Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Post: Make Learning History Fun

History is one of the key subjects in K-12 curriculum, but researchers have found only 13% of high school students in the United States demonstrate proficiency in U.S. history. Developing interest in history at an early age and engaging your child in lessons and exploration related to history can help her gain an appreciation for history and be part of the 13%. When you have a child who is dragging her feet when it comes to history lessons, try some of these strategies to make learning more fun.

Choose specific topics

Rather than having to cover a broad swath of history in just one school year, homeschooling parents have the freedom to pick more specific topics and be on a longer-scale plan to cover the full scope of history. Therefore, choose specific topics and have your child delve deeply into each one. For example, rather than studying Native Americans in general, study just one group, like the Chickasaw nation. Your child will be able to gather more detail, which makes the subject more interesting, while still learning broad concepts about Native American history.

Read historical fiction

One of the best parts about homeschooling is you can easily combine disciplines, rather than having to keep subjects in separate parts of the day. Choose historical fiction books that coordinate with the period in history you're studying to make the details come alive. Kids are naturally drawn to stories and they'll be much more likely to understand a time in history if they get to experience it through the perspective of a character in a novel. For example, life on a Native American reservation may seem foreign until kids read about it through the eyes of a child their age.

Get the whole family involved

If you're homeschooling more than one child, have them all study the same time in history together. They'll be more motivated to learn if they're interacting with other family members. You can even get in on the learning, too, as you explore the topics with them and teach each other the interesting things you're learning. History is one of the best subjects for lifelong learning, can be easily broken into age-appropriate modules and there's always more for you to explore about a time in history, which can't be said of the times tables.

Take field trips

Although you may not be able to visit every site you study in history, taking field trips whenever you are able can help engage your kids in active learning. Consider local field trips as well as trips out of the city or state to help drive home details. For example, even if you can't visit the Chickasaw people in Oklahoma, you may be able to visit the National Museum of the American Indian, which is part of the Smithsonian. You can also often find virtual field trips online to help your child visually explore the things she's learning about during a time in history.

The main key to making history fun for your kids is to help all the rich details come alive. If you can get your kids to start imagining life at that time in history and put themselves in the shoes of the people in history books, they'll be much more engaged in the subject. In addition, you can encourage them to pursue their own topics of interest within a broader topic to let them direct their studies to areas that are most fun for them.

Author bio: Maire is a writer living in Indianapolis. She loves baking her famous double chocolate cookies and hanging out with her orange cat, Walter.

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