Encouraging Your Child’s Interest In History
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Social studies is a seemingly boundless subject that helps students learn about past historical events and consider present social issues. If you want to learn about the quality of your child’s social studies program, you can observe in his class, review the textbook and other teaching materials, and go over the work that he brings home. The tests and assignments should help you determine whether memorizing of facts is the focus of instruction to the exclusion of concepts and ideas.
Parents can help revitalize history by finding ways to relate it to their child’s own life. The following suggestions may help you supplement your child’s social studies instruction:
- Visit historical places. It is one thing to read about Washington’s severe winter at Valley Forge, quite another to actually go there. There are a multitude of historic sites which will help to make history seem more real and relevant. Restoration villages (for example, Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia or Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts) are especially intriguing to children. And there is no better way of learning about government than visiting Washington, DC.
- Help your child understand his family history. You can help history come alive by reviewing old family photo albums with your child while pointing out what was going on in the larger society at the time. Do a family tree with him, noting when and where family members were born and what their occupations were. Also encourage him to talk with his grandparents about their experiences.
- Make current events a part of your family conversation. Watching the television news (preferably the national news where there is less attention to violent crime) with your child will further his understanding of current issues and may prompt questions from him. In talking about social issues, help your child see that there are usually two or more sides to an issue.
- Foster respect for people from other countries and cultures. You can help your child understand the traditions of other countries by taking him to cultural fairs and exhibits as well as ethnic restaurants.
- Make use of the mass media. Be on the alert for television shows, movies and even You Tube videos which are accessible to children and focus on social and historical issues. Also encourage your child to read biographies of famous historical figures.
- Model community involvement. Talk with your child about your activities in the community and let him see you in action. Encourage him to become involved in groups appropriate to his age which perform community service (for example, scouts).