Almost Unschooling History

unschooling history

We may not be doing school time this year but that doesn’t mean we’re not enjoying learning history.

Here’s how we do it. It’s not much different from the way most homeschoolers do history. The key point for me is that my kids choose whether or not to participate in each activity we do.

History – How I prepare

Researching history resources and activities is one of my favourite pastimes. My aim is not to create perfect lesson plans. I don’t want to end up with something I’m so attached to that I can’t scrap it in favour of where the children’s interest leads us.

I save what I find in Evernote so that I can easily pull up everything relating to the topic when we need it.

1. The Story of the World

I pre-read a chapter of The Story of the World, which we’ve used as our spine since we began homeschooling. We’re now two-thirds through volume 2 (the Middle Ages).

2. Other books

I read about the topic in the Usborne Encyclopaedia of World History and do a library search for other books to strew.

unschooling history

3. Online research

* Google search for “hands-on activities” relating to the topic

* Google Images search for pictures of people, places, art, artefacts, architecture etc

* You Tube – our favourite videos include Crash Course World History and Horrible Histories

* Evernote & Pinterest – for resources I’ve bookmarked in the past

* Brainpop

4. Geography

Studying world history is the perfect way to show children how the world links up.

* I flag relevant pages in our World Atlas

* or print a map using Wonder Maps

* or I find a historical map online – e.g. I needed a map this week showing the Kievan Rus

* Google Maps and Google Earth – good for seeing where places are in relation to each other (and us), what they’re like today, and even “visiting” historical landmarks

* Geography Through Art – this book is full of mini-project ideas. It’s black and white so I usually browse it and then find examples of the projects online

unschooling history
C(9)’s map showing how first Australians and New Zealanders arrived

5. Collating resources

I save what I find to Evernote. One advantage of digital filing is that if we don’t use something now, I can easily find it next year {or in three years’ time}.

6. Printables

I print any materials I want the children to see close-up, and store them in a clear document wallet in our everyday homeschool materials crate.

unschooling history planning process

History – What we do together

Reading Aloud from SOTW

When we have a free fifteen minutes, I ask the kids if they’d like to hear a chapter of The Story of the World.

We’re a family of multi-taskers so I’m happy with the children doing other things as they listen. Ideally this means something hands-on like play dough or drawing. In practice it might mean J(8) playing Minecraft. I’m okay with that. His comments as I read and throughout the days afterwards let me know me he’s taken in what he’s heard.


Depending how much time we have and what else the children have planned, we either do an activity straight after I read from SOTW, or in the next few days.

We almost always chat informally about the topic throughout the week. This helps me gauge their interest in any activities I have in mind, and gives me ideas for other learning tangents.

Our activities usually inter-relate with other subjects, especially geography, art, science and maths.

We watch videos when we can fit them in throughout the week.

We might make notes on our Timeline Builder app.


C(9) will read almost any library book I leave on the table. J(8) looks at the pictures. This is one of the reasons I like the Usborne Encylopedia of World History, which I leave open on our topic.

Unschooling History
Usborne Encyclopedia of World History

When do we leave a topic?

We stay with each topic until we’ve learned everything we want to know. Sometimes spin-off projects continue while we move onto a new chapter of The Story of the World. Other times we get halfway into a project and decide we’ve done as much as we want to. There are schedules and no rules. Only enjoyable learning.

unschooling history
C(9) had the idea to make a guidebook for medieval travellers wishing to follow in Marco Polo’s footsteps

Check out our history curriculum 2013-14 to see some of our unschooling history activities.

Coming soon: our activities relating to medieval Russia.

unschooling history

To see how the other Homeschool Help ladies teach history, visit:

Hammock Tracks – Finding Your Way as you Explore History

Highhill Homeschool – History with Activities at Highhill Education

One Magnificent Obsession – A Glance at How we do History

Every Bed of Roses – Teaching History Revisited

Barefoot Hippie Girl – Historically Speaking: A Barefoot Hippie Plan for Studying 1600-1800


This post is linked to:

History and Geography Meme #91

Unschooling History

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16 thoughts on “Almost Unschooling History

  1. Your approach to history looks very similar to mine, except that we might use different resources for each topic. SOTW2 is also our history spine but we’re going way slow with it. I like C(9)’s very neat and tidy handwriting, btw. 🙂

    1. I will pass on your compliment to C. I don’t know where she gets the neat writing from, LOL 😀
      I love the way you and Tiger do history. Have you seen Savannah’s post? She describes your wonderful approach very well!

      1. I’ve read Savannah’s post, and now feel slightly embarrassed about dropping out of the series. 🙁 I’ll go and hang my head in shame…

  2. I’ve slowed down and relaxed this year. We were homeschooling through a charter school last year and I was stressed most of the time. Believe me. It wasn’t fun for anyone. This year it’s been different. I’m not unschooling…yet… but I might end up in that camp.

    History has been so much more enjoyable this year. I’m reading more historical fiction and children’s biographies to them and even my six-year-old enjoys listening. My-four-year-old is getting use to having to sit at times. Not his favorite thing.

    By the way, I love reading your blog. You remind me to enjoy the journey.

    1. Hi Marla, It’s lovely to hear from you. I’m so pleased you’re feeling more relaxed this year. Hats off to you big time, homeschooling a big family! How is your 12 (13 now?) year old doing?

      History is such a lovely subject to enjoy all together, isn’t it?

      Thank you for your kind words, they really make a difference 🙂

  3. Lucinda,

    We are multi-taskers too! My girls like to sew or knit or draw while I read. Do you read historical fiction together? That’s a great way to introduce a particular time in history.

    1. I would like us to read more historical fiction, Sue. I’ve heard that the next volume of SOTW gets quite political (and perhaps a bit less interesting) so fiction will be a good substitute. I will have a check on your site – I think you have suggested some books, haven’t you? Lucinda

  4. So, what you’re saying is, I should make sure I put “hands on lesson” in my history lessons for it to come up in your searches 🙂

    I like your way of doing history.

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