Teaching History in Your Homeschool

History is not focused on so much in school these days. I was disappointed to learn that it isn’t even included on the big, important ACT test. But a knowledge of history is vital to Americans. History is where you learn the average length of time the world’s civilizations have endured, and where we are currently on that time clock. It’s where you learn from the past about what works and what doesn’t so you don’t make the same mistakes as a society. But it can also be one of the driest subjects to children. The teacher must have a fire for the subject herself and then be able to transmit that excitement to her students.

Take a page from my own childhood experience. I entered sixth grade very excited to have my first encounter with world history, but it quickly became an overwhelming bore, what with dozens of end-of-chapter questions that had to be answered in complete sentences, hundreds of vocabulary words, memorization of meaningless facts. History did not come alive for me at all, and I actually made a D, yes, a D in history, my only one ever, and only because of so many incomplete assignments. That class effectively killed my budding love of history for the next 10 years.

So we do history differently in our homeschool. Yes, there are still assignments, and I do like my children to be familiar with a few key dates (Columbus-1492, Civil War-1861-1865, etc.) But my goal has been to really bring out the importance of history and its effects on all of our lives, as well as to inspire with the curious and innovative spirits of so many historical figures. Both of my kids have indicated that they “get it”, and one has even stated that he likes history. A beautiful moment!

So for our “spine”, as it’s called (the main resource you use as an overview of history), we used some good textbooks, just your basic, “This happened, followed by this happening, etc.”, not always fascinating by itself, but I like my children to get the big picture of the history of the world to date. The supplemental resources we’ve used are really where it’s at, where you get the words of people who say, “I was there and this is what it was like.” In that vein we read lots of books and watched lots of documentaries and films. There are many interesting biographies, written on a children’s level, that you can buy or check out from your local library. Many homeschool websites provide resources and recommendations for history supplements that include hands-on activities, games, crafts, stories, and other things which make the subject come alive for kids.

Timelines are very effective for seeing how events fit together in history, and to see what was going on in different parts of the world at the same time. We have a large, comprehensive one covering one wall of our schoolroom, plus each child has their own sketchbook where they keep a timeline with small drawings of each entry. History can become a favorite subject in your homeschool too.

The History Of Home Schooling

Home schooling is also known as home education, and is a method of teaching children in the family home, rather than at an institution, such as a public school. Originally, all schooling was done in the family home, or informally within small communities. Very few children ever went to school, or had private tutelage. Children who did have this type of education were considered to be privileged, and were mainly from wealthy families.

Informal education, mainly conducted in the home, was the only way for children to gain an education. In the US, there were books dedicated to home education, such as “Helps To Education in the Homes of Our Country” authored by Warren Burton. Parents were the main teachers of their children, although, where possible, local teachers would assist parents, and take classes. It is said that before schooling was institutionalized, the US was at its height of literacy skills.

The 19th century saw many significant changes to the way education, and schooling was conducted with the introduction of compulsory school attendance laws. It is now considered a human right that children are given an education provided by the government.

Over the years, there has been much controversy over the effectiveness of institutionalized schooling, and some people have even gone as far as saying that the compulsory schooling system is damaging to younger children, especially boys who are slower to mature.

In the early 1970s, Ray and Dorothy Moore, who later become well known home schooling advocates, researched the bearing that early childhood education had on the mental, and, physical development of children between the ages of 8 to 12 years of age. Through these studies, the Moores produced evidence that formal schooling was damaging to children, and a cause for some behavioral problems commonly found in school aged children.

According to these tests, illiterate tribal mothers in Africa had children that were more socially, and emotionally advanced than children in the western world. The Moores believed that this was largely due to the bond between parents, and their children being broken when children were institutionalized in schooling systems.

In some English speaking countries, it is still an option for parents to home school their children rather than to send them to an institutionalized school. There are a wide variety of home schooling methods available to families who choose to home school their children, rather than send them to schools, including methods such as classical education, Waldorf education, and the Montessori method.

Home schooling can also refer to schooling done in a home environment, with supervision by teachers through correspondence schools. While children are schooled at home, they must still complete compulsory educational subjects, and take tests.

One of the main reasons that parents choose to home school their children is that they feel the schools are unable to offer their children the same quality of education, or social environment that can be taught at home.