I hated history during school. I was terrible at remembering dates and names. But I'm determined not to pass along this distaste for history to my own children.
I’ve always thought that literature was the best way to help my children understand the past. Over the years I’ve checked out lots of historical fiction and nonfiction historical picture books, but as we’ve added children to our homeschool mix, I don’t have time to curate long lists of holds at the library anymore. Enter BookShark Reading with History.
Although we've used BookShark Science before, this is our first year using BookShark for history. We chose Level G: World History Year 1 of 2, and I’ve already found lots to love with this program.
#1 No History Degree Needed
Honestly, I still struggle with knowing the difference between Charlemagne and Cornwallis.
With the format of BookShark Reading with History, I’m not doing the teaching—the books are. I don’t have to have all the answers. Instead, I approach history with my daughter as a co-learner.
#2 High Level of Interest
In the past I’ve loved hand-selecting books for my kids to read. I read lots of reviews and followed lots of booklist blogs. Now that we welcomed baby number six, I don’t have time to pre-read every book, or spend hours looking for The Next Great Read.
BookShark takes all the guesswork out by selecting books that children actually enjoy.
My daughter couldn’t wait to dive into the books in our box. They arrived the week before Quarantine 2020 and were a gift beyond measure, given the timing. Our library had just closed, and Reading with History became her only source of fresh reading material.
#3 Great Discussions
I already mentioned that I have a weak understanding of history, but in the context of books, I’m able to hold my own in the discussions without having read all the books ahead of time. I just ask questions like:
Who showed courage?
How is ______ like/unlike _______?
What would you have done if you were __(character)___?
I don’t need a test to demonstrate that my daughter has an understanding of the places, time periods, and conflicts we cover. Best of all, my Instructor's Guide lists suggested discussion questions to ask.
My favorites are the Read-Alouds. We can be surprised, worried, or exasperated together.
#4 Perfect Balance of Wide and Deep Learning
As an elementary education major in college, I remember being presented with the biggest choice in teaching history:
- to dive in deep with only a handful of topics
- to scratch the surface of many topics
BookShark Reading with History manages the perfect balance between breadth and depth.
Good historical fiction draws the reader in immediately. The setting plays a key role in the conflict, making it possible to get beyond the basic facts quickly. And because the characters speak to the heart, the historical knowledge sticks with the reader.
On the other hand, it’s easy to go from Ancient Rome to Egypt and 16th Century Japan by just choosing another book. With the spiral approach to learning, I’m confident my children will have insider knowledge of both American and world history.
#5 Dynamic Understanding of History
Traditional history textbooks, as a general rule, retain the most influential and interesting events of civilization and take out the humanity. With their matter-of-fact narrator, calmly listing dates and places, students fail to see how the events impacted the people of the day and ultimately shaped the world.
With historical fiction, we get to feel what the people of the day felt. We get to hear their fears, their dreams, their plans, all from the safety of our living room couch. That understanding will help them become compassionate adults who think critically in the present day.
Ultimately, BookShark has made it easy to cultivate an appreciation and knowledge of the past with my kids. We love it, and I am confident you will, too!
About the Author
Alicia Schonhardt lives in Iowa with her husband and five homeschooled kids. She loves reading aloud with all the right voices and pretending to be crafty. She is not-so-great at planning and organization but dabbles in minimalism, so it isn’t quite so tricky.
With two medically needy kids, Alicia strives to choose happiness even when things are hard. She blogs at Sweeping Up Joy about finding beauty and humor in life right now—even when it’s hidden behind piles of laundry and chewed up books.