciting!
History is full of drama, intrigue, and stories.
Studying history is important to know the past, to understand our heritage, so we can plan for the future.
It breaks my heart to see some children and teens learn history in a dry, dreary way so that they end up hating the subject.
How we teach history can often determine if our students will enjoy learning about the past.
My children all love history! I think it's because we had so much fun learning history together.
Let me share how we learn history the fun way!
Travel Back in Time
Her dear "Lotus Buds of Dohnavur" called her "Amma" which means mother in India. Amy Carmichael rescued children from miserable lives as slaves in Hindu temples, living each day to serve her beloved Savior and to spread His love around India.
Amy Carmichael was born into a godly Christian home in Ireland. But she wasn't completely happy. You see, she wanted blue eyes, but no matter how hard she prayed, those brown eyes would not go away. Years later, as she moved throughout the nation of India rescuing children, she would be grateful for her brown eyes. Blue eyes would have made it hard to hide herself in the crowd.
Amy had a life-changing event with Jesus when she was fifteen and from that time on, a passion burned within her soul to reach the lost and stir believers to greater passion for Christ. She started Bible studies for mill worker girls.
Everybody loves a hero! As Christians, we are blessed with a long line of men and women who followed Jesus with all their hearts, making a difference in the world around them!
What a heritage we have!
Apostle Paul, Athanasius, St. Augustine, Pope Gregory, Caedmon, St. Frances, St. Patrick, John Wycliffe, John Huss, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, Lady Jane Grey, John Knox, William Wilberforce, John Newton, Lottie Moon, Amy Carmichael, George Mueller, David Livingstone, Billy Graham, Edith Schaeffer, Jim Eliot, and Brother Andrew come to my mind. They were mighty men and women who changed the world!
From the early Christians who risked their lives to serve Christ to missionaries in the 21st Century who are reaching unreached people groups in the 10/40 Window, there are so many Christian heroes I want my children to learn about. I came up with a really fun idea to teach my children about church history in celebratory way!
We started having Heroes for Jesus Parties. My children loved them! As they got older, they started playing the Christian heroes themselves at the Heroes for Jesus Party.
Would you like to have your own Heroes for Jesus Party?
Adam and Seth had died. The earth was filling up. Wicked deeds and sinister plots abounded. The Lord was sad He had made mankind. He would need to start over. Only one man and his family on the entire planet was seeking to live for Him. He would destroy the earth, but save Noah and his family. God gave instructions to Noah and this righteous family built a huge ship. While the men worked on the ark, Noah preached to anyone who would listen. He begged people to turn away from their sin and follow God.
In the midst of an evil world, God had a hero.
Centuries later, in the evil city of Ur where men worshiped demons and lived for pleasure, God called a man out, to follow Him. He wanted to start a nation and through that nation bring a Messiah. Abraham walked with God. He left his family home with his wife and nephew to live in the land his descendants would inhabit.
In a wicked world, one man stood alone to serve his God.
Edith Schaeffer, a twentieth century heroine for Christ, wrote two of my favorite books: L'Abri and The Hidden Art of Homemaking. I love her style, her love for Jesus, and her wisdom. She was one smart lady. And she devoted her life to husband, children, home, and fulfilling the Great Commission. She is a personal heroine and example to me.
Edith Seville Schaeffer (1914-2013) was born in Wenzhou, China to missionary parents who worked with China Inland Mission. Her Chinese name, given to her by her parents, was Mei Fuh, or “Beautiful Happiness.”
Years later, while Edith was in college, she was attending her Presbyterian Church when a visiting Unitarian pastor gave a sermon against Jesus, the deity of Christ, and the Bible. She was outraged and prepared to set him straight publicly. Before she could speak, another young man stood up and said, “My name is Frances Schaeffer and I Know Jesus is the Son of God.” The young man shared his testimony and gave clear evidence for why the Bible is trustworthy. Edith added more to his statement, defending the faith. The couple got married three years later.
While Frances was in seminary, Edith sewed wedding gowns and men’s suits to bring in extra money. After graduation, Edith pastored alongside her husband for three years. A growing concern for the invading liberalism invading mainline denominations rose in their hearts. The years after World War II were fraught with turmoil, confusion, liberal theology, and doubt. Francis and Edith went to Switzerland as missionaries and founded L’Abri Fellowship, a place to learn about the grace and truth found in Christ.
"The dates just swirl around in my head," my daughter complained.
"Well, I don't need you to memorize them. Just know how they fit together--what happened in the same general time period," I comforted her.
When she gave me an exasperated look, I knew we had to get out a timeline, or better yet, make one.
Timelines are wonderful!
One of our favorite events each year is our Heroes for Jesus Party.
We gather together to celebrate Christian heroes from the past who have been world changers. We move from station to station to meet this year's heroes, listen to their monologues, and play a game or do an activity. Everyone has a blast!
Would you like to visit Lottie Moon's station. Here we go!
"Come on in, ya'll and sit down," "Lottie" greets us. A young single woman in the church is dressed up as a southern belle from the 1800's. She tells her story. It was hard enough to get on the mission field in those days as a single woman. Once she managed to get to China, people didn't want to hear what she had to say.
What could she do?
She started baking cookies!
Cookies? Yes, you read that right.
Spider Man: Homecoming is in theaters as I write this. In the movie, young Peter Parker returns home to Aunt May in Queens. Peter must balance his "normal" life as a student with learning to use his "Spidy Powers" with Tony Stark, Iron Man, helping him adjust. Music and special effects are said to be top-notch. Everyone's excited to see this movie. (Not me, I confess. I'm not an adventure-movie gal.)
Yes, another Super-Hero movie based on Marvel Comics.
Spider Man was introduced to the world in 1962 through a comic book, the first teenager non-sidekick Super-Hero. Peter Parker, an orphaned teenager who lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben in NYC is bitten by a genetically-modified spider. Along with super strength, Peter receives the ability to cling to walls and ceilings. His response: to defend innocent citizens and catch bad guys. Spider Man of the 1960's upholds the law. He has a strong moral compass. The same could be said of Batman, Superman, and the other Super-Heroes that children read about in comics or watched on television.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and we see similarities. Super-Heroes still have amazing powers and they rescue people. Good always triumphed over evil.
There are some differences, though.
Pope Gregory (circa 540-604) was born after the Roman Empire had collapsed, but had a illustrious family history and was born into a noble family. He was the great-great grandfather was Pope Felix III (serving before popes took vows of celibacy) and his father was a senator and Prefect of Rome. He had aunts that were nuns and his parents joined the cloisters later in their lives.
Gregory grew up in a very wealthy family. They owned lavish homes on the island of Sicily, providing a comfortable income. Gregory excelled at his studies, especially law. He became a Prefect of Rome. That meant he was the chief administrator of the city. He was responsible for police, public works, administration, and finances. It was a hard job and Gregory excelled.
After his father died, he had the family villa in Rome converted to a monastery, San Gregorio Magno al Celio. You can visit it today if you go to Italy. Gregory became a monk and lived a quiet life of contemplation and prayer. These were the happiest years of Gregory’s life. During these years, he spent hours and hours studying the Scriptures in great detail. He devoted himself to fasting to the point that it affected his health.
Monk Gregory dressed simply and gave up all his worldly possessions. He lived a simple life and planned to do so the rest of his life. That was not to be.