Much that has been said about the teaching of geography applies equally to that of history. Here, too, is a subject which should be to the child an inexhaustible storehouse of ideas, should enrich the chambers of his House Beautiful with a thousand tableaux, pathetic and heroic, and should form in him, insensibly, principles whereby he will hereafter judge of the behaviour of nations, and will rule his own conduct as one of a nation. This is what the study of history should do for the child; – Charlotte Mason. Vol 1 page 279
I wanted to share a great unexpected history connection that we made over the week-end. This is one of the many wonderful things I just love, love, LOVE about England. Where ever you go, you come into contact with the past. We tread where the history makers of this earth played out their lives. Living and acting out their ordinary lives which have since become extraordinary. Lives which now exist in history books. Lives that have left footprints in the land for us to find.
We headed into Yorkshire – beautiful wild Yorkshire – home of a few of my favourite authors (they would be James Herriot and Jack Sheffield in case your interested ;o)
We ended up at Sandal Castle. Of course we had no idea what the significance was until we arrived and started to discover the history behind these beautiful ruins. Here, let me give you a clue:
The Grand old Duke of York
He had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up they were up
And when they were down they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down
Have you guessed the significance yet? Yip, this is the site of The Battle of Wakefield during the ‘War of the Roses’ when Richard Plantagenet made a bid for the throne. The words of the nursery rhyme are believed to refer to Richard (Plantagenet), Duke of York. The Duke of York and his army marched to his castle at Sandal where he took up a defensive position against the Lancastrian Army. This castle was well fortified with deep moats, high walls and set at the top of the hill. In a moment of madness, Richard left his fortress and marched down to make a direct attack on the Lancastrians. His army was overwhelmed and the Duke of York was killed
Now here’s the part that makes my heart sing…the girls were very excited to discover the significance as they remembered (made a connection) learning all about the War of the Roses when we read through ‘Our Island Story’. We have visited many places of historical significance over the past year of living in England, but this was different and special, and here’s the reason why. Upon leaving the ruins, Miss V-L said, ‘Of all the places we have visited, this is my favourite because I am actually standing on the site of a story from our history readings. We learnt about this mom! and here we are!’ (emphasis hers)
I think I am beginning to understand in a whole new way the ‘connections’ that Charlotte Mason spoke of in her writings. With England being her native land, I wonder if she had some of the historical places in mind when she spoke of the children forming this connection, of coming into contact with ‘history’. This is SO much better than dry textbooks.
My daughters reaction ignited a spark in me to go and really read up on what Charlotte Mason had to say on the study of history. Vol 1 pg 279-295 – and I have found a treasure trove! Not only does she give the why and how behind teaching history – but also lots of recommendations for my ‘book list’ -LOL. I am eager to see if I can find any of these titles on The Gutenberg website and Baldwin Project website (links on my sidebar).
There is another thing I want to mention which you might find interesting and might want to hold in the back of your mind in your future historical introductions which you make with your children. We have been following the Charlotte Mason method/philosophy for a few years now. We have used the wonderful books recommended by Ambleside Online and I believe that because of the nature of the books, my children have not only been introduced to great men and woman of the past, but have formed an intimate and personal connection with them and indeed with the historical places we visit. There is a natural respect for where they are and for the significance of what they are privileged enough to see with their own eyes. They recognise the historical value of a site because of the connection they formed with the people of that time while we read. A little illustration as to why I say that…
While we were walking around Sandal Castle, there were signs asking people NOT to climb on the ruins. I would venture to say that the reasons are pretty obvious – so that this history can be preserved for many more years and for the enrichment of future generations.
Well the behaviour of most children and quite a few adults around the site caused my children quite a bit of distress. Children – and adults were doing exactly as they had been asked NOT to do – climbing on the ruins. Those adults that were not climbing thought nothing of letting their ‘darlings’ clamber over the ruins with not a thought to the damage they might be inflicting on the remains of this 800 year old monument! Evidently this is a regular occurrence because every now and again a voice over a loudspeaker would tell these people to please get off the stones.
My children were distressed because of the lack of thought, sensitivity and respect for what was around them. None of us expect everyone to walk around in awe and reverence, but a little respect for what and where you are is what is called for. If you make a connection with something – you naturally show the correct respect due to it. As I finish off the post, I am drawn to read through Charlotte Masons writings on the ‘Science of Relations’. It seems that there is much more significance to that topic than perhaps I initially thought!