School history lessons have given most people the idea that history is a series of dates and names to be memorized, but it’s so much more than that. History connects us to our past as a nation and as a society, and helps us to know where we’re going in the future.
It’s also exciting. We love to watch the stories of made-up characters at the local cinema or on our televisions, but we rarely think about the real people who built America, and the fascinating lives they led.
Teaching American history to children is a wonderful way to help them appreciate this great country of ours, but it can also be fun to explore as a family too. Here are five ways you can do that.
Visit historical monuments in your state
Where ever you live, it’s certain that there is a long and rich history to be explored right on your doorstep. Each state has its own stories, of the people who founded towns and cities, the people who shaped the course of history, or simply the people who called your neighborhood ‘home’.
Instead of getting caught up in chores and daily life on the weekends, why not set aside one weekend a month to explore the history of your home town or state? Visit local monuments and museums, or even your local library to find out more about the people of your town and the lives they led.
Visit a living history museum
Think of a museum, and you likely think of dusty rows of objects in glass cases, neatly cataloged and labeled. You probably don’t think of a place where you can see history brought to life before your very eyes, but a living history museum is exactly that.
As the name suggests, at a living history museum you can interact with staff who demonstrate how life would have been lived in times past. In most of the museums, staff or volunteers dress in period costume and carry out daily tasks that would have been typical in the time period they are portraying. Often they showcase trades and skills such as blacksmithing, candle-making, and even confectionery making as it would have been done in times gone by.
It’s not often you can step back in time and ask someone what life was really like back then, but at a living history museum, you can do exactly that. And with museums in most states, you’re sure to find one near you.
Learn traditional skills
If watching traditional skills close up has given your family a taste for exploring the past, why not try learning traditional skills yourselves? There really is no better way to connect to the past on a personal level than to learn the skills that people used in times past to survive and thrive — and of course by learning them and passing them on, you are helping to conserve America’s heritage for generations to come.
There are a whole range of activities to choose from, from crafts such as lace-making, iron-working, or carpentry, to more practical skills such as making your own butter, or sewing clothes. Whatever you choose, there’s bound to be a group or class near you who will teach you the basics and help you progress, or simply log on to YouTube for free classes and tutorials.
Take a family trip to the East Coast
Before there was the United States of America, there were the colonies, and then the 13 states, all along the eastern seaboard from Massachusetts in the north to Georgia in the south. If you want to retrace the steps of the founding fathers, the east coast cities are the place to visit.
Ever since General Washington selected land north of the Potomac on which to place the federal District of Columbia, and the nation’s capital, Washington, the city has been an archive of the nation’s history. Here you can see in person the founding documents of the United States; visit the original Star Spangled Banner that inspired America’s national anthem, at the National Museum of American history; and of course take a tour of the White House and Capitol Hill; as well as visit numerous monuments and memorials to crucial events in the nation’s history. You can even still see the milestones that marked the original boundary, 10 miles by 10 miles, of the District.
But Washington isn’t the only historic city worth exploring. For a real deep dive into America’s past, put Pennsylvania, Boston, New York, and Jamestown on the list.
Read Heroes of Liberty books together
While trips are a fantastic way to experience historic places first hand, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home to learn about the nation’s past. What better way to find out about past times and the people who shaped them than by reading the biographies of figures who made America the country she is?
The Heroes of Liberty series is the perfect way to teach children about the people and events that made America. Each book focuses on a true Hero of Liberty, someone who, during their lifetimes, lived out the values that make America great.
Whether it was people like Harriet Tubman, who experienced the horror of slavery in the south first hand, yet freed herself and then dozens of other slaves as a conductor along the Underground Railroad; or Ronald Reagan, who led America in it’s Cold War fight against the evils of Marxist Communism, each story captures the spirit of its time, and the hopes and fears of those who lived through it.
Explore the full range of titles, and take your children on a journey through America’s heroic past.