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Family tree and history

I was in search of videos on the Aztecs when I came across Legacy, a BBC television series about the great ancient civilizations hosted by Michael Wood. Bingo. Of course, it wasn't only about the Aztecs, and of course we wanted to see the whole thing, and thus in about fifty minutes the entire course of our current study changed. It was silly of me to think that starting at the very beginning of time in order to learn about American and United States history wouldn't also require learning about world history along the way, so we will be continuing from the nomadic hunter time period, about twenty thousand years after human migration into America, but instead of looking only at the nations of the Americas we will be looking everywhere. Simultaneous, holistic history. Plus there really is nothing more fascinating than ancient civilizations and the stories, myths, and inventions that came from them.

Looking at some of the resources I happened to have on hand, most recommended that we first learn about archeology and the study of history. Of course we've already been doing that, and Calvin's pretty comfortable with the concept of archeology, but we hadn't really talked yet about the fallibility of history, so we started today with the family tree. How does making a family highlight the fallible nature of history? Inadvertantly so. This was actually a really cool project that kind of grew and shaped itself over the day.

Calvin was all about making the tree. I figured we'd just cut some construction paper and glue together a tree starting with him and ending with his grandparents, but as he was gluing together said tree I was practicing the piano, and before I knew it the tree had grown to include five generations. We sat down and started naming the different people on the tree, but I couldn't go past Jon's grandparents on his side, and it became clear that a phone call would be necessary to finish the project. Calvin wanted to make the call himself, so we worked together to create interview sheets for each of the grandparents, and he used those to make the calls and get the information he needed. See how things take on a shape of their own?

And here's where it got especially interesting. My parents answered the interview questions from memory (because I'm the keeper of my family's genealogical records, but thought the phone call would be fun anyhow), while Jon's parents answered the questions from a written record they had on hand. Comparing Calvin's sheets following the phone interviews (my parent's was missing information) made clear the limitations of an oral tradition—sharing information kept in memory only—and we talked about the fallibility of information passed on from before the advent of common writing. In addition, after the phone interviews I pulled out my boxes of genealogy and unearthed birth and marriage certificates that we used to fill in the blanks on my parent's sheets, and to correct any information that had been related or recorded incorrectly—another point of comparison. It was a fascinating step in the project, and we spent an extra hour exploring the historic documents—both official, like certificates, and personal, like letters or articles—and antique pictures of which I am the keeper.

He finished his project by filling out the tree with names, birth dates and places, and family common names (i.e. he calls my mom "Gram", I called her mom "Grammie", and my mom called her mom's mom "Grandma", and so on)—a cconstruction paper study of our history which he aptly titled "tree of life".

And our study ever changing study of history is on its way again.

This post linked to Ordinary Life Magic's Saturday's Artist (one of my favorite mama blogs)

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