I love history, and I especially love learning about the people who shaped history. So naturally I enjoy sharing that love with my kids. But no kid wants another boring lecture about something irrelevant – so how can I teach my kids about history without the blank stares or rolling eyes? That is the challenge. I have found that we can have some very fun conversations with our kids if we take the opportunities, keep it simple, and appreciate leadership.
Take the Opportunity
It actually isn’t that hard: when something comes up, talk about it. Throughout the year there are many opportunities that are literally written into our calendars. There are also other random times when a topic will surface, and kids love talking about the relevant news of the day. Especially if they heard about it on TV, social media, or friends and teachers. You don’t have to be a historical scholar. Just ask questions, share what you know, and look up the rest.
Epic Stories Are Simple
Everyone loves a good story, and even the most complex stories still follow a simple narrative. Good versus Evil. Fall and Redemption. Freedom Lost and Freedom Restored. When we think of history as story, we can engage our kids in something that is truly interesting. When they are younger, I keep the story pretty simple: “George Washington- good. King George III-bad.” As the kids get older, I share more of the messy and contradictory details, but still try to focus on an overall theme. (“Both sides made mistakes, but this side was marching towards liberty and finally achieved it.”) I also encourage them to analyze the facts and draw their own conclusions, rather than simply echoing my opinions. (If I teach them to echo all of my opinions now, what will stop them from echoing all of their college professors’ opinions 10 years from now?)
Interested in some AMAZING historical fiction and Biblical historical fiction for readers of all ages? Scroll down to the resources at the bottom of this post!
Leadership is hard! We should be gracious towards any historical person, because we know how hard it is to do what is right in our current circumstances! Why would we cast stones at someone we’ve never met? I tend to look at historical figures with an appreciative eye. What I mean is that I mainly look at what I can learn from them, rather than focusing on how I can point out their flaws. Of course, every leader had flaws – we are all sinners! And there should be balance – we shouldn’t just idolize people and paint over the unsavory truth of our past. However, when I am teaching my kids about leaders who have shaped history, I try to focus on what we can learn about the way that their successes and failures shaped the world and those around them.
Interested in some interesting biographies for readers of all ages? Scroll down to the resources at the bottom of this post!
Today’s Leader: MLK
Every year we pause to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. I don’t think that those of us who were born in the 70’s or 80’s can really understand what things were like back then, but here is a lesson that I can learn from MLK:
Words are powerful. Leaders make a difference.
I see MLK as a leader who promoted peace instead of violence, unity instead of separation, and hope instead of bitterness. He was a Christian who urged his followers, white and black, to seek brotherhood instead of revenge. On one side were the radical, violent whites who hated all blacks. On the other were the radical, violent blacks who hated all whites. Off to the side were the moderates who were unable or unwilling to do anything about it. And in the middle of it all was MLK. His strong faith caused him to impatiently demand action – action that was peaceful and inclusive. He was a force for change, and I am thankful that my children can live out the fulfillment of his dream.
Talking with your Kids
The age and maturity of your kids will guide the way you talk about MLK. Be sure to tie in some Scriptures, such as Scriptures about justice and righteousness or courage. It is powerful to literally hear his words and see the crowd as he delivers his speech. (Link below. Yes, it’s 17 minutes long, but our boys can sit still and watch Dude Perfect videos for 17 hours, so they ARE capable. They just need to be self-disciplined and they need to be interested.) You can also use this time to suggest some good biographies, or to broaden the scope of your discussion to include the difference between peaceful and violent protests or to discuss America’s history of race relations. I am not an expert on this, but I have included several links below to get you started.
Their Story in History
As parents, our primary goal with this is to help our kids understand their own story. Help them to see that leadership matters. That one person can make a big difference. Help them to envision that each one of us is called to be a ‘historic’ figure in our own little corner of the world, and God has big plans for them. You can inspire them to think of the bigger story by bringing history to life.
And as we remember MLK’s legacy, remind your kids that we can live the same way. May our Biblical knowledge and spiritual conviction give us the courageous passion to fight for life, truth, justice, and freedom.
Amos 5:21-24 (NLT)
“I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living.
More information about MLK, and the long march from slavery, to equality, to prosperity and productivity.
I Have A Dream video:
Read and listen to the audio from his speech here
Full Video: (17:28)
Lyrics to My Country Tis of Thee:
History Channel educational videos
Amazing Historical Fiction Books:
My son and daughters have loved these books, and began reading them at age 11. They are funny, incorporate a twist of fantasy, but are full of Scripture and truth! I am in awe of this author.
These books are recommended for kids aged 6-9. They are the adventures of siblings who find themselves transported through time by ancient scrolls, observing Biblical events.
Great Biographies, for various ages
Who Was/What Was Series
Peter Marshall kids books
Character is Destiny: A great book by John McCain that highlights character lessons from the lives of 34 historical figures, including MLK
For Discussions With Older Kids
Anything from Wallbuilders, including the American Heritage DVD Series
CURE: Star Parker’s mission is:
“Fighting poverty and restoring dignity through faith, freedom, and personal responsibility.”
Photo by Warren K. Leffler, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons