If you’re new to my site, you might like to see how I teach history without textbooks. This study of the French Revolution is just another example of our natural way of homeschooling, including all ages in one study.
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After spending several months on the American events of the 1700s, we rounded out that century with a study of the French Revolution. This study took about 2 weeks and included reading, lapbooking, literature, copywork, and geography using resources that were free online or that we already owned. My children are currently 6, 9, 11, and 16. They all listened while I read aloud from several sources, and participated in hands-on activities at different levels.
Moms and Dads, if you do not love or remember history, there is no shame on a bit of a brush-up for yourself. It’s not hard or scary. Glance over a timeline of events and causes, and then dive in with the kids.
Soooooo many names, phrases, and ideas came out of the French Revolution. Introducing these in a basic way to even young kids gives them a foundation and a familiarity with historic ideas and events later on: Marie Antionette, Lafeyette, Bonaparte, the Third Estate, bourgeois, Rousseau, “Let them eat cake!” and more.
I like to start simple, and repeat the simple. In this case, simple was the 2-page spread on the French Revolution in the Usborne World History book for younger readers. I had my two middle kids read it, and then I read it again as we worked our way through lapbook activities. For a more in-depth explanation, I read the chapters from George Washington’s World that explained the FR. (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Genevieve Foster’s books???)
This short video tour and explanation of Versaille is a great visual aid:
Once we had some background covered, we moved to the hands-on activities. For this, we used some great (and FREE) notebooking pages created by Tina at Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus. These went in our History Smashbooks.
I always like to include classic literature that correlates with our history. So, while working on the smashbooks, we listened to Jim Weiss’ abridged reading of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. (I am not a fan of Dickens. I’ve tried, but I just don’t care for his style of writing or his stories. However, I still intend to introduce my kids to classic works of literature as part of their education, so enter the abridged Dickens. Who knows? Maybe one of my kids will LOVE Dickens!)
And again, I found the perfect hands-0n activity from Tina: Dickens copywork and biography pages. My two middle boys are using these.
Some of my favorite historical novels for this kind of study are those written by G. A. Henty. For the FR, I really like “In the Reign of Terror.” I downloaded the Audible version and listened to it myself, and had my 16 year old listen. I suggested it to my 11 year old, and he probably will listen when he finished his current audiobook. Follow it up with two more Henty titles about Napoleon:
What better way to round out the fun than a rousing game of “Storming the Bastille!”
For my 6-year-old, simple coloring pages go into her smashbook. I Googled “French Revolution Coloring Pages” and found this, as well as a coloring page of 18th century French fashion:
We have almost finished up our reading, so a viewing of Les Misérables is on the schedule for next week. I like this version:
There are many more great resources for a natural, literature-based study of the French Revolution. My Pinterest Board has even more links than I could use! Check it out!
The French Revolution was very different from the American Revolution, although some of the basic ideas were behind both: namely, human rights. But the circumstances were different and the outcome of the FR was nothing like America’s. Older students can take this basic study and explore the ideas and the events that made the FR so different. This page has several great (but short) articles on the French Revolution.
They can look up new terms, read about the major players (Enlightenment philosophers, the nobility, the bourgeois, and Napoleon), and write or discuss their understanding of what happened. Have them explain their understanding with a project, such as a paper, a posterboard or history display, a map of Napoleon’s battles, a lapbook, or even some out-of-the box ideas like a historic Facebook profile, a Lego short movie, or a live play or skit.
Make learning history fun and you will change the world!
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.
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