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Why study history?

History with Heart of Dakota
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History with Heart of Dakota:

I have some exciting news to share: this is the first blog post I’ve written for Heart of Dakota since I graduated with a Bachelor’s in History through Liberty Online. My academic journey that began in preschool so many years ago has finally run its course. Done. Finito. Wow!

This has been an extremely exciting time for me! As I look back on my education, I can say that I am extremely grateful to Heart of Dakota for giving me a solid foundation for entering academia out of high school. Also, as I reflect on my college journey, I can say with confidence that the study of history has made me a better person. In fact, I would argue that history has valuable life skills to impart to anyone who studies it.

History teaches communication skills.

First of all, studying history teaches us how to be better communicators. When it is boiled down to its essentials, history is ultimately the study of people. As we study history, we are constantly rubbing shoulders with them! Some of these are excellent communicators… others not so much. Nevertheless, as we study these past communicators, we cannot help but pick up on how the effective ones were able to successfully convey their points.

Yet communication is much more than simply getting a point across. As we study a vast array of people throughout history, we also learn key skills such as empathy and social understanding. These skills cannot be valued highly enough when it comes to communicating! Communication is a two way street: hearing/knowing other people and respectfully making ourselves known (often in that order). History does a phenomenal job in teaching both sides of the communication coin to us.

History builds critical thinking.

Let’s face it; history is hardly ever simple. The “good guys” aren’t always perfect and the “bad guys” sometimes display surprising glimmers of goodness. To cloud matters even further, different cultures have different definitions for who the heroes and villains are in historical events. For example, North and South Koreans view their shared history in very different lights.

History teaches us to remember that there is always another side to every story. This sort of big-picture thinking is a valuable skill that I believe everyone can benefit from. It teaches us to be more patient and less quick to make snap judgements when dealing with other people. And, when we eventually do need to make decisions, we will end up making wiser and more-informed decisions. This is a skill that applies to all of life!

History acquaints students with all other fields of study.

As I’ve mentioned before, history is the study of people. This means that as we study history, we’re not limiting ourselves to a narrow field of study. No, history is much grander than that! In history, we encounter all forms of people from all walks of life. Scientists, strategists, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, inventors, educators, kings, politicians, priests, pastors, musicians, mathematicians, artists, and entertainers – history acquaints us with them all. And as we interact with these diverse figures, we learn more about their fields of expertise. You see, the study of history is far more than a boring list of names and dates. It is a grand, ongoing dialogue with figures from all other fields of study!

Because of these reasons (and many more!) I remain an unabashed apologist for the study of history.

How do we at Heart of Dakota incorporate history into our guides?

Because history is such a foundational area of study, we include it in each of our guides. Starting with Little Hearts and going all the way through US History II, the left side of our daily plans is the “Learning Through History” section. This side of our daily plans features a unit study feel of topics that naturally fit with the history topic for that day’s lesson. While these are all united around a historical theme, these assignments cover a vast array of skills! Some examples of topics/assignments included in this section are…

  • Timeline projects
  • Topical research
  • Geography
  • Read-alouds
  • Audios
  • Student notebook entries
  • History projects
  • Written and oral narrations

Finally (and most importantly), these subjects are integrated with a Biblical worldview.

God belongs at the center of history.

Perhaps the best way I can illustrate the importance of keeping God at the center of history is demonstrating what history looks like without Him in the picture…

Without God, history is merely the study of a specific group of mammals who by some freak accident have become self-aware and who nonetheless die with an alarming amount of regularity. In their relatively short lifespans, these sentient mammals build empires and try to leave their mark on the world. But without God in the picture, to what end do they do this? If this world really is just a random rock spinning through the cosmos until it finally burns out, is anything accomplished on it really worthwhile? What good does it do to study the legacy of those who came before us if it is all meaningless anyway?

Put God in His rightful place in history, however, and suddenly the past becomes rife with meaning. If, as Christians like me believe, God created the world and that one day He is coming back again, then history has a point and a direction. God is both the Author of history and the Destination towards which it travels. Therefore, what people in history did in their time echoes into eternity. The same is true of our own actions. Therefore, as we study the legacy of the past, we end up gaining the wisdom needed to better shape our own legacies to the glory of God.

In conclusion, when the complexity of human history meets the unchanging truth of God’s Word, we are able to find the meaning amidst the madness. And this is something we pray our students will experience for themselves as they study history in our guides.

In Christ,

Cole Austin

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