What should be included in the best homeschool history curriculum?
Everyone has heard that the phrase, “He who doesn’t know history is doomed to repeat it.” The clear takeaway from this statement is, of course, that history is important. How and what you teach your children about the past can have the power to shape their worldview and their future choices.
So, then, if you are on the search for the best homeschool history curriculum, keep in mind another quote, this time from British poet and statesman John Milton, that education should stir our students “with high hopes of living to be brave men and worthy patriots, dear to God, and famous to all ages.”
How to Choose the Best Homeschool History Curriculum
As you choose a homeschool history curriculum, you should consider the idea that history studies should inspire children to be brave and worthy men and women. For very young children, the aim of any history curriculum should be to introduce the important people and places of world history. Students should be exposed to ancient history, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, American history, and recent history. And the best history curriculum will make sure that they study each of these periods once in elementary school, once in the junior high years, and once in the high school years to reinforce their knowledge and understanding of these times.
Young Students Should Focus on the Historical Timeline
For elementary-aged students, the best homeschool history curriculum will include two things: good stories and activities to memorize key names, dates, and events. Very young students should be delighted to meet the major figures of history and to hear stories of their triumphs and defeats.
At the same time, they should begin to assemble a mental timeline of world history. For example, in the Classical Conversations® Foundations program for students ages 4 and up, we encourage parents to sing with their children what we call the “Timeline Song” and practice recalling dates on the Classical Acts and Facts® history cards. This prepares the way for students to make sense of their later history studies. Because young children need to build this timeline of history, many parents choose a homeschool history curriculum that teaches history in chronological order.
As far as resources, there is no better comprehensive overview of world history for young students that is also told from a Christian worldview than that provided by The Story of the World. And if you are looking to supplement your history studies at home with great read-alouds, look no further than the Echoes trilogy, which walks parents and children through the history of the ancient, old, and new world periods with classic poems and tales perfect for reading aloud.
Middle Students Should Focus on Questioning and Understanding
As students progress into the junior high years, parents will want to consider a homeschool history curriculum that gives students many opportunities to ask and answer good questions about history and to have good discussions with their parents and peers.
Students at these ages want to know why a particular strategy worked for Napoleon or why the South lost the Civil War. In order to encourage this curiosity and discussion, parents will want to choose a history curriculum that asks open-ended, thoughtful questions rather than simply providing multiple-choice answers.
For instance, if you are studying American history with your middle-school aged student, The American Experience Storybook offers clear presentations of the lives of great historical figures in the history of the United States. These quick stories make for perfect starting places to begin asking questions with your student about the character of these figures, the morality of their decisions, and their impact on future events.
Older Students Should Focus on Original Documents
Parents of high school-aged students will want to choose a history curriculum that encourages students to read and think about original documents. For example, an American history curriculum might direct students to read the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution in their entirety rather than reading about them secondhand. Older students should be able to read and interpret these original documents.
A history curriculum for high school-aged students should also offer plenty of opportunities for students to write persuasive essays about history, deliver speeches, and engage in debates. One excellent way for students at this level to study the Civil War would be for them to debate whether or not the Civil War was primarily fought over the issue of slavery.
In our high school-level Challenge program, students study history by diving into original source documents and classic literature that sets the scene for what was going on at the time. As students discuss these sources in their local community, they are able to formulate their own opinions and ideas about certain historical events, rather than just taking a textbook historian’s views as fact.
Does the Best Homeschool History Curriculum Exist?
Of course, since each family is different, the best homeschool history curriculum for your family is the one that suits your personal goals and learning styles. Still, there are several qualities that every homeschool history curriculum should include regardless.
For one, kindergarten-aged students should focus mainly on memorizing dates, events, and historical figures by studying a broad overview of history. Middle school-aged students, on the other hand, are ready to ask good questions. Likewise, their homeschool history curriculum should encourage this questioning so that they develop a deeper understanding of events and figures. Lastly, students in the high school years should read original source documents, debating and considering their significance in the both the small and broad scopes of history.
This post was originally written by Jennifer Courtney in 2017.
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