Depth versus breadth

Many elementary curriculum options explore topics briefly giving children an introduction to the subject matter.  This breadth method presents the child with a wealth of information covered over the school year.  An example of this would be to cover ancient history through renaissance period history all in the same school year.  Depth focuses on one specific area so the child is given a wealth of information all about the same topic.  While the depth method does not give the child a wide overview, it provides in depth information related to the one topic.  Which way is better?  First you have to consider your child.  Some children do better with the breadth method, but I believe most children would benefit from the depth method.  Why?  When you stay focused and go in depth on a single topic it will stick.  Your child is much more likely to remember it years later.  And learning is the purpose here, right?

We go in depth in history and geography.  We take our time learning about a country and a period of history.  We may spend 6-8 weeks learning about one country.  During one school year we covered Italy and Ukraine.  We didn’t just learn the basics.  We visited a Ukrainian festival, watched Ukrainian dancing, explored what the Ukrainian language sounded like, dressed up in costumes, etc.  For history we covered ancient history from the Biblical period of the fall of man to the flood.  We went in depth looking at what was written about the families of Adam and Eve and Cain.  We went in depth looking at people who lived in caves.  We then looked in depth and explored myths and legends of the ancient world.  We also go in depth for Bible and science.

Occasionally my kids will mention things from our previous studies of history and geography so I know this method is working.  One day, my young son wrote this on his blog:

O canda or home and savrit land tro pachi luve all ar suns kmand with glowin hors we see the ris tru and stron or free o canda o canda we stand on god for te

If you don’t recognize this it is the song O Canada. My son had just turned 5 years old when we learned this song as part of our unit study on Canada. It stuck.   He liked Canada and wanted to express it on his blog.

I want things to stick.  I want them to remember what we spent our time learning.  So instead of throwing all the colors of the rainbow at them I’ll just throw blue for awhile.  We’ll stop and play with the blue balls for awhile.  I’ll watch my kids put the blue balls in their pockets.  When we have had our full of blue balls we will go onto another color.  It works for us.

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