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The thing I love most about teaching history


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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 03/23/23

Every person is unique, but there is so much that unites us, even across centuries and millennia.

Every now and then I come across a book that really impresses me, and I want to tell everyone about it. Some of these are books for adults, but since I’m a mom of young children, many are books for kids. 

My current favorite is called A Child Through Time: The Book of Children’s History. I love to teach history as a homeschool educator and this book is right up there as one of the very best to really intrigue kids about the past.

My kids spend hours poring over the detailed pages in this book, looking at photos and vivid illustrations of how children lived centuries ago. It makes history feel real and alive to them. 

One of the most fascinating things we’ve realized from reading and re-reading this book is just how much human beings have stayed the same. We are continuously surprised at how little has changed over thousands of years, and how similar we really are.

One day, we decided to look through the book and find what my children had in common with the kids on each page. The result was pretty incredible!

These are some of the many similarities we noticed

Toys: Children almost always played with some kind of toy, even something as simple as a corn husk doll. Board games, for example, existed thousands of years before Christ!

Foods: Meat, bread, porridge, stew, fruit, vegetables … We still eat many of the same foods that were eaten thousands of years ago. The recipes might be different, but most ancient foods are recognizable.

Religion: Every human society has had some kind of religious sense, an instinct to worship the divine. Certainly the expression of that instinct has differed greatly over the centuries, but there is something amazing about how essential spiritual belief is for human beings in all times and places.

Education: School as we know it is a fairly new concept in human history, but some kind of education is universal. “School” might have involved memorizing epic ballads or learning which plants were safe to eat, but every society had ways of handing down elder wisdom to the next generation.

Storytelling: Children everywhere love to hear stories, and adults have been telling stories probably as long as humans have existed. Often these stories were a way of teaching important truths.

We have so much in common

Gosh, this isn’t even the start of it. Humans everywhere have had families and friends, along with a strong instinct to care for, protect and provide for those we love. Humans everywhere have made beautiful things and art, and felt a desire to leave a legacy behind us. Everywhere there have been political structures, although often rudimentary, and yes, every society had some sort of weapons. 

When I talked about this with my kids, we kept finding more and more things they had in common with children throughout history. 

For me, this may be the most important thing we can learn from studying history. Every person is unique, but there is so much that unites us, even across centuries and millennia.

I hope studying history helps my kids to remember that we are all more alike than we are different. I hope it helps them look for the things they have in common with others and celebrate those things, instead of focusing on what divides us.

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