View Full Version : Zinn-induced anxiety

03-17-2014, 01:12 PM
Ok, so here's my latest homeschool struggle. Orion was supposed to read/write up each chapter of Zinn to supplement our US history to make it at least closer to a reasonable level for a highschooler. But Zinn covers the last 50 years in about 8 chapters - and he takes 2 weeks or more to cover a chapter - whereas we covered the last 50 years in about a month with Hakim. So Orion has 5 chapters left still. Well, he handed in a paper on one chapter friday - it was complete and utter BS. There were almost no facts and at least one of them was blatently wrong (Reagan / Watergate?!).

We have been having trouble with this all along - the negative, horrible things Zinn talks about just make Orion so upset he has trouble getting through the chapters at all. So he often goes upstairs and claims to be reading/taking notes but doesnt really do either.

I really wanted him to finish this book . . . but I'm starting to wonder if its time to give up? It is esp bad today. Because of this awful paper, I told him he has to read the entire chapter again, take notes on paper, and do it downstairs where I can watch. OK, but dh is home from work. I had Orion do 30 minutes and take a break, but he couldnt make it through more than 10 more minutes. So I sat with him to talk to him about what was upsetting him, try to give him some other perspectives, and let him vent his frustration. Well, dh overheard and tried to 'correct' Orion about the value of defense spending. I cut him off and came over to talk with DH, but he totally sabatoged my work of calming Orion down.

Orion only did about another 5 minutes after that before he gave up and had lunch, which is fine. And dh hopefully wont be working from home again this year . . .

But does anyone have any ideas or suggestions or thoughts?

03-17-2014, 01:54 PM
What about some documentaries? America the Story of Us is on Amazon prime.
Or maybe just do the history of something specific for the last 50 years....art, science, civil rights?

03-17-2014, 02:06 PM
You may want to consider doing something else related to the time period. What about the music or of the era and how they relate to the times? (There is some great music go go along with protest, civil rights) Zinn is hard to take. It is hard for adults sometimes. Teri has some good ideas about watching videos on Amazon or Netflix.

Maybe move to a more visual component - have him create a timeline of the past 50 years, placing things in their correct spot. He can include major social/political events, as well as other ones, such as Woodstock and when the Beatles arrived in the U.S. Then have him write about his process of creating the timeline, why he choose particular events, were there ones he left off and why.

03-17-2014, 02:15 PM
We did a LOT of videos about the civil rights movement when we covered it in Hakim. We are finished US history - Raven is doing Geography. When Orion is done this i'm actually planning on doing some 'social skills for autistic young adult' type books. He's currently re-reading the chapter on Carter/Reagan/Bush, so its really quite recent.

We also watched some political videos on netflix over the summer together, and discussed them. Its hard because he's SUCH a bleeding-heart-liberal pacifist, and, idk, the current political climate IS pretty depressing.

and we both have senioritis . . . we're on break the next two weeks after this, and then only 2.5 more months and we call it quits. He's working (slowly) on a term paper which was supposed to be a science topic, but is something about the relationship between science and religion. Its hard to get him to put much effort in to anything, though.

03-17-2014, 03:51 PM
Wellll, would it help for now if he had something that gave him a basic outline of the last 50yr so that (maybe in a few months) later he could delve into the Zinn book with a better understanding? We picked up "The History of the World in Bite-sized Chuncks" (Emma Marriott) a few weeks ago to use with DD. Just something to lay down a foundation before we try to build anything substantial w/detailed information. Would something like that work for him for now, or is he too burned out for reading in general? Time for videos, museums, or a roadtrip?

03-17-2014, 03:59 PM
But we already COVERED this time period using Hakim's History of US. And reading isnt the problem - its Zinn's approach of mud-slinging.

and remember, he turns 18 in a few weeks. he's not a child.

03-17-2014, 04:08 PM
Is there something proactive he could do about the injustices he is reading about? Or get together with other kids who are reading this and discuss it. At 18, I was in my first year of college and we tackled these issues through all nighters with pizza and discussion. It wasn't anything formal but the topics often veered to those of social injustice or historical injustices/tragedies. I am wondering if you could fabricate something similar for your child.

03-17-2014, 04:32 PM
Yeah, i was wondering if I could find other homeschooled teens reading Zinn, but i think its too far-fetched to find. I was also considering having him volunteer w the local democrats, but it doesnt look too friendly - and there are young groups associated w a few schools, but not the one he's going to in the fall.

Then I thought I should just encourage him to volunteer at the animal shelter so cheer him up!

but i gotta get his license lol

03-17-2014, 04:54 PM
he's not a child.

But does HE know that? :)

If it's the Zinn approach, I'd ditch it. Since he's 18-ish, I'd make him research what book works for him. But that's me...I'm a mean momma. ;)

03-17-2014, 04:54 PM
I understand why you might have started using Zinn. Late teens and early twenties is a prime time to read A peoples History. What better age to get filled with righteous indignation. However, if your son is not into it... How about a paper on the accomplishments of the presidents listed (boring). A paper about how things might be different (or not) if the succeeding presidents had followed Carter's energy policy. History of the internet? What led to some of the fiscal laws enacted by Roosevelt, and how disabling those laws helped lead to our current economic troubles. I think the internet and Arab Spring might be the most positive recent events. Yes Arab Spring is a downer as well.

