How to Make History FUN!

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I love history! I wouldn’t have been caught dead saying that back when I was in school. Maybe it’s part of becoming older because I hear a lot of adults say they love history but not a lot of kids.

Or maybe it’s the way we teach history. Names, dates, and dry facts are boring. History is a story – our story – and who doesn’t love a great story? So, how do you make history fun, exciting, and relevant? Let me offer you some tips!

Include Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is probably my #1 favorite way to make history come to life! What better way to learn about an era than to plop yourself down in the middle of the action? Books like Johnny Tremain, Across Five Aprils, and Janie’s Freedom helped us understand their respective time periods far better than any textbook ever could have.

Series books are excellent choices, too. Try:

Period literature is fantastic, too. I loved The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Hound of the Baskervilles as much as the kids did.

Read Engaging Biographies

An excellent biography is another sure-fire way to make history exciting because it allows readers to experience history through the lives of those who lived it. I wish I could remember the title of biography Brianna read about Eleanor Roosevelt that turned us on to well-written biographies. Brianna loved it and learned so much about that period in history because she wasn’t reading a textbook with glazed-over eyes. She was engaged.

When we study history, I like to have the kids read one historical fiction or period literature book and one biography every six weeks. That’s a little trick I learned while we were using Trail Guide to Learning and it has served us well ever since.

The Heroes of History series is my go-to series choices for biographies because it includes some of the best we’ve ever read. For younger kids, I adore David Adler’s series, Picture Book Biographies.

Incorporate Hands-on Learning

Y’all know an article about making history more fun is going to include hands-on learning. How could it not? There are so many ways you can get hands-on when studying history. Try:

  • Making costumes
  • Preparing period-themed meals
  • Building models
  • Creating products and handicrafts from the period
  • Playing period games
  • Experimenting with related art projects

Check out 100 Hands-On Activities for Middle School and High School for specific, history-themed learning activities (scroll down to the “history” heading) for older students.

Watch Movies and Documentaries

For the more visual learners among us, movies and documentaries make fantastic resources for making history fun. My kids and I love the Drive Through History documentary series. Being able to learn history while laughing hysterically is win-win.

I also really love movies for supplementing history study. Sometimes I have difficulty picturing everyday life of different historical periods even when I’m reading a great book, so to see it played out on screen is really helpful – even when the movie is mostly fiction. For example, I seriously considered watching The Mummy with my older kids when we were studying Ancient Egypt so that we could all more easily picture the setting and the clothing of the period.

There are lots of great online resources for teaching American history with Netflix and homeschooling with Netflix.

History is so much more than dry, boring facts. Don’t just read about history; use these tips to experience it!

What do you do to make learning history fun?

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Hello,
    I homeschool my 2 boys aged 13 and 10. We live in France, in Lorraine close to the German and Luxembourg border. To make history lessons more realistic, I bring my boys to places where history happened.
    It’s easy for us, as the region where we live has a big historical background.
    We live only 1 hour drive from Verdun (battle field during 1WW), so we already visited reconstructed trenches, visited some of the many military forts of the region, went in museum of the 1WW and 2WW as well as walked respectfully in military cemeteries. There are regularly historical reconstructions organized with people in costume. This is something I know they will remember !
    I must be very clear on dates as we have many places from both WW in the region and even from the 1870 war (France vs Germany), I wouldn’t want them to be confused !

    We also have the chance to live in a rich ancient roman region, with museum, archeological places to visit, Roman gladiators and soldiers historical events. Some of the museums organize hands on activities which are always fun to do.
    I must admit there is less and less activities proposed for the teenagers ! Homeschoolers here in France is not as popular as in the USA !
    I also use all the tips you gave in your post ! Thanks for all your ideas.

    1. What an amazing opportunity you and your boys have! I would love to see some of the sites you have seen. I bet history isn’t boring for your family at all.

  2. Lol, I’m chuckling to myself because I actually did have my daughter (15) watch The Mummy(Brendan Fraser!) after studying Ancient Egypt this year. Sometimes it’s fun to have a lighter activity thrown into the heavier materials. It was exciting to me when she could point out some “flaws” in their history, artistic license with the culture I guess. Now that she is almost finished with ancient Greece and Rome, we have a field trip scheduled next week to the Getty Villa in Malibu to see all the ancient sculptures and Roman Villa.

  3. I can’t wait to use all these ideas! I was definitely a history hater as a kid but I think growing up changed me into appreciating history and wanting to learn more. Maybe it was my art history degree that made it more interesting, lol.

    1. Having an art history degree must give you such an exciting perspective to bring to the table when teaching your kids history! I’d definitely weave in art as much as possible. 🙂

  4. History is the favorite subject in our house. I can see my oldest working in a museum when she’s older. We also add field trips where we can to enhance our studies. We also have a huge wall timeline that we add to all the time. It’s interesting to see what things overlap that you never connected until it’s stuck on the wall in front of you.

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