The Fascinating World Around Us

This week’s Virtual Curriculum Fair theme includes two of my favorite subjects: Exploring Our World: Social Studies and more Science. (Science was also included in last week’s theme, Discovering Patterns, but I chose to focus on math.)

For both of these subjects, social studies (which I consider to include history, cultures, and geography) and science, we use a mostly fun and never tedious. It always makes me sooo sad to hear of kids memorizing dates, filling in multiple choice answers of pointless questions, or otherwise turning the most interesting and intriguing subject into the most boring.

History in Books

So how do we learn history around here? We read! I’ve talked often about our family read-alouds, which are truly the backbone of our homeschool. Each year, we study different periods of history and I find several great living books for us to read together about that era. Some of our favorites have been:

  • Son of Charlemagne by Barbara Willard
  • Harry S Truman, Missouri Farm Boy (from the Childhood of Famous Americans series) by Wilma J. Hudson
  • The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Richard L. Neuberger
  • The American Twins of the Revolution by Lucy Fitch Perkins (from Salem Ridge Press)

All of these books not only tell about a particular time period, event, and/or person, they immerse the reader (or listener) into the time period. Children learn so much better when they enjoy what is being taught … and even more so, when they enjoy themselves so much that they don’t even think about its being “education.” :)

History in Videos

We also watch various documentaries and films when we can find good ones that are appropriate for the boys’ ages. Without a doubt, the best one we have ever found is Hannibal: Rome’s Worst Nightmare, produced by the BBC. It’s available to watch in nine parts on YouTube (just don’t read the comments, ugh). Start with Part 1 here.

Coming in a close second is The Hunley, a made-for-tv movie that was released in 1999. We watched it a couple years ago, and none of us have ever been able to forget it. Knowing about the Hunley in this way has made the recent news about its raising all the more interesting for us.

Obviously, studying different time periods in history allows us to also learn about various world cultures (both past and present).  Lots of daily discussions help to round out what the boys know about different cultures.


I was the self-appointed map reader on family vacations as a kid, and I thought about minoring in geography in college (before I left to marry Jon…) Today, we don’t use a formal geography curriculum because I honestly think it’s not necessary.

We’ve had  a world map and a United States map hanging on the walls for as long as the boys can remember. They’re the large five-foot-wide types so that there’s plenty of detail for checking everything out. When we talk about a particular area, we go to the map and find that area.

Jon and I like to quiz each other on different locations or capitals from time to time, and the kids jump in where they’re able. (Okay, I’m the one who really likes this, but Jon humors me. :))

Of course, I have to say that my favorite geography resource (besides a variety of maps) is the book that I wrote, Expedition Earth: My Passport to the World. The book looks at all 195 (at the time of printing) countries in the world, the flags, border outlines, capitals, languages, and so on.

I also tried to pick out little known pieces of information about each country because I didn’t want the book to be just another geography book with the same old information about the height of Mount Everest and the depth of the Marianas Trench. For example, have you ever heard of the yearly Lluvia de Peces in Honduras? Or the hot springs baths in Hungary? Or how about the ancient copper plates from the Maldives?

Expedition Earth is geared toward kids in 5th through 12th grades and comes with daily lesson plans and flash cards for those who like a guided plan. My oldest is in fifth grade this year, so we don’t officially use the book in our homeschool, but we look up information (such as a country’s flag or capital) in it and sometimes read about a country together.

As I wrote the book, I envisioned families reading it together and enjoying learning new things about our entire world! You can check out a sample of Expedition Earth over at the Knowledge Quest website.


Our science studies are fairly simple at this point and include Considering God’s Creation, nature studies, and videos. The weather is too cold for much nature study right now, but during warmer months, we collect leaves, insects, and flowers. We also try to visit different places for hiking in the woods, wading in creeks, and observing nature as we go.

When it comes to nature and other fields of science, I think that experience is a much better teacher than a book. (Even so, we do enjoy reading living books about nature, such as Among the Meadow People and Squirrels and Other Fur-Bearers.) When the high school years are closer, I hope to invest in a microscope and several dissection kits.


The kids have also watched lots of Animaniacs which has helped them learn the states and capitals, most of the countries (though it’s a bit out of date now), and all of the U.S. presidents. (Nick and James both can name all the presidents in order because of the Animaniacs song, and I think it is utterly amazing!!)

It’s also helped them learn some really corny jokes such as:

Brain: “Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

Pinky: “I think so, Brain, but if we give peace a chance, won’t the lima beans feel left out?”

Visit these other bloggers to see how their families learn about Social Studies and Science.

© 2012, Cindy. All rights reserved.


  1. This is great, Cindy! Thank you for sharing it with the Virtual Curriculum Fair. ;0)
    Susan´s last blog post ..Mapping Out Our Social Studies

  2. We've been watching the Animaniacs too. Kids love it!

  3. Funny… I never thought to look to videos for history. I am going to have to see what our library has to offer!
    Jessica´s last blog post ..Review & Giveaway: A Mile In His Shows

  4. MerriLyn Hurd says:

    I’ll have to look into some of these wonderful learning tools!
    I have some books and I find that the Bible is a wonderful “LIVING” book to teach history and science! There is a book I have called ,He Maketh His Sun to Rise: A look At Biblical Geocentricity.
    by Thomas M. Strouse. A must read!


  1. […] Out Our Social Studies by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds The Fascinating World Around Us by Cindy Horton @ Fenced in […]

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