Teaching homeschool history
With all the wonderful books and historical fiction available for children today, history should never be boring. Elementary grade students should revel in the stories of great men and women and foreign civilizations. Older students should come to appreciate how history shapes today's realities.
Our curriculum is unconventional in that it establishes foundational knowledge in world history before focusing on American history. We believe this is important for two reasons. First, today's world is increasingly international, and even those who never travel will spend their lives living and working with people from all over the world. A grounding in world history fosters a sense of unity with people from all backgrounds. Second, we feel it is impossible to appreciate why our own country is special without an understanding of the historical context in which it developed.
We wait until second grade to begin teaching history. Learning history requires time, and the attention spans of many younger children aren't up to the task. By second grade, children have been listening to more advanced chapter books for over a year, and are ready to focus on the more complex stories that make up world history.
We use the Story of the World book series as a core history text for grades two through five. This is a four-volume series that covers world history in chronological order at a grade school level. For grades six through eight, we focus on American history using the series A History of US. (If you are not in the US, substitute study of your country's history during these grades.)
To supplement the core texts, the curriculum includes a variety of picture books, child-friendly biographies, historical fiction and classic literature. These are scheduled to tie in with the core textbook readings for each month in the curriculum.
How to teach history
We recommend setting aside thirty minutes to an hour for history, three to five days per week in the elementary and middle school grades.
Start each week by reading aloud one chapter from the core history text. Then use the test booklets produced for each core text to check understanding of the readings (and to give your child the opportunity to practice test-taking skills).
For the rest of the week, choose from among the supplementary biographies, world literature and historical fiction included in the curriculum, prioritizing those marked "core" and including the optional materials as time allows.
Some months have a large number of supplementary books, and others have few or none. This is because some historical periods have more quality children's books than others, and we do not want to leave out excellent books, or include mediocre ones that your child will not enjoy. For this reason, we suggest scheduling any books you do not have time for to read during later months.
You may either read these supplementary books aloud, or assign them as independent reading. There is no need to test your child on the supplementary readings; they should simply be enjoyed and provide a feel for life in the historical period being studied.
We feel that every educated person should be able to locate the major countries and geographical entities on a map. Children should also develop a sense of where things are in the world through repeated exposure to maps and globes.
Geography should first be intruduced using a three-dimensional model of the world. This helps young children visualize how the world actually is better than a flat abstraction. You can purchase a traditional globe for your home, but an easier and budget-friendly option is an inflatable globe ball with the countries printed on it. During history lessons, point out the location of the parts of the world being studied on the globe.
In fifth grade students study recent history and the development of modern nation-states. During this year, we set aside time for the memorization of all the countries of the world using Seterra, a free online geography program. The following year, students learn the location of the fifty US states.