Monday, January 15, 2018

Great Ways to Homeschool History

There are lots of WONDERFUL Homeschool history resources!
History is, by far, one of the easiest subjects to teach as a parent-educator. History is the story of human beings, and what they have done. It appeals to a natural human interest - storytelling - and what kid doesn't love a story?

Now, granted, history can be taught poorly, but if taught well, it is naturally a delight!

I've found that there are a few subjects in school that I have to "push" -and a few that my daughter will voluntarily work on when she has a "day off school" or in the evening when school is "done for the day." History is one of those subjects that gets picked up outside of "school hours" : )

I'm not a fan of history textbooks - unfortunately they tend to condense history down to a dreadfully boring list of dates of battles and long lists of names of explorers with absolutely no appeal for the average reader - child or adult.

But, tossing the textbook doesn't mean less history is learned, but rather that MORE history is covered! 

 Here are a few resources that have been our favorites.

(Remember, if you find something good on Youtube, you can download it so that you're not in danger of losing it if it is taken down, and you're not dependent on an internet connection for viewing : )
This is the site I use for downloading Video Download Site I use the free feature. Use at your own risk, but so far the free feature for downloading only has worked well for me.)

The Bible & Bible Story Books - the Bible is the ultimate Historical document. Written by eyewitnesses, you can't beat it. After all, as the cliche goes, History is HIS Story!

Adventures in Odyssey Imagination Station - perfect for getting a little kid introduced to history. These books are mostly make-believe - with modern children time traveling to meet some historic person or see some important event. They're incredibly fun, with a very light smattering of history. They're a treasure because in addition to all that, they also teach Christian Values.

If You Were There . . .These books are a series of very brief chapters on some historical event, told at a kids' interest level. We've only read one (the Signing of the Constitution) but found it very nice.

Who Was . . . This is a secular biography set. It is well-written for children, as far as reading level and interest are concerned. If the person you're reading about was a devout Christian, the author will mention that. Unfortunately, if the person you're reading about was an adulterer, that detail will also be included. So, Caveat Emptor. Choose carefully which personalities you want to read about, and at which ages. Some simply aren't suitable - but many are delightful. They're all well written, and an easy read. They're even good for adults who want to learn about someone without an in depth study.

American Girl - Make Believe Characters set in various periods of American history. All in all, they're a wholesome, fun set. This publisher makes both books and movies. They make history and the people who lived then seem more interesting to young children (grade school). As far as the movies go, I'd only recommend the "Kit" "Molly" and "Samantha" movies (many I haven't even seen!). All the books we've read have been delightful. In addition to encouraging an interest in history, they also teach positive social skills and character traits.
(I do take issue with the occasional point, but overall we enjoy them : )

Little House Series - Everyone knows these, they're great. They give kids a "feel" for what life was like in the Pioneering days of America, as well as teaching wholesome values. The author was a Christian, and that is reflected in her writing, as these stories are autobiographical. Nearly all libraries carry these.

Liberty's Kids - this is a 40 episode video set, that features fictional teen-aged reporters covering the events of the American Revolution. It is done in a cartoon style. If you child watches every episode more than once (as mine has) you'll probably find out that he or she knows more about this period of history than almost any adult you encounter. And, better yet, will barely even realize that the set is "educational." This is an older set that is available at many libraries, but the entire set may be purchased quite cheaply online. Ours was $5 for all 40 episodes! I have also seen them on Youtube.

My America - These books are diaries of fictional people from various periods of American history. They are incredibly informative about the period in which they were written, and help a child feel exactly what it would have been like to experience those events. They do include some content that requires parental guidance, for instance, a child who visits a fortune teller,  experiences war, hears about assassination, witnesses illness or starvation, gets angry at God, or mentions blood loss during childbirth. These are marketed for 3rd through 5th grade, but sometimes the content requires a little extra parental guidance and discussion. They're written from a secularist perspective, but often contain a positive depiction of Christianity.

