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Reflections on education and what it means to prepare kids for their world

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Books

Appreciating History

What were History lessons like for you?

Growing up in a developing and driven nation state as a student; meant that history as a subject was not a priority as other subjects compared to Literacy and Numeracy.  By the time I was at Secondary school, History was a compulsory subject for the first two years.  Textbooks were wordy full of black and white pictures. I memorised the dates of the various Ancient Empires of Asia to be able to get a pass in exams but quiz me now and I would be stumped. 

I do, however,remember stories told by my parents, of their near escapes as a child during the Japanese Occupation; my mother’s recollection of learning about about the bombing of Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima.  Those were valuable History lessons which I have come to only appreciate as an adult and a Homeschooling Mum.

The resources available these days for helping children appreciate History  stand in stark contrast to my schooling years. 

Museums these days are interactive with the clever use of multimedia that the line,  “Are we done yet?”  are hardly heard. 

Living in South East Asia and visiting the UK regularly, has meant we have made trips to some of the state of the art Museums. Singapore has an excellent National Museum which has activities and exhibits which are designed with the young visitors in mind.  We were fortunate to be in London during the 100th Anniversary celebration of the end of World War 1. Visiting the Imperial War Musuem was an amazing experience for all of us.  There were displays and activities which sustained the children’s attention as well as mine. I did not find myself continually disturbed about the doom and gloom of the era but touched by the courage and strength of the many – men, women and children who lived through the period. 

Our family have also had the privilege of visiting a number of smaller musuems and historical landmarks in other parts of the UK and South East Asia. History became alive for all of us as a family.

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Malacca, Malaysia

Small towns often have interesting quaint museums, shops, buildings and even factories! Stepping into them makes you feel as if you’re going back in time.

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A working 80 year old Matchstick Factory in a small town in Malaysia

One of the earliest History books we read at the Learning Lab were graphic novels.  The Geronimo Stilton series by Scholastic has an excellent range of stories told in pictures with speech bubbles of adventures the articulate Mouse in different historical settings.

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The famous mouse and his relatives have a time travel series too which accounts their adventures through different eras.

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These books are dearly loved and they have been re-read several times. 

We have done some ‘time travel’ on our own too via Google Earth using a fun activity book to guide us.

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Engaging activities to use with Google Earth

The activities in the book plus learning to use Google Earth whet their appetites for appreciating History. 

The Horrible Histories books and Videos are a firm all time favourite for sure.

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Over the years, we have enjoyed the books which came with our Homeschool curriculum. We discovered about History through the readers, comprehension text and novels we read. We created clothes of the past through Art and Craft activities. Having a well planned curriculum saved me time and energy of doing searches online and trying to do cross curricular links.
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These activities spurred my children to look for podcasts, search sites  with activities and explore museums in places we visit. 
My 12 year old is enjoying his first year of secondary school science which he is doing through an online homeschool course.   His text books are certainly more engaging than mine were and am confident he will remember all that he is learning in the years to come.

Learning about the past is more than just knowing dates and significant people.  Personally, I think it is gleaning over our shared humanity with the generations past; learning from mistakes, extending forgiveness if necessary and in doing so find strength to carry on.

What do you think?

Appreciating Shakespeare

One of the challenges of homeschooling is to remember not to pass one’s biases regarding subjects onto the children. 
My first introduction to Shakespeare was listening to a teacher read to us A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in a monotone voice, while sitting in a hot classroom. I was 13 and I did no have a clue what the story was all about.  Thankfully, I had better teachers in subsequent years and went onto to study The Merchant of Venice for my ‘O’ levels.  While I enjoyed the book, my appreciation for Shakespeare never went beyond the exam.

Determined not to allow history to repeat itself, so to speak, I introduced the children to Shakespeare pretty much early on with these simplified version of some of Shakespeare’s plays.

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They are retold by Andrew Matthews and illustrated by Tony Ross. Fans of the Horrid Henry series  will recogise the Ross’ artistic style. 

For more experienced readers,  the biography on William Shakespeare by Haydn Middleton makes an excellent read.

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Apart from books, there are excellent Shakespeare related resources such as word search and quizes for children to enjoy.  To help appreciate Shakespeare as a writer check out this engaging Ted Ed clip.

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To help children appreciate the structure of the globe theatre click here.   If you have a younger child it might help expanding the  printable in a larger size.

Beyond Paper

http://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/reading-owl/find-a-book

A fantastic site which has free ebooks for children to enjoy reading or be read to. We have wonderful memories of reading about Biff, Chip and Kipper at the Learning Lab.

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