The other day a friend asked me why her child needs to study history in middle school. After all, they read history story picture books early on, and they would be taking history classes in high school. Couldn’t they just skip history in the middle school years? You might imagine that as a history teacher, my response was an immediate no, but here is why.
While it is true that many of our students read or have read to them the stories of history (both American and World) in the early elementary years, these are stories that hopefully will awe and inspire them – Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, Washington crossing the Delaware, and others. In high school, their study of history goes beyond the stories to examine the how and the why, the cause and effect of events, the impact of events. They learn that the Battle of Lexington and Concord was the beginning of the Revolution, but also that the attempt of the British Army to seize munitions from the Patriots would be remembered in the Second Amendment; that Washington’s daring move across the Delaware led to the capture of Hessian Troops and boosted Patriot morale just when they were beginning to think all hope was lost. Middle school is an important bridge between the two experiences of history.
Why You Shouldn’t Skip History In the Middle Grades
First, middle school level history classes provide a framework for the stories read when students were younger. Placing the stories of Revere and Washington in the great framework of the American Revolution is important, but not necessarily easily understood in the early years of elementary school.
Second, middle school level history classes provide a foundation for the deeper analysis that takes place at the high school level. It helps to have a solid understanding of the American Revolution, before digging deeper into the causes, impacts, and motivation of the Founding Fathers.
And third, middle school level history classes are a great place to develop history skills: to learn what a primary source is and how to analyze them, to learn to determine point of view and bias in a primary source, to learn how to determine if a website is a reliable source or not. Middle school is a great time to develop these and other skills that are necessary, not only for history class, but for life.
The Importance of History Classes in the Middle School Years
While it may seem to some that history is the same group of stories repeated over and over again, it truly isn’t. Our understanding of and interaction with those stories changes as we mature in our education. After all, you don’t learn how to add 2+2 and say you know addition. More advanced addition comes as you grow in your understanding of math. And trust me, even though American History is only a few centuries old, there is a lot of history that doesn’t get covered in a survey class. Can you imagine what it is like in World History?
Becky Frank has been steeped in American History from her early days growing up on the family farm in Northeastern North Carolina. Although Barrow Creek Farm has been in her family since the 1680s, her parents were the first to live on it in three generations. On the farm she learned to milk cows, sheer sheep, and drive a tractor.
After an internship at Historic Edenton, she received a B.S. in Public History from Appalachian State University in 1992. Answering God’s call to teach in a classroom setting, she added teacher certification from East Carolina University to her degree in 1998. Becky then taught social studies in Gates County, North Carolina where her classes included U.S. History, World History, Economics, Government, and Humanities. In 2003 she married her husband John and left the classroom to start a family.
Becky has been teaching online for more than 10 years. She also homeschools her three children and is an active leader in the Children’s and Youth’s ministry at her church. She also enjoys gardening, cooking, scrapbooking and long walks with her kids and the family dog. Sharing the heritage of our great country is one of her passions as well. Her lifelong dream is to return to the family farm and make a portion of the acreage a living history site.