If you are new to homeschooling, you may find yourself wondering how to teach social studies. After all, aren’t social studies traditionally taught in classroom environments with group projects and community opportunities? How can you teach social studies when your student is homeschooled? Thankfully, there are plenty of options!
Social studies for homeschoolers may have a different format overall from traditional schools, however, the information is processed and applied in many of the same ways. Kids’ activities are some of the perfect mediums for learning the geography of the world, and methods such as unschooling or project-based learning bring real-world elements into daily lessons.
Before we begin, what exactly are the social studies? This term has been used for years but is slightly ambiguous. Let’s chat about what your student can expect to learn!
What Are Social Studies?
The term “social studies” encompasses a group of related subjects about the community, social relationships, politics, and foreign affairs. Over the years, social studies typically covered plenty of history courses, geography, economics, government, and perhaps even political science. However, social studies can be broken into simpler elements for teaching younger students, even for those in preschool. For younger students, social studies usually approach concepts like what a community is and how a community works.
When you consider how to teach social studies, it is essential to carefully consider your child’s grade and level of understanding. It may be helpful before a homeschool year to assess their current knowledge base for selecting the most successful social studies program for your homeschooler. A placement test eliminates most of the guesswork.
Thanks to the incredible variation of homeschooling, parents can adjust social studies to fit their ideal learning style, whether your preference falls within a structured homeschool curriculum, a freestyle method, or even unschooling! If you are homeschooling a high schooler, it may be more important to cover a complex subject like economics, while on the other hand, an elementary student could spend hours learning the geography of the world with hands-on crafts or games! Your youngest child can even participate in social studies by learning facts about animals. The possibilities are boundless with homeschooling!
The social studies are important, but often ever so slightly pushed aside and language arts or math take the center stage of priorities. Each of these core subjects is equally necessary for a well-rounded educational experience. Here are several reasons why it’s important to study history, government, the geography of the world, and more.
Social studies thoroughly answer questions such as…
- How does the U.S. government work? Students learn how to become active voters, what their responsibility is, how their vote works in the system, what the different elections mean, and how to make informed decisions.
- How does the U.S. economy work? The U.S. is a capitalist nation. How do businesses thrive and expand in our economy? What is the stock market? What is federal aid and why would it be given?
- How do governments abroad run? Social studies will explore how other nations differ from the U.S. government and why it matters to know terminology and implications.
- How do foreign governments and the U.S. work together, and why? Global leaders must come together and negotiate in a variety of circumstances. What are those circumstances and how are these communications conducted?
- How has history impacted and shaped our present-day? If history is not studied, it will repeat. To move forward with wise decisions, it is essential to study our roots, learn where we have come from, how we have failed, and how we’ve succeeded.
How to Teach Social Studies
To learn the geography of the world, there are several projects and activities for kids to get the job done. One of our favorite ways to learn about social studies, especially with young students, is through project-based learning! Geography kid activities are a wonderful way to help your children stay engaged while having fun! We all learn best when we are enjoying the subject matter, so as with every topic, it is helpful to look for opportunities to apply it to the real world or in a game. Likewise, one of our favorite approaches for teaching is with unit studies. A unit of study offers the opportunity to explore a particular topic (i.e. the Revolutionary War) through the lenses of multiple subjects. Unit studies pair seamlessly with many lessons in social studies!
To begin homeschooling social studies, you’ll want to first establish your focus. For example, do you want to cover history with your student, or would you rather just use activities for kids to learn about the geography of the world? Next, you’ll need to set parameters for your focus. At what point in history should you study? Which country should your geography kid activities explore? You’ll need to decide on a starting point to find ideal teaching materials.
When researching how to teach social studies, you’ll see plenty of pages brimming with information about history lessons, but you don’t have to start there if you’d prefer to study other cultures or geography instead. After all, learning about other societies is vital for widening our worldview beyond our own backyard. Our location in this world is partly responsible for shaping who we are. The study of other cultures and their geography may feel remote to our children, but we are connected and we impact each other. To that extent, virtual field trips are an excellent idea!
If you have a young child, a fun introduction to social studies could simply be facts about animals! Zoos, YouTube videos, colorful books, and kids’ educational websites often have fun information and facts about animals to enjoy learning together. Mastering geography is about so much more than knowing states and capitals — it also includes knowing about demographics, animals, climates, leaderships, and so on.
Additionally, if you are desperate for ideas for weekend fun for kids, social studies projects can be an inspired choice for active children!
Here are a few steps to start your homeschool social studies journey!
- Determine Placement Level. It is always helpful to assess where your student should begin.
- Choose an Area of Study. Decide which main topic you’d like to set as your focus for the year. For example, history, geography, economics, civics, and so on.
- Add Qualifiers and Parameters. This is when you’ll decide on the specific area of study. What type of history should your homeschooler learn? Or, which regions of the world should they study, and why?
- Consider Your Method. Unit studies? Project-based learning? School-at-home? Unschooling?
- Research a Preferred Format. Is your student a visual, tactile, or auditory learner? Would they learn more effectively from textbooks or perhaps online lessons? It’s important to keep in mind that regardless of your primary resources, they can always be supplemented with other materials.
- Select a Program. Now that you have narrowed your study for the year, you can choose a program or curriculum!