Making history fun. The struggle is real for many homeschool parents. After all, if you didn’t enjoy history as a student, chances are you may not be excited about teaching it to your kids. But it IS really fun, and many homeschool parents figure that out when they start educating their children.
History is one of the only school subjects (besides science) that can be experienced with all of the senses. See it, hear it, taste it, feel it: you can bring it to life in so many ways.
But think back: do you remember your textbooks fondly? Or do you remember that fun project you did in 4th grade? Whether you rode in a covered wagon, or built a cardboard castle, or put on a knight costume and made your own sword, you probably remember THAT. It’s what stands out in your school memories. Along with exciting stories, hands-on projects are THE BEST WAY to make history exciting, real, and memorable.
So I’ve gathered up many of the methods we use in our homeschool to MAKE HISTORY FUN. You don’t have to do everything on this list. Pick something that looks doable for your family, depending on the ages and abilities and understanding of your children. Make one of these the BIG project that culminates your study. Present it to Dad, grandparents, or the neighbors.
Here are just a few great ideas to get you started:
Theatre and Media Productions
Who doesn’t like Lego? Almost any event in history can be recreated in Lego animation with a simple camera. What a great way to present what they have learned! Here’s just one (out of thousands) example – The History of the English Language:
If your kids have a dramatic flair, let them create a skit and perform it for friends and family, or film their own video.
We actually took many photos of my kids in costumes to recreate the story of Columbus. Our plan is to put the pics together to make a short film. (The pics are stuck in a computer that won’t power on, so the project is on hold. **tears**)
Costumes! Costumes are so much fun and are a great start to plays and video productions. Costumes bring history alive like almost nothing else. Kids feel like they are THERE. Whether you purchase or sew or just throw some sheets together, you can transform an ordinary day into an ancient battle, a royal court, or an old-west shoot-out.
Timelines are valuable for helping students see the BIG picture of history. Too often, students are taught a series of unconnected historic events that are a jumble of names, dates, and maps, but don’t fall into the overall story of history. Putting everything on a timeline is a helpful way to let them SEE history. Here are a few great examples:
This is an interesting timeline idea: the website is in German (I think) but you can see from the photos that each year is marked on a clothespin and the events and people are clipped to them:
Sara at My Joy Filled Life shares a great idea for a timeline that can be folded up and put away as needed. They use Mystery of History in their homeschool:
Recreating a geographical region (or battle or event) with a 3D map is a wonderful way to reinforce learning. Here’s a great example of a salt dough map made in a pizza box at Solagratiamom:
How about a travel brochure? Our Journey Westward shares a great one about the Thirteen Colonies:
Rebuild Famous Buildings
Recreating structures is always fun! My daughter made a castle out of cereal boxes, paper towel tubes, Pringles cans, and cardboard scraps. Of course, since it was a Princess castle, it is painted in beautiful, bright colors!
Some students will want to create a really great piece of art. This Alamo diorama is a great example of dedication to history:
Miniature doll houses are a great way to recreate a home or building, and it might introduce your children to a new hobby. They come in all shapes, sizes, and can be as cheap or inexpensive as you like. Here’s a great log cabin miniature from My Small Obsession:
When we studied the French and Indian War, we made an Iroquois Village:
What’s more fun than eating food, right? Thanks to the interwebs, it’s so easy to find recipes from just about any time period. What I like to do, at home and in co-op settings, is end our study of any given time period with a “feast!” The kids always look forward to it. And you know what I have found? Up until about 500 years ago, everything was meat, vegetables, fruit, and bread. That’s it. Just arrange it nicely on wooden boards and in clay bowls, and you have a “period” feast. : )
I served a Saxon and Viking feast in a class I taught on Alfred the Great at our local homeschool co-op:
Social Media Fun
Put an educational spin on social media by creating Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts for historic people and news events.
The Half Full Chronicles has a cute Facebook printable here:
Teachers Pay Teachers has an inexpensive download with printable social media biographies:
TPT also has these cute Instagram printables:
Students can even create a Facebook page online using FAKEBOOK. This is a really fun way to bring a person or time in history to life:
Our History Smashbooks combine the best of lapbooks, notebooking, timelines, and scrapbooking. We create one for each century. Read all about them here:
Make an interactive notebooking/smashbook/lapbook page by creating your own QR Code, like the one in the page below:
I made a short YouTube video to demonstrate how easy it is!
If you’re hesitant to print too much because of the cost of ink, you have GOT to try HP Instant Ink. It has transformed my homeschool, and that is no exaggeration! I spend $9.99 per month and get larger than average ink cartridges shipped to me before I need them.
I’m on the 300 pages plan, so as soon as my printer communicates with HP that I’m nearing that number, they ship a new set. Hey. I’m a homeschool mom of 4 students, and I print a LOT. After the first week on the program they had already shipped me a new set.
Give it a try! (This is my referral link: http://try.hpinstantink.com/hPqWJ. If you decide to join, I’ll get some free ink. So, thank you!)
History is important for everyone. We already know that those who do not learn it are doomed to repeat it. It’s amazing how the lack of historical knowledge is so obvious in people today.
There’s no better way to reinforce what kids have learned than a project that gets them to re-tell it in their own creative way. When they do this, they “own” the story.
(And here’s my little secret: I can’t possibly keep all of these space-eating creations. So I take photos of my kids with them, display them for a few weeks or months, and then they quietly disappear. Especially the stuff made out of cardboard. There. You have permission to do the same. But I promise you, your kids have that historic time or event in their memories forever.)
Make learning history fun and you will change the world!
Be sure to check out my Main History Page to see how we incorporate this into our daily homeschool, why it’s so important, as well as specific studies I’ve created.
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Advisory Board and The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew. She also teaches ESL online from home. You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.