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Teaching History to Hands-On Learners

All three of our children are hands-on learners. They also have short attention spans. It seems like it wouldn’t be a good combination for teaching history. Am I the only one that thought history was boring when I was young? Based on my impression, that is what I thought teaching history would be like as well – reading long text and hoping they actually absorb some of it. I’m glad to say I was wrong!

Teaching History to Hands-on Learners

Don’t limit yourself to text books when it comes to history because history is all around us! Hands-on learners don’t have to be limited to listening to or reading text and answering questions. History can (and I venture to say should) be hands-on! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Arts and Crafts

The great thing about homeschooling is that we don’t have to limit ourselves to always keeping subjects separate. We love combining them! Arts and Crafts are a great way to make history “come to life!” Projects can be as simple as drawing a picture related to what you are learning to crafts related to that event or time frame.

Are they learning about Native Americans? Build a teepee! This can be done on a small scale with popsicle sticks and construction paper or on a larger scale with long sticks and sheets! Gathering the materials can be part of the fun!

Learning about Christopher Columbus? Build boats or make a paper mache Earth to depict the discovery that Earth is round.

Teaching Biblical History? Make scrolls, bake bread with and without yeast, create pottery, make tablets with the 10 Commandments. The possibilities are endless really!

Hands-On History - Pottery

Acting and Costumes

Who doesn’t love to dress up? Older kids even like to dress up once in a while! Dressing up and acting out scenes in history can instill an appreciation and really make it “real” to hands-on learners. Hands-on learners really need physical interaction to make lessons “stick,” and what better way to learn about history than putting yourself into someone else’s shoes – literally!

You don’t have to buy expensive costumes or props. Simply make the most of what you have around the home. Letting your children come up with the props and clothing is a great way to really get them to see and take in the difference between what they wore then versus what we wear now as they try to adapt their clothing and materials to look like those of that time.

Historical Locations

I never thought I’d say I miss living near Washington D.C., but the historical locations there are amazing! Of course, Houston doesn’t lack in great locations. Museums offer a great experience for learning history. Many museums have homeschool days that include more than just a tour but hands-on activities as well. Don’t limit yourself to History Museums. Art Museums, Children’s Museums, and Science Museums all offer pieces of history!

One of our favorite places in Houston is Space Center Houston. They offer a lot of hands-on activities and, of course, amazing historical information regarding the space program and history.

Hands-on History - Space Center Houston

Some other ideas for hands-on history is to go to a cemetery and do gravestone rubbings. If you live near family members’ graves, this is also a great way to learn your own history. It’s a different way to learn the history of the area in which you live, too. View the dates and research information. Be sure gravestone rubbings are allowed as they are not permitted everywhere. Here is more information about tombstone rubbings.

Above all else, have FUN! Hands-on learners really enjoy the experience of learning hands-on. Don’t feel like you have to weigh it down with questions. Let them explore in the ways they understand and learn best!

What are some hands-on history activities you have done with your family?

 

Emilee Roberts (3 Posts)

Emilee is happily married to her best friend, Joey, who is a 2x cancer survivor and Disabled Veteran. She is a full-time, homeschooling mom to their 3 special needs kids who amaze, inspire, and humble her every day. In addition to blogging she is a freelance writer and mompreneur with a crafting/sewing business with the same name as her blog Pea of Sweetness.


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Homeschool History Hacks

 

homeschool_history_hacks

Local History

Begin where you are! Have your kids learn a little local history about your city/town, your county, and your state. Visit your town hall. Research the deed to your house. Or just use Google. Over the course of a year our Homeschool History Club, which I’ll describe later, took us from our own house and town, from county-to-county and borough-to-borough clear across Long Island, New York.

Family History

I concur with Renée, the official grandparent interview (and written report!) is a MUST for every child. Ideally they will be able to do four of them but of course that’s not always possible. If a grandparent is recently deceased they can certainly be researched by other means. Interviewing another older relative, family friend, or neighbor works fine for this exercise too.

Talking to my grandfather (who turns 101 next month!) always felt like a vivid history lesson. He was a pilot in the Polish Air Force; he escaped Hitler and wound up in England where he met my grandmother. I had known the basics of his story for years….but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I came across an amazing book – that essentially told his personal story.

Our children’s grandparents and great-grandparents all have rich personal histories interwoven with the events of world history. Help your children discover their own personal connection to the past and in the process they will forge tighter bonds with loved ones.

Vacations

We planned a family trip to Hawaii last year….and what did my wife do? She Googled “Hawaii Unit Study” and found all sorts of books for our kids to read on Hawaii before we got there. A little foreknowledge will not only make a trip more interesting, more educational, and more memorable….but it will also help you justify the ridiculous costs!

Our Hawaii trip got cancelled because we decided to move to London. When informed of this my son lamented, “Oh great, now Mom is going to make me read a bunch of books about London!”

