Homeschool history is one of those areas we embark upon with the best of intentions. We plan fun activities, dress-up days, and have visions of salt dough maps dancing through our heads.
However, reality hits and we realize everyone hated the activity, we can’t sew, and the toddler is eating the salt dough. We become tempted to grab a textbook and just be done, but there is a middle ground. Yes, it is possible to create a textbook free homeschool history plan and not give up under a mountain of lapbooks and craft supplies.
We aren’t relegated to being either the super-crafty, project mom or the boring, just read the book mom. As with all things in life, beauty is often in the middle. How we homeschool history can be a reasonable endeavor that doesn’t give us panic attacks nor bore us to death.
It may take a bit more effort to homeschool history without a textbook, but I have some ideas to make it easier. Before you know it, your family will love their textbook free life.
Textbooks Make History Boring
What do you remember from history in school? I don’t remember a lot, and most of it revolves around the need to memorize dates. Who can remember them now?
Not me, but I did for the test.
Textbooks make history boring, and who needs that in their homeschool? We aren’t required to waste our time using books we don’t like. History is the story of the world and its people, and that is anything but boring. So let’s consider alternative ideas to experience the accounts of our human experience.
Finding Textbook Free Homeschool History Resources
Before I go into the various resources and ways you can homeschool history without a textbook, I want to tell you about a website that will change how you plan and use those resources.
Homeschool History is an online, membership website powered by Notgrass History. With a Homeschool History membership, you have access to their searchable database of hundreds of books, videos, audio resources, and historic sites. It’s also useful to search for resources by topic, time period, or geographical area.
Why do I find Homeschool History so useful in creating textbook free history in your homeschool?
- It’s a curated collection of resources that takes quality and appropriateness into consideration
- Some resources are marked as “Homeschool History Top Picks,” which means they have been carefully reviewed and highly recommended
- There is a 30-day free trial available, and the membership is an excellent value at only $24 a year!
So instead of sifting through YouTube and Pinterest looking for appropriate and relevant resources, you can sit back with a cup of tea and have someone else do the research.
As homeschool moms, we’re always looking for ways to take a bit off our plate, and Homeschool History can help with the planning and vetting of textbook free homeschool history resources.
5 Types of Textbook Free Homeschool History Resources
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and create a textbook free history plan for your homeschool; now what? Where do you start and how do you pull this all together? It’s not as hard as it sounds, and it will certainly be more interesting.
1 | Living Books Versus Textbooks
If you’ve mingled in the homeschool world for any amount of time, you’re sure to have encountered the words “living book” and “twaddle.” Many homeschoolers can give detailed definitions of each variety, but recognizing the differences isn’t that hard.
The first rule of thumb to identifying a living book is to ask yourself, “do I enjoy reading this aloud?” I’ve never grown tired of reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit, but all those Magic School Bus books quietly made their way out of the house.
A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest. -C.S. Lewis
We should also then discuss how a textbook differs. Textbooks are rarely written by a single author sharing his passion for a subject, but by a committee tasked with covering what a state board of education and the standardized test companies believe is right and wish to convey.
Luckily, as a homeschooler, you can choose books you wish to read and not what someone mandates you read. So when selecting books for your history plans, choose a quality title that will be the foundation of your time on a given subject. This is often called a “spine,” and gives you that sweeping view of a historical period. From this spine, you can then choose other books that will expand and develop an understanding of the subject.
From historical fiction to fact-filled, non-fiction encyclopedias, there is a wealth of books to choose from that will give your children a unique and diverse view of history. When pulling together your textbook-free history plan, begin with one good book. From that point, other resources can be added to create a deep dive into a subject.
2 | Historical Movies, Documentaries, and Other Media
As much as homeschoolers love books, there is a time and place for other media forms in our homes. The options today are endless, but here are a few of the most significant additions to your history study outside of books:
- YouTube Videos
The nature of these requires a bit more discretion and investigation by the homeschool parents, but there are so many fantastic media sources we can use. How can you find quality materials to use in your history lessons? Here are a few places to start your search:
- Homeschool History (they do the vetting for you)
- Curiosity Stream
- Amazon Prime Video
- Library (ours allows us to stream Great Courses)
Sometimes the easiest way to learn is to turn on a movie and dish up the popcorn. This is still learning, and it counts!
3 | Field Trips to Experience History
Field trips go with homeschooling like butter goes with bread. The two seem inseparable at times since a homeschool mom can turn a trip to the grocery store into a field trip.
However, when we think of field trips to historical places, our minds often go big, but a long journey may not be an option. If we do a bit of searching, we can find history in our backyards.
- Historical Marker Database
- Historical Marker app
- National Register of Historic Places
- National Park Service
- State Historical Societies
Finding historical sites close to home is great, but perhaps we want to see the beaches of Normandy or the Mona Lisa? Online virtual tours give us that ability when we can’t afford the international flight. The easiest way to find what you’re looking for would be to Google the location plus “virtual tour,” and you should have plenty of options.
However, here are a few lists if you would like to embark on some open-ended explorations.
- 100 Incredible & Educational Virtual Tours You Don’t Want to Miss
- 20 Wonderful Online Museums and Sites for Virtual Field Trips
- 32 Virtual Field Trips for American History
The most memorable learning often comes from experiences and travel. Do some digging and see what field trips might be possible for your next historical adventure.
4 | Have Fun with History Games
Games are an excellent addition to your homeschool, though you often think more about math and language games. However, there is a wealth of games to add to your textbook free history plan.
5 | Go Straight to the Source
Lastly, let’s not forget about original sources and documents. Why read someone’s interpretation of Thomas Paine when we can read Common Sense ourselves? Let’s read the Constitution instead of relying on someone else to tell us it’s intent.
Again, technology has made our access to original documents more accessible than ever. We don’t have to travel to the National Archives to see our countries founding documents; we can read them from our home wherever that may be.
The National Archives even has a website dedicated to education and learning, which is an online tool for teaching from their collection of documents.
Yes, You Can Homeschool History Without a Textbook
There are some subjects where many homeschool moms desire the comfort of a textbook, but history is one area where you can embrace a more unstructured approach.
There are so many resources and ideas for bringing history to life without the need for a predigested textbook. Don’t be afraid to pick a topic and dive into the deep end of homeschooling.
Be sure to check out the Homeschool History Membership and grab your 30-day free trial. Homeschool History is created by the team at Notgrass History and provides access to a searchable database of hundreds of books, videos, audio resources, and historic sites.
Resources are categorized by topic, time period, and geographical area, and are useful no matter what history curriculum you use (or if you don’t use one at all)!