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Hands-On History, Part One

  • Maggie S. Hogan
  • 2002 6 Nov
Hands-On History, Part One

What is history? It's an orderly and systematic study of human activities in the past. What happened? Whom did it affect? What were the results? How is it relevant to our lives today? What does the Bible say about it?


Don't Know Much About History

What kind of history education did you receive? I hope it was better than mine. I have certainly learned more history since I began home schooling than I ever learned in school. (And enjoyed it more, too!)


When I was in school, we learned history straight out of textbooks. I honestly don't remember a single history activity or field trip, except for one trip to the UN in fifth grade.


However, I hope my kids will remember much of what we've covered in history because I've made an effort to make it memorable. I've used a variety of quality resources, hands-on projects, field trips and I've included plenty of discussion time.


More than Just the United States

Before I dig into the hands-on part, I need to address one history issue. I don't remember studying anything outside of American history until my world history class in high school. American history is important but does it warrant being taught year in and year out at the expense of learning about the rest of the world?


I'm surprised at how often I hear people say that they only teach American history when their kids are much older. They seem to think that other time periods and places are concepts too difficult to grasp. That's like only teaching the New Testament because the Old Testament is too hard. I would encourage you to start at the beginning and teach chronologically.


Why Hands-On?

What we PERFORM, we REMEMBER. You can tell me something and I may or may not remember it - depending on how interested in it I am. For example, if my husband starts explaining an accounting procedure to me, I have to work to keep my eyes from glazing over! I have great trouble recalling anything to do with numbers.


But let's say this information is important so he even shows me on the computer. I still may or may not remember. But my husband, natural teacher that he is, knows it will only stick with me if he has ME perform the process. Once I do it, I'm much more likely to remember it.


Let's say you are teaching Old Testament history. You're discussing the Flood and Noah and his ark. You read aloud from the Bible the dimensions of the ark. Perhaps you even draw a quick sketch or find a picture of what the ark might have looked like. Your kids may or may not remember it - depending on their level of interest. But - if you gather kids and go outside with a pre-measured piece of string and they walk off the dimensions of Noah's Ark - that is something they will remember.


Next week, in Part Two, we’ll look at some practical steps for teaching hands-on history.



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 home school company dedicated to bringing the best practical, fun, and affordable materials to the home school market. Visit them at