Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Teaching US History Away from US Soil

Back last summer, as with most homeschooling families, we came up with a plan for the school year. Nathan is in 4th grade this year. Too astounding is the idea that I’ll be teaching him 5th grade next year. Then middle school? I get ahead of myself.

Since we began to homeschool, US history has been an integral part of our curriculum. We don't study it all the time, but in blocks called Unit Studies, which can last from a week (The French and Indian War) to four months ... the American Revolution. We began the American Revolution last November, discovered we were moving in January, took a month off from school in March while we moved to Canada, and find ourselves in June, finally at Yorktown.

After years of believing in the importance of studying the history of the country we live in, here we are living in another country. I want Nathan to have a good understanding of where he comes from. The history of the United States is his history, sort of. At least, I think it is. But is it?

My dilemma is this: Is the process of teaching US History as an exclusive subject, separate from the history of the world as a whole, teaching a separatist attitude? Am I training him to believe that Americans are better, more special than the populace of other countries? Can you teach patriotism without teaching prejudice? Patriotism is ingrained in me. Give me two measures of "Proud to be an American" (with or without a laser light show, for you Georgians) and I’m weeping.

What does all this patriotism mean? We think we’re special? Yes. We think we have done more to get where we are than the citizens from other nations have? Possibly. Maybe it is a problem of not having learned enough World History. Perhaps that’s the key. But I don’t want Nathan growing up thinking that the history of the United States is more precious than any other people’s history. We’re all citizens of this globe, and it would be a much more peaceful globe if we didn’t expend so much energy looking at the boundaries between us.

I don’t know. I only know that there is a part of me that cannot fathom setting the study of US History aside. It is important. If only to teach him why it is that his momma cries when someone sings “America the Beautiful”.

Next on the agenda after the American Revolution ... a study of Canada. That will be something new and interesting for both of us to learn.

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