When you boil it down, social studies is about people and places. It's not the names, dates, and facts that are useful and interesting. It's the lives of individuals -- famous and unknown -- and the connections between groups.
You can make social studies come alive for your kids by focusing on the fascinating personalities and extraordinary events that make up our history and our world.
Different Ways to Explore the World
The subject of social studies includes history, culture, physical geography, archeology, and government, among other topics.
There are many ways you can approach it, and many different aspects to focus on. Choose the method that matches your family's interests and abilities. Possibilities include:
Decide on an area. You can choose to study the entire world, one continent, one country, one state, or even just one neighborhood.
Pick a time period. You can work chronologically, starting with the emergence of humankind and continuing up to the present day. Or you can pick and choose eras that appeal to you, such as the Age of Exploration or the Cold War.
Choose a theme. Different societies often share important traits. This gives you a chance to examine their structure and development. For instance, you can do a comparison of great empires through the ages, or take a look at the development of democracy in different parts of the world.
Develop skills in critical thinking. Social studies can also include the study of logic and rhetoric. Critical thinking can help your students learn how to find, organize, analyze and present information.
Easy Ways to Start Your Explorations
You can make history and social studies part of your daily life with very little effort. And you don't need a social studies curriculum or history textbook to get started. Some favorite techniques used by many homeschooling families include:
- Keep a map handy on a wall or in a drawer. Pull it out whenever you read or talk about a new place, meet someone from another country, or come across something imported from far away. Homeschooling author Laura Weldon suggests hanging a laminated map and a dry-erase marker on the wall and letting kids write down interesting places they've been or heard about.
- Make a timeline and fill it with historical events as you learn about them. A timeline is a great tool for understanding the connections between people and events. If you don't have a strip of paper long enough, simply tape several sheets of paper together. Connect them accordion style if you prefer to keep your timeline folded up until you need it. But the best way to use it is to hang it on a wall where kids will see it even when they're not doing school work.
- Use historical fiction. By definition, at least some of the details in historical fiction are not true. But you can still use picture books and novels to get a feel for a particular time and place.
- Take advantage of the news and holidays. Talking with your kids about what's going on right now -- from an upcoming election to the opening of a new business in your town -- is the most natural way to bring current events into your curriculum. You can also dig into the background behind our national holidays, or learn about other cultures through their own special days.
Use these suggestions in place of a traditional curriculum. Or supplement them with high-quality social studies survey books. Either way, you'll be helping to show your children that social studies can help them understand the world around them, and their own place in it.