Since we started our homeschool journey a little over a year ago — one of my least favorite subjects to teach has been social studies. I dread searching for a social studies curriculum and each time I’ve settled for something I don’t care for.
Why? They all seem silly. For the elementary grades social studies is a combination of geography, a tiny bit of history, and a huge portion of what I like to call life lessons. In K-2, social studies heavily focuses on teaching about living in a family, living in a community, and how to be a good citizen. Students learn about goods and services and bartering. They learn about what the different holidays mean and how to take care of resources. So what’s so wrong with Social Studies?
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it — I just don’t think it’s necessary if we live it out in our own personal lives. Why would I worry about doing a unit study filled with worksheets and lectures/projects on family and how to be a citizen when that should be intertwined into everyday discussion? In casual conversation and during our Bible time we talk about family and citizenship. We talk about being kind to others and how to be neighborly. We learn through the various people we meet about the diversity of the family dynamic.
Josiah has learned that things cost money just by discussing the fact that we pay bills and letting him see how much food costs. He’s watched us do numerous yard sales and learned what it means to barter and trade and sell.
Just a few weeks ago we walked across the street to check on an elderly neighbor. She was weeding in her front yard and was struggling because she was overworking herself. Without prompting, Josiah leaned over and asked if he could help her weed the yard. He didn’t learn that from unit studies or some expensive curriculum — he learned that through everyday life. He learned it by example.
That’s how most children learn about family, neighbors, and how to be a good citizen. Children look first and foremost at their parents and then to their grandparents and other influential adults in their life. If we’re not living what we’re teaching or what is being taught then it’s useless. Children are not going to learn how to get along with others or how to treat other people or how to be productive members of this society by studying it in a book or answering questions on a worksheet. They’re going to learn it by looking at us — looking at how we live our lives. They are going to look at how we treat other people, how we get along with other people, and how we contribute to society.