phillip campbell and irish history book

Why Learn Irish History?

One great thing about homeschooling is the flexibility it offers. You aren’t bound by the standard curriculum of institutional schools. In fact, you have a lot more liberty to craft your own courses tailored to the needs and interests of your children. In history, this means you don’t have to stick to the standard Western civilization or U.S. history fare for four years. You can explore specific countries and historical periods in depth. Alternatively, approach history from unique perspectives often absent in traditional schools.

Today, we’ll explore learning options about Ireland’s history. This region has significantly influenced the United States and the Catholic Church.

Why is Ireland Important?

If you are an American, the influence of the Irish on my own country is immense. From sea to shining sea, this vast country is filled with Murphys, Kellys, Sullivans, and scores of other Irish surnames. There are millions of Irish Americans whose ancestors landed on our shores during the great Irish migration of the mid-19th century. Notably, Irish Americans are the second largest ethnicity in the U.S. after Germans, with around 30.5 million people. In a very real sense, the United States is a nation of transplanted Irishmen, a reality reflected in a thousand different ways across our history, geography, and social institutions. Thus, learning about Ireland is learning about one of the constitutive cultures of the American tapestry.

However, One can step back further and consider Ireland’s place in the vast drama of Western civilization. Here Ireland’s influence becomes even more unfathomable. It is only because of the patient labor of the Irish monastic scribes of the early Middle Ages that much of our Western heritage has even survived to this day. Following the Roman Empire’s collapse, the first medieval literary renaissance happened among the Irish between the 6th and 8th centuries. Irish monks—recently brought to Christianity with hearts blazing with the zeal of converts—fanned out across Europe, founding monasteries where the light of civilization was kept burning. Consequently, Ancient Greek and Roman texts survive today because Irish monks meticulously copied them in their monasteries. Therefore, the West owes the Irish a considerable debt of gratitude for the very survival of its heritage.

Moreover, Ireland also deserves special consideration from a Catholic perspective. Indeed, Catholicism and Ireland have been so closely associated that the words “Irish Catholic” roll off the tongue with naturalness and ease. The Irish Church has produced so many saints that it is challenging even for enthusiasts to keep track of them all. One can scarcely travel a kilometer across the Irish countryside without encountering some sacred well or ruin associated with an old Celtic saint. Ireland’s distinctive spirituality, both Celtic and Christian, continues to captivate the world. Additionally, the Irish contributed priceless artistic treasures to Christianity, including the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Book of Kells, and the Cross of Cong.  The bold witness of Irish Catholics during centuries of bitter persecution continues to inspire Catholics worldwide.

Irish History at Homeschool Connections

Homeschool Connections has a variety of options for learning about the history of Ireland.

First, Jackie de Laveaga has a middle school literature course on Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal.  This course takes an engaging history-through-literature approach. It introduces students to the drama of Irish history through Robert Reilly’s classic youth novel, Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal.  Students meet Red Hugh, a real 16th-century Irish heir who is kidnapped by English forces. Red Hugh eventually escapes and joins freedom-fighting forces to battle for Ireland’s freedom. The course explores the characteristics of a great hero while teaching students about Ireland’s history, focusing on the period of the Reformation.

You may also want to consider Debbie Gaudino’s Life Lessons from St. Patrick and the Saints of Ireland. This is a middle school course focusing on the moral and spiritual lessons we can learn from St. Patrick and other Irish saints. The six-week course is a fantastic introduction to the life and spirituality of the Irish and how it can be applied to our own times and circumstances.

Catholic Irish History Text

If you are looking for something more substantial, I have a text called The Saga of Ireland that offers a comprehensive history of Ireland from ancient times to today. It has 35 chapters with maps and illustrations, so it is more than sufficient to act as a spine for an entire semester. If you prefer to move at a more leisurely pace, you could use this text as a spine over a full school year. I also have a student workbook available available. You can build on the text with quizzes for each chapter and essay assignments for each unit. There are ten writing assignments in all. The workbook includes the answer key for quizzes and essays. You can easily combine this text with Debbie’s and Jackie’s courses for a fully comprehensive study of Irish history.

Incidentally, in the not-too-distant future, I hope to put together a Homeschool Connections course structured around this text, so keep your eye out for that!

If you’d like to learn more about Homeschool Connections history options that go beyond basic Western Civ and U.S. History courses, check out some of the following:

Middle School

High School

How do you teach history in your homeschool? What fun, out-of-the-box ideas do you have? To continue the discussion, join me and other homeschooling parents at our Homeschool Connections Community or our Facebook group!

Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

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