When it comes to teaching history, I have often heard this question raised: “What should I teach? Should I focus on World History or American History?”
My answer is simple, teach both. On our homeschooling journey, we have chosen a chronological path and teach primarily World History. That said because the curriculum we are using is American, there is a nice big dose of American History in it.
History is a rich topic to teach and study. There are a lot of approaches you could take. I come from a French country and the emphasis was on World History. We learned about the History of Europe, the Middle Ages, the Crusades, The World Wars, the Cold War etc… and very little of American History. For those of you in the States it is natural that your focus would be on learning American History, it is your history to know.
I think that what brings up the confusion about teaching World History versus American History is the misconception of what history is really about. In school, history tends to be a subset of what they call “Social Studies”. The tendency is to teach history from the inward out. We start with who we are and where we are in the World and move outwards to see what the world is like. Though there is no doubt that there is merit in studying your surrounding, culture and all, but history is much more than that. The study of history should be for the purpose of learning from ancient and present civilizations, about the pattern of rising and falling of powers, and about how God superintends everything that happens in the World. The study of history is meant to broadens our thinking and minds, and as such it needs to be studied as comprehensively as possible.
Now that I homeschool, I think that the study of World History or American History does not have to supersede each other. We have 9-12 years to teach history to our kids, we can fit it all in there. Knowing about the major events that shape our world is essential and fundamental for critical thinking and basic knowledge base. Knowing about the history of your own country is also basic knowledge. As a matter of fact that is why I like the chronological approach to teaching history. We start at the beginning and make our way through. When we reach our country, we take the time to study it and move on.
Another point to consider on this topic is the richness of American Studies. A lot of topics covered in American History topics are better left for the Upper/Middle grade years. The study of history is a great platform for dialectic and Socratic Discussions, so it is often best to live the study of specific topics and historical events for when the child can fully comprehend what was going on. The advantage of following a World History course is that there is plenty to cover, so skipping more in depth topics or events is not as much of an issue. You can always come back to it latter.
Even if you like the Unit Study approach or Living Books approach, or even follow an unschooling style, it can be done. All you need to do is make a plan and map your course of study, trying to fit in as many events or periods of history as you can, so as to cover as many time periods and major historical events as is possible within your history course of studies.
Really in the end, World History versus American History are not really against each other. You can do either one in which ever order you prefer. What is important is that they both get covered int he course of your children’s education. History in context in best, so it is my preference to study it chronologically, but there is no hard fast rule here. Often times you have to go with what you are comfortable with first, or/and with your child’s interest.
What have you done? What is your preference? Share your experience with us.