Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guest Post: Homeschool and History

Today I have a great opportunity to share with a guest post from Susan. She homeschooled her children and she worked at a large museum. She shares her love of history and how to engage young children in a love of learning history. Check out these wonderful tips on how to make history exciting for even the youngest member of your homeschool..

Adventures in the Past
One of the most difficult things about teaching young children about history is overcoming the sense that history is boring.  This could not be further from the truth.  The only problem is that the way many people teach history is boring.  So today I’d like to give share with you a few ideas about how we as parents can make history more interesting and more fun.

·         Take the show on the road.
If you do nothing else for your children’s history education than to take them regularly to museums, battlefields, historic sites, etc. and sincerely talk about what they see there, at least in the elementary school years, you will produce students better equipped to understand history than 90% of the rest of the country.

·         Catch them with the Web. 
     Obviously no one is able to travel to all the great places you’d like to see.  However, thanks to the internet, you can take virtual tours of almost anywhere in the world.  So gather the family around the computer after dinner and take a trip through the Gettysburg Battlefield or down Mark Twain’s mighty Mississippi.

·         Read all about it.
Obviously books are going to be your best source for well-researched information.  However don’t be afraid to focus most of your family reading time on fiction.  There are many, many good books for children and young adults that are set in the past, and also well researched.  Just remember two things.  First, avoid books written after 1989, as these tend to be more interested in putting forth a political agenda than in actually capturing exciting events from the past.  Second, if something strikes you as unlikely or incorrect, take a break and look it up either online or at the library.  This is a great way to teach your children discernment.

·         Pop some popcorn.
Try showing some historical movies on family movie night.  Sure, most of them have inaccuracies, but even these give you a chance for discussion and, again, teaching discernment.  Also, you’ll probably want to either screen the movie before you show it to your family, or check it out on line.  Both Focus on the Family and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have extensive, family friendly reviews of most films available today.

·         Put on a show.
One of the things I loved most as a child was dressing up like a historical character and acting out scenes of the past.  So, make sure that your child’s dress-up box includes a sunbonnet or two, a couple of tri-corn hats, a child-safe bow and arrow set, etc.  You can also encourage them to put on plays for the family based on something they’ve read about or seen at a museum.

·         Make something out of it. 
      Finally, I cannot say enough about the value of hands-on activities to give children a sense of what life was like in the past.  So make butter, cook a meal over an open fire (with a lot of adult supervision and care), sew a sampler, anything at all that will help your family better understand that history is not just a bunch of dates but really simply the story of real people who lived real lives in a time and place in the past.
     ** In addition to homeschooling and homemaking Susan Mathis also blogs for She lives with her family in the suburbs of southern Maryland.***

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