Are you looking for a book that sums up recent History. Is there a good one out there?

03-17-2014, 04:56 PM
So true, murph's mom

03-17-2014, 05:33 PM
But we already COVERED this time period using Hakim's History of US. And reading isnt the problem - its Zinn's approach of mud-slinging.

and remember, he turns 18 in a few weeks. he's not a child.

I couldn't handle Zinn when I was in college (and I attended the college where he taught, so I really wanted to read it). It was just too gory and awful. I was (and am) supportive of the premise of the book, but I felt the "shock value" was overwhelming the actual ideas.

So I sympathize with Orion and don't think you should force him to read it if it upsets him.

Maybe find a used high school American history textbook to cover the basic facts, plus biographies and PBS' "American Experience" for more depth.

03-17-2014, 05:44 PM
I just feel like we arent doing enough . . . so i feel bad dropping things. Maybe there's a modern history 6-week MOOC he could do? IDK

03-17-2014, 06:32 PM
Hey Dbmamaz - totally get your frustration at maybe having to ditch an assignment. But it looks like you might have to.
FWIW - anybody exposed to high-emotion material like Zinn's history can have a hard time writing well about it. I sat with a college sophomore in a grad/undergrad seminar about Central America - Revolutions and Counterrevolutions. She was so overwhelmed by the basic history (genocide, torture, disappearances, civil wars) and learning for the first time about US involvement in it all that she declared one week she'd have to take a zero b/c she couldn't write her response paper. She was in tears in the (thankfully small, supportive) class. She pulled thru. Professor gave her more time.

It doesn't sound like the problem is his learning of the hx material - rather it's his understandable emotions over the content that are getting in the way of rational, logical, clear, responsive writing.

So it seems like what you really want is a college prep (?) level writing assignment - and this hx was your plan for that for right now. I'd change the assignment so that it doesn't use Zinn - you need some other complex writing task pegged to history - or maybe something else? (I'm no help there! Sorry!).

The Zinn won't be a waste. You two can talk through it (maybe without dh around?). Consider the Zinn prep for life - not writing or high school/college. Goodness knows you're doing him right by exposing him to this!

03-17-2014, 06:53 PM
Actually, he has made it through almost the entire book. Some chapters are harder than others. And if I MAKE him take notes, he writes a lovely summary. If he fakes the notes, he writes crap. He's actually writing really well right now.

Honestly, I think I'll try to read the remaining chapters (yeah, I did read the first half but i got overwhelmed and stopped) and see how bad they are. I get a bit confused how much is the emotional aspect and how much is just . . . teen who takes no responsibility for his own education? I mean, he actually LIKES being able to argue politics and history with people. So I think part of him actually is glad to know - its just his anxiety makes it hard for him to get through the chapters sometimes. I let him do nothing but this and he got more than halfway through this chapter (which was 38 pages). Dad's attitude (and my PMS) might have made me over-react . . .

yeah, still working on this lol

03-17-2014, 07:00 PM
The next two chapters are pretty positive - strikes and campus activity in the 80s, and his 'hope for the future.' Then the Clintons and then the Bush election and 'war on terror' - its a 15 yo edition. I'll talk to him and see if he thinks he can finish it, talk about the pros and cons, and figure something out. We are going on break for 2 weeks at the end of this week, too.

03-17-2014, 07:14 PM
Can you replace it with something that's less of a slog to get through right now? Recent history is important, but if you covered the basics, then why not pick a single topic or two for him to explore and do it through articles. You could easily ditch the Zinn in favor of a few good, meaty articles. Like, if you're up to the 80's, you could do Apartheid and the divestiture movement - which has had a huge impact on recent political action and there were just a bunch of good articles about the history of it. Or you could do a central big question, like, are we safer now than we were before 9/11 or is the country actually politically more polarized or something that along those lines. Or you could just read a good political biography - there's so many good modern ones.

If you just did Watergate, did you watch All the President's Men?

03-17-2014, 07:26 PM
I never watched that . .. i'm not sure he'd like it? We'll see . . he likes some political films, but sometimes dramatizations fall really flat here. I could not get the kids to sit through Lincoln, and honestly, we didnt like it much either.

03-17-2014, 08:00 PM
It's a great movie just in terms of the acting and the filming. The pacing might be slow for some audiences today I guess. It's definitely not House of Cards, you know? It's too straight a retelling.

03-17-2014, 08:37 PM
actually, netflix top rated political documentaries are all different than they were last summer - maybe he and I will watch a bunch of those - that went pretty well last summer

03-18-2014, 05:08 AM
Some people are very sensitive and some are not. Is there a chance he's more sensitive to emotional material than you are? If so, I would err on the side of respecting his feelings and find a different way to continue learning.

Good luck!