History is a perfect subject to help take school from something your child has to do every day, to showing him the delights of learning. Because it is a subject based on stories, it is a easy subject to help bring fun to learning and schoolwork.
- Read great books. Don’t just settle for any work based on history, aim for quality. Read wonderful biographies, beautiful picture books, and well written historical fiction. A wonderful story brings characters and settings to life. A well-written history book should do that as well. our family loves books like the “choose your own adventure” type book, or the beautifully illustrated stories by the D’Aulaire’s. We love well written biographies, and classics like Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are so many wonderful choices!
- Study people who intrigue your child. Encourage your child to learn more about a character who interests them, even if it does not follow your school schedule. My oldest has fallen in love with the stories about Florence Nightingale. She will read any book about her she can find. Although for school time I have assigned history reading that helps her learn history chronologically, I also encourage her to pursue people that interest her to help make history even more exciting.
- Allow them to pursue aspects of history that excite them most. Does your child get super excited about fashion or machinery? Help him look at the history of those things while they study events and places. Boys often get excited about history when they reach the battles or weapons of each time period. Looking at history through a specific lens can help students develop a deep love of learning. That love will naturally lead to learning other subjects, like science, engineering, or math. All this leads from being drawn into a true story.
- Combine your history study with geography. Understanding where things happen, and how the geography plays a part helps bring to life the time period you are studying. I have learned about the battle of Gettysburg for most of my life, but when I went there and got to see the actual lay of the land, so many details that I had learned made so much more sense to me. Which leads to number 5….
- Visit historical places. I think every homeschool parent knows the value of field trips. But I think that we can make it more complicated than it needs to be. Kids learn so much just from a simple field trip. Last year at our county fair, we watched a local blacksmith work with metal. This was a wonderful teaching moment to talk about colonial life. When we visit a farm, we talk to them about how people used to grow their food for hundreds of years. National Parks have a wonderful Junior Rangers program that you can sign up for at the welcome desk that gives your kids questions to answer and things to look for. This helps them learn more from the displays at a national park. If you think creatively, you will be amazed at what you can come up with for good field trips!
- Watch documentaries or historically based movies. For the older students, there are so many high quality documentaries that expand the things they have read. A well done movie set in a particular time period (think a movie like Pride and Prejudice), typically hires a historian to make sure the setting and costumes are accurate to the time period. Ask your kids about what they notice. For younger kids, cartoon stories like Liberty Kids can teach them a lot about a time period. In addition to a well told story, movie time is usually a treat and a great option on a sick day!
- Reenact scenes from history. Kids love pretend play. They love to inject themselves into a story and act out the characters. The fun of telling the story forces the students to think about what they are reenacting. They will notice details or ask different questions than they will when they are just reading from a book. For an older student, have them write a play or fiction story based in that time period. Using different learning styles helps implant those stories in their heads.
- Make crafts that show different parts of life from history. Some of our favorite crafts have shown the differences between the time period we are studying and modern day. To ensure we actually do them, another mom and I get together once a week to do a co-op. One week, the kids made a model of the Nile river and then flooded it to show how crops would grow. Another time, they made quill pens and the kids had to try to write with them using ink. They discovered how difficult it was to write with a feather and not smudge the paper! Another time, the kids “panned for gold” in a large tub of water to show what the Gold Rush of California really meant. Sometimes the activities don’t work though. One week we made hard tack to show how tasteless the food was for the Civil War soldiers…The kids loved it and requested it for a snack!
Helping your kids love to learn is about finding that thing that will spark their interest. When they have that interest it is so exciting to see them pursue learning on their own! I personally love Tapestry of Grace because it weaves all these elements together. If you want to see how Tapestry of Grace works, see our samples here.