History is one of the core subjects of the classical curriculum, after Bible and Language studies – grammar, logic, and rhetoric – and is the only study, besides the knowledge of the words of God, which God commanded fathers to teach their children, and children to seek knowledge of from their fathers:
Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of all generations.
Ask your father, and he will inform you,
Your elders, and they will tell you.
This does not imply that the study of other things is without merit, but it does show the great importance the study of history has to the proper education and training of children. God has commanded it for a reason, and we cannot disregard the commands of God without reaping unintended, unforeseeable, and disastrous consequences.
So what are those reasons? I can comment on a few, but I am afraid we will not know all of them unless history were to be eradicated from the education of children, and the disastrous consequences observed. I fear that day, for then we will say, “If only we had obeyed the Lord!”
Children learn who they are from history, for the history of a child’s people and family gives them their cultural identity. If as Americans, we fail to teach our children American history, when they are grown they may be Americans in name but not in identity. If as Christians, we fail to teach our children the history of the Church, then to what identity will they anchor themselves when opposition or persecution arises?
Children learn who the Lord is from history. Yes, children learn who the Lord is from the word of God, but a large portion of the word of God is history. From history children learn that God is omnipotent, holy, just, merciful, and patient. But the Lord did not withdraw from history at the close of the New Testament, but has continued to shape the events of man.
Children learn wisdom and judgment from history (and the word of God), for they learn the consequences actions have without having to make the same mistakes themselves. And history prepares children to be statesmen, for not only individuals reap consequences of actions, but generations and nations do also. Yale professor David Gelernter recently said that “ignorance of history is destroying our judgment.”
While it seems too common sense to say it, it is important to note that the benefits history imparts derive from truth: telling the truth of history is vital. It is not enough to have history classes, if the history taught in those classes is reinvented. Scriptures follow this same principle, for out of the hundreds of people in the Bible, whose history is told, only Daniel and Jesus come through it all without faults portrayed. By the same token, it is not enough to portray only the faults of the heroes of our history; truth telling means portraying their virtues as well.
If you are convinced of the central role history plays in educating children, and need a child-friendly history curriculum where the past is not airbrushed, our Christian heritage not erased, our history not sanitized, and our founders not forgotten, consider Nothing New Press editions of The Story of series by H. A. Guerber, chosen as one of the top 102 homeschool curricula in the country by Cathy Duffy.