I don’t think teaching history to young kids is necessary nor do I think it should take precedence over other subjects. In fact, I did an entire post on why history isn’t important.
But I do think we should take time where we can to get kids interested in history.
Interest in history is much more important than memorizing history facts or making a history lesson a non-negotiable part of your homeschool week.
If you only work on interest in homeschool once a month, you’re still winning over a boring history lesson done every day.
There are many ways to get kids interested in history. But first, you might have to abandon all your beliefs about what children should know. And instead let your child guide you with what they will know.
I hate to be anecdotal, but I will share my own experiences.
As a child, my history lessons in public school were very much the ‘memorize these people and dates’ type. I’m sure in my 12 years of public schooling I was taught all of the important points in history.
But I still entered college with minimal history knowledge. I might have memorized the dates and people for the tests. But I had forgotten all of it shortly after. Worse still, I didn’t have the knowledge to understand the whys of history.
Knowing what I know now about history, I understand that knowing dates and people is worthless if you don’t understand the whys of history.
As an adult, I find a love of history. When history is presented as a story it is much more fascinating. When I’m not facing the pressure of memorizing every tiny detail and I have the freedom to explore the bigger pictures of history, it is much more fascinating.
I don’t want my kids to be adults before they realize how interesting history is and can be.
How Do I Make History Exciting?
Reading historical fiction.
If you have kids who like to read or enjoy being read to, historical fiction may be your best friend. They won’t learn everything possible, but their understanding of what they do learn will be far superior to memorizing facts.
When you read books like The Golden Bull by Marjorie Cowley you don’t just read about the drought that faced the people of Mesopotamia. You learn that it impacted farmers more than city dwellers, poor more than rich, and how it impacted individual people like Jomar and his sister Zefa.
Your kids might not remember there was a drought in Mesopotamia. But they will remember that Jomar and Zefa had to leave their home and move to the city of Ur because there wasn’t enough food.
You can learn that Hitler killed 17 million people during the Holocaust. Or you can read Number the Stars by Lois Lowrey. You’ll see the world from the eyes of Annemarie and feel the rise of Hitler and escaping to a safer place.
Historical fiction for kids is definitely a genre that is catching up the demand. But there are many wonderful titles for kids and teens.
I’ve been working on some secular historical fiction lists to share the gems we’ve been finding.
Have a visual learner? Try learning history with videos! There are some excellent resources for history-based videos between Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, your library, etc.
I’ve never been much of a visual learner so I’ll have trouble describing the benefits. But I imagine it’s similar to reading a story. The videos make history more real and less of an abstract concept. When you can see the artifacts of evidence of history, it’s that much more real.
I have a short list of places to look for videos. I’ll also recommend just searching on those channels with keywords for the topic you’re wanting to study.
Crash Course Kids
Netflix and Amazon Prime:
Art has been popular in almost every culture throughout history. Someone is recording history through art.
Studying their art and making projects based on historical art is a great way to immerse yourself (and kids) into human history.
History is often recorded through art. And art can show us the culture and customs of the past.
For kids who love art, it is a great way to also get them interested in history. If your kids love to draw, have them draw their version of a famous painting. Or ask them to draw what they imagined something from history would have looked like.
For more ideas, here is a list of resources with a focus on art and art history.
Art Class Curator
Meet the Masters
Just like with art, there are many STEAM based projects that bring history to life.
You can build with blocks, LEGO, or any tools and remake parts of history like the pyramids, the library of Alexandria, or the Taj Mahal.
There are many ways to find STEM Projects. I primarily use Pinterest. But some people have fully fleshed out plans as well.
Board games now are not what they used to be (or I just didn’t know about the awesome board games in the past).
Forget Monopoly. There are now board games that are exciting, fun, and family friendly. And the best part is, many of them are educational.
Board games are a great way to introduce kids to history because they’re meant to be fun and engaging. Plus they may open more questions.
I remember playing Civilization II as a teen and learning about so many of the great innovations from our past. I didn’t always know the people or inventions from the game and I would often look up information about them.
To start finding games from history, look here:
Homeschool Gameschool – History List
Most cultures have some kind of mythology to fall back on. But even in ones that don’t, there is enough mythology to get your kids fulled immersed in history.
My kids love magic and fantastical stories. And that’s what primarily makes up mythology!
A lot of fiction books that are semi-historical feature mythology. Those are great books to read to introduce kids to other cultures and times and get them fascinated by the idea of history.
My favorite mythology books are the D’Aularies. They have a lot of options
- D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths
- D’Aulaires Book of Norse Myths
- D’Aulaires Book of Norweigan Folktales
We also have the book World Mythology for Children by Sarah Cook. It’s a great way to introduce your kids to some mythology.
Focus on just the parts that interest your child.
Ask yourself what your kids like and start there. If it’s art or science, go back to the art and STEM parts and focus on that.
Maybe they’re really into fashion. Start looking at fashion throughout history and talk about those times.
If they’re into architecture – look at old buildings!
Do they enjoy creative writing? Have them write a story that takes place at a certain point in history.
Some topics will be harder to weave into history but I think with enough imagination and ingenuity, you can do it.
Remember – the point is to get them excited about history, not just to learn all the little details! If you can get them excited, you can get back to the nitty gritty at a later point.
Don’t be afraid to jump around in history.
There are many great arguments for using a chronological system for history. And I don’t disagree with those arguments at all.
Except when it comes to enticing kids into history.
Maybe you’ve done Ancient Egypt again. And again. And again.
Maybe your kids just don’t care about ancient history.
Maybe something they’ve read or seen recently has given them an interest in a different time period.
Don’t feel like you have to stick to a chronological system just because. If you can get your kid excited about history by jumping around in time, go for it.
So what now? What next steps do you take?
First, think about your kids and what gets them excited. Go through the list and find of the next best step to take.
And then just do it. Don’t worry about getting everything just perfect. Just jump in.
In the blogging world, there is a common saying “It’s better done than perfect’. In other words, it’s better to do something than wait until everything is just right.
If you try one tactic and it doesn’t work – don’t give up! Keep at it or try another.
But won’t we miss something?
The truth is that your kids are probably going to miss some important fact in history no matter what method you take. You could drill and kill for 12 years and they would still miss something.
Our goals as parents shouldn’t be that our kids know every single thing before they move out. Our goal should be to teach our kids how to find out the information they missed or forgot.
A kid who knows how to learn will likely do better than a kid who “knows it all”.
So yes, you will miss something.
But hopefully, you’ve presented history in a way that they’re ready to learn more. And in a way that they know how to find the information they’ve missed.