And she did…

Audio-guides and Audio-tours

Museums can be hard on visiting families. Sometimes the kids are too young and bored out of their skulls….and they end up torturing the rest of the family who is trying to take it all in. But almost all the major museums today have interactive audio-guides, often for free and often even “child-friendly” versions of content. We’ve found that our children LOVE them. Audio-guides really ramp up their level of engagement and consequently decrease their level of parental torture.

In the same vein, I highly recommend narrated or audio-guided tours of cities. They are everywhere now, very affordable, and a great way to get the lay of the land when visiting an historic city (or Seattle!). We’ve done them now in Paris, Amsterdam (river cruise), Edinburgh, and just this week we enjoyed a terrific “hop-on, hop-off” bus tour in Liverpool. Definitely do them on the first day of your arrival.

History in Homeschool Groups

I already alluded to a History Club that we partook in for a couple of years. Each month had a theme (planned well in advance) and the children would spend the month preparing an oral presentation of their choosing. Some kids read written reports, others used PowerPoint, some dressed up, made illustrative artwork and handicrafts, brought in artifacts, etc. It was a terrific experience for many reasons including its low cost, relaxed nature, varied presentations, and, importantly, it introduced the kids to public speaking.

Another great idea is to do what one of my local New York groups did. Each month they invited a person, native to a foreign country, to come and speak to the kids about his or her homeland. These meetings were complete with food from the speaker’s country, story-telling, and props to make the experience come alive for the kids. The families all chipped in something nominal – like a $2 donation as an expression of gratitude.

Our homeschool groups on Long Island also put on a terrific “Historic Costume Ball” where the kids, obviously, dress up and try to play the part of famous figures from the past.

And in Manhattan we have loved our annual History Fair where the kids go on stage and offer clues as to who they are….while the other kids in the audience try to guess their identity. Here’s my son a couple years ago as….well you’re going to have to guess!

Historical Fiction

Parents are always asking me how I “teach history”. Of course I explain that I don’t teach it. Other than the hacks you are reading here, my wife and I mostly just throw books at the kids. History is primarily a “content” subject as opposed to something like math which is really a discipline. Ideally your children will accumulate a whole lot of historical facts and ultimately understand how they weave together and inform the present and future.

So we’ve thrown a small mountain of books at the kids over the years and really any book set in a distant time period falls into the category of Historical Fiction. My daughter is keenly interested in the Depression, slavery, and the Holocaust BECAUSE of the novels she’s read – not because she’s been assigned chapters in a dry history text.

Just research the book lists of Ambleside Online and The Well-Trained Mind. Have your kids read all the Newbery Award Winner books. Librarians can certainly give great book suggestions as well, of course.

It almost goes without saying that the older the book….the larger its inherent historical component. Project Gutenberg has a good deal of the old ones, for free. Are you using it yet?

World Travel

You might think this is out of reach….but you are wrong.

It was years ago that I first read about homeschooling families traveling to exotic locations all over the globe – spending winters in Florida, months in Italy, China, or driving across America in an RV. Back then it was seemingly impossible for us too.

But where there’s a will, ultimately there’s a way. In all likelihood, no matter what you do, there will arise a work opportunity or a missionary opportunity through which you can take your family abroad. It doesn’t take much time Googling to learn about families who’ve traveled extensively on shoestring budgets either. (Or send your kids away as foreign exchange students.)

Why should you travel?

Because it’s, by far, the best way to make a study of history truly come alive.

I can honestly say that I feel like, despite years of school, college, and reading small mountains of history books….that I truly didn’t know ANYTHING about Europe until I moved here 8 months ago. It’s one thing to read about history, but it’s quite another to experience it.

A couple days ago we were exploring Liverpool and I came across a statue of the Duke of Wellington. Wondering who he was I asked my 9-year old son and he said to me, like I was a blithering idiot, “Dad, he destroyed Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.”

And note this is hardly the first time I’ve been condescended on like that.

Clearly, the way my kids are learning history….is far superior to the way I learned it!

 

Dan (3 Posts)

Husband to Inez. Father of John and Christine. Homeschool Coach, Accelerated Math Teacher. Former derivatives trader and future scratch golfer! Follow our learning adventures at HomeschoolDad.com.


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Putting History into Perspective

Connecting History to the Modern World

 

Putting History into Perspective

Let’s face it, sometimes history can seem so dry.  Without context children lose the importance of understanding how history affects their own lives. Trying to connect their minds and hearts to something that happened long before they were even born can seem like a daunting task. Actually, it may seem impossible. The reality is it’s hard for any human to connect to something that happened decades, if not centuries, ago. It will seem irrelevant if there isn’t an understanding of how it connects with ones self.

