Christian Homeschool Resources & Homeschooling Advice

Hands-On History, Part Two

  • 2006 13 Dec
Hands-On History, Part Two

Here are some practical ways to teach Hands-On History:

1. Pick a period in history.


2. Gather good resources, grab lots of books: some for younger kids, some for older, some just right. Look for books with interesting pictures, maps, diagrams. (Check out the oversized book collection.)


3. Flop on the floor with kids and browse. This could last several days or even a week or more.


4. Talk about what you are looking at - generate enthusiasm. Record questions.


5. Teach research skills under the guise of detective work. It's ever so much more fun that way. Assign them to be history detectives who are to discover the answers to a few selected questions. Show them where and how to find the answers.


6. Pay attention to what really ignites their curiosity. Consider planning projects & trips to complement their interest.


7. After spending time reading and browsing, begin bringing out additional resources one or two at a time: games, videos, posters, coins, postcards, activity kits, crafts, recipe books, etc.


8. As they begin to answer assigned questions in their student notebook add simple projects: cook a dish, draw a picture for their timeline, play a game.


9. Begin work on maps & timelines. These are important, often underrated, hands-on activities.


10. Take a trip or do a special activity.


11. In the last weeks of the unit plan a final project - the grand finale.


12. Develop film, add pictures & memorabilia to notebooks.


13. Organize and tidy the notebooks - here is the finished project that has captured what you've learned during this unit!


Keys to Success

(A.) Be realistic regarding available time.

- Plan ahead.

- Don't overload.

- Follow the plan.

- Give students some choices

- Simple hands-on projects can be just as effective as elaborate ones.

- Keep everything worthwhile in a notebook.

- Smile - attitude is almost everything.


(B.) Phases of Learning

1. Exposure.

2. Research: in-depth.

3. Synthesis of information.

4. Output - show what you've learned.


(C.) Learning by Asking

When teaching history, show students that history is a series of stories about people just like you. Capture the stories and you'll capture their interest! We're all naturally curious. Unfortunately, that curiosity is all too often dulled by an unimaginative education.


Students who become habituated to the "teachers ask questions and I fill in the answers" type of schooling may lose interest. Answering questions may be seen as an end, rather than a beginning. Students who've already become burned out in an institutional school setting may find that asking and then answering their own questions is a novel, and possibly intimidating, idea. Students work when they are truly interested in something. The search becomes relevant when they care.


Interest is generated and enthusiasm builds. This doesn't happen overnight though. Asking questions and then researching the answers is an important part of the learning process. So is the hands-on aspect. Put them together and you have the ingredients for a dynamic and memorable course!


Putting it All Together

Do you ever look back and wonder if you really taught history last year? Do you forget the many neat projects, crafts & activities? Do your kids have a record of what they learned and did? Consider keeping a student history notebook. Keeping a notebook provides:


- an outlet for creativity

- an opportunity to develop note-taking skills

- a place to practice penmanship and drawing

- a place for a permanent record of what was learned

- and a record of progress.


What we PERFORM, we REMEMBER. And if we don't record it somewhere - we'll wonder what it was we did a few years ago.


Simple hands-on resources like the Fandex Field Guides (available in many titles including Presidents, Explorers, Civil War, etc.) are excellent additions to your home library. These, as well as books with great project ideas including Hands-On Geography and The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide, are available from Bright Ideas Press.


Maggie Hogan is a speaker, columnist, and author. She and her husband, Bob, are owners of Bright Ideas Press, a homeschool company dedicated to bringing the best practical, fun, and affordable materials to the homeschool market.


Click here to read part one of Hands-on History.