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Seven Reasons to Study History

Seven Reasons to Study History
When I was in school, we learned about the world in seemingly unrelated snippets. My teachers called the subject Social Studies . We might start the year studying Chinese culture. Then we'd study the Pilgrims because it was getting close to Thanksgiv...
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Fast and Easy History Curriculum

Fast and Easy History Curriculum
Some people love history, and others… not so much. Faced with a history-phobic kid, social studies-hating kid, you don't have to skip the subject. If you are looking a fast and easy way to get history, sometimes you just need to think outside the box...
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Jessica Zbavitel
Thanks so much for The Great Courses supplement ideas!
Friday, 29 June 2018 00:16
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What is the Difference Between History and Social Studies?

What is the Difference Between History and Social Studies?

What is the Difference Between History and Social Studies?

"Social studies" and "history" may be interchangeable terms for some colleges. You may have noticed that some college websites require four years of social studies while others require history. What is the difference between history and social studies?

When colleges request four years of social studies or four years of history, they both probably mean the same thing. Social studies (also called social sciences), is actually a broader term having to do with human social interaction. It can include history, government, economics, psychology, sociology, and probably some other "ologies" that I can't think of right now.

Geography can consist of either political geography (a social science) or physical geography (which could also be a science - not to confuse you or anything).

Many colleges specify what KIND of social studies they want to see. Often they require American history, American government, economics, and world history. You don't have to stick with just these four though. You can branch out and have your child study even MORE social sciences if you want to. We did in our homeschool because my kids loved social studies!

What social studies are you covering in your homeschool? Please share in the comments!

Please note: This post was first published in June 2009 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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Literature Based Curriculum on the Reading List: Venn Diagram

Literature Based Curriculum on the Reading List: Venn Diagram

When you use a literature based curriculum, the boundaries between English course descriptions, history course descriptions, and reading lists get blurry! Instead of thinking you need to divide books between them all, think of it like a Venn Diagram:

Books that are ONLY in the English course description: textbooks, workbooks, curriculum. These might include: Sonlight Core 100, Spelling Power, Wordly Wise, Institute for Excellence in Writing High School Essay Intensive.

Books that are ONLY in the History course description: textbooks, workbooks, and curriculum. These might include: Sonlight Core 100, Mapping the World By Heart, History of US by Joy Hakim.

Books that go in BOTH English AND the reading list, literature read for school. For example: The Red Badge of Courage, Call of the Wild.

Books that go in BOTH the History course description and the reading list: biographies and historical fiction read for school. For example: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin or Farewell to Manzanar.

If books fit in BOTH the history course description and the English course description, I would usually put the autobiographies in History and the historical novels in English, even though they help the child learn about both subjects.

The Reading List can include everything that is considered literature. For that reason, you can include literature reading for school, historical reading for school, historical novels, biographies, and any reading for fun. I usually leave off the list anything that seems like curriculum. Anthologies are collections of literature excerpts, and can be a little harder to place. When a reading list is already quite long, I suggest leaving the anthology as curriculum, either in the English course description or the History course description (or both!) but not on the reading list.

Because homeschoolers who use a literature based curriculum have so many books in the reading list (and always will, no doubt), I'd be tempted to remove the more schoolish books (such as Foxes Book of Martyrs, Beowulf, and Famous Men of Greece) and put those kinds of books ONLY in the course description, rather than on the reading list. But you know, that's really just a "me" thing. Most high school kids read 5-10 books a year, so there is no need to include everything, and these completely overlap!  Although my son Alex read Jane Austen's books for fun and should have had those books on his reading list, the same books were ALSO on the reading list for Kevin, even though he didn't think it was much fun at all!

The bottom line? The reading list is not just for high school subjects, it's what your child read that year.  It will include some literature they read for school subjects, especially when you use a literature based curriculum. Course descriptions are not about reading for fun, but might include books that are assigned for school and that might just happen to be fun to read.

Please note: This post was originally published in February 2013 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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Social Studies for Dummies

Social Studies for Dummies
"Social Sciences"?  What does that even mean? What is the difference between history and social studies?

Social sciences, or social studies, are actually a broader term having to do with human social interaction.  So it can include history, government, economics, psychology, and sociology.

Some colleges might use the terms "Social Studies" and "History" interchangeably in their application requirements.  When they say they want to see four years (usually) of "social studies" or four years of "history" on a transcript, it probably means the same thing.  In some states, a state history class may be required.

Many colleges will specify what KIND of social studies they want.  Often they will want American History, American Government, Economics, and World History.

