When I was in high school, one of the most boring subjects was History. It was all about memorizing dates, countries, battles, names, and then spitting it all back up in correct order on a test every 6 weeks or so. Actually, I never even had a class title History. In my high school, History, Geography, Civics, and Current Events were all clustered under the umbrella of Social Studies. And it was nullifying, stupifyingly dull. Except on film strip days. Those were slightly less drool inducing.
So imagine my surprise when I began homeschooling and all those subjects became interesting. Fun. Even the best part of my teaching days. I think that’s because textbook and traditional curriculum creators have to reduce history to snapshot paragraphs and chapters in books. Or maybe textbook writers hated History too and feel it’s only fair to pass along the utter boringness of it all. Who knows?
What I have learned as a homeschooling mum is that teaching high school history is best done through stories, projects, literature, food, and art. Those methods turn History from something bland and boring to something memorable and even exciting. I can recall studying Ancient Egypt when my kids were small. We made up headdresses, togas, cardboard jewelry. Made ethnic foods for a week, colored in pictures, wrote our names in heiroglyphics, took virtual tours of pyramids. It was all so fun. Did we memorize dates? Nope. Names? Not so much, though there are certain ones like, King Tut that are forever unforgettable. History came alive through hands on lessons, so much so, that my kids often forgot they were ‘doing school.’
We have My Father’s World to thank for those elementary and middle school years of Social Studies fun.
But in high school, even MFW turned into a curriculum that seemed heavily based in reading and writing papers. Not that we won’t expect our older kids to do those things, but I still desire these subjects to be enticing rather than just mandatory.
Last year, after expressing my dissatisfaction with some online lessons were we doing, we spent the entire second semester on WWII. My kids read biographies, wrote papers, watched films and documentaries, and played war game simulations all designed to really give them an understanding of WWII.
This year, we went with an online civics course from HSLDA, working in books from the library and a few activity ideas gleaned online. Since Noah and Fiona are in high school now, they are allowed to watch some more mature films that their younger siblings will not. For me, films can be a wonderful tool to giving the flavor of a certain time period, and use compelling stories and docudramas to flesh out time periods and historical events.
The point is, history does not have to be dry and boring, and it never should have been in the first place. I know some families who build an entire curriculum around history.
How do YOU teach history?