Thursday, August 14, 2014

History Lessons

"Can we play that game again?" Ethan asked me as we walked down the dirt road that leads from our camp in Maine to the convenience store.

I knew exactly what he was talking about. "You mean 1750?" I asked. He nodded.

"Well, Ethe, sure," I said slowly. The last time we'd played, he'd had a bit of trouble, and he'd had absolutely no idea.

"1750" was a game I'd come up with last time we were up in Maine, the month before. I'd call it half pretend play, half-history lesson. Essentially I picked a random year (in this case, 1750), and told the kids as we were walking we had to pretend we'd taken a time machine from that year and had ended up in 2014. We had to look around and see which things were the same; which things we didn't understand.

I knew Anna would love the game. She "gets" history now. Last year we went to Old Sturbridge Village (a recreated 1830s town complete with characters in period costumes) and I'd practically had to drag her out of each home. She wanted to read every sign; devour every fact. We've been watching "Crash Course" history lessons with John Greene on YouTube. She's starting to have a greater sense of where we are in the present, and how things have progressed and changed in myriad ways.

Ethan? Well...

History is so abstract. It's not a subject I would expect to particularly interest him, or one he'd be able to pick up on quickly.

He is trying, though.

The last time we'd played the game, Anna and I assumed our characters from 1750. We called out in amazement at the power lines; wondered at what the numbers and letters (phone numbers and website addresses) meant on another camp's For Sale sign; and of course jumped in horror when a car roared past us.

Ethan watched closely and began to imitate what we were doing. "Look at this leaf!" he cried out, picking a stray one off the ground. "Why is it like this?" Then he stopped at a puddle. "Why is this puddle so deep?!" he cried.

I'd tried to explain to him that we were looking for things from our world today that they wouldn't have had in 1750, that hadn't been invented yet. That's why we were acting surprised. "Someone from 1750 would have never seen power lines," I'd said.

This kind of perspective-taking is just a wee bit beyond where he is right now. I can't blame him. How many 6-year-olds are students of history, anyway (or 36-year-olds, really)?

So here we were again, a month later, and Ethan really wanted to play the game. "Look at that!" he exclaimed, pointing out an old metal plow that one of the nearby camps has displayed as a lawn ornament of sorts. Great. More confusion.

"That actually might have been around in 1750," I said, wracking my brain. "That's an old fashioned plow the farmers used to use in the fields."

He picked up a rock. "Wow, what's this?" he asked in the mock amazement he'd seen Anna and I show.

"Ethe," I sighed with a smile. "They had rocks back then. Rocks have always been here. So have leaves, and trees. People didn't invent those things...they're not like computers or cars."

After a little bit we were too busy slapping at mosquitos to play our game anymore. Ethan apparently still had history on the mind, though. The next evening we drove past a barn with cows wandering around the field outside.

"Look at those cows! Look at them moving fast like that!" Apparently he'd only ever noticed cows sitting and chewing, not actually walking.

"They didn't have cows like these in the olden days," he said with authority. "The cows in the olden days weren't as fast as these ones."

I started to say something about cows always being cows, but threw in the towel and sat back to enjoy the rest of the ride. We're just not there yet. Ethan may never be a passionate student of history, but some day, the switch will flip, and he'll understand just a little bit more. For now, we'll just sit tight and the rocks; the leaves; the speed of cows. Whatever year we're in, it's an amazing world.

1 comment:

Stephs Two Girls said...

Ah yes, six is still quite young to get that I'd say. My 7 year old wouldn't I don't think. Great idea though, I may try it with my older girl, sounds like fun! Found you through Love That Max :)