“To know as much as they may about even one short period, is far better for the children than to know the ‘outlines’ of all history.”
Charlotte Mason suggested we should avoid giving children history books that give cut-and-dried opinions, the children should be able to form their own opinions as their knowledge grows. Children should learn history by reading well-written living books and narrating in their own way what they understood. Ambleside Online’s history selections are broken up by year (here is an overview of which periods are studied each year) and additional questions about studying history are answered here.
To help visualize when events occurred in history, rather than memorizing lists of dates, it is recommended to begin a Book of Centuries. A great resource for beginning a basic Book of Centuries is the free printable timeline available from Simply Charlotte Mason. The children then write important events (that are important to them, not the parent) and draw their own illustration of the event. When visiting museums children can also copy artifacts into their Book of Centuries. Whatever is meaningful to them, it is their own collection to bring to life those events that are important to them.
As with the other subjects, the child reads the history selection (or the parents can read to the child) and narrates to the parent. Younger children will do an oral narration and older children (around age 10) will do a written narration. History is my children’s favorite subject and since I received such a poor public education in history I enjoy learning along with them. I find that young children (I have three boys) listen better when their hands are busy so if they are too young to read on their own or if I am reading to them for “fun”, I give them building blocks to play with while I read.
There are few things more rewarding as a parent than to discover your children playing at something they have just been learning about. One afternoon we were playing at the park and my boys were building in the sand. Another child asked what they were building and they said, we’re building the Colosseum! We had just been studying ancient Roman history and were planning a trip to visit Rome the next week.
“The mistake we make is to suppose that imagination is fed by nature, or that it works on the insipid diet of children’s story-books. Let a child have the meat he requires in his history readings and in the literature which naturally gathers round this history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours; the child will live out in detail a thousands scenes of which he only gets the merest hint.“