How to put together a non-traditional social studies course for your high schooler without breaking the bank or losing your mind…
Exploring Our World: Social Studies and more Science---includes history, geography, world cultures, worldview, biology, botany, geology, etc., etc., etc.
We have 20 bloggers sharing this week. I hope you enjoy the Fair and feel free to join in---there’s a linky near the bottom where you can link up your social studies or science related homeschool posts.
This week I’m going to talk about putting together a unique high school course for your out-of-the-box thinker…
Or what to do when your social studies plans fall apart and you have to cobble something together on the fly.
This year my 9th grader is studying studying world history through the eyes of scientists. We are not using a traditional textbook or a published course, but a schedule that I put together using resources I already had on hand plus a few extras that were available for free online.
I chose this approach because I happened have a good spine (thank goodness I’m a bibliophile and have more books than I know what to do with) and it’s a topic that interests my son. There’s no rule that says you have to study world history the usual way, so we decided to try something a little different. There is a little more work involved initially, but it’s really not too difficult to create your own course from scratch.
How to Create Your Own History Course for your out-of-the-box thinker.
1. Find out what floats your kid’s boat. What part of history does he want to study? Is there a unique angle you can approach it from? For instance, you might do a survey of world history tracing the development of weapons and warfare, or tracing the development of artisan skills, or tracing the development of religions…
We decided to trace the development of scientific ideas and research throughout history, beginning with Thales...we will finish with Stephen Hawking.
2. Decide what type of source material you wish to use. You you want to use primarily books, video, audio, etc. Different kids will thrive better with different types of source material. One might learn best by watching documentaries. Another might prefer lectures. And so on.
My son doesn’t really like video lectures (they get on his nerves because he doesn’t have much control over the pacing), so it would have been a calamity for me to base his course on a series of video lectures from the Teaching Company even if they do happen to be first rate, so there are no video lectures in his course. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t throw in a documentary or “life of” movie is one happens to come up on Netflix, but I won’t make video the main event in his course. He prefers to learn by reading.
3. Choose a spine for your course, while keeping in mind your child’s preferred format for his resource materials.
Your spine is a resource that can function as a framework for the overall course. It could be a textbook. It could be series of lectures. It could be a series of books. It could be even be a series of podcasts---whatever main thing you want to build your course around. This will give you a framework to build on.
Now, a little aside---I don’t remember having anything BUT a spine when I took history in high school. Teacher lectures added to it (though some teachers did just repeat the material in the book), but the textbook was generally the course.
Your spine is the meat of the course. It’s the thing that if you get it done, even if life throws you some crazy curveballs, your child has gotten the important part of the course done and can move on. The other things you might choose to add are extras. They add more depth and it would be a shame to miss them, but if the unthinkable happens and you have to cut back to basics, if you’ve chosen a good, solid spine…it’s going to be ok.
4. Add some extras. This might be extra reading, biographies, a video series you find at your library, activities, interactive websites, field trips, etc.
What you come up with is going to depend a lot upon what you are studying, what’s available to you and so on…we happen to live 10 minutes from the Gettysburg battlefield, so you can bet that will play a big part when my son studies American history. Experiences that come from what is uniquely available to you will have a big impact on making your child’s education uniquely his.
We are adding additional reading from other resources to add information on scientists not covered in our spine as well as other points of view (all history has bias and the best way to counteract that is to read about events from different angles).
5. Decide how you will assess what (if?) your child is learning. Are you going to have writing assignments? Tests? Projects? Make sure that it is something that you feel confident about assessing.
I’m a writer, so I prefer to have my son write. He is writing mini-biographies of some of the scientists he is learning about.
6. Schedule it.
The easiest way for me to do this is to create a table in my word processing program (you could use a spreadsheet). It’s easier for me than writing it out because I can insert a new row at any time without having to erase and recopy anything.
Grab ALL your resources (make sure you have a list of any websites, moves, etc.)
First I take my spine and divide it up into reasonable to digest chunks.
Let me pause here a second, because I want to be clear here. I do not divide the spine up into the number of school weeks. I divide it up into chunks that I’m confident that my son can handle.
Every child is different. Some are speed readers. Some remember every word. Some will need to reread every word to remember what they read.
It may be that your spine is too big for your particular child to finish in a year.
That’s ok---once you’ve divided up and can see how many days of reading it will take your child to complete it, you may decide that you want to cut part out of it. Or you may decide that you don’t care if it takes more than a year to finish this particular course.
Learning doesn’t have a deadline, after all.
Or maybe the spine is too light for you child---you might add additional reading to beef it up.
Once you have your spine divided up into reasonable chunks, start adding in your additional resources between or alongside those readings as they fit in.
I know. It seems daunting. It IS daunting when you look at that mile high pile of resources to schedule, but it will feel so good when you are done and you can hand your schedule to your child.
Here’s a list of the resources I am using for my son’s history course…
(Yes, there are some affiliate links in there, but used or from your library is also good. )World History: Makers of Science
Spine: Makers of Science: 5-Volume Set from Oxford University Press---this set covers the lives of 40 different scientists, from Aristotle to Stephen Hawking. It includes information on what else was happening in the world when these men and women were living and timelines of contemporary events.
Extras: Philosophy Adventure---we used this to begin the course, so it’s a supplemental spine that covers ancient natural scientists (we think of them more as philosophers today, but the lines between the disciplines were a little less clear then)
Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion edited by Ronald Numbers---we are using this as a counterpoint for many of the articles in Maker of Science to present a different point-of-view.Breakthroughs in Science by Isaac Asimov---I wouldn’t ordinarily assign this for high school, but it covers many scientists who are not in the Makers of Science set and covers some that are from a different point-of-view.
Several of the How do we know about… series by Isaac Asimov (you can download many of them for free from this site, click the “English” link under books for a list.) These books are GEMS. Think of them as historical overviews of various scientific topics and how advancements were made in that field of study through man’s history.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking---because, why not?
What unique courses have you designed for your kids?
Now, please visit my lovely friends as they Explore the World in their homeschools:
Exploring Our World With Social Studies by Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue
Relaxed Homeschooling: Science and Social Studies in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Living History by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Primary Sources for Delight-Directed History by Susan @ The Every Day of Education
Exploring our World: High School Studies of Ancient History, American Government and Economics by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
History, Geography, and Worldview Lessons in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Our Curriculum Choices 2015 ~ Science, History & Geography by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun
Our Favorites for History, Geography, and Science by Becky @ Milo & Oats
Globe Trotting by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Around The World by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Bible-Based History Curriculum and Resources by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker
13 Living Book History Series for a Charlotte Mason Based Homeschool by Chelli @ The Planted Trees
Social Studies and Science in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm
The Science Life by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
History, Geography Science for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
History Social Studies and Science...VCF Week 3 by Denise @ Fullnest
Learning About our World and History by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Taking the Mystery Out of History and Other Subjects Too With Our Favorite History Curriculum by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma
Credits: Clipart by StoryRock.
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