Just to be entirely honest, history was never really a hot button for me. Maybe it’s because I have always had a preference for that which I can hold in my hands; for instance I love science, but astronomy didn’t rivet me like biology and archaeology did. However I occasionally stumbled on someone from the past who caught my interest. Who would you pick if posed the question, “If you could meet anyone from the past, who would it be and why?” For me it was Jack London. Both his writing & biographies of him captivated me, and I wished I could join the small groups he would read his stories to on the edge of the lake.
That kind of imagery can be the gateway into broader learning. To try this out, all you need is a way to jot a few things down. Pick a notable historical figure by whatever means fits your situation – perhaps someone related to a current area of study, an author being read at the time, an existing interest – and then pose some questions to your child in a form where they are the figure and you are interviewing them. Perhaps type up a pretend email such as this:
Dear ______, I am a reporter from the prestigious newspaper, The Extraschooling Express. We would love to feature you in a cover article for next month’s edition. Would you mind providing us with answers to the enclosed questions? Thank you, ______
Then create a list of open-ended questions that will lead to the kind of research that makes them dig into the person in a deeper, and more meaningful way. Their answers may not be what the target person would have offered, but they should show thought and reflection. Rather than memorizing facts, this gives them a push to really try understand a person by looking through their eyes. You might include questions like:
- How old are you? (Rather than giving mere dates of birth and death, this gives context for how long ago this person existed.)
- What do you see as ways the world has improved/declined since you were my age (or since you finished your work, or some other point in time)?
- Where was a favorite place you lived or visited? Why did you like this area the best?
- What was your biggest public accomplishment? Is this what you are the most proud of in your life? (Why or why not? What is?)
- What were your biggest challenges/disappointments?
- What would you like your legacy to be?
- Do you think you have helped impact today’s society? How so?
- And some fun thought-provokers can be tossed in, like “If you were an animal, what do you think you would be and why?” or “What song best describes you?”
You could also use this format to study animals, with questions like:
- What is your life expectancy?
- What has been your favorite portion of your life cycle and why?
- What do you do for fun?
- What challenges do you face – natural and man-made?
- If you ate pizza, which of your favorite foods would you top it with?
- Do you travel much? Where is your favorite habitat?
- Looking to the future, what do you see happening?
- If you could send a message to humanity, what would it be?