Homeschool History Ideas

Here’s a quick overview of what Charlotte Mason thought homeschool history should include:

  • She wanted children to feel like they knew the the people they were learning about so she often used biographies and historical fiction.
  • She waited till children were around 8 before she began chronological history.
  • She taught history using museum visits, narrative stories, timelines, a Book of Centuries
  • She didn’t want history taught from textbooks (or Wikipedia) so she encouraged reading of a good overview of history told in a narrative way.
Homeschool history Charlotte Mason quote

Homeschool History Without Textbooks

Use A History Spine

“As I have said elsewhere, the ideas required for the sustenance of children are to be found mainly in books of literary quality; given these the mind does for itself the sorting, arranging, selecting, rejecting, classifying…it seems to be necessary to present ideas with a great deal of padding, as they reach us in a novel or poem or history book written with literary power.” Charlotte Mason

You can begin with a general world history book which is often called a spine. The Story of The World series are popular history spines. You can also get it as an audio, that is the way my family have listened to it.

The Bible – The Ultimate Ancient History Book

Ancient history is an excellent place to begin your study of the history of the world.

Choose a history guide that will take you through ancient history and the Bible Learn about the first men, Babylonians, Egyptians, Jews, Greeks and Roman. You can read through the Bible as your main source of literature and add some historical fiction and creation science materials.

Add Some Historical Fiction

In addition to a history spine I have found that you can add historical fiction from that history period to read aloud. This brings much more life to that period of history. Below is a suggested chronological history cycle which links to booklists on that time period. Don’t feel that you need to read them all. Just start with one from that time to read aloud. It usually took me at least a term to get through one historical novel.

Living Books Index

Historical Skills


Worldview is a subject that is first brought up at this age. This is a good place to discuss that history is approached from different ideologies. You might also want to talk about having a Biblical worldview or a Secular worldview. An obvious conflict is between the Biblical worldview of creation and the secular worldview of evolution.

Museum visits will help your child identify things from the past. While covering your chronological history you can have your children draw artifacts from the past. Discuss how we get information from the past.

History Notebooks

You might like to make your first history notebooks pictorial with oral narrations that you can transcribe into your children’s notebooks.

You can begin a timeline book or wall chart that the children help create. Later on when they are about ten you could also start a Book of Centuries. (This is a Charlotte Mason idea which has children record history chronologically in one notebook that they use through-out the rest of their school days).

Why I Teach So Many Homeschool History Writing Lessons

I think new homeschoolers are often astounded at how many history writing lessons can be in a Charlotte Mason home school curriculum. Mistakenly they assume we must be skimping on other important subjects in order to teach history.

“Why teach history like this? Isn’t history only a minor part of the curriculum?” they wonder.

Although what they don’t realise is that we are really using historical content as a part of our language arts curriculum curriculum. Over the years I have found this has many benefits. This is what Charlotte Mason says about using historical narrations.

“Now this method I am advocating has this advantage; it multiplies time. Each school period is quadrupled in time value and we find we get through a surprising amount of history in a surprising way, in about the same time most schools only affords no more than a skeleton of English history.” A Philosophy of Education p.171

Homeschool History Lessons Planning Cycle

As I begin planning my year I start by deciding what period of history I will study.

I basically work through a four phase history cycle:

  1. Ancient History and the Bible
  2. Middle Ages
    1. European history
    2. Asian history
  3. Early Australian History
    1. Pre Colonization
    2. The Colonies
  4. Modern History
    1. Modern Australian history including wars (in primary)
    2. General modern history (high school)

I try to keep all my children studying the same period together. Sometimes it may take longer to study a period because there’s lots of interesting stuff to cover. We also repeat some periods over the course of their studies.

When you use Charlotte Mason homeschool history as a guide you can introduce historical fiction, classic literature, poetry, biographies and science discoveries in context with the history period you are studying.

It’s not that hard to include history lessons and still meet the national curriculum requirements.

Example: How We Included History This Term

For example we are studying the Middle Ages this year with my 13 and 15 year old at the moment. There is so much interesting literature available for this period in history. This term our historical content includes:

English Language and Literacy – Writing, Speaking and Viewing

History Writing Lessons Ideas include:

  • Reading aloud and narrating from a book on the English Literature for Boys and Girls by H.E. Marshall. We read this two to three times a week and discuss what we read. It includes poetry and prose from the Middle Ages including many details about the authors who wrote them.
  • Handwriting includes calligraphy practice with ink and quill and a medieval letters book.
  • We’ve also been reading historical non-fiction like Famous Men of the Middle Ages, Athanasius and The Story of Christianity approximately three times a week. From these I require oral narrations and two  writing assignments. The historical material has been excellent for narrations.
  • Movies and documentaries based in the middle ages add to viewing multimedia resources.

Literary Content

History & Geography

  • Using such a great volume of content allows us to dig deeply into our history studies whilst still meeting practically all of our English needs. Our history notebook is also filled with English writing examples.
  • Recordings of historical finding are added to the Book of Centuries.
  • Map reading skills and learning about physical geography improves our comprehension and understanding of how landforms such as the Danube and Rhine rivers contributed to natural borders and barriers of the Roman Empire.

Foreign Language

  • Latin copywork of the Latin Vulgate gives my children an appreciation of the language at a very simple level as the learn how to decipher words using the English translation.

It’s Not A Unit Study

Whilst I do use a significant amount of historical content in my children’s studies, I don’t use it exclusively. We have a few non-historical writing assignments from IEW and science notebooking. Their math and science are contemporary resources, as are some of their personal development resources.

Homeschooling This Way Is Interesting For Your Children

Homeschooling can get pretty boring if it’s all textbooks. Using historical content for teaching means you can stretch beyond fact regurgitation and find out the story clothed in the facts as you teach other skills.

The method I describe here is a popular way of homeschooling using ideas based on the Charlotte Mason homeschool history method.

It may sound a little daunting to do but a few good booklists will help you quickly organise yourself to try out this method.

Why not give it a go!

Living Books Index
Example narration on Margaret Catchpole