Learning Through Historical Discussions

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Education is a funny thing, meaning different things to different people.  We are in a strong position as home schoolers to educate our children with our family goals in mind.  I’ve said it before, but I don’t want the children to simply learn facts.  Ideally, I’d like to see them learning from the lives of others who have trodden the earth before and applying the truths learnt to their own lives – to become thinking adults.

We school using the past as our spring-board.  The fact that history is not an exact science can lead to some interesting conversations.  You see, there is no absolute truth in history.  Opinions abound.  This is an ideal starting point for the children to learn to formulate their own thoughts.  In our school there are no right or wrong opinions.  I am open to all considerations so long as there is a reason behind it, that the child can back it up with some sort of evidence from their knowledge.

This year I have been more purposeful about having meetings with the children to discuss what we are learning.  Whilst at the start it was unfamiliar to us all and none of us knew what to expect or what was expected from them, it has now become comfortable and relaxed.  I have learnt that in order to make these meetings a successful learning experience I need to be well prepared, so I come with leading questions and a vague idea of where I’d like to take the discussion.  If it goes in a different direction, up to a point, I allow the deviation.  If things get silly I pull them back along the lines I had planned.

My notes and questions for last week's meeting
My notes and questions for last week’s meeting

The Battle of Hastings was arguably the most important battle ever to be fought in Britain.  The fact that the outcome could have been very different gave the children and I the perfect conditions for a great discussion.  I also thought there was much for the children to learn about life through this episode in history.  T11, for example, could learn the characteristics that make a great leader (useful in his future role as leader, protector and provider for his family); all the children could learn that sometimes things happen which are not within our control and these things might have a large effect on the events following. (William not being able to sail due to the wind, Harold needing to defend England up North, resulting in a battle for the Normans against a very tired Harold); they could also learn that in life we are sometimes placed between a rock and a hard place, where no matter the course of action we choose, the possibility of a resolution of all the issues is remote (Harold needing to ensure both North and South were defended adequately from invaders).  These are important lessons.

Discussions such as these also allow me the privilege of a peek into the way our children’s minds work, helping me to understand reactions from them that would otherwise cause utter bewilderment!  Learning to discuss innocuous, albeit educational topics, in a safe, non judgemental environment can help give our children the confidence to think things through, formulate opinions that are their own and even more importantly learn that other opposing opinions are just as valid.  Finally, discussions can only help with keeping the lines of communication open during their transition to adulthood.  And you know what?  I really enjoy listening to their thoughts.  It is occasionally during these times the teacher ends up the one being taught!


  1. I’m with you, I love discussions like these because it really does give a great insight into my kids. They’re not quite up for the super heavy duty discussions yet, the oldest being only 7.5, but they’re discussing things I wouldn’t have expected.

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