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When I was in school, I didn’t really care for history class. The lessons were dry and boring. It seemed like we just read the chapters in our textbook and answered comprehension questions. It was just regurgitating information, which is never any fun.
Now that I’m a homeschool mom, history is my favorite subject! I found a way to make history come alive. It isn’t hard to teach the information in a way that truly engages children. They are learning and enjoying it in a way that will stick with them for years to come.
How to Make History Come Alive
We use Story of the World as our history spine, but these ideas can be used with any history curriculum. These suggestions are great for preschool – middle school students. We aren’t there yet, but I suspect we will take a different approach once we get to the high school years.
Focus on people, not dates
I’ll let you in on a little secret about how I teach history…I don’t care about specific dates. Sure, we study history in a chronological sequence, but specific dates are not important to me right now.
Instead, we spend a lot of time focusing on the people of the time period and culture we are studying.
What was their daily life like?
What were their fears and concerns?
How was their life similar to ours? How was it different?
I want my children to put themselves in the shoes of the people that came before us. These are not just stories in books…they were real people.
I asked Hannah what she thought was the most important part of how to make history come alive. “Williamsburg. Definitely.” I’ll take that as a sign that our history field trips are making an impact.
Historical field trips allows our kids to walk in the foot steps of historical figures. It gives them first hand knowledge in a way that makes the knowledge stick.
Field trips are great for a variety of learning styles.
Visual learners see real historical artifacts, reenactments, and buildings.
Auditory learners listen to knowledgable tour guides.
Linguistic learners can read read the plentiful historical plaqards.
Kinesthetic learners can often participate in hands on activities.
Check the events schedule at your field trip spot to check out learning opportunities, but don’t be afraid to chat up the employees. My kids helped with an archeological dig at Mount Vernon simply by asking the archeologist if they could take a closer look.
Hands on activities
Hands on activities go a long way towards making history come alive. They allow kids to relate to their lessons in a deeper way and form more connections.
It can feel challenging to find hands on activities. Thankfully, Story of the World publishes activity books to correspond with their curriculum books. The activity books contain hands on games and activities to go along with every chapter. Pinterest is also a great source of activities.
When in doubt, build a historical scene out of Legos. Or create a crown with sparkly gems. There seems to be a monarchy of some sort in almost every chapter.
This tip is most popular with preschool – elementary school age kids, but dressing up in historical costumes can be a lot of fun. Remember, we are trying to focus on the people of long ago, and wearing that style of clothing really seems to help.
Costumes are a great way to introduce a new culture or time period because it creates interest. Accessories were always the most popular part of the historical costume for my kids. A colonial hat or a viking sword are exciting for kids.
We have had good luck ordering kid’s historical costumes from Amazon. You can also find historical costumes in museums and historical field trip spots.
If all else fails, check with the historical museums near you. Some museums will lend out costumes for a small fee. The Nordic Heritage Museum, in Seattle, lent my family a trunk full of costumes, books, and activities for a small rental fee.
Every history curriculum includes books, but don’t stick to just the textbook. Read quality stories that engage your child. Good books can provide personal viewpoints and opposing perspectives. There are excellent nonfiction, biographies, and fictional stories to expand your child’s historical knowledge. The Story of the World activity books also contain literature suggestions.
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