You don't have to stick with just those four, however; you can branch out. Optional courses might include any of the social sciences, and there are a lot of them. Some of the social sciences include psychology, sociology, anthropology, and comparative governments. You could teach the history of anything or any country.

When I was in public high school I took a class called Polynesian history. Again, your options are limited only by the passion of your children, but in public high school it’s the passion of the teacher that sets the courses. My teacher in high school was passionate about going to Hawaii every year, and he could help finance that trip to Hawaii by teaching a class called Polynesian history because the two are tied together. I have a brother in-law who taught at a public high school, and he actually taught a class called the History of Baseball. There is a whole world of other social sciences you can explore!

Find out more about social studies on The Homescholar website!

Homeschooling is NOT the same as doing schoolwork at home.  There is so much freedom in homeschooling!  My Gold Care Club will give you all the help you need to succeed!
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The Great Courses: Honors, or Just High School Credit?

The Great Courses: Honors, or Just High School Credit?
Homeschoolers use lots of different resources, and one of the ones I’ve recommended in the past are The Great Courses.  With choices in science, mathematics, business and economics (just to name a few), many homeschoolers are utilizing these classes.  Parents have asked me whether the Great Courses should be considered AP Honor’s classes or high school level, but it really depends on how you utilize them.

Obviously, the high school courses they offer are high school level. There are two ways to think about how to put one of those courses on the transcript: one method is to count the number of hours that you spend listening to lectures.  For instance, if you combine a bunch of different classes on a history topic and you end up having 120-180 hours, then that would be your history class and you’d give your student one high school credit for history.

A second method is to determine how much your student actually learned from the course, measured by whether they can pass an AP or CLEP test. If they pass one of those tests, then you could call it an honor’s class. Indicating an AP course on a transcript is kind of frowned upon, because the letters “AP” have been copyrighted by the College Board and they do not like it when you put “AP Course” on a transcript.

The easiest way to reflect college-knowledge is to label a course an honor’s course, such as ‘Honor’s History’. If they’ve taken an AP test, then you can put that test score on the transcript, which would show their college-level learning.


What's your favorite homeschool curriculum resource?

When you are applying for colleges, you will need a great homeschool transcript.  The good news is you can “do-it-yourself” and save thousands.  Discover the Total Transcript Solution.
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Are you doing too much in your homeschool?

Are you doing too much in your homeschool?
How do you know when enough is enough? Particularly with Writing and History, how can you make sure you are not asking too much and frustrating yourself and your children?.  Sometimes it can be so hard to tell.  It can be VERY difficult to make sure you aren't expecting too much!

Here are some ideas to consider if you think you may be overworking your children.  If you use a curriculum for writing and history, do not supplement it.  A standard curriculum is meant to be a whole high school credit.  So if you supplement it with anything (no matter how wonderful and cool) you can experience burnout and frustration, because you're expecting too much work.

If you feel like you MUST supplement, then the simple solution is to remove something else from the curriculum that might take about the same amount of time.  In other words, remove as much as you add.

Remember as well, in high schools they don't do ALL of the curriculum.  In other words, if the book lists 4 hands-on projects, they may only do one - or none of them.  They give a lot of suggestions in a public school curriculum that may never be used by any teacher.

I have a blog post about how important it is not to double up on your curriculum; Homeschool Blunder - Doubling Up

If you aren't using a curriculum, but you are pulling together pieces yourself, then strive for only 1 hour or less for history each day and 1 hour or less of English each day (reading books may take longer, but the writing, grammar, vocabulary, etc. - that stuff keep to just 1 hour or less.)

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Homeschool Requirements for Washington State History

Homeschool Requirements for Washington State History
I failed at teaching Washington State History, and I feel just horrible about it - I really do!  But I have great news.  You're off the hook!  Little known fact:  teaching Washington State History is *NOT* a requirement for homeschoolers.
I attended one of your seminars and think I remember you saying that Washington history is not required for entry into college, but an employee at Homeschool Potpourri book store said that it is required for high school diploma (1/2 credit, actually).  Could you give me your input on this matter?  Thank you.
~ Linda in Washington

Hi Linda,
Sure, I'll be glad to help!  Here is a link to the law:

The 11 required subjects are these:

  1. The 11 required subjects are reading, writing, spelling, language, math, science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation.

  2. These do not have to be taught separately. A unit study on frogs could include reading, writing, spelling, science, math, art and occupational education.

