Susan Badeau

There are only two lasting gifts we can give our children - one is roots, the other is wings


Don't Know Much About History

Posted by Sue Badeau on February 28, 2013 at 5:40 PM

“Don't Know Much About History”

While this is the opening lyric of a popular Sam Cooke song in the 1950’s, today it is also descriptive of the sad truth that American school children know very little of our own nation’s history. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, our children are less proficient in U.S. History than in any other subject. ( )

I know that when I was a student, history was my least favorite subject. It seemed dry, dull and boring. Yet, when I got to college, I became fascinated with history and had a great desire to learn more about the histories of people that never showed up in our high school text books – women’s history, Native American history, Black history, and more. I even wrote a paper digging deeper into the rich political history of my small hometown of Barre, Vermont.

And then, when my husband and I first became parents, we started taking road trips with our children and history truly came to life. I’ll never forget the experience of participating in the interactive displays at the Cherokee Trail of Tears Commemorative Park, or walking in the actual ruts created by wagons of families traveling west on the Oregon Trail.

Now history is my favorite subject, and historical fiction one of my favorite genres. Its great to learn the dates, names of heroes and other facts from historical periods, but even more, I love to learn about the everyday lives of everyday people, whether paupers or kings, slaves or free, powerful or powerless.

As February draws to a close, I realize how much I love all of the opportunities this month provides to reflect on, learn from and steep ourselves in history. There are the President’s day celebrations that remind us of the history of our nation. There is Black History month, which underscores the value of learning about and celebrating culture and the history of a people. There’s both Lent and Purim, holidays which remind us to learn the history of our faith.

For children who grow up in foster care, or who are adopted, they often do not have the opportunity to know their own history. If it is shared with them at all, it is often a jumble of fragments that don’t seem to fit together. Imagine dumping the pieces from three of four or seventeen or more jigsaw puzzles onto together into a giant bag, shaking it up and then dumping about half of the pieces onto the floor. You’d be hard pressed to find enough pieces that go together to create a puzzle with any meaning or beauty.

Everyone needs an opportunity to know their own history – the good, the bad and the ugly. It helps us to be grounded, rooted, secure. This is a concept as hold as time. I Corinthians 10, a Bible chapter all about learning from one’s history begins with these prescient words, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren . . . . “

Helping children to put the pieces of a fractured past together into a meaningful whole is one of the great challenges and opportunities of working with children who have been adopted or who are still in foster or kinship care.

My husband and I just finished writing our own history. The book, “Are We There Yet?” will come out this fall (stay tuned for more information about it in the weeks ahead). After we sent the manuscript off to the publisher, we jokingly wondered aloud to each other whether anyone besides our own family members will be interested in reading it. In that moment we realized that if the answer is “No,” its still OK. Writing down the history of our family for our own children and grandchildren is important work in and of itself.

Whether you seek to become published or not, why not write your history down, so you can share it with your children and grandchildren? You can start it with “For I do not want you to be unaware, my children . . . . “ And if you know a child in foster care, or an adopted child, who needs to understand their own history better, join them in the process. Help them put the puzzle together.

For resources and more information on this process, check out these websites:

Categories: Building Bridges of Hope

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Reply Brenda Nixon
3:13 PM on March 2, 2013 
Enjoyed the post but, the title now has that song in my head. I also don't know much about biology. LOL
Reply Sue Badeau
4:06 PM on March 2, 2013 
That's funny Brenda - I got it stuck in my head that day too! And PS - thanks for stopping by!
Reply Vonda Skelton
12:49 PM on March 4, 2013 
Family storytelling is a way of keeping alive as well. Back when I was a child, we cousins would sit on the front porch swing and listen to stories from our grandparents of things they did, funny stories of getting in trouble, and how things were different back then.

But now the porch swing is gone and grandma lives on the East coast while the grandkids are scattered across the country.

So writing down those histories are more important than ever. That's one reason I wrote my Bitsy Mystery Series, so I could keep some of the family stories alive through a fictional character. :-)
Reply Sue Badeau
8:11 AM on March 5, 2013 
Such good reminders, Vonda - the world is smaller than ever and yet our families are more spread out and mobile than ever. Makes the written version of the "porch swing" so much more important!
Reply Pat McGuire
2:11 PM on March 7, 2013 
I totally agree with this. When I was school I would come home with a B in history. My father told me that I could do better than that to which I replied "But that is as interested in it as I can get."

Now I am searching out the history on many issues that I am involved with dealing with developmentally and behaviorally challenged children. I realize that we have to understand the past in order to make realistic changes for the future.
Reply Sue Badeau
3:06 PM on March 7, 2013 
Hi Pat - thanks for stopping by! I so agree with your point -advocacy cannot be very effective without a good grip on what has come before. So glad you are doing the work in the trenches, friend!