Thanksgiving Assignment: Family Interviews

By Megan Power on November 22, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

 History is . . .  

The story of people.
The story of their struggles.
The story of their triumphs.
The story of their defeats.
It’s the story of their lives.
History = His Story

 

Family Interviews: Uncovering Hidden Stories

I can remember dreading social studies as a young student. To me it meant reading in textbooks about events and wars, and memorizing dates. It wasn’t real, and it wasn’t personal.

It wasn’t until one Thanksgiving in college that my feelings about history changed, drastically. One of my professors gave us an assignment to interview a grandparent. We had to find out their hidden stories and learn what life was like during their younger years. I still to this day find it hard to believe that my grandparents lived two houses away from me almost my entire childhood, and yet I never knew the amazing stories of their lives until that Thanksgiving Day.

Because of this memorable experience, I have given this same assignment to my own students ever since my first year of teaching, and every year I get positive results and amazing stories: Stories of times long ago. Stories about difficulties and successes. Stories about life.

So as you send your students off to the Thanksgiving holiday break this year, assign or encourage them to talk with their grandparents or older relatives and learn their hidden stories. Follow your own assignment as well. If there is one thing I have learned about history, it's that it is real and it is personal, and that if people had not shared their stories with others, we would not know them. The stories would die right along with the people. Just think of how many stories were never shared, that we will never know.

My Grandparents’ Story

It was 1956 and my grandparents, with my uncle (age 6) and my mom (age 5) were living in communist Hungary. One day my grandparents were visiting my great-grandparents in Budapest when they got word that the communist government was looking for my grandfather. Knowing this, they could not risk going back to their home. They had to flee. So they bundled their kids up and left my great-grandparents' house with whatever money and supplies they had and could carry. My great-grandfather set them up with a person that helped Hungarians flee the country undetected for a fee. My grandparents paid all the money they had to be led to the border, and the man pointed them in the correct direction.

My grandmother recollects what seemed like days of walking in the tall grass in the pouring rain with two young children. She remembers starting to hear voices, and my grandfather stopping the family, motioning them to stay quiet and hidden. It was then that he realized that the man had pointed them in the direction of a communist soldier camp. Right away, my grandparents had to pick a direction. My grandmother vividly remembers the feeling of complete unknowing and confusion. They couldn’t go back or forward for fear of arrest. They had to just pick another direction and pray it would lead them to safety. Again, my grandmother tells of the heavy rain, which she describes as the heaviest rain she ever experienced in her life.

After much more walking, my grandparents came to a village. Relieved at finding the village and in desperate need of food and help, my grandparents were prepared to knock on the first door they came to. But my grandmother had an overwhelmingly negative feeling about the first house and begged my grandfather to skip it.

They came to the second house and knocked on the door. It opened and the two men inside quickly pulled them into their house. Afraid and exhausted, my grandparents answered their questions. But mainly the men wanted to make sure that my grandparents did not go to the first house.

It turned out that this was another communist soldier camp. Amazingly, the people in this second house were soldiers that were secretly helping Hungarians escape to the border. They explained that their fellow soldiers would have quickly turned them in. Shortly after, the two men left my grandparents to rest and eat while they went to work.

My grandmother shared with me the feeling of not knowing what was to happen and wondering if she could trust these men. A few hours later, the men returned and quickly hustled my grandparents, my mom, and my uncle out of the house. It was “shift change” at the border, the most opportune time to sneak across. My grandmother shares how one of the soldiers carried my mom, handed her across the border to my grandparents, and shook their hands.

They were safe, and they were now free.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Their journey to America was not a smooth one, and they had many other hardships even when they arrived here. I am so thankful for all of their struggles and for having the opportunity to know this small piece of history.

What are your family stories? If you have given this assignment to your students, what interesting stories have they found out? Please share these and any other resources you have for family history projects.

And if you haven't given this assignment, but want to, here are some interview questions to help you and your students get started.

Comments

DAL Props
http://www.dalprops.com/
We sell indestructible propellers for a QAV250 ZMR250 and other mini quadcopters which are becoming VERY Popular.

Work-place harassment
http://www.contemporaneousnotes.com
Contemporaneous Notes are essential whenever you believe that you may have to attend court to present the information within your notes. This includes situations such as work-place harassement, dealing with a problem employee, fighting eviction notices, evicting bad tenants and taking notes at work as a police officer, nurse, doctor or other professional.

christmas card ideas for schools

http://www.xmas4schools.co.uk

Welcome to Xmas 4 Schools, the home of beautiful Christmas cards created from children's original artwork! As well as giving pupils and parents something to smile about, these Christmas cards are also a fantastic fundraising idea for schools and nurseries everywhere.

How to clean mouth guard

http://www.cleanguard.net/

CleanGuard was formulated with your night guard - not dentures - in mind.

cat sitter in Queens
http://www.gothamcitycatcare.com/
Your cat is special and we understand just how much you want your cat to feel safe and pampered in their own home, even if you can't be there. We have experienced cat sitters that know how to take care of all of your feline friend's needs. Just ask Tennyson, that friendly guy pictured above!

real estate sales
http://suitemedellin.com/
Real estate, furnished rental apartments.

I have visited your site every day I should say you did a great job in every post you shared. Many of us were looking forward for it. I am hoping you would post more. Volver con ella funciona

Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely

Delhi properties agent

Working in Canada
http://www.jobficient.com
www.jobficient.com help you reach out to thousands of verified recruitment professionals in your area. Give it a try and you will be amazed at how much time you can save on your job search process.

product design studio

http://www.pqdesign.com/

Pq design product design studio is full of 12 years of experience, more than 100 successful projects for international brand and market. In designing innovative products we optimize benefits, materials, price, packaging, communication and marketing.

sign board companies in dubai

http://www.adventrix.ae/

Adventrix, signage company in dubai provides digital signage, signage solutions, vehicle graphics, kiosk solutions, led lightbox, wayfinding, and a variety of other signage solutions

sign board companies in dubai

http://www.adventrix.ae/

Adventrix, signage company in dubai provides digital signage, signage solutions, vehicle graphics, kiosk solutions, led lightbox, wayfinding, and a variety of other signage solutions

Guitar Shop Dubai

http://musicchamber.net/

For Guitar Piano Strings and Music instruments in Dubai The Music Chamber is a one stop shop, get complete music accessories and musical instrument training school for all. Avail Music classes, Guitar teacher violin lessons in Dubai.

knee length dress

http://kennaswims.com
An online apparel boutique for women. Currently we are selling only swimwear but we will be adding other apparels soon. We specialize in swimwear styles that are more modest, especially by covering the back and shoulder area.

design studio
http://www.pqdesign.com/
Pq design studio is product design company based on Rome and Shanghai with special industrial design studio. We are specialized in various industrial product.

I am genuinely thankful to the holder of this web page who has shared this wonderful paragraph at at this place E learning for kids

Great info! I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have. bipolar symptom

We keep up with the latest techniques of building and have qualified tradesmen to ensure that your job/project is carried out safely.
love quotes

We keep up with the latest techniques of building and have qualified tradesmen to ensure that your job/project is carried out safely. incontinence supplies

Post a Comment
(Please sign in to leave a comment. Privacy Policy)
top
RSS Subscribe ButtonSign up to get these great teaching ideas delivered automatically.Subscribe now >