History As Story
The reason St. Jerome focuses on history and has adopted the historically based curriculum of the St. Jerome Educational Plan (of Hyattsville, MD) is because of our shared view of history.
What is this view? We see history as a story.
As stated in the Educational Plan, “the curriculum presents history as a coherent story propelled by the human desire for God and God’s coming to meet, inflame and satisfy that desire in Christ.”1
The Educational Plan expands on this principle beautifully:
“Understanding the human person as a creature and seeing all of history and all cultures as expressions of the human desire for God and as lived answers to ultimate human questions, students should learn to appreciate the great cultures of history on their own terms, seeking to understand them as they understood themselves and resisting the prejudice that equates the newest with the best…. However, they should understand history neither as a story of constant progress culminating in the present, nor as a series of disconnected events lying side by side in time, but as the story of the world’s anticipation of and longing for the truth and happiness revealed in Christ and the events his incarnation sets in motion.”2
If we see history as a story fulfilled in Christ, then it only makes sense that our Catholic school would give history a central place in the curriculum.
But we should also add that history presented as a story also means that the study of history is interesting. After all, stories are much more interesting than disconnected facts. Who doesn’t like a good story?
Susan Wise Bauer captures this benefit of history as story especially well in her book, The Well-Trained Mind. She explains,
“The logical way to tell a story is to begin (as the King said to Alice) at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end. Any story makes less sense when learned in bits and pieces. If you were to tell your five-year-old the story of ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ beginning with the house made of candy and cookies (because that’s likely to be the most interesting part of the story to the five-year-old), then backing up and telling about the woodchopper’s unfortunate second marriage, then skipping to the witch’s demise, the story isn’t going to make a coherent whole in the child’s mind….The study of history is no different.”3
When we see history as story, we naturally focus on explaining history chronologically and from beginning to end while focusing on its central themes. When we do so, history is as engrossing as one of Grimms’ fairy tales, told rightly.
At St. Jerome School, we capture the interest and importance of history by keeping sight of history as story. In addition to our historically based curriculum, the our hallway timeline is a testament to this idea—this timeline, beginning at the school’s entrance, starts with creation and is punctuated with the incarnation and includes major events and figures of human civilization. Students literally walk through a chronology of history as they walk to class each day so they may begin each day with the sense of history as story.
One segment of our hallway timeline.
In this way and others, history as story is boldly woven into our own story at St. Jerome. Please do stop by sometime and listen as we tell it. And stay tuned for next week’s post which will explore how we bring history to life through embodied learning.
1. The Educational Plan of St. Jerome Classical School, Published 2010, Page 9. Emphasis added.
2. The Educational Plan of St. Jerome Classical School, Published 2010, Page 10. Original emphasis.
3. Bauer, Susan Wise and Jessie Wise. The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, 4th ed. (New York: Books and Sheep, Inc., 2016), 136.
Timeline images in hallway are from Homeschool In The Woods Publishing and used with permission.