One of the best ways to help kids learn history is to make learning fun. That was the thought leaping to my mind as I browsed the A La Carte history projects from Home School in the Woods. Using games, crafts and hands-on activities, Home School in the Woods helps homeschoolers make history fun. We had the chance to review three of these products.
New World Explorers Timeline
The New World Explorers timeline fit in perfectly with our current unit of study in history. We’ve already discussed most of the explorers on this timeline, so it provided a great review for the girls. The timeline made it easy to organize the explorers we’ve learned about.
I downloaded and printed the timeline in a few minutes. It was easy to tape all the pages together with packing tape to make the folding timeline. As I worked, I thought this was so much neater than our current timeline on the wall. I knew it would be durable because of the packing tape, and easy to store because of how it folded.
The girls coloured a few of the explorers and cut them all out. They chattered about the explorers they’d already learned about, and asked questions about some of the figures we weren’t familiar with.
While I used this timeline as a review, it would also be a great springboard for starting to study these historical men (and a few women!). Kids could research each person as they glued him to the timeline.
Timelines are a great help with all the dates of history. With this timeline, the girls have a visual reference for which explorers ventured across the ocean when. There are times when lots of exploration was happening, and other times when only a few explorers were sailing around.
One tip I learned from my first-year university history professor is not to focus on exact dates. She was happy as long as we could place an event or person within 50 years. For example, on a quiz, if we said that Columbus landed in America in 1500, that was close enough for her.
While the explorers each have exact dates in the tiny description beneath their names, they are arranged on the timeline around the closest decade. So while I tease my girls about what important event happened in 1492, like my history prof, I’m happy if they know that Columbus and Cabot explored about the same time, five hundred years after Lief Eriksson.
Journey Through the Middle Ages File Folder Game
This game was the most work to put together, but also the most fun. I love history, so I was excited about a historical board game. The girls love board games, so I knew this would be a great way to get them involved in the Middle Ages. Besides history, the game board also helps them build a map of Europe in their heads.
I started putting it together one night for the girls after they’d gone to bed. Once I had it all printed, I quickly coloured the map, then cut out all the cards and figures. The cutting is what took the longest time and I was glad to have my paper cutter.
The girls were interested as soon as they saw it. I had to finish cutting out a few of the trivia cards, and they could barely wait for me to do this. They actually put the figures together for me and quickly picked two for each of them. The figures are a noblewoman, peasant woman, nun, monk, knight and merchant—typical people from the Middle Ages.
Once we had the game set up, we found a dice and began to play. Some of the questions were pretty tricky (I didn’t even know the answers, despite several university history courses, lots of historical fiction plus studying history with the girls!) and others were super easy. Either way, we learned from the questions and had lots of fun playing together.
I would say that you need to have some historical studies done before attempting this board game. We’ve finished a few units on Medieval History and still found some of the trivia cards challenging. If I knew the girls wouldn’t know the answer to a question, we’d skip that card. If we had studied the topic but they’d forgotten, then I gave them a few hints about the answers. I’m sure we’ll learn more as we keep playing it, but I wouldn’t jump into the board game with someone who has never studied the Middle Ages.
I also wished this game had better instructions. I felt like we were guessing at what to do in a few places, and I even looked at the entire package again to see if there were more instructions that I hadn’t printed.
Pirate Panoply Game
I chose Pirate Panoply mostly for fun. The girls like Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Tinkerbelle and the Pirate Fairy, so I thought they’d have enjoy learning about a real pirate.
I liked this game because you can print as many copies as you have players. So I printed four copies on cardstock, one for each of my girls (even 2-year-old Pearl likes doing whatever her sisters are doing!). The girls each coloured their pirate’s clothes. They had fun naming their pirates and discussing what colours each pirate should wear.
Once the pirate clothes were coloured, the girls cut them out. We have plenty of spare dice for them to play the game. They also enjoyed just dressing their pirates, like paper dolls. When they were done playing, I found an envelope to store the pirates in. I glued the game instructions to the outside of the envelope. If the girls keep playing the game, I’ll laminate the pieces to help them last longer.
Other A La Carte Products for More History Fun!
The A La Carte projects range in price from $1.95 to $9.95. They are downloads, so you can use them as soon as you purchase them (no waiting for the mail to arrive!). The products include games, newspapers, timelines and other activities to get your child interested and involved in history from Bible times to the 20th century.
It’s easy to browse the a la carte projects by either type or historical era. I’d love to do some of the other Ancient History projects with my girls. They also have timelines for Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, which would be handy if you’re studying those civilizations.
All the projects are printed in black and white, which keeps printing costs down. It also allows your child(ren) to be creative with their projects. The girls had fun colouring their pirates and I’m sure they would have also enjoyed choosing the colours for the map if I hadn’t coloured it myself.
Each of the projects we tried required simple supplies I have on hand for homeschooling—cardstock, packing tape, scissors, glue, pencil crayons, laminating sheets. Easy-to-follow instructions are included with each project, as well as general tips to help your students do their best.
I also liked the fact that each of these products is easy to store. I have a large plastic bin full of homeschool textbooks and resouces. The timeline folds neatly, the pirates fit in an envelope, and even the game went into a file folder. It’ll be easy to stash these resources until Jade or Pearl is ready to use them, or until I return to study these units in history with Sunshine and Lily.
Home School in the Woods was founded by a homeschooling mom with four kids, Amy Pak. She began homeschooling in 1996 and now does most of the illustrations, activity development, and some of the writing. Her children are now involved in various parts of the business as well, from writing to customer service to web management.
How do you make history fun for your kids? Have you tried any products from Home School in the Woods?