Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life

I’ve shared many times that history was far from my favorite subject when I was in school, yet I learned to appreciate it as an adult. Once I began to enjoy history, I realized that it wasn’t the subject that I had an issue with, it was the way it was taught.

When it comes to history, I’m not a textbook kind of person. Unfortunately, that’s the main tool public schools use to teach. I remember being so bored reading the condensed, pre-approved snippets about historical events. There was no life, no excitement. The exact opposite of what history should be.

When I started homeschooling my girls, I knew I was going to teach them differently. I would show them the history I grew to love.

Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life Is learning history a struggle in your home? Social Studies doesn't have to be boring. I'm sharing my 3 sure fire ways to make this subject interesting to middle school kids.I received history materials from Rainbowresource.com for free in exchange for a review. All opinions stated are my honest thoughts. I was not required to post a positive review. See our Disclaimer for more details.

Rainbowresource.com helps make American History Interactive

Rainbowresource.com has been an invaluable resource for me over the years, especially with this subject. Because they carry such a wide variety of materials (not just textbooks), I can go to their site and stock up on the hands-on learning tools I know I’ll need each year, so I can teach history my way.

Three Secrets for Breathing Life into American History

Here are three things that we do in our home school to make the subject of history as exciting as possible.

Read Good Books

I know textbooks are the go-to resource for history, but they don’t have to be the only one. Instead, fill your middle schooler’s lesson plan with historical fiction, biographies, autobiographies, and living books. Why?

Because they’re often more relatable, making them much easier for older kids to read and understand. These books allow the reader to feel like they’re right there beside someone as they’re telling their story. They can become wrapped up in a fictional tale while still learning facts. And living books are based on a single subject, allowing your child to zero in and learn a lot about a specific topic.

When I plan out our history lessons, I choose a variety of books for us to read together and for the girls to read on their own. I feel by supplying them with real books over the years, they’ve come to view history as a living subject, one that they enjoy exploring.

Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life Is learning history a struggle in your home? Social Studies doesn't have to be boring. I'm sharing my 3 sure fire ways to make this subject interesting to middle school kids.

Two books I received from Rainbowresource.com that my girls enjoyed reading were:

Hitch by Jeanette Ingold- a historical fiction story about the Great Depression and Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass a Dover Thrift Edition by Frederick Douglass – a wonderful autobiography about this amazing former slave and impassioned abolitionist.

We share a lot about good history books here on our site. If you’re looking for even more ideas to fill your history lesson plans, check out 6 Women’s History Books for Middle School StudentsAmerican Pioneer Books, and our Gold Rush and Wild West Reading List.

Play Games

You may think that playing board games during school is crazy, but I can tell you that educational games are incredible learning tools. Kids are having so much fun that they don’t even realize how much they’re absorbing. My kids get extremely excited when they are able to answer questions correctly during a game because they realize that they’ve grasped something.

When I want to work on mastery of a subject, but don’t want to rely on flashcards and worksheets, I’ll turn to a game. While we’re playing, I can easily see what my kids know and what they still need help with.

Rainbowresource.com sent us the American Trivia: Family Edition game and we’re definitely hooked! Each player tries to get from a starting city to an ending city by answering questions about geography, history, general, and arts. And because the game cards come in three levels – junior, expert, and genius, we’ll be able to use this for years!

Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life  Is learning history a struggle in your home? Social Studies doesn't have to be boring. I'm sharing my 3 sure fire ways to make this subject interesting to middle school kids.

Add in Hands-on Activities

Making history as interactive as possible is one of the best things you can do for middle school students. Think about it. Kids love exploring, building, and creating.

Instead of just reading a story about chuck wagon meals, create one together. Don’t just read about the planes that flew during WWII, make your own. Let your child play games that children played during earlier centuries. When you add in activities like these, it will be hard for your child to think of history as dry and boring.

This is one area where I think Rainbowresource.com excels. Their catalog is full of fun things you can add to your history lessons, regardless of the time period. They sent us these 7 things to try as a part of our American History studies. I can tell you that my kids loved each and every one of them and learned a lot just by working through the various projects.

Draw and Write through History: Invention, Exploration, and War: The 20th Century by Carylee Gressman. Anytime you can combine Abigail’s two passions, art and history, you have a winner in her eyes. She has already added quite a few new drawings to her sketchbook, but the Titanic and Amelia Earhart were two of her favorites.

Even if your child doesn’t consider herself an artist, the step-by-step instructions will help her feel successful. Plus, kids will love the fun facts which are all over the drawing pages.

Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life  Is learning history a struggle in your home? Social Studies doesn't have to be boring. I'm sharing my 3 sure fire ways to make this subject interesting to middle school kids.

Eyewitness Monument Statue of Liberty Kit

Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life  Is learning history a struggle in your home? Social Studies doesn't have to be boring. I'm sharing my 3 sure fire ways to make this subject interesting to middle school kids.

Gettysburg Address Document and Quill Set

Great World War II Projects You Can Build Yourself by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt

U.S. History Cookbook by Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond. As we move throughout history, we cook as we go. I want my kids to experience history, and that includes the food.

I have a couple of historical cookbooks, but what makes this one unique is the number of historical periods included. We definitely enjoyed our buckwheat griddle cakes from the Pioneer days, but we’re also looking forward to making Native American Cornmeal Blueberry Mush, Depression Cake, our own 50s style TV dinners and hosting a Victorian Tea for our friends.

Not only will you find many amazing recipes in this book, but there are also lots of fun historical food facts included too.

Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life  Is learning history a struggle in your home? Social Studies doesn't have to be boring. I'm sharing my 3 sure fire ways to make this subject interesting to middle school kids.

U.S. History Document-Based Activities: Using Primary Sources in the Middle Grades by Charlotte S. Jaffe and Barbara T. Doherty

Westward Ho! Heart of the Old West Music Book and CD (Experience History Through Music) by Diana Waring. I was so excited about this book and CD! My kids love music, so I include it into our lessons when I can, but I have struggled to find some of the American songs that I learned as a kid. That’s why I love this. Now we can listen to these songs while learning the words, plus my daughters can learn to play them on their respective instruments.

Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life  Is learning history a struggle in your home? Social Studies doesn't have to be boring. I'm sharing my 3 sure fire ways to make this subject interesting to middle school kids.

Looking for even more hands-on activities for your history lesson plans? Check out our 10 Days of Early American History Activities.

Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life  Is learning history a struggle in your home? Social Studies doesn't have to be boring. I'm sharing my 3 sure fire ways to make this subject interesting to middle school kids.

Hopefully, you’ve seen that history can be fun and exciting for middle school kids when you take some time to step outside of the textbook. Luckily, Rainbowresource.com makes it very easy for homeschooling families to find the tools they need.

Connect with Rainbowresource.com

Sure Fire Secrets to Bring American History to Life  Is learning history a struggle in your home? Social Studies doesn't have to be boring. I'm sharing my 3 sure fire ways to make this subject interesting to middle school kids.

What is your secret for bringing history to life in your home school?

Megan Zechman
I love homeschooling! Learning is a way of life for our family. Most days you will find us exploring our Central Florida community, having fun while learning. I am constantly looking for new and interactive ways to engage my older children.
Megan Zechman
Megan Zechman