Homeschooling History with Primary Sources

Before I started homeschooling I had no clue what a primary source was or why I should care about them. Then I read (that's an affiliate link -->) The Well-Trained Mind and learned lots of things I didn't know! {BTW, a primary source is a historical document that was written or produced during/after the time of a specific historical event, offering an eyewitness account.} If you've read The Well-Trained Mind or follow a 4-year history cycle, you are probably aware of primary sources and using them with your kids. We've just started using them this year (our second history cycle) and I've started collecting links to resources for primary sources and documents.

Primary sources are a great resource for homeschool history lessons. And there are plenty of places that have them available for free!

Homeschooling with primary sources

The middle school years are the perfect time to start looking at history closely using books that present alternating points-of-view and evaluating those sources with primary documents. It's a time when discussion and Socratic dialogue are useful tools for homeschooling parents and reading and discussing historical events becomes more important. For younger students it's all about hearing those stories for the first time. Now students are ready to evaluate and discuss history.

Primary sources  can really bring history studies alive - learning and reading first-hand accounts of historical events can be very interesting. And, for middle school students who are learning to look at history a little more deeply, they are a great learning tool. With some coaching and discussion, kids can read original letters and journals from the time periods they are studying.

Reading primary sources gives kids a firsthand look at what really happened. And learning to evaluate those sources, their content, and the writer's purpose will give them a deeper understanding of that time in history.

8 Websites for primary sources

There are a few resources available for homeschoolers who want to purchase copies of primary sources but the internet becomes a great learning tool for historical study. There are many places to find primary sources online for free (your local library might even have some great resources online for historical documents).

Here are a few very useful websites:

Evaluating primary sources

An important step in using historical documents is learning to evaluate them like a historian. Using the printable page below, you can guide your kids in evaluating any primary document from any time in history.

Tonia L

Hey! I'm the owner of Happy Homeschool Nest - a website devoted to helping homeschool moms balance the needs of homeschooling with managing a healthy and happy home.