History is fascinating! What fun to explore other time periods, meet exciting people, and watch historic events unfold.
Immersion is a great way to learn and remember history. Simply immerse yourself in the time period by listening to the music, tasting the food, looking at the art, creating some of the crafts, and digging deeper into the people who made things happen, the places where they happened, and the events that did happen.
History immersion is made quite easy with history labs. We added history labs to our historical studies years ago, inspired by Diana Waring.
As a homeschool mom, my goal was to "travel back in time" for a visit. We cooked, baked, crafted, created, and enjoyed all kinds of things from whatever time period we studied. Studying pre-American Hawaii, we made a paper mache volcano and hosted a luau. Investigating Ancient Rome, we dressed in Togas, ate lying down, and had a Roman slave sale. Learning about Archaeology, we had our own archaeological dig after we created the different artifacts for each different layers of our tell.
When I was asked to teach history at a homeschool co-op, I decided to have discussion time followed by history labs. The children read at home and we discussed the time period together in a relaxed way, often laughing and doing some "imagine if" kind of thinking. The labs became an instant hit, so I kept doing them. Soon, I realized that the best part was that for most history labs, all ages could do the lab together. I loved that! We loved learning together as a family.
I'm not sure which we love more about history: historical literature or history labs. Let me tell you a little about history labs you can do in your homeschool or homeschool co-op.
Crafts, Arts, Creating
My personal theory is that all of us are creative since we are made in the image of a Creative God who speaks beauty into existence.
Often, we are beaten down over time or compare ourselves to others so that we see ourselves in a false way. We say things like "Oh, I'm not creative!" or "I don't really have any talents." Sigh. Not true! History labs will often unleash everybody's creative side.
Splatter Painting (yes, painting!) is so easy that anyone can do it. You simply splash paint onto a canvas with a brush, string, or yarn. We did a Splatter Painting History Lab when we were studying art of the 20th Century.
When we explored World War I, we made airplanes. All we needed was painted popsicle/craft sticks and glue. During the same lab, we played a World War I Dog Fight video game. Everyone, young and old, loved it!
When we investigated the Revolutionary War, we made little pouches with thick material and hand sewing. These "powder horns" were carried by the American soldiers to store their powder.
I could also mention Victorian fan labs, World War II poster labs, Colonial America brochures, and clipper ship labs, but we have to move on.
Drama, Radio Shows, Reenactments, Battles, Games
One of our favorite history labs have been our radio show labs. Often we create our own script, but you could use scripts found online, too. When we started history labs, we used a tape recorder, graduated to laptop software, but now we just use someone's cell phone to record. Be sure to add sound effects for added fun. There's always someone who is willing to edit the audio and then we love listening to the finished radio show again and again and again.
All children, but especially boys love to re-enact battles playing airsoft, using army men, or just acting it out. When we study Middle Ages, we do "jousting" of sorts--we mostly just act it out, rather than really indulging in sword play. Of course, some children always beg me to really joust!
Games like "Capture the Flag" are based on old games from the Middle Ages, contests entered in my knights of old. These huge events with pageantry served as practice for real battles.
When we studied the 1930's, the decade of skyscrapers, we had a contest. Who could build the tallest "skyscraper" our of cardboard boxes? We divided into two teams and the competition was fierce!
We enjoyed a lab where we designed houses for a suburb when we investigated the 1950's, followed by a lab designed our own airport.
Of course, everyone's favorite Middle Ages lab: building a castle out of all sizes of cardboard boxes. Wow! Some of these castles were beautiful. Others, well, you know how it goes sometimes. The main thing is: what fun to design and build a castle.
More About History Labs
Teach History the Fun Way Resources
If you are interested in adding history labs to your homeschooling adventure, check out our Teach History the Fun Way page.
We have Let's Have Our Own Medieval Banquet, Let's Have Our Own Archaeological Dig, and Let's Have Our Own Ancient Greek Olympic Games. And, of course, lots of cookbooks.
Our HIS Story of the 20th Century Collection includes a textbook for middle and high schoolers with a separate workbooks (and answer keys). The workbooks are full of history labs and hands-on fun, along with questions to answer, living books to read, movies to watch, map activities, and timeline pages to fill.
I hope all of our ideas will motivate you to come up with your own ideas. Even better, your children and teens may have some fun ideas for history labs. After all, teaching and learning history should be fun!