Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to get your homeschooler to love history

Our children always acquired knowledge best if they were actually doing hands-on learning, rather than reading about it or watching it on television. The more children do, the more they learn and the more it sticks with them. Much of what we did opened up conversations about the past that satisfied their inquiring minds. The best part was learning history and truths, alongside our children, that we never learned in school.

Do you have a homeschooler who balks at learning history? We tossed out the text books and went full bore into the past. Tell yourself, and your child, that today is a day you make your own history. Everything you do and say today will become your history. The following are some ways we managed to instill a passion for history in our children.

We always made sure we visited historical sites wherever we went, even if simply a local place of significance or a cemetery to find ancestors. (Never do gravestone rubbings because the stones are old and can topple over onto a child!) Trips can be short or long but needn't be expensive, if well planned.

If you've saved for years to take a family vacation, choose to drive instead of flying. You'll see and absorb far more than doing a flyover. Plan for one or two stops along the way where you can explore in depth instead of several locations just for the sake of stopping. For instance, we would drive the East coast from Vermont to Florida and would always plan for extended visits in Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg, Virginia. By staying over an extra day or two you could take your time and the children could rest between outings.

Talk with old folks
If your budget limits you to more local travel, there are lots of fun and educational opportunities closer to home. Your children can talk to older folks about the past. Many of these seasoned citizens have old photos or items to share. Now that's a real show and tell. Learn to record these conversations and you're officially an historian.

Visit antique shops
You and your children can enjoy a scavenger hunt through antique shops. These stores are a goldmine of historical artifacts. Our children grew up around the antique business and it was amazing how much history they absorbed, not to mention an appreciation and knowledge for a livelihood they can always fall back on in tough economic times.

Replace modern gadgets with vintage ones
If you want to have some real educational fun you can replace modern gadgets and items in your home with vintage ones. Can you imagine your child learning to communicate with a rotary phone? You probably aren't inclined to construct an outhouse in the back yard but why not do some laundry with home-made soap and a wash board and use a clothesline? When life is a little more of a struggle, children develop an appreciation for the modern conveniences and how hard their ancestors worked just to simply survive.

Wear vintage clothing
Does your homeschooler like to dress up? Find some vintage clothing and accessories for them to wear on a daily basis. Have a teen homeschooler? An heirloom necklace or pocket watch can inspire research into historical life. Attend estate sales or auctions where you can view items people used to wear. Vintage is actually back in style so, chances are, your teens won't complain about what their friends will think.

Collect old stuff
Encourage your homeschooler to start a collection of vintage or antique items. You can find inexpensive things at tag sales, flea markets, shops and free piles, or ask an old neighbor if they have anything they want to part with for free. When our daughter was young her great-grandmother gave her 3 small vintage Polish dolls. That began a life time of collecting more and learning about the history of great-grandmother, dolls and Poland. For many years we enjoyed traveling to flea markets in search of these little dolls. 

Another of our missions was finding Victorian style miniatures for our daughter's doll house. That alone led to many discussions about the Victorian era and lifestyles. As always, one era would lead to another in either direction. At one time our discussions about women, and their role in society, led us to the Jane Austin books. Our daughter devoured them in no time flat.

Our son didn't have the same interests as his older sister. He was content to just tag along on most excursions and, as an unschooler, seemed to learn by osmosis. In fact, he didn't become a reader until he was ten years old. However, when he was older we were amazed at how much history he knew. He's a great asset to my estate cleanout business because he can recognize old gadgets and tools and knows how they were used.  Our son is also savvy about American political and cultural history as well, even though he's still far more interested in modern electronics and futuristic gadgets. 

There are big advantages to all this exposure to the past and knowing how to live in a slower paced world of man-powered tools and self-made entertainment. Those who are familiar with them will be better able to survive, should their own economies and interests funnel them into a lifestyle sustained by ingenuity and personal skills. Also, knowing what has motivated mankind through the ages prevents us from falling into the same traps. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the knowledge of where they have descended from so they may be better able to plot a course for where they are headed in the future. 

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