Note: If you’re in a rush and want a quick and simple list of resources, check out History & Geography – Quick Resources List.
History and Geography are my favorite subjects to teach.
I absolutely love them!
But when I was a kid, these subjects were far from my favorites. Everything seemed so dry and boring. There were so many names and dates to memorize.
I was forever scrambling to understand how to connect all of the dots. How did this person fit with that date? How did this event relate to that location?
And we never seemed to study anything in chronological order which made no sense whatsoever!
But whenever we took a family vacation, history and geography suddenly came alive.
We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, but my mom and dad still found ways to expose me to incredible historical and geographical places. Their passion and knowledge showed me how exciting history could be.
We visited national parks, museums, and cultural sites.
Studied maps and read related literature.
Sat in Ford’s Theater while trying to comprehend Lincoln’s assassination.
Toured the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, marveling at nature’s grandeur.
Stonehenge. The Canadian Rockies. Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. California Missions.
As I continued growing up, the more historical fiction I was exposed to. And I fell head over heels for this genre.
Without fail, I was always left wanting to learn more about whatever time period I had just read about.
I fell in love with the stories I read. The characters and places became real to me. These stories captured my attention so much that I actively sought out related nonfiction sources.
Through the power of story, I learned about history and geography more effectively than any other method I’ve been exposed to.
And this holds true, even today.
The more I’m able to incorporate stories into my learning, the better I am able to understand and retain the information. Stories breathe life into learning.
Stories make the information tangible and relevant.
Exciting and magical.
Interesting and engaging.
So this is what I’ve tried to do with my kids too. We start all of our history and geography studies beginning with the power of story. And then we build the rest of our learning around that story.
These are the steps I take in preparing for history and geography:
1. Identify which time period we plan to cover during the upcoming year.
Note: We have studied history chronologically, beginning with Prehistory. So when my daughter was in Kindergarten, we studied Prehistory. In first grade, Ancients. Second grade, Middle Ages. Third grade, Early Modern. Fourth grade, Modern Times. Then in fifth grade, we revisited Prehistory and Ancients. Sixth and seventh grades were spent doing a deep dive into U.S. History. In eighth grade, we explored World History.
2. Choose a curriculum guide and supplemental reading for the year.
See “Curriculum Guides and Supplemental Reading” below for more details.
3. Make a list of approved historical fiction books for kids. My children both select what they want to read from the list.
See “Historical Fiction Books” below for more details.
4. Check the local libraries to see what materials are available and to make purchase suggestions. Also, check where to buy materials that need to be purchased.
5. Make a list of related supplementals like documentaries, audiobooks, maps, puzzles, games, and drawing materials.
Not sure where to begin? I would start by asking your Librarian, looking for suggestions on Netflix, (if you are a member) and googling your lil’ heart out!
6. Look into potential field trips and make a list of possibilities. Check costs and see if there are any free opportunities and discounts to take advantage of.
History & Geography Resources for Homeschooling:
Curriculum Guides and Supplemental Reading:
History Odyssey by Pandia Press is what we used during the early elementary years. We completed both the Ancients and Middle Ages curriculum sets. History Odyssey offers an incredibly thorough guide which allows for easy planning and organization.
Build Your Library is what we used for a couple of years as we studied U.S. history. Specifically, we have used US History Part 1 and US History Part 2. This program actually reaches beyond history and geography and covers science, art, and other subjects as well. However, we have different preferences for these other subjects and so we have used primarily just the history section of Build Your Library.
History of US by Joy Hakim is the main spine required for Build Your Library’s US History sections.
The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History is a beautiful text, packed full of information. All of the other Usborne Encyclopedias are also fantastic.
Liberty’s Kids is an animated series covering the American Revolution. My kids loved this set!
Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? If you grew up in the mid-80’s or 90’s, you might remember Carmen from your childhood geography studies. Based on a computer game, this animated series was fairly popular back in the day. Well, it turns out it wasn’t too dated for my kids to enjoy it. Hooray!
Kid’s Animated History with Pipo: A Time Compass. This is a pretty fast-paced animated series covering the world’s ancient cultures. It provides a nice glimpse and offers a great starting point to then do a deep dive into specifics.
I’ll Have What Phil’s Having and Somebody Feed Phil are both available on Netflix and absolutely beloved in our house. Phil Rosenthal, the creator of the sitcom Everyone Loves Raymond, travels the world, eating the local cuisine and meeting people
Crash Course Videos are the creation of brothers John and Hank Green and are easily accessible on YouTube. You may be familiar with author John Green’s books, including The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Turtles All the Way Down. Not all material is appropriate for young children. I have been comfortable with my middle-school aged children watching Crash Course but please preview to see if you feel the content is appropriate for your children. We have watched World History, U.S. History, Geography, and Government courses. And we will continue watching as many as we can!
Mapping the World Through Art is a book and DVD drawing program that provides both visual and written instruction to draw the world. We really took our time with this and spent about two years drawing our way through the program.
ART K12 offers a variety of books providing instruction in drawing specific areas of the world. Kristin Draeger is the creator and provides a variety of art, art history, and geography materials. I love the simple instructions and appealing layout of her books. We have used Draw the USA and Draw Africa.
We are planning to use Draw Europe this coming year and will likely continue using her products. I am intrigued by her art history material and am eager to check them out.
Historical Fiction Books:
By now you know that I am a super fan of historical fiction!
Think of this genre as a magical gateway to an appreciation for history and an exciting way of learning and growing.
I get that it can feel completely overwhelming trying to figure out what books to read. But I’ve got some great news for you!
Jamie Martin, fellow homeschooler and the author of Give Your Child the World, has done all of the work for us.
Jamie has organized books by geographical region and recommended reading age. This is an invaluable resource that I have highlighted, doggy-eared, and continue to return to time and again.
I am going to wrap this up by encouraging you to access what I believe to be the greatest resource of all.
Visit your local library in person.
Check out their website and see what’s available online.
Get to know your librarians and ask them for recommendations.
Do you have any history or geography resources that you love? How about some historical fiction titles?
And be sure to check out my other recommended resources for homeschooling:
- Math Resources for Homeschooling
- Language Arts Resources for Homeschooling
- Science Resources for Homeschooling
- 10 Enchanting Poetry Books for Young Kids
- 10 Captivating Poetry Books for Middle Schoolers
- 10 Poetry Books for High Schoolers