I didn’t enjoy history at all when I was in school. But I love (teaching? learning?) doing history with my kids. How we do homeschool history is really simple and enjoyable. Instead of each individual kid doing their own history curriculum, we all sit down together and learn – including me!
(Update 2017 – This approach worked well for us several years ago when my four oldest kids were younger. And I may revisit this method with my three younger ones. As for now, the big kids do history almost entirely on their own, although I do enjoy reading their lessons aloud with them.)
One reason I teach the kids as a group is because when you’re homeschooling multiple children, you don’t have time for everyone to do their own thing all the time. Math they do alone because they are at different skill levels, but some subjects (like science and history) lend themselves well to group study.
How We Do Homeschool History
We use Susan Wise Bauer‘s Story of the World books. Bauer is the author of the much-respected Well-Trained Mind and has also authored several other homeschool curricula. She is a proponent of the Classical homeschool method. While I’m not following a Classical style curriculum, I still like these books for a number of reasons.
Teach history chronologically.
That is the only way to do history that makes any sense at all to me. Why do kids in public school learn about United States history first? How do they understand the people and the situations that led to the founding of America if they don’t understand all the things that came before?
Second, the books are written by a Christian so they present Joseph, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and other Bible characters as real people. But the books don’t teach doctrine, which is my job.
Third, I find the books are written in simple, clear language so that I can teach history to the 6 year old, 8 year old and 10 year old without anyone getting bored or it being too difficult.
How we do homeschool history with Story of the World
Traditionally, history was taught orally, passed down from one generation to the other. So when we sit down to do history, we read a section of the book together, then discuss it.
I highlight any vocabulary words and ask the kids about their meaning, which they’re typically able to tell me from the context of the story.
If your kids love to dig deep into history, they can easily do so using SotW as a spine.
For example when doing the chapter on the First Nomads from Volume One, you could check out books from the library and read more about nomads. You could eat a paleo diet for a week, relying on foods that are in season or that you can hunt or gather locally.
My oldest has completed the first book: The Story of the World: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor and has started on Volume Two: The Middle Ages. But he sits in on the lessons in Volume 1 with his siblings for a review.
He really enjoys these books and will sit and read them for bedtime stories without any prompting from me. That is a good sign, no?
We still use Story of the World and love it. My oldest doesn’t do history with us, however, as his comprehension level is so far ahead of the two middle kids.
After reading the lesson by himself, I give him the test out of the Text and Answer Key. The younger kids go through the activities and questions from the Activity Book with me after we read the lesson aloud together.
Now that my kids are older (and I have more of them!), the big kids do more independent study. How we do homeschool history has had to change as my family situation changed. We still adore Story of the World and use it with the younger kids.)
For high schoolers, The History of the World books, also by Susan Wise Bauer, are comprehensive and challenging.
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