Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Teaching 9/11

We are independent homeschoolers.  We don't participate in a co-op, and we don't take any outside academic classes.  That means we're completely responsible for our children's entire education.  While in many families, there is another teacher to break the ice on tough topics and parents can focus on answering the follow-up questions, we need to find the best time and way to present this information from scratch. 

Our children weren't yet born on 9/11.  We were in college and I was getting ready for a morning biochem lecture when I saw the live footage on the news of the second plane hitting and the first building falling. 

Now that I have kids that I'm educating, I have to find a way to relay this event to them.  This one moment in history.  Those few hours on a fall morning that were the turning point for our generation.  I also have to give them the context.  They don't know the world was different pre-9/11 because they have only lived in a post-9/11 world. 

As we work our way through history chronologically (we follow a 4 year cycle), we often point out the area of the world we're talking about on a globe.  We have had many conversations about armies and wars and the near constant upheaval in the middle east.  Back in first grade, with a study of ancient history, war in the middle east was a topic we discussed along with a side note that it's still going on.  It always has been.  This year we are up to modern history.  This is the year we specifically cover the event of 9/11 and what it meant to the United States.  This year I decide how graphic I should be with my 9 year old and how best to present the information of what happened that day and in the immediate aftermath. 

What we won't do is be mired down in a lamentation about the division and finger pointing going on in the country right now as if it's something completely new that has never existed.  Throughout our history study, we relate historical events to modern day occurrences.  History does repeat itself and there are recurring themes that come up over and over again.  People fight about the same things over and over again.  Religions attacking other religions, is regulation of business good or bad, is this type of taxation or that one more fair, is that group of people entitled to the same rights as this group of people, what limits should exist on immigration, and just for a little levity...is it wise to attack Russia on foot in winter.  Major turning points in history obviously make a huge impact on those who live through them.  9/11 will certainly go down in the books as an event that altered the course of history.  My kids will know this along with what lead up to it and what happened afterwards.  What they won't be taught is that it means the world is coming to an end.  That the current division in the country is something completely new that we've never seen before.  After all, we begin studying the United States Civil War today. 

I was never much of a history buff in my younger days.  I passed high school and college courses just fine, but I was never inspired to stray outside the approved lesson plan to learn more on my own.  Over the last few years, it's become much more interesting to me and the overarching lesson I've learned is that horrible things have been happening for a long time.  And wonderful things have been happening for a long time.  And horrible things and wonderful things are still happening now.  In some odd way, this is very comforting to my anxiety prone brain.  In our school lessons, I plan to keep this bigger picture at the forefront while we dive deeper on specific events.  I'm hopeful that will help us to honor those who have lost their lives in recent events without getting stuck in a "the world is going to hell in a hand basket" quagmire. 

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