“What can we do to get our children interested in history?”
It may seem simplistic, but telling family stories really is the best way.
However, since youngsters do not yet have historical perspective of many years lived, we must use a little effort and ingenuity to give them “hooks” on which to hang the family history. Physical objects, activities, and use of their senses, connected with family stories will help interest them as well as help them remember.
Want them to know about your Dad’s sister, Aunt Vi? Was carrot cake her specialty? Shred some carrots with your (grand)child and, together, bake a carrot cake from scratch while you talk about how Great-Aunt Vi had to build a fire in the kitchen stove to heat the oven before she could bake. Perhaps you even have the recipe in Aunt Vi’s own handwriting! Shredding the carrots, stirring by hand, the aroma coming from the oven, and eating a piece of cake while looking at photos of Aunt Vi all will serve to imprint their memory with your story of Aunt Vi.
Kids love maps! Use old plat maps to locate where your family settled and find out who else may have owned the property by looking in plat maps for other years. Look for the location of your grandparent’s one-room school house or a cemetery where family members rest.
A visit to the cemetery can become a hands-on activity by doing pencil rubbings of grave stones to collect names and dates for use in a timeline; a visual depiction your family in the larger historical panorama. This can lead to immigration stories, the study of geography, the history of transportation, mapping the country of origin, or in the case of the Native Americans, where they were located before and after treaties were enacted.
Talk about the lilac bush that grew in the front yard of Great Grandma’s house when the lilacs are blooming. Share how easy the old apple trees were to climb. (They may be quite shocked to think of you climbing a tree!) Make a face as you recall the taste of a green apple and how it made you pucker. (They will laugh and remember!) Show them how you used to put those green apples on the end of a green stick and fling them “a mile.”
The Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center provides hooks in the form of physical artifacts. As you share the story about how Great-Grandpa cleared the land with horses you can show them the harness of a work horse and explain how a stump puller enabled the horse to pull out the largest and deepest oak stumps by using pulleys. (Let them learn about mechanical advantage at our hands-on pulley station.)
As with all of us, the years will one day awaken the historical perspective of our (grand)kids. So, don’t let that rich family tapestry you once encouraged them to take hold of pass with you!
Consider creating a memory journal. A spiral notebook will do. Jot down the date, focus on one memory, relax, and write your memory as it comes to you. Close the journal until the next memory comes. Don’t force it, just pick it up every time you think of something you want your (grand)kids to know, date the entry and begin to write again. (You could also speak your memory into a digital recorder.)
Our mission is your history! Publish your family history in the Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center’s Newaygo County History and Biographies, Volume Two.
Each family biography may contain up to 800 words and be accompanied two photos. Five-generation charts are also encouraged. There is no limit on the number of family histories which may be submitted and there is no cost to participate.
Information packets are available on our website at newaygocountyhistory.org under ‘Book Project’ or picked up at the Times-Indicator in Fremont, the White Cloud Community Library, the Hesperia Community Library, or at the Museum and Heritage Center in Newaygo. Deadline is October 31, 2017.
It has been over eleven years since Newaygo County History and Biographies, Volume One was published and the family chronicles contained within its pages become more treasured as the years pass.
The Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center is a community project supported by individual donations, business sponsorships, volunteer time, in-kind donations, the Fremont Area Community Foundation, and the Gerber Foundation.