I think there are three great ways to connect the old with the new. These three ideas allow a student to explore and consider history as it relates to other people, and ultimately to themselves. None of them are a great mystery and one or more of them are often incorporated into homeschooling. You may currently be using one of these methods but perhaps didn’t consider how you are connecting the old with the new.

History through Literature

History through Literature

Reading stories that are set in the same era, especially true, biographical and/or autobiographical stories, can put into perspective the time and place where events occurred. By putting a human face on the story we see how the events affected that person. We can read about their struggles, their worries, their victories and joys. We can see how government decisions affected the people living at the time. We can read about how a family endured during hardship or how they fought for the sake of freedom.

Whatever the story is about, reading through it with a child, while at the same time studying the historical events of the same era can help our children to relate to history. Comparing that history, that story, to how a child currently lives, and considering what might be different if events had turned out differently in the past, can help to truly put into perspective how history has shaped our world.

Resources for Historical Literary Guides

 

Personal History through Family Genealogy

 

Personal History through Family Genealogy

Knowing where they come from can help a child to connect with history. Discovering that a grandparent lived and served in the army during a war, or a great grandparent lived through the depression, or perhaps a 3 or 4x grandparent immigrated to the U.S. or even that you are related to royalty, can make for exciting discoveries, comprehension of how a period of time affects your actual family and make history seem more real.

A few years ago I became fascinated by ancestry research. It was before the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” began. But, the addition of that show has increased an awareness of personal family history. I’ve researched many direct lines of my family’s ancestry and have been fascinated by what I have found on both sides of my lineage.

Examples of my Personal History

  • My grandfather (my dad’s dad) was a soldier in World War 1. (Yes the first war, not the second).
  • I learned that my 9x Great Grandfather on my mother’s maternal side was one of the earliest settlers of the Maryland Colony and gave 100 acres for the establishment of London Towne, Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
  • On my father’s maternal side I can trace, not one line but 4 separate lines through English royalty including barons, earls, and knights. I also discovered that my 15x great-grandfather worked prominently with Kings Edward IV, Richard III, was the step father to King Henry VII and presided in his coronation ceremony.
  • I also discovered that through my 15X great-grandmother’s line I can directly trace my lineage back to King Edward III and subsequently William the Conquerer.
  • The infamous Devil Anse Hatfield and I share a common grandfather. His great-grandfather (Abner Vance) on his mother’s side (Nancy) is my 5x great-grandfather through her uncle James Howard. Which means we are 2nd cousins 4x removed.

There are more stories than just these. The point is that as we study through history being able to relate events to our ancestors helps to put into perspective how the history is personal to us. Knowing my grandfather was a soldier in the first world war helped me to truly relate to the events which unfolded. As my son is learning about the founding of the American colonies, I can point out that his 10X great-grandfather was there, was a part of the events, the culture and how the geography unfolded to form Maryland today.

Have you researched your ancestry? Do your children know where they come from? Have you made history relevant by learning about how your family interacted with the times?

Resources for Learning more about Personal Ancestral History

My favorite source is Google.com, it’s there that I can enter any name and the word genealogy, or include an approximate date and find a wealth of information. It doesn’t work every time, and many times it leads me back to ancestry.com which is where I keep my tree research, but sometimes, I unexpectedly find even more information to the stories than I had ever discovered and it opens my eyes to how each person’s life relates to the history that we read during the era in which they lived.

History Timeline

Using a History Timeline to Put History into Perspective

Building a historical timeline with your kids can help you to put the time frame into perspective. Knowing when something took place in relationship to the child’s own life, helps them to get a feel for how long ago something happened. Did it happen in their lifetime, just before they were born, in mom & dad’s lifetime, or grandma’s lifetime? Was the event something that took place before, during or after the life of Jesus Christ, was it something that happened during the time of Moses or David?

By connecting the dates of world history with something relevant to a child’s life will help them to put into perspective when something happened. It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be quite simple.

Timelines do not have to be fancy. In our homeschool we use a simple binder and paper, we trace the timeline from creation forward. As we learn an era, we can easily see how close to creation or modern era the event happened. You can use a pre-made timeline, or make one of your own. A poster board, or homemade scroll would work nicely.

I recently discovered the game Time Line, where the goal is to put into chronological order the cards which contain specific events. It really is a fun game that can easily put events into historical context.

Have you used any of these methods of putting history into perspective for your children? Share with us in the comments.

 

Renée (18 Posts)

Renée Brown is author at her personal blog, Great Peace Academy. She is a homeschooling mom to her one amazing son, Jonathan and has been the wife of her Beloved Michael for 21 years. On her blog you will find discussions about her work as a homeschooling mom, her family and her faith.


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***3 FREE Complete Drawing Lessons from the SEE THE LIGHT 9 DVD/36 lesson ART CLASS curriculum that is used by many homeschooling families. Recommended for ages 6 + + http://www.seethelightshine.com/free-lessons/***