Choices in History

All of the historical events we study are the results of choices. We are shaped by the choices made by our leaders, by the people, and by individuals. When talking with our children, we can look at history through this lens of choice and discuss who made influential decisions, why they made them, and what we might have done differently.

When studying a decision or an event in history, discuss the choices made with your child. First, of course, point out that it is easy to make good decisions after the event and the fallout have been recognized and recorded. It is much harder to know what decision to make when you don’t know what will happen in the future.

First, learn about one side of a conflict or event. Research it thoroughly.

Second, reflect on that conflict or event and articulate your own point of view about what happened and why.

Third, take a position. What would you have done? What choice would you have made?

Fourth, defend that decision with specific facts (lucky for you, you can use facts about the results of the decision since you are looking backwards).

Fifth, discuss and defend your choice with a parent, a friend, or someone who has direct knowledge of that time period.

Finally, listen to the reaction and response of the person you shared your choice with. Does that change your mind? Why or why not?


This is a great exercise for critical thinking and to realize the impact and the importance of choices. We use this system to make daily decisions, but applying this matrix to history helps us see the impact of the choices that are made every day.


Critical Thinking Vacation Questions


Are you going on vacation with kids this summer? Do you want to teach critical thinking skills while seeing the sights? You don’t have to take lots of workbooks and quiz questions with you on vacation. Teach your kids to look, listen, feel, and think while traveling. Think about how what you see dictated how people lived in the past and how people live today. Looking at the environment, you can quickly figure out that people in the desert didn’t live in wooden houses and people in Massachusetts didn’t live in adobe homes. People in the middle of the country didn’t eat fish while people in the desert didn’t grow rice. Talk about environment and how it affects the past and present and talk about how it will affect our future.

Here are five questions to get you started. Use them with every new site you visit.

  1. How did the environment (climate, land formations, available materials) influence the types of houses that people here had or have?
  2. How did the environment impact what people ate in the past? Present?
  3. How did the environment impact the clothes people wore?
  4. What would people who lived here a long time ago probably eat? Why? How is that different from today? Why?
  5. Why would people have chosen to live here in the past? Today? What are the positives and negatives?