Famous 19th century philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As Jews this is something we understand all too well. However, the question is how to share the rich depth and complexity of human history with our children without overwhelming them or making them cynical.
All of a child’s early learning is egocentric in nature because their senses are easily overwhelmed by the larger world around them. We can apply this to early history studies by introducing them to famous individuals in history and then the history of their own country before expanding to the history of other countries and even the world. Given that the majority of Jewish history has taken place in the diaspora, Ani VeAmi has chosen “Jewish History” as the child’s home country.
American and Israeli History will also be covered in the appropriate time period. However, if you’d like to jump right into them, you can use America First: Updated Edition by Rachel Lebowitz for American history and Understanding Israel by Sol Scharfstein for Israeli history.
To simplify this for a family learning together, we have provided resources in each time period appropriate for a wide variety of ages.
For beginning students, we have Jewish History. For those students ready for a little more, we have both Jewish and Secular History. Each time period includes all of the elements necessary to tell the story, such as biographies, music, dance, economics, government, etc. Children can begin at whatever time period the family is currently on. We recommend that you worry less about getting through each time period within a year and focus more on moving at a pace that is right for your family.
Many families may ask if simply reading books is enough to teach their children about history. The answer is both yes and no. You really do not need anything more than the books; however, it is important to include opportunities for narration (whether oral or written) and “keeping notebook.” One such “keeping notebook” is a Book of Centuries in which a child or family might record items from each century studied that they found to be of interest. Traditionally students would have one page per century and draw pictures to represent these items; however, you could also consider printing pictures to glue in your books scrapbook style. For more information on different types of “keeping notebooks,” please read The Living Page.
For older students, you may want to focus some time on studying current events and citizenship. Charlotte Mason, a 19th century educational philosopher, traditionally used Plutarch’s Lives for citizenship because Plutarch looked at the lives of a variety of men through the lens of character. A Charlotte Mason Plenary offers Plutarch Study Guides to assist in this.
For all of your students, you can add to your history studies by visiting your local museums, as well as visit a variety of museums virtually. We have listed virtual resources and exhibitions below.
Virtual Resources for All Time Periods
Virtual Resources for the Tanakh/Early Ancient Time Period
Virtual Resources for the Talmud/Late Ancient Time Period
Virtual Resources for the Rishonim/Medieval Time Period
Virtual Resources for the Achronim/Renaissance Time Period
Virtual Resources for the Modern Time Period