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History. How many of us groan when we think about history classes in school. I, for one hated history. I really didn’t care who did what on what date. The events had no meaning for me. The people didn’t seem real. History was nothing more than memorizing dates, names and events.

Now that I homeschool my children, I have to teach history. In planning my curriculum, I decided to use a non-traditional approach to history. It seems to be working, my kids love it and know more about historical events than children 2 or 3 years older.

I approach the study of history by highlighting a specific person every month or two. We study not only what the person did, but what their daily life was like. We find out what was going on in the world when they were born. How they lived. What type of house did they live in? We learn about major inventions during the person's life, and how those inventions affected their daily life. We study the clothes the person wore, the music they listened to, and a few books that were written during that person's time.

We do many small projects that highlight interesting facts. We’ve built model houses, started a garden, and built model boats. One favorite activity is to cook a typical meal from the time period, served just the way they would have. Another favorite is to write a play or story about the person. We include a bit about the person's personal life and what they may have been thinking or feeling.

My children are fascinated by finding out what the person was like. They ask questions like, “Why did he do that.” We try to find copies of the person’s diary/journal or other writings that may be available to answer that question. We read as many biographies as possible, then at the end of the study period, my children write their own biography about the person.

We don’t concentrate on memorizing dates. I’m more concerned that they understand the meaning of the events and the impact the person had on the world. They say that those who understand history don’t repeat it. Studying the people behind the events leads to understanding, memorizing dates leads to boredom.