February is just a couple of days away and Black History Month will soon begin. This annual observance fosters an awareness of the lives and contributions of African-Americans and ushers in a month long parade of enlightening activities, exhibits, workshops, and programs based upon the African-American experience. During Black History Month, museums, schools, churches, and community centers proudly sponsor month long celebrations full of African-American themed events.
And though such cultural offerings are still important and necessary, I don’t believe Black History Month founder Dr. Carter G. Woodson wanted the study of African-American history to be locked within the confines of a 28 or 29-day period. He certainly wanted to draw national attention to the contributions of African-Americans throughout history, but I also believe Dr. Woodson’s desire was that the month of February serve as the starting place of larger, year long discussions and explorations of African-American history and culture.
I believe that as well, so in our homeschool I teach African-American history all year round. And, if you don’t already do so, I encourage you to do so. Why? First, it takes time, plenty of time, to delve into a serious study of African-American history. In addition, the study of African-American history is part of a well-rounded homeschool curriculum. Finally, the educational benefits of doing so cannot be denied. Consider these five reasons to teach Black History year round.
When African-American history is studied all year round, children understand that African-American history is important. Children see that the study of African-American history is relevant in February, in March, in April, in May, and on as well. A thorough study of African-American history cannot be boxed into a particular time frame for the sake of convenience (It’s easier to teach this way.) or tradition (It’s always been taught this way). African-American history is too important to be viewed only as another item to check off a long list of educational objectives.
When African-American history is studied all year round, children recognize that African-American history is also American history. A year round approach to African-American history shows children that the African-American people are deeply woven into the fabric of our nation’s history; snugly stitched over, under, and around the other more frequently discussed names in history. Trying to remove the fabric’s darker threads damages the whole piece and leaves loose threads hanging aimlessly. When children understand that African-American history is American history, it is easier for them to see how it is relevant to all people.
When African-American history is studied all year round, children are more likely to learn about lesser known African-Americans. Greats such as Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr always surge to the forefront of Black History Month biographies. Yes, the lives of those men and women are certainly worthy of study, but so are the lives lesser known African-Americans such as artist Horace Pippen and American jockey James Winkfield. Though they are not household names, the accomplishments of these lesser known historical figures and many, many more are worthy of study all throughout the year.
When African-American history is studied all year round, children see African-American contributions and connections across the entire curriculum. African-American contributions are not isolated within the arts, sports, and religion, but can also be found in areas such mathematics and science. A simple internet search will reveal ample connections for children to explore. For example, when studying the phases of the moon in science, include information about the life and contributions of colonial great Benjamin Banneker, a self taught astronomer. Many subjects can easily segue into a more detailed study of African-American culture.
When African-American history is studied all year round, children experience a more complete view of African-American history. A prolonged period of study allows us to escort our children off the well-beaten paths of history and gives us the opportunity to meander slowly down other educational avenues. Yes, slavery and civil rights struggles are important aspects of our history, but children need to know that the men and women of prior generations were far more than slaves and protestors.
When African-American history is studied all year round, there is ample time to study the contributions and culture of African-Americans. No matter how well planned our lessons may be, a good study of African-American history can’t be completed in a month. Attempting to do so is problematic because it forces us to pick and choose what we will study and what we will ignore. When studied year round, we have sufficient time to help our children examine and explore topics and figures.
A month is a short period of time, so don’t limit your studies of African-American history to its few short weeks. Make the study of African-American history and culture a natural part of your planning just as you do for the three R’s. Your family will soon recognize the benefits of having done so. Your children will see the importance of African-American history and they will be eager to learn more about their rich history and culture. You, as parent and teacher, will find your studies lead you to people, places, and things you never imagined! And this family culture dominated by a love for learning and yearning to know more, is one of the many joys of homeschooling. Embrace it!
© 2015, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.