Dear America - These books are the next step up from the My America Set. They are extremely well done, with LOTS of historical information. But, if the younger set is PG, these are PG-13. They're thicker, and are written at more difficult reading level. And, they have lots more content that you'll want to discuss as your kids read them. Dating, sneaking behind parents, war, prejudice, divorce, cohabitation, etc. But, these things are dealt with in a gentle way, and not overly graphic for an older elementary reader. Written from a secularist perspective, but often contains a positive depiction of Christianity. The historical notes in the back are a gem.

Drive Thru History with Dave Stotts - we LOVE this series of videos. Mr. Stotts takes the viewer to historic sites, and explains what happened there. He inserts his wacky brand of slapstick humor, which adult viewers might occasionally find annoying, but kids just can't seem to get enough of. Which means that kids will watch way more hours of this historical documentary than adults might expect. There are several videos on American History, Ancient History, and Biblical History. There is the occasional inaccuracy (a parent who is a history buff will notice one from time to time), but as video series go, it is outstanding. Sometimes you'll find an episode on Youtube : )

Backstairs at the White House - This 4 part miniseries was released as a television miniseries in 1979. It is based on the true story of a mother and a daughter who worked as maids in the White House for about 50 years of the 20th century. It gives an "insider's look" at the goings-on and personalities of the White House during those years, as well as the historic events of the time period. It is SO much more interesting to hear about the Teapot Dome scandal as President Harding discusses it with buddies over a game of poker and an illegal drink during Prohibition, than to read about it in a textbook! There are references to scandals, but no overly graphic depictions or descriptions. This is also a real gem because it gives a first person account of the racial injustices of the times, encouraging the viewer's compassion, without being polemical.

Classical Conversations Timeline Song - don't let your kid be one of those who asks grandpa if he knew Alexander the Great! Let him get a good grasp of the relationship of historical events by learning this song : )

1940's House - This is a BBC reality show that shows a modern family trying to live as people did on the "homefront" in 1940's England. It is 3 hours, and my daughter finds it fascinating enough to watch repeatedly. For the most part, it gives children an idea of the difficulties of the war, without having them become TOO aware of the horrors of war just yet. (We do fast forward past the BBC Radio Broadcast of the liberation of Concentration Camps - we'll wait a little longer to learn about that). There are a few bawdy jokes in the dialogue as well as some references to babies born to GI's out of wedlock, but all in all, it's a very helpful educational series. (The Link is to the review where I first read about this one )

Peril & Peace - This is a series of novelized short stories of several Saints from the early centuries of Christianity. The authors are Protestant, resulting in the occasional perspective difference, but it is well written and an interesting read.

Museums, Archeological Ruins and Living History Villages - Whenever you travel, look up the local history.  And for that matter, look it up at home, too! Museums, historic houses, Battlefields, Churches, Monasteries, Reenactments, see it all! These things make history come alive for kids!

This is being shared at:
You're the Star
What'd You Do This Weekend?
Modest Monday
Literacy Musing Mondays
Tuesdays with a Twist
Teaching What is Good
Happy Now
Party in Your PJ's
Love to Learn
Penny Pinching Party
Wise Woman
This is How We Roll
Encouraging Hearts & Homes
Thursday Favorite  Things
Funtastic Friday
Inspiration Spotlight


  1. Hi Anna! Great post with just the kind of advice I give homeschool families all the time. Pick up literature--classic literature--and discover the "handmaiden of history." Then, do the literature study with an emphasis on the historical period, political structure, cultural norms, etc, in which the story is set. Find it on the timeline and build your resume of His Story in your heart and imagination with all the dots connected. Joy to you!
    Visiting from LMMLinkup (Ponder & Prompt post this week)

  2. My boys loved Liberty's Kids! We read lots of picture books about history; there are so many great ones out there and you can not beat a history field trip!

    1. Thanks for sharing with us at Love to Learn; Pinned.

  3. Mission US is a great site where kids learn the basics of American history through interactive games.

  4. I started off when i was little listening to my parents read the Little House series to me and then did with my girls. The American Girls are a nice way to get girls into historical fiction and then interested in what really happened. I love the huge wall timeline you gave us, too.

  5. These are great ideas and I can see how learning would be so much more fun if approached this way. The things learned would not easily be forgotten. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Party in Your Pj's!


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