How to discuss difficult histories

As a teaching assistant at the kids’ school, I get to help loads of children learn about the beauty of past civilisations. Like in our “Look at Ancient Life” module, where the class were shown images of ancient sculptures and (once they got over giggling at the nudes!) asked really insightful questions.


However, as with every society, there are aspects which aren’t as easy to introduce to a child. At these points, it’s important to be honest but wary. For example, next week we’re discussing social hierarchies in Ancient Greek society with a class of 11-year-olds. One topic is ‘Slavery’, and teaching the kids’ about an upsetting part of ancient life. We’ll make use of good stories – the freedmen who formed beneficial relationships with their ex-masters and were able to lead successful lives, like Cif Amotan and Aulus Tigrinius. There are also resources out there which are designed to tackle these difficult issues in an educational way, like Alexandra Hanson-Harding‘s book ‘Ancient Rome’.

I think it’s super important to acknowledge the darker parts of our history to our children, to encourage them to ask questions and help them see how far we’ve come today. Leave your tips and experiences in the comment section! LH x



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