FREE Martin Luther King, Jr. Homeschool Unit StudyJanuary 3, 2024
What do your kids know about Martin Luther King, Jr.? Why does the United States have a holiday celebrating him? Why was what he did so important? Your children will discover the answer to all these questions and more as they learn about the man who was willing to stand up on a dark day, make his voice heard, and lead a movement that changed the country. Teach your children more about this important man in history with our FREE Martin Luther King, Jr. unit study.
Facts About Martin Luther King, Jr. for Kids
Let’s start with some simple facts:
- Martin Luther King Jr. was born as Michael King on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. When he was 5 years old, his father later changed his name to the famous, recognizable name we know today.
- Martin graduated high school at the age of 15! He attended a segregated school as black and white children weren’t allowed to attend school together. Many states in the Southern United States then operated under a set of rules known as the “Jim Crow Laws.” These laws placed restrictions on what black people could do, where they could go, etc.
- The King family were firm believers in education, and Martin went on to graduate with a B.A. in Sociology from Atlanta’s Morehouse College in 1948, a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Pennsylvania’s Crozer Theological Seminary in 1951, and a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Boston University in 1955.
- Before Dr. King graduated from Boston University, a movement began in 1954 that would spread across the nation, inciting change and the abolition of legalized racial discrimination and segregation. This is known as the Civil Rights Movement and would last from 1954-1968. Dr. King would soon become a key leader in this Movement.
- In 1955, Rosa Parks was instructed to move to the back of a public transportation bus in Montgomery, Alabama so a white man could have her seat. When she refused and was consequently arrested, Dr. King moved to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement by helping to orchestrate and implement a boycott of Montgomery’s bus system. After just over a year (381 days) of protesting, the courts ruled that these laws were unconstitutional and would no longer be enforced.
- Dr. King believed in peaceful protests only. He was greatly influenced on this front by Mahatma Gandhi. He encouraged marches, sit-ins, and other non-violent means to protest the injustices all around them. Despite this, he was arrested 29 times during these years.
- Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 at the March on Washington Rally. Over 250,000 people were in attendance to hear Dr. King and other civil rights activists speak. His speech has become one of the most famous in history and speaks of his desire for people to live in harmony, no matter their skin color.
- All the hard work paid off as the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 which outlawed segregation and discrimination based on race, rendering the Jim Crow Laws obsolete.
- In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. became the youngest man to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35 years old.
- Unfortunately, not everyone believed the changes taking place were for the better and resisted them at every turn. After giving a speech in Tennessee in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and assassinated by James Earl Ray. He was convicted, imprisoned, and died in prison in 1998.
- In July 1977, President Jimmy Carter posthumously awarded Dr. King the Presidential Medal of Honor for his tireless work to further civil rights in our country.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday created by a bill signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. The first MLK Jr. Day was celebrated in 1986. It is always celebrated on the third Monday of January, close to his January 15th birthday.
- There is a 30-foot-tall statue of Dr. King on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. that opened in 2011. One side contains a line from his famous speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.“
Homeschool Activities for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- “I Have a Dream” Art Project: Have your child sit down with some paper and brainstorm dream ideas. Of what do their dreams consist? They could be dreams for their future, family, friends, or just the world in general. Once they have a few things listed, have them draw and cut out a white cloud and write on it “I Have a Dream.” Using different colored construction paper strips, they can write out their dreams, and glue them onto the bottom of the cloud. (If older kids would rather, they can cut out images and make an “I Have a Dream” collage.) Sometimes seeing something tangible can help them work toward making their dreams a reality!
- Take a Virtual Field Trip: What better way to help your kids learn who Dr. King truly was than to visit the MLK National Historical Park? If you aren’t local to Atlanta, GA, take the virtual tour here!
- Have a Diversity Lesson: For younger children, give a hands-on lesson they won’t soon forget! We all can talk to our kids all day long about how people may look different on the outside, yet we’re the same inside (and we should tell them!), but this quick illustration will drive the point home. Show them a white egg and a brown egg, talk about their differences, and their similarities, then have them crack the eggs. What do they see? What is the only true difference between the two?
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Discussion Questions for Your Homeschool
- What made Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech so historic?
- How is his dream continuing today?
- Do you think he would be proud of how the country looks today?
- What changes still need to be made?
- Why is peace important?
- What does it mean to be a non-violent leader?
- Is there a cause for which you would be willing to suffer? If so, which one?
- What is the Nobel Peace Prize? What does it mean to be granted this honor?
- What would the world be like without civil rights?
- Why do civil rights matter?
- Is the fight for civil rights and against racial inequality over? Why or why not?
- How can you help continue the work Dr. King and so many others began?
Educational Videos for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Additional Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Homeschool Resources
Looking for even more enrichment activities for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Check out some of these:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Spelling Word List – Here, your kids can practice words related to Martin Luther King, Jr., play games with those words, do online flashcards, take a vocabulary test, and even take a spelling test!
- Books to Read on Martin Luther King, Jr. – We’ve put together an excellent list of books for children of all ages! From learning who Martin Luther King, Jr. is to learning more about the Civil Rights Movement, your kids are sure to enjoy these timely reads. Have older children read another one of Dr. King’s speeches, like Letter From a Birmingham Jail.
- Games to Practice Facts About the Civil Rights Movement – From the Civil Rights Movement to King himself, there are several spelling and vocabulary games for your children at this site!
Additional Online Unit Study
- Time4Learning’s Martin Luther King, Jr. unit study – If you need more information or would like to read everything online, check out what Time4Learning has put together, including a timeline, fast facts, and more.
Naomi White graduated with her B.S. in Christian Elementary Education and went on to earn her Early Childhood Education certification. She has taught preschool and elementary school in both Christian and public schools. She loves to read and write, is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom, and is eagerly awaiting the day her son is old enough for them to start their own homeschool journey. Originally a Georgia girl, Naomi currently lives in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina with her family.