I love history! My favorite books are all historical fiction. Had I not pursued a degree in science – I likely would have considered a career in history.
History, as a school subject, is often overlooked in the elementary years (with the exception of a few isolated unit studies). As a homeschool mom, I am blessed to be able to immerse my children in a comprehensive and chronological study of history.
When we first started homeschooling, we had the opportunity to volunteer at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon as living history interpreters. It was an amazing experience living and homeschooling in 1880.
In addition to reading about history, initially in the four volume series by Susan Wise Bauer, Story of the World and now in her series for older readers, The History of the Ancient World, we enjoy a variety of research projects, timelines, hands-on activities, and field trips around the world. One of our favorite annual experiences is a living wax museum.
I have written previously about our experiences in Bringing History to Life and the Collision of Art & Literary History. We have had a lot of fun over the years and have learned a great deal not just about the historical characters we have researched, but also about public speaking, goal setting, and historical re-enactments.
In all the years we have been engaged in these long-term history projects, I have had a little whisper in my ear to take it to the next level through participation in National History Day. National History Day began in April 1974 – an idea of history professor David Van Tassel, who was worried about the decline of the humanities in general and history in particular in America’s schools.
Van Tassel was particularly distressed by the boring rote memorization he saw in most history classrooms. He wanted to reinvigorate the teaching and learning of history.
Today, National History Day contests are taking place in every state. Providing a learning adventure that teaches critical thinking, writing and research skills and boosts performance across all subjects – not just history.
Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national, or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. This year’s theme is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.
The theme provides an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates. It encourages students to use critical thinking skills to dive into historical content and thereby develop perspective and understanding.
We will be participating for in the National History Day contest for the first time this academic year. I’ll be coordinating the contest for the Southern Oregon coast and sharing our progress along the way.
I want to encourage you to join us. The NHD website provides an incredible array of lesson materials and curriculum to help you get started.