OK some people find history naturally interesting and easy to cover. But others find it incredibly hard (or boring). So I thought I'd share some things we have incorporated over the years to make history a little more interesting.
We have always used the Story of the World books and activity books. We like SOTW because it is written in narrative form which means I can read aloud while the kids colour in their maps.
We also cover a lot of geography this way and it is not uncommon for us to grab down the globes at the start of a SOTW chapter. The kids love trying to beat each other to find the places named as I read.
Top SOTW Tip: For multiple kiddos, invest in a good printer with copy function (we have an Epson Ecotank) so you can photocopy the same pages before the start of the reading. I put the perforated pages from the activity book into a folder. We also have pencils or watercolours out for the kids to use while I read.
Book of Centuries
In conjunction with these, we have used the Book of Centuries timeline since 2009 which we have also loved. This is a blank timeline book. When you come to an interesting time mentioned during any of your learning, you can jot it down into this book. It helps the kids to see the big picture of what may have been happening around the world at different times. Here is an example from our own book.
I know it is messy but it is darling to me because it reminds me of things we have learned about. It shows them visually when things happened. The kids often got so excited to take a turn writing it into the book!
Top Book of Centuries Tip: Pop a date and the child's name next to their entry. My kids love looking back over this now and pointing how what they entered and when.
Create a Box-of-History
When we were reading through the book Lennie the Legend (great book btw!) we created a little box of history! Full disclosure, I used to own a vintage and retro store so I do have a lot of old things lying about but it is a lovely thing to do if you can.
For this one, I took a suitcase and added things from that era: books, a rolls razor, a vintage EP, old sheet music, a toy Model T car, etc. Getting
Top Box-Of-History Tip: Ask grandparents for old bits and pieces they might be willing to give you a loan of. Check out op shops for crockery, books or utensils from that era.
Understanding Old Ways
History can come alive when we put ourselves in the older shoes of others ;) Say your kiddo is buttering their bread. You could ask them how they thought butter may have been made in the past. Or bread for that matter before we could just go and get it from the supermarket.
Asking our kiddos questions like, 'how do you think this may have been done in the past?' gets them thinking. We can then explore hands on activities like making bread and butter from scratch. If you aren't sure how to do this, you can learn right along side them! Below is a photo of homemade dyes we created using vegetables, fruits and plants many years ago. We then tried to dye some doilies. The whole thing was interesting to us all (as I had never done that myself before!)
Top Tip: Visit your local tip or op shop (or visit ebay!) Purchase an old tool that your kids may have never seen before like a egg beaters, a rotary dial telephone or a typewriter. Presenting them with an old tool (like a typewriter) can be a valuable learning experience in and of itself. Ask them to try and figure out its purpose before you tell them what it is. How was the paper inserted? How do you think you might change the ribbon? How has technology changed? What are the things they like/don't like about the tool?
Lapbooks are a fun and interactive activity for some kiddos. Mine like them but some kids just don't and that's ok. I like that I could print off a sheet or two at a time and set the kiddos up with that, some scissors and double sided tape while I worked with another kiddo on something else. I use THIS site to search for most free lapbooks on historical subjects.
Top Tip: To minimise mess and confusion if you have multiple children working on lapbooks at the same time, you might consider printing off parts and setting them aside in an envelope of folder for each person. This helped my kiddos.
Visit many museums
I've lost track as to how many museums we have been to over the years but there have been MANY. We love them. There's always something interesting to see and learn. Can't visit a museum? Why not take a virtual tour of a museum. Check out THIS LINK HERE.
Top Museum Tip: Let the kids choose a post card from there and get them to mail it back to themselves or to a grandparent or friend. Nothing like snail mail!
Learn about your own Family History
Learning about our family history is a wonderful way to find out more about who we are. If for some reason you can't, you could ask a friend and learn about their family history instead. My family history on one side is quite limited but very rich and detailed on the other. I'm so grateful for my Fijian heritage and passing that knowledge onto my kids has been very important to me. Do you have cultural roots that you are yet to explore? Listening to other people's stories is a privilege.
Top Tip: You might like to choose a few episodes of Ahn Doh's Brush with Fame to watch together. Just check the content of each episode is suitable for your child. It's a lovely way to listen to other people's stories.
My beautiful Grandparents below.
