Middle school is a great time to dive deep into history. Kids this age are ready to move beyond simple stories and history projects to more in-depth studies and discussions. And, with a few simple tools, it’s possible to easily create your own middle school history curriculum - perfectly suited for your children.
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Studying history in middle school
If you've homeschooled your kids through the primary and middle school years, you know that they require different things at each stage. While the early years can be filled with fun projects and colorful picture books, things need to change just a little bit for middle school history.
In the middle school years, kids are developing a sense of self and may become more argumentative and inquisitive. Instead of getting annoyed at the incessant questioning, use it to your advantage in your homeschool lessons. Direct those questions to their history studies, giving them the resources and tools to see the relationships between historical events and people. Discuss those people and events, reading from various sources and points of view. Kids in middle school love to discuss and debate - use that to your advantage!
You can certainly still include some fun projects and crafts, but middle school is also the time to start teaching important skills like research, note-taking, and writing - and all of those things can be naturally included during your middle school history lessons.
Creating Your Own Middle School History Curriculum
The major focus for middle school history are the two ideas from the previous section - discussion about how people and events are related and using history content to learn important skills like writing, research, and note-taking.
Once you understand your major goals, the next step is to decide the time period, culture, or location you'd like to study with your middle school kids. This is also a great time to get some input from them - the more interested they are in the topic, the more engaged they will be in their learning.
Once you've selected the time period, the process for creating your history curriculum can be divided into a few steps:
- Select the ‘spine’ for your history lessons
- Create a course of study
- Choose the skills & projects you’d like to include
- Gather your materials & get organized
- Complete your course of study spreadsheet
Select your History Spine
The ‘spine’ of your history program provides the backbone for your studies. Generally, this is some kind of guided text that creates a foundation for your study. It can be a topical history encyclopedia or any resource that includes basic information and details about the time period or culture you're planning to study.
During middle school, our 'spines' included the text from the Project Passport & Time Travelers series from Home School in the Woods. We followed a chronological sequence during 5th-8th grade, using a few of their resources each year.
If you follow a chronological format, here's how you could use their materials:
Middle Ages & the Renaissance:
Early Modern history:
- Time Travelers: New World Explorers
- Time Travelers: Colonial Life
- Time Travelers: American Revolution
- Time Travelers: Early 19th Century
As you can see, they offer plenty of resources for each time period! It would be difficult to include them all so choose the ones that interest your kids the most.
Create your Course of Study
Once you've selected the main text for your history curriculum, you'll use that to create a basic course of study for the year. This can be as simple as a piece of paper or as elaborate as a spreadsheet.
Divide your paper into a few columns. In the first column, list the number of weeks you'll be homeschooling (usually about 36).
In the second column, write the topic and page numbers from the main text you'll be using. Short topics only need a week but larger topics (like the World Wars or American Revolution) may take a few weeks. Note that in your spreadsheet.
Once you've evenly spaced the content from your main text throughout the year, it's time to flesh things out for your history studies.
Choose your Projects & Assignment Ideas
Before you start looking at all the wonderful history resources and projects available, make a short list of goals. What is important for your student to learn this year? Do they need to learn how to write a solid paragraph or take notes from a source text? List these goals and use them to select the additional materials you'd like to include in your studies.
For middle school I like to include:
- Reading (read-alouds & independent reading)
- A timeline
- Outlining & note-taking
- Primary sources
- A few well-planned history activities
Once you've selected the major activities you'd like to include, make a column for each of them on your spreadsheet.
One note: While you may have quite a few options on your list, that doesn't mean you'll be covering every single one each week! The point is to have some variety, working on different skills each week.
Gather your Resources
While you’re working on the previous step - selecting the projects and goals you want to focus on - start gathering all those resources and books. As you select and purchase the materials you'll be using, keep them together on a bookshelf so everything is ready to go.
Here are a few of our favorite resources for middle school history:
Print and organize as much as possible ahead of time. Believe me, you don’t want to be scrambling around on Sunday night trying to get those activity pages printed!
Complete your Course of Study Plan
This step is the most time-consuming - filling in that spreadsheet can take some time! If it seems overwhelming, start with just six to eight weeks. When you’ve finished that unit, reassess and adjust before planning the next six to eight weeks. This is the best option if this type of planning is new to you.
When I'm planning, I like to focus on the easiest thing first. If I have my mapping resources, I’ll simply add page numbers to my spreadsheet (and if I’m very organized I’ll get them all printed too).
As you are reading and researching, use the other columns to add notes. If you have a sudden inspiration for a writing assignment, add it to the appropriate column and row. Know of a fabulous primary source you’d like to have your children research? Add it to the chart!
My Favorite Resource for Middle School History
Home School in the Woods has become my go-to resource for planning our middle school history studies. We've used their Project Passport and Time Travelers series as our 'spine', adding in a little extra geography, their fabulous timeline resources, and extra reading and writing assignments. Their products make it easy to create your own history program for middle school.
Let's hear from you!
Are you planning history lessons for your middle school kids? Do you have any favorite resources or tips to share? Leave a comment below about your middle school history curriculum plans.