Although Washington State history is required of public school students, it is NOT required of homeschool students.  Does that help?  You still have the option of teaching state history.  You can still choose to do a research paper on Washington rather than a 1/2 credit course on Washington, or you can choose to teach a whole 1 credit course every year if you want to.  No matter what you CHOOSE to do, it really isn't required.

Interested in learning what a successful book of course descriptions looks like.  Check out my Comprehensive Record Solution here.
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Homeschooling on Inauguration day

Homeschooling on Inauguration day
Drop what you're doing, and learn!   Take a day off!  In a homeschool, we can actually spend ALL DAY studying American Government and Current Events.

Tuesday if the inauguration of President-Elect Obama, and there is a lot to learn.  You can take the day off from most of your formal schooling.  . It's an historic day, whether you voted for him or not.  Research Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy, so that you can evaluate the comparisons as the pundits talk.  Listen to the crowd, and discuss the meanings of words they use to describe Obama.  Listen to the history of the 20th Century as they discuss Civil Rights. Watch the proceedings - there have been very few Presidents in our history, so this is a very special event.

In the Seattle area, one local school district has required parental permission slips before they allow students to watch the inaugural day proceedings.  Homeschools don't have a bureaucracy. We can learn during life, without getting permission.  It doesn't take an act of congress to be flexible with our homeschool.  We can soak it up, and strike while the iron is hot!  Seize the day, and allow student to watch history being made.  Help them understand what is happening, and explain the views of the commentators.  You can explain the historic nature of the event while presenting your own viewpoint.

Flexiblitiy is the key to supporting children when they learn through life events.  In September of 2001, we moved into our new house in Seattle.  After painting the interior, we were finally ready to start homeschooling in our new home.  On our first day of school, before the children woke up, we were hit by the terrorist attacks of 9-11.  It was incredibly traumatic, but we were together as a family, experiencing and learning together at home.  I dropped all plans of studying Africa in geography, and we started with Afghanistan and the Middle East first.  We spend hours talking about what happened, and the comparisons to Pearl Harbor.  Remember all those comparisons?  It was a great opportunity for the boys to REALLY learn the impact of Pearl Harbor, by learning about 9-11 as it happened.

So seize the day, and soak all the learning up while you can!  Regular days are for regular school, but special learning days like this only come around once in a while.

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Washington State History Ideas

Washington State History Ideas
I recently sent out my quarterly Washington State newsletter, which mentioned (among other things) that state history is not a required subject in our homeschool law.  So many people have sent me some great information about Washington State History ideas, that I thought I should pass it along here!  I have permission to share these ideas.
Hi Lee—something that we have done for several years as part of our Washington State curriculum has been to go to the Washington State Corn Maze. It's up north of Seattle by highway 2, but well worth the trip. I believe that the web site is: It has grown quite a bit since we first started going there about 5-6 years ago. It is run by former teachers who saw inspiration in educating children in this fun way. The Maze is laid out in the shape of Washington with the trails being the roads of the state. What makes it so educational is that they have made signs throughout the maze that includes historical and interesting facts for the different cities and towns. Not only that, but they have also made it into a scavenger hunt for information. It really helps put perspective on where different events happened and is a great learning activity, especially for those kinetic learners. By the way, there is also a pumpkin patch, cut flower garden, a pig show, a barn maze, a bakery, concessions (on the weekends), a playground area, picnic area, a real grass mini-golf course, and a hay rack ride to the entrance side of the maze. For less exciting curriculum, the Children's Book Store in Kent has workbook type of activities, as well as a Washington State Bingo game.

--Sharon in Kent


Thanks for another great newsletter!

I do have a recommendation for Washington State History.  We used Our Northwest Heritage and Lights in the Northwest, both by Richard Hannula (  As is normal with homeschoolers, I picked and chose where to expand on his points, and where to choose to disagree.  As a supplement, my students used to look up additional data (its Washington-specific). It has a couple of particular "bents" that don't parallel our own points of view, but the kids knew that going in.

We tried a few others, and didn't really like them.  Lights in the Northwest is a collection of short biographies, while Our Northwest
Heritage covers Washington from its beginnings.  (Note: some glaring omissions included the Kennewick Man, but that's why we  supplement :-)).

I taught my own children using this (modified) curriculum, and have taught it in co-op situations.  While not something most students would read on their own, I heard nothing but positive remarks in the classroom.

In His grip,

Julie at

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Lee has three core beliefs about homeschooling: homeschooling provides the best possible learning environment; every child deserves a college-prep education whether or not they choose to go to college; and parents are capable of providing a superior education to their children. Lee does not judge your homeschool or evaluate your children. Instead, she comes alongside to help and encourage parents homeschooling high school.

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