Y’all probably already know that I’m a fan of studying history. I was not fond of history when I was in school. I remember having a discussion with my grandfather about history. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t love it like he did. I’m wondering if history is just something you appreciate when you’re older. I know my kids don’t love it like I do…but I don’t think they dislike as much as I did when I was their age either.
It is my hope to instill a love of history in my kids or, at the very least, plant the seeds for a love of history. I’ve got some favorite resources for attempting such a lofty goal. Below are my top ten:
1. Story of the World. Being the classically eclectic, slightly Charlotte Mason homeschoolers that we are, we have long been fans of Story of the World. I love the way that the SOTW books relay historical facts in an interesting, read-aloud, story-book fashion, peaking the interest of even the youngest readers.
The only thing I haven’t especially liked about Story of the World this year is how gory it can be. I know that beheadings and such were historical facts, but – sheesh! – there were a bunch of them. I’m thinking that it suffices to know that someone was killed and that knowing that their head was ordered delivered to the czar in a velvet bag is just superfluous, but maybe that’s just me.
People often ask me if I think that the SOTW Activity Guides are a necessary part of the curriculum. I always answer that question with a resounding, “Yes!” If you know me well, you know that the hands-on activities are my favorite part of any curriculum. The SOTW Activity Guides include not only hands-on activity suggestions for each topic, but also suggested books for further reading, discussion questions, maps, coloring pages, and more.
2. Pandia Press’ History Odyssey. We’ve just started using History Odyssey in the last year or so and I’m really enjoying it. I like that way it guides the user chronologically through history, acting as a spine book for other choices among my favorites, such as Story of the World, great literature, and the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History.
History Odyssey includes its own maps, coloring pages, and activity suggestions. It doesn’t contain enough hands-on activities for my tastes, but that is easily remedied using the SOTW Activity Guide or library resources.
3. Homeschool in the Woods’ Timeline Figures. We love the Homeschool in the Woods timeline figures. We’ve used them, albeit somewhat inconsistently for several years. If you’ve been fearful of timelines like I was for a long time, you should check out all the ideas offered on the Homeschool in the Woods website for implementing timelines. Of course, our current favorite method for maintaining a timeline is a blank, spiral-bound timeline book we picked up a few years ago from Miller Pad and Paper.
4. A Picture Book of…Biographies. I love picture books for history because they usually present the important facts succinctly and, let’s face it, you don’t have time to go in-depth with every person and event. The Picture Book biographies by David Adler have always served us well when we’ve needed a quick, but thorough introduction to a historical figure.
5. The Childhood of Famous Americans series. When we have time for a longer biography, we’ve really enjoyed several books in the Childhood of Famous Americans series, the most memorable being the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright. I think the kids like these books so much because it gives them a glimpse of what many historical figures were like as kids, making them much more relatable.
6. Dear America books. We’ve enjoyed the Dear America books for helping us to visualize a certain period in history rather than, necessarily, a certain person. These books are written as diary entries and are great for getting an idea of what day-to-day life might have looked like in different periods of time.
Most of the Dear America books are written from a girl’s point of view, so, if you have boys, you may want to look at the My Name is America series, which is the same general premise as the Dear America books, but written by boys as journal entries.
There is also a Royal Diaries series that we’ve enjoyed for learning more about famous royals. Again, these tend to be from a girl’s point of view.
7. The Magic Tree House books. The Magic Tree House books are definitely on our list of great resources for studying history (and sometimes science). These are perfect for the 7 to 10-year-old set (possibly older because I enjoy them, t00). What’s great is that many of them also have a non-fiction companion guides called “research guides,” which our family has found very useful in many of our studies.
8. Living Books. In addition to the specific book sets I’ve already mentioned, we just enjoy studying history through great living books as much as possible. Nothing gets you into a setting like an engrossing book. There are several websites that I’ve found helpful in finding books for certain periods in history, such as:
9. The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the World or Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. We have both of these books that we use with History Odyssey, but they’re also suggested resources for many other history guides (I think SOTW recommends the Kingfisher book). They aren’t stand-alone books for teaching history, in my opinion, but they complement just about any history study with their chronological overview of history, timelines, and fantastic illustrations.
10. Maps. While maps may be associated more with geography than history, I can’t see studying history without them. Maps (and globes and atlases) help us to visualize who was close to what, making wars and territory disputes make much more sense. We have several printable outline map books, as well as atlases and a globe to make history more visual for us.
What are some of your favorite history resources?
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.