03 December, 2015

One way to learn about Australia

I don't remember how many years I've been reading to my family after dinner (it's more than 10 years, I think). We finished the long Billabong series while we were in Australia and wasn't sure what next, if anything, to tackle. 

But then I was helping my eldest with a Japanese assignment a few weeks ago (a speech about Australia and specifically ANZAC biscuits). I dragged out a couple of books I'd purchased about Australian history. You can imagine that there aren't many of those around in our local libraries. Our boys are learning US history and geography, and some about Japan but very little about their passport country. As one who loves history and my country, I think it is important to pass something of an appreciation for their passport country on to my kids.

One of the books was a little different to the usual history textbook. In fact it looked like it was written to be read from start to finish. So a few weeks ago I embarked tentatively on an experiment. I started reading Australian history to them. 

It's working. Immediately after I've finished eating my first course I pick up this book (they're usually still eating). Each chapter is only two to five pages long including graphics, and it's topical. So we've read a chapter about the installation of the telegraph line from Darwin to Adelaide. One about bushrangers (Ned Kelly specifically). One about the Gold Rushes. Last night it was start of cricket in Australia and especially how the Ashes began. Obviously from the photo on the cover we've got a chapter on surfing coming up. 

It's well written and David and I learnt things too. The boys still have trouble with interrupting but mostly it's rabbit trails associated with what we're reading. 

It's a clever way to write history: take a story of interest and weave other broader facts around that story. There have also been interesting connections we've made between this and the historical fiction we read in Billabong books. I hope that through this we'll all get a better appreciation of the history and culture of our passport country, but especially the boys. 

A couple of weeks ago I helped our youngest son's class make a Pilgrim meal, part of a unit they're doing about American history. One of the teachers told me she'd heard our son telling classmate about some Australian history (that he'd just learnt from this book). The boys like this kind of learning because it's learning without assessment! Yep, I'd say this is worthwhile. 

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