When we set out to create Ani ve-ami, we spent many hours hashing out how the history sequence should be organized. We knew we wanted it to follow Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, but Jewish history is so different (in length, location, intensity, etc) from the British history she taught, that we knew it would end up looking pretty different from any other Charlotte Mason curriculum out there. For example, we wanted to start with the child’s history, but because of the 2,000 year diaspora, we couldn’t start with the child’s own geographical history or we would be writing a curriculum for every single country on the planet!! So, we decided to start with the child’s own cultural history, which left us starting back at the very beginning with ancient history. Charlotte Mason never started with ancient history because she wanted the child to begin with the hero tales of his own history, but in Jewish history, our “hero tales” are from ancient history. But, there was also another element that led us to believe that this was a good idea, despite the distance in time from our own era.
When I was a little girl, my first exposure to history came in sixth grade when my teacher did a series of history unit studies based on what exhibits would be in our area that year. One of those exhibits was a traveling Holocaust Museum. Now, I did not grow up Jewish, so I had never heard anything about World War 2 or the Holocaust. Our teacher read us The Diary of Anne Frank, and then we went to tour the museum. Our docent was the only survivor from her family. There were pictures everywhere of the camps. I was absolutely horrified, and for the next two decades (no, that is not a typo), I had a recurring nightmare of being put into an oven at a concentration camp. Everything was grey and eerily quiet, and then I would suddenly wake up absolutely terrified that there was a Nazi under my bed.
Eventually, the nightmares went away, but then that left me wondering “How do I teach my children these dark points in history without putting them through the same terror those dreams put me through?” What do you do when you don’t know the answer to a parenting question? You ask another momma! So, I asked a group of Jewish mommas, and their response was “You study the persecutions throughout Jewish history as you come to them, and by the time you get to the Holocaust, you are somewhat prepared because you have seen the same pattern over and over again throughout history.”
All of the sudden the decision to start Ani ve-ami’s history sequence at the very beginning with ancient history made perfect sense. Atrocities closer to our own time and place are often scarier than those that are further removed by time, location, culture, etc. By starting our history sequence back at the very beginning with ancient history, it allows our children to see this pattern happening over and over and over again so that they are better prepared when they see it happening in their own time period. Although this makes Ani ve-ami’s history sequence look very different from any other Charlotte Mason curriculum, I believe it is the best interpretation we could have made of her philosophy within a Jewish context.
Now, I should note that Ani ve-ami is designed to be used as a family because we did not want families to feel the added pressure of trying to balance completely different curricula for each child in addition to living a Jewish life. This means that younger children will be rolled into the sequence at different points in time, but don’t worry. We are taking extra special care to make sure that there is something appropriate for everyone in each time period, especially for those darker moments in history!