History should definitely be fun. Yet, most of my history teachers throughout my public school days made history as boring as possible. To them, it just seemed to be a series of dates, names, and vocabulary words. With one exception: Mr. Wolfe. He was the coolest history teacher in all of Junior High. And because of him, I know how to make history fun for my kids.
What did he do that was so different? He loved telling stories. That’s what history is, after all, a series of stories. Wolfe loved the stories of America’s past, and he brought them to life in several different ways:
Acting and Roleplaying: Instead of quietly reading about the past, try reliving it. Go in the backyard and pretend to be traveling down the Oregon Trail. Gather the family around the kitchen table and pretend to sign the Declaration of Independence. Go to your neighborhood park and relive the adventure of Lewis and Clark. (Of course, this means that as the homeschool parent, you’ve got to brush up on your history so that you can guide them on this historic journey).
Mnemonic Games: If you want your child to learn all the names of the Civil War generals or the state capitals, rote memorization gets awful boring. Mnemonic games and activities help us remember dates and facts that would otherwise get lost in our maze of neurons. My daughters have been learning the capitals of the world, all with the help of amusing words and mental images. Here’s and example:
The capital of Uganda is Kampala.
My daughter memorized it this way. They imagined a little brother calling for his big sister. “You gotta… come Paula!” Uganda, Kampala. Get it?
I recommend useful books such as “Yo Sacramento” and “Yo Millard Fillmore,” both of them are by Will Cleveland. Of course, you and your kids could create your own!
Create Art and Comic Books: Because history is so action packed, filled with battles, great escapes, natural disasters, and glorious victories, the whole field of study seems like the perfect comic book vehicle. My kids and I, when we are feeling artistic, like to tell frame-by-frame stories about history. Last month, we made a comic strip about Plato and Socrates. We drew humorous looking characters and recreated Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and also made a story about Plato’s Utopia. It was a fun way to express the ideas we learned from some rather dense and daunting historic literature.