Homeschool Tidbits: Five Tips to Make History Come Alive!

September 16, 2022

Welcome to Build Your Library’s Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 30 – Five Tips to Make History Come Alive! In this weekly video series, I will delve briefly into a topic related to homeschooling and will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated high school and one who is a new college graduate!

When I was younger, I was always a history nerd and loved learning about what the world was like in different time periods. As an adult, I still do! It makes me sad when I hear parents lamenting that they hated history in school and now dread having to teach it to their own children. Or that their children already find learning history boring or pointless.

History can, in fact, be fascinating! What is history, but the story of humanity? So today I’m sharing some tried and true tips to make history something both you and your child become passionate about!

Tip #1: Start with a Field Trip

This is a simple activity you can do that can go a long way towards getting your children interested in a historic period. First, see what options you have locally. Not everyone can be lucky enough to live within an hour of famous historical landmarks like Colonial Williamsburg or the Alamo! But, maybe there is a living history museum nearby. Or perhaps you can find another historical site that you can visit within a reasonable travel distance.

Besides places local to your home, think about any regular vacation spots your family frequents. Next time check if there is a historical location near there that you could plan on spending a day at while you are out that way for a week. 6 days at the beach and one day at a colonial reenactment village would be a pretty interesting trip! Even going to a Renaissance Fair or Shakespeare in the Park could be a great educational outing, masquerading as something just for fun.

Seeing history right in front of you brings it to life in a way that a book just can’t. Before you go, talk a little bit about what they should look for or why it is significant. Then just enjoy the journey with them!

Tip #2: Read Historical Fiction

Of course, I’m going to recommend books. Reading great historical fiction can bring a time period to life! It’s one thing to know that there was an event called The Boston Tea Party in the 1700s but reading a book like Johnny Tremain will put you right smack in the middle of it. Now you have a mental peg to really hold that information in your mind! Maybe your child would want to know what it was like to be African American during the American Revolution. Read the Seeds of America Trilogy starting with Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson or if you have a teen, Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill.

Historical Fiction is such a great way to put yourself into a historical period. A well-researched living book can show you what life was like for ordinary people. What kind of foods people at that time ate, what kind of clothes they wore, their worldview, and so much more. It is almost like time traveling. Need more recommendations for great historical fiction, categorized and sorted by time period? Check out History Book by Book!

Tip #3: Watch Movies and Documentaries

Much like historical fiction books, historical movies can also be a great way to get your child interested in a time period you are studying. There are some truly fantastic movies, but depending on the age of your child, you might want to preview them first to ensure it is appropriate for them.

I love a good historical film or documentary. It can really put you into a time period, “visually”. One downside is many historical movies can be full of inaccuracies. At times they may take “creative liberties” to try to make stories even more interesting, or they simply make time period mistakes. But even so, if you want your child to remember a historical event or figure, a movie is a great way to do that. And if it’s inaccurate? Find out what they got wrong together! This can be a fun research deep dive that leads you to learn more about that period!

Just seeing on screen what life was like, or what cities looked like 100, 200 or 1000 years ago really makes history click. Walking the streets of Ancient Rome, Renaissance England, or Gilded Age New York City was so vastly and dramatically different from walking around your hometown today, in every way imaginable!

Tip #4: Look at History Through a Different Lens

Is your child bored with the typical scope and sequence of studying history? Try something different! Maybe your child is a budding scientist – study the history of science! Do they love to cook? Study the history of cooking! Is your child a dancer or musician? You get the idea.

Learn about the history behind their interest and watch them suddenly become passionate historians! This can take you down so many fascinating rabbit trails. You can study the history of video games and gaming, art history, film history, and even the history of technology like computers and smartphones!

Tip #5: Keep a Historic Timeline

I’ve talked about this before, but using a timeline is a great way to help your child really SEE the scope of history. It’s easy to think that America has been around forever. But there are civilizations and cultures that have been around for thousands and thousands of years! The US is barely a blip! A timeline can give them a different perspective. If you use a notebook to keep your timeline (like our Book of Centuries, for example) it can be like creating your own history text filled with things you’ve learned. What a great way to develop a sense of time and history!

Bonus Tip: Let Your Child Take the Lead

Sometimes all our kids need is a sense of power over their learning. If you are trying to study Ancient Egypt, but they are obsessed with Six the Musical, change up what you are studying to match their interest! Read about Henry VIII and his wives, and learn about what happened after his death and his three children, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I. Maybe your child has been keeping up with current events and wants to learn more about elections. Study government and politics! Following their interests can make studying anything suddenly more interesting.

Learning history never has to be dull and dry. Ditch the boring textbooks and try some of these tips instead and watch your child become a budding historian!

Coming up next…

I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!

Until then, happy reading!

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Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 18 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

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Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history?

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