Back in Time for Dinner
Speaking of shows, one of our all time FAVE shows was Back in Time for Dinner and Further Back in Time for Dinner on the ABC. Big shout out to the lovely Ferrone family (especially Olivia who kindly wrote to Zippi). We loved these shows so much. Learning about each decade was fascinating and brought up many questions and things to talk about. Top Back in Time for Dinner Tip: You could dress up in the fashion of each decade as you watch the show or you could enjoy snacks from that period and have a tea party as you watch!
Paying Our Respects
For our family paying our respects means understanding that people have gone before us. Sometimes they have endured and lived through very difficult things. Sometimes they have made sacrifices that we have never known. Reading books about these topics has helped us have a deeper appreciation for others' lives.
We have paid our respects at graves, at ANZAC Day services, POW camps and to our Indigenous community members. Talk about how we can pay our respects by pausing and remembering, by behaving in an honourable and respectful way around graves and monuments, etc.
Yep. It's a thing. Well at least it is here ;) You might have read my Edible Science post before? Basically, to make things a little more interesting, we make scientific concepts out of food and then eat them lol. Here are 3 ways we've done this with history: 1. Made different forms of government (dictatorship, monarchy, communism) out of gummy bears to demonstrate each one
2. We made a damper to eat as we read our way through the last chapter of Seven Little Australians.
3. We have learned family recipes that have been passed down like Pupu's curry and roti recipes that Zippi loves to make. Do you have a tried and tested family recipe that has been passed down the line? Why not make time to cook this with your kiddos?
Top Edible History Tip: You might like to check out THIS link to other edible-history activities.
Using a Historical Summary Book
We love THIS book but we have used others over the years. This has been our go-to for the past couple of years. It has little quizzes in the back and we will often tack one of these onto the end of a SOTW chapter read aloud.
Top Historical Summary Book Tip: If you have a visual learner, have your child copy some of the pictures from a graphic historical novel or a book like the one I've mentioned while you are reading aloud to them.
I remember reading in Julie Bogart's Brave Learner book that adding the word 'controversy' onto a subject search for a teen can be an interesting way to engage older kids that little bit more. My teens enjoyed choosing a research project (like JFK, Gettysburg, Battle of the Somme) etc and then enjoyed presenting the information in a way that meant something to them. In addition to a written report, they might choose to reconstruct a battle ground out of Lego or make a PowerPoint presentation. Giving them access to the library, white boards, notepads etc helped encourage them along.
Top Research Project Tip: Encourage multi-format learning by helping them research (or suggesting to them) documentaries, online displays or museums that might have interactive elements.
History Based Games
Our favourite history based game is called Placing the Past. It is a timeline game in which a player has the chance to put a number of events in correct chronological order. It's a great game.
Top Historical Based Game Tip: Don't get one that is too difficult for your family. We spent lots of $ on one a number of years back and could not play it. We tried and tried and we just couldn't understand it let alone get into it. I had to sell it for much less than we'd paid for it lol. Lesson learned.
History Classes or Groups
I love that you can join a history class or group on Outschool*. Here are 3 that look awesome and are great for those of us in the Sydney timezone:
* I am a proud brand ambassador for Outschool who offer classes and groups on LOADS of interesting things for homeschooled (and non-homeschooled!) children. It is a safe platform where you pay per class that you attend. My own children are LOVING Outschool. I only share and represent brands that I am using or am happy to use myself for my own family.
We love puzzles here and THIS is one of our faves! It's a puzzle about ancient civilizations. There are a million other puzzles that focus on historical events, people and inventions among other things.
Top Historical Puzzle Tip: You could use this particular puzzle to cover a whole year of history. How? Build it and leave it displayed on the table the whole year. Each week, have your child come to the puzzle and point with their eyes closed to something on the puzzle! Then, go and learn about it!
You might land on a viking ship for example. Then you could read about Vikings, do map work around where the Vikings were from and where they travelled. You could create a Viking long boat out of card. You could focus on one person like Erik the Red. These are just a few ways you could enjoy a year's journey using this puzzle.
Well, I hope that might give you some interesting ideas for history activities to tackle together. Remember if you get really stuck for ideas, to do a google search of your topic and then add + pdf + craft or recipe or whatever hands on thing you might like to do at the end of it! See where it takes you! Happy learning and more soon friends! Lusi x