Teaching history to young kids is a funny thing. How much detail do you go into? How much will they remember? How do you answer uncomfortable questions that arise? These thoughts all popped into my head recently because of the upcoming events in the UK. In a few nights people across England will celebrate Bonfire Night and we like to keep our British born kids up on what is going on at 'home'. While the 5th of November is a huge night in the UK, it's not very well known around the rest of the world. For those non-English readers, it can be summed up as a celebration of the night Guy Fawkes failed to blow up Parliament and kill the King.
When I first moved to London, the event (which is celebrated with huge bonfires and fireworks) came and went and all I really picked up on was that a guy tried to blow up the government. And now we blow things up to celebrate. I found it hilarious and bizarre and very British. Of course I was missing the part about celebrating the fact he was stopped, not that he attempted it. Honestly, I think most people forget that part.
It holds such historical importance in fact, that it is part of the national curriculum in the UK and is more often than not a theme that is taught for a good 6-8 weeks in primary school. Usually in Year 3. So 7 year olds. And I am pretty sure they come away from those 6 weeks of learning, with about as much as I came away with. Slightly wrong information about men trying to blow up the government.
So it makes me think. Should we share everything with our kids?
I remember thinking the same thing when we attended a funeral of a dear friend and brought our kids along. One of our friends questioned why we were bringing the kids and informed us that she would never do that to her kids (teach them about death). My response was along the lines of, "Why would I hide real life from them? It might not be pretty but I'd rather be the one to expose them than someone else."
That same sentiment applies to anything really. Whether it is an historical event or dealing with a topic that might raise uncomfortable questions. I will never hide things from my kids because they are too young to deal with it. I might tailor how much they need to know depending on their age. I will certainly ensure that I focus on the good parts and that they don't end up feeling scared by it. I will make sure that they learn from it and know that they can always come to me with questions no matter how uncomfortable they are. Because I want to be the one helping them understand the tough stuff (why did those men want to blow people up?).
So as we approach this holiday and we go out in the back garden to light sparklers together, I will explain to my kids that a man tried to put an end to a government he disagreed with. We will talk about how he was stopped and also why he felt so strongly about something. There will probably be a thousand a one questions about this as usual. I hope each year they take a bit more with them.
I will also be sure to include our favourite personal memory of Guy Fawkes night - when we flew back into London from a holiday in Spain. We forgot what night it was and as our plane lowered in the evening sky, we gazed out our window and saw a sea of small light explosions. It's funny how the brain reacts to things that are unfamiliar because we were really speechless at first. It looked a bit like war had broken out, from that high up. The lower we got and the more we processed it, we realised the date. We enjoyed the beauty of the display from a place in time we are unlikely to ever be again.
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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