The history around you.

Studying history has always been an easy sell in our house. I put this down to a few factors. I think the biggest reason is that our boys have always been read to, and it didn’t take much for them to realize that history is just that – many stories.

It also helped, I think, that we used the first three volumes of Story of the World and some of volume 4, as well as many (not all) of the supplemental materials. The boys really got into mapping the places in the stories we’d read together.

It’s only been in the past year or so that I’ve thought about the history surrounding us. Moving to a place like Birmingham will do that do you. You can’t walk down the street – literally – without reminders of bygone glory…

689826994.jpg

And the inspirational struggles…

936097955.jpg

Sometimes it’s very difficult.

Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama LCCN2010636980
 

Having grown up in the north, even after having spent 25 years living in the south, there are aspects of life here (present as well as past) that it’s difficult for me to grasp at times. And it’s difficult to explain to children. I have been grateful to have lived here where my children can not only read about (and see monuments to) the civil rights movement, but also talk with adults who were living here while events took place.  

Reflecting on this had me considering where I grew up – above the Mason-Dixon line, in the mid-Atlantic states. I was born, grew up and lived as a young adult in states that had been among the original 13 colonies. History was everywhere, but I didn’t think about it. It just was. Looking at the places in Birmingham that I associate with history made me think of a college friend who had grown up in California. My mother asked her once what was the biggest difference my friend saw between California and the east coast, and my friend commented on how old everything was. I hadn’t even considered this remarkable, until I realized it wasn’t the case in other parts of the states.

Later, when *I* lived in the same part of California where my friend had grown up, I began to notice architecture and cultural differences. The history of the Spanish colonists in Southern California, chronologically, rivals much of what I grew up around. It was so different, but I began to recognize, just as “old” as my friend perceived the places near where I grew up on the east coast. 

I’m a little sorry it’s taken me so long to recognize – beyond a distant, academic understanding – that history of the past, and history currently unfolding – are quite literally around us. But I have embarked on something of a new approach. Twice in the past couple years, I’ve taken the boys to unfolding events – complete with protestors.

[Please note, we did not attend any events where there was any concern for violence; aside from that being what I would hope is an obvious safety decision, seeing protestors can be very upsetting, even for older children. In Manhattan a couple years ago, we walked past protestors from PETA. At first, I barely noticed the protestors, but I quickly realized that two of my boys were quite shaken. Seeing adults who, I guess, are supposed to be reasonable yelling and hollering with big signs was, well, scary. I explained what their concerns were and how, by making a scene, they were drawing attention. The next event we attended, here in Birmingham, was still a lot for the boys to take in. I think it’s a lot for kids to process that different groups of adults can have such strong, yet opposite, opinions. But they were not frightened, and I think it has been good for them to see two sides meeting and clashing (verbally), and still walking away from each other peacefully. That said, there have been events – including here in Birmingham – that I would not take my children to.]

Although I’m sure that the great majority of our history learning will continue to come from books, and preferably living books, there is nothing that is as real as recognizing history around us – from the past or the present.