Why Your Literature-Based History Curricula Needs a Hands-On Component...and How to Accomplish That

If you’ve been around As We Walk Along the Road for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a literature lover. I love to use real books for all of our homeschool subjects. But I especially love to build our curricula around history-based reading.

A typical homeschool year for us involves using good books and supplemental activities to follow the history cycle and center our other academic subjects around that. This is a method that has worked well for us. And we love to approach learning in this way.
I’ve realized, though, over the years, that we need more than just great books for our history-based curricula. Although those are amazing and definitely serve as our spine, I’ve learned that I need to include hands-on activities too. 
And I’ve just had the opportunity to review an awesome product that will help me- and you- do just that. (So keep reading!)

Hands-on history resources

Disclosure- I received a free product in exchange for review. All opinions are always my own.
Why is it so necessary to have a hands-on component to your literature-based learning? Here are three reasons that you need hands-on activities.

Children learn better with a multi-sensory approach.

That’s just a fancy way to say that kids will learn more as more of their senses are engaged. So when we can give them hands-on activities that allow them to touch, feel, smell, hear, and sometimes even taste- think of a great recipe from a different culture- they’re going to remember what they learn much more than if they’ve only heard the information from a book.

Some children are kinetic learners.

There are kids who can learn by listening. There are kids that can learn by reading or seeing. And there are kids who need movement to learn. I have two of these kids. They do their best to sit and listen when I read aloud or to sit and read independently. But all the while they are squirming or crawling around on the floor with the book or getting up and down between chapters to wander around the house. 
Those kids? They learn best when they are doing something hands-on. When we can give those kids the opportunity to move while they are learning, they’ll be able to learn so much more.

Alternating reading with hands-on activities keeps the attention of children and allows them time to process what they’re learning.

Even the best listener can only take in so much when you’re reading aloud. Have you noticed this even for yourself when you listen to an audiobook or to a lecture? Having appropriate hands-on activities that contribute to the learning will give kids a break from listening and give them some time- and another way- to make connections and process what they’re learning.
If you’ve decided that hands-on activities are great and you want to be able to add them to your homeschooling, you could search the internet for ideas, print out all the templates and instructions you need, and gather all the materials you want to use for each activity. So simple, right? (I can see you abandoning this plan already.) 
Or you can use a resource that’s already created for you, a resource that has everything you need and that will fit with what you’re already learning in history.

Hands-on history resources

Sonlight’s Hands-on-History Project Kits

We recently received a World Cultures History Project Kit. Now, I’ll admit that my kids are a little older than the intended age for the kit. Okay, they’re much older. And I’m definitely older. But when we received this box, we were so excited! I’m not exaggerating when I say that I had to literally restrain kids from taking off with project bags so that I could take some pictures.
If you aren’t a “crafty mom”- and believe me, I’m not very creative even though I like crafty things- you need these kits to provide some hands-on learning for your homeschool history.

A quick look at the hands-on history kits…

There are currently two History Project Kits- World Cultures and World History. There are lists on the web page for each kit so that you can see exactly what projects are in each. This will help you pick the one that fits best with your history curricula. They do tie into the Sonlight curricula resources- which are literature-based and awesome- but they also can be used as a stand-alone resource or as a supplement to any other curricula.

What’s in a History Project Kit?

When I finally got my kids to let me actually look through what was in the box, here’s what I found. There are nine projects in the kit. The supplies for each are packed in plastic bags. There are also a few other supplies in the box that you’ll use for multiple projects. There are enough supplies for one of each project. Multiple kids could help or you could purchase a box for each child. If my four kids were younger and all of them were working through the projects with me, I would purchase two boxes and pair kids up in two sets of two. More than two people working would get in the way, in my opinion.
There is also an instruction book in the box. This book has a brief description of each project with some history surrounding it. And it has detailed instructions- including what might be appropriate for the parent to do first. There is also a schedule to show you how the projects fit into the Sonlight curriculum if you’re using that.

An example project…

One of the first projects we decided to do was the Telegraph. This, like several of the projects, included a science aspect. This is especially cool if you want to use the kit as a stand-alone resource (see below).

The Telegraph project started with a brief introduction about when telegraphs began to be used and a simple overview of how they work. The project kit included a wooden square that was already prepunched with two holes, a AA battery, wires connected to a sound source and an additional wire, a paper clip, two brads, glue dots, and masking tape.

Hands-on history resources

We followed the step-by-step instructions to strip the wire ends and connect everything to create a simple circuit. When the circuit was connected, the sound would happen. The tapping of the paper clip on the wire brad completed the circuit, just like the tapping of a telegraph.

Hands-on history resources

The project instructions included a morse code chart so that the kids could practice sending messages.

Hands-on history resources

I have to admit that my almost-adult daughter and I had waaay too much fun with this project!

How can you use this hands-on history resource?

I’ve already mentioned this, but, if you’re using the Sonlight curricula, the activities in these kits will correspond nicely. But that’s definitely not the only way to use it. You could use this kit as a supplement if you use an entirely literature-based curricula, choosing fiction and nonfiction that takes you through a specific time period. And you could also use it as a supplement if you use another history curriculum- even a textbook-based curriculum. To use a kit with any other curricula, simply look through the projects to determine which kit fits best. Then pull out the appropriate project as you get to that point in your curricula.
You could also use the kit as a stand-alone educational resource. If you’ve ever tried a subscription box for art or history, I think these kits have waaaay more resources and projects available. You could purchase one individually, look through it and list the time periods/world cultures that the projects in the box cover, find a great book or two about the time period/culture and work through the box with the kids in that way. In fact, were my kids younger and we were still homeschooling year round, this would definitely be my summer school resource! And I think it’s super affordable, so I could order multiple boxes so that the kids wouldn’t always have to share. 

Get it now!

Ya’ll, sometimes I review something and it’s so awesome that I immediately can think of all the things I want to share. This History Project Kit has been like that. It’s an amazing resource that I think is going to be super useful for a mom who wants to include a hands-on component for history.
You can get it here.

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