Posted on February 8, 2016
10 Ways we Use History in Our Homeschool
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In one sense, we don’t just ‘do’ history only as a standalone, separate subject, however, there are lots of the ways in which we incorporate the study of history in our homeschool family life.
9 Ways We Use History in Our Homeschool:
One of the most enjoyable ways or our whole family to learn about history is to read aloud books together which have been written in, or set in different time periods.
Obviously there are a huge number of different historical fiction books that could be read aloud as a family, but some we have particularly enjoyed have been The Little House by Laura Ingalls Wilder; The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, (which is available free on Kindle, in two parts); A Pistol in Greenyards, By Mollie Hunter, (for older children), and The Desperate Journey, by Kathleen Fidler (both about the Highland Clearances in Scotland; Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation, by Douglas Bond; and the Roman Mysteries Series, by Caroline Lawrence.
HE Marshall’s classic Our Island Story: A History of Britain for Boys and Girls from the Romans to Queen Victoria, has also been enjoyed a bit at a time by our family, and we also have her book Scotland’s Story waiting for when we finish it.
2. Personal Reading and Reference Books
As I have mentioned before, our children love reading, and so do I! We have collected various children’s reference-type books on British and world history over the years, and we also have ‘grown-ups’ reference books such as a Biographical Dictionary, and Britannica Encyclopaedia.
Some of the children’s favourite history-related personal reading has been the Trailblazer Books series by Dave and Neta Jackson; the Crown & Covenant series (on the Scottish Covenanters), by Douglas Bond; some of Michael Morpurgo’s books, such as War Horse; and the Liberty Letters series, by Nancy le Sourd, (although we are not so keen on the Pearl Harbour one).
When we started homeschooling in 2007, we did unit studies at different times throughout the year. We later used Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World Volume 1 (available from Icthus Resources), and the accompanying activity book. For the last several years, however, we have used and enjoyed Mystery of History, by Linda Lacour Hobar. This is available from Conquest Books or the Book Depository in the UK. We started with Volume 2, and are currently about half way through Volume 3.
We only use Mystery of History once a week, and at several points during the year, we usually stop to focus on one one of the lessons or subjects from it, which are of particular interest to us. For example, you can see my post on the Martin Luther Lapbooks which we made last year.
Lapbooks are something which our children really enjoy. I do not use them all the time, as I don’t want their ‘novelty value’ to be lost, but 2 or 3 per year seems to be a good number for us. So far this academic year, we have made one lapbook (per child), as part of our Hebridean Island Life Unit Study. We will probably do one more before the summer. You can more links to what lapbooks are and free lapbook templates on my Martin Luther Lapbooks post.
5. Unit Studies
My Hebridean Island Life post explains how I plan our unit studies, and the sorts of things that we cover in them, Obviously a unit study study does not have to be on a historical topic, but it is a very fun way to look more deeply into a period of history while also including lots of other ‘school subjects’.
Our family enjoys listening to audiobooks both in the car, and at home, particularly as a bad weather activity! There are literally thousands of fiction audiobooks for children available at Librivox, and we have also enjoyed recent audio productions of GA Henty’s In Freedom’s Cause (about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce), despite the ‘Scottish’ accents (!), and Under Drake’s Flag. Your Story Hour also often has audio dramas of famous historical characters, which can be bought on CD or MP3, or listened to for free at oneplace.com
7. Video Clips
Often we will watch video clips related to a Mystery of History lesson, or a particular historical character or event we have been discussing. There are lots of these available on the BBC website, and at history.com
8. History Series
Although we don’t have a TV, often a good history series will be available to watch online. In January we enjoyed watching the Victorian Bakers on BBC iPlayer, and we have previously watched Wartime Farm and Tudor Monastery Farm, amongst others. We also own some series on DVD, such as Neil Oliver’s A History of Scotland DVD set, and Coast, which usually includes British history.
One of our family’s favourite card games is Monarchy, by Witty Inventions games, which I have mentioned before in my Kids’ Car Journey Activities post. It is available in the UK from Icthus Resources. We have also had the Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans Board Game in the past, (although it was a wee bit gruesome for my taste!), and this year some friends gave us the BrainBox Board Game which includes a history section.
10. Field Trips
Obviously the number of field trips which could be relevant for learning about history are practically unlimited. As well as having gone on field trips with our local homeschooling group in the past, we also like to use family birthdays as an opportunity for a ‘field trip’. For example, in the past six months we have visited several local castles, and a Highland life museum on various family member’s birthdays.
If you are in the UK, home educators can phone ahead to some properties such as Historic Scotland, or the National Trust, to arrange an ‘Educational Visit’. This is usually free, or at a discount to the usual cost. The websites of such organisations often also have free printable activity sheets which can be used along with your visit. If you have a guided tour as part of your visit, it is also a good opportunity for the children to practice asking questions. It usually works better if I remember to remind the children in advance about this, so they can be prepared!
These are 9 ways in which we use history in our homeschool. Are there any other ways your family enjoys learning about history?
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