How To Create Your Own Middle School History Curriculum

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.

With a few simple tools, it’s possible to easily create your own middle school history curriculum – perfectly suited for your children.

Studying History In Middle School

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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 our middle school history is the two ideas I discussed in the previous section.

To be able to discuss how people and events are related and using history content to learn important transferable skills such as 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:

1. Select the ‘spine’ for your history lessons
2. Create a course of study
3. Choose the skills & projects you’d like to include
4. Gather your materials & get organized
5. 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:

 Ancient Times:
Project Passport: Ancient Egypt
Project Passport: Ancient Greece
Project Passport: Ancient Rome

Middle Ages & the Renaissance:
Project Passport: Middle Ages
Project Passport: Renaissance & Reformation

Early Modern history:
Time Travelers: New World Explorers
Time Travelers: Colonial Life
Time Travelers: American Revolution
Time Travelers: Early 19th Century

Modern history:
Time Travelers: Civil War
Time Travelers: Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression
Time Travelers: World War II

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 – I’ve switched between the two over the years.

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. Be sure to note this in your spreadsheet or paper planner.

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:

Mapping
Reading (read-alouds & independent reading)
A timeline
Outlining & note-taking
Writing
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.

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:

Timeline Book & Timeline Figures
The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia
Project Passport and Time Travelers series
– Encyclopedias and a library card

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 planning, I like to focus on the easiest thing first, I tend to find that it snowballs from there.

If I have my mapping resources, I’ll simply add page numbers to my spreadsheet – if I’m feeling 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!