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Family History in the Homeschool Curriculum - Multi-Subject, Many Ideas!

Posted by on Apr. 21, 2009 at 11:47 AM
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Nikki Phipps is a freelance writer of numerous articles and other publications, including the premiere issue of Perspectives Magazine. She also maintains a gardening site, GardenCrypt in her spare time. Drawing inspiration from family and past experiences, Nikki believes everyone has something to say that can benefit others, which is why she turned to writing.  “There’s no better tool for learning than that of personal experience.” Nikki resides in NC with her two children and three stepchildren.

Name of Product: Family Tree Kids

Link to Product/website:

Description of Product: “Welcome to a world of family fun! Here at Family Tree Kids you’ll learn more about how to research your own family tree. We’ve got games, projects and homework help. Family Tree Kids is a site where you learn how to become a “family detective” and dig up clues about your ancestry. Our games and activities are created just for kids—none of that boring grownup stuff—so you can have fun tracing your roots! ”

Nikki’s Description of Product: Family Tree Kids is a genealogy site from Family Tree Magazine designed just for kids. The site covers all areas of genealogy, from tips for researching one’s family history to creating trees, memoirs and more. Kids can play games and make projects on the Family Tree Fun page, which also includes a project of the week.

The Family Tree Detective includes activities and projects for teaching kids how to collect genealogy clues and put them to use. A weekly activity is also included here.  The Junior Toolkit provides genealogy resources like research forms, family tree charts, and genealogy books. The Teachers and Parents section contains advice for getting your kids involved with their family history and includes numerous resources for lesson planning, ideas, homework help, and more.

Homeschool Uses: There are many ways to incorporate family history into the homeschooling curriculum, while sparking some interest along the way. Why not incorporate spelling or language arts into your family history? Ask your child to find out the story behind their family name. Don’t forget to tell them that there may be many alternate spellings. For instance, my last name “Phipps” may be found as Phips, Fipps, Fips, or Phelps. Many of our ancestors could not read or write and as a result spelled their names how they sounded.

Using their detective skills, kids could create a family tree accompanied by interesting family stories or other facts they may have stumbled across during the research process. Creating a book of family tales is another idea that can peak interest. Many stories and oral histories can be collected from family members, neighbors, and friends. They could also retrace an ancestor’s steps, such as with immigrants, plotting their travels on a map. This is a great way to integrate geography into the lesson.

A visit to a local cemetery can be used for studying architecture within a certain time period. In addition, kids may find other clues about the lives of people who are buried there, including some of their own family members. While there, allow them to try their hand at grave rubbings. Choose a family plot and create a timeline, adding significant events that occurred in within his or her life. What other events were going on during this time? Create a time capsule to accompany the timeline and add trinkets, news events, and other items about this person’s life.

Science lessons can also be used in conjunction with family history. Have kids identify common genetic features that have been passed down in their family. This could include eye color, hair color, prominent noses, height, etc. Are there any health conditions that seem to run in the family like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes? Kids can also explore their heritage by creating a collage using pictures of food dishes traditionally served in their family or those that represent their ancestor’s culture (German, Irish, Hispanic, Indian, etc.).  The ideas could go on and on.

Content and Safety: This site was specifically designed for children. All the content on the site is suitable for children ages 8 through 12. There are no safety issues and no registration is required.

Nikki’s Experience Using the Product: I explored all parts of the site. I even “got lost” in some of the resource links located in the parents and teachers section, as there were numerous resources of interest to me. In the Build your Family Tree section, you’ll find a family tree template that can be downloaded, filled in, and printed. My son and I created our family tree using this form. It was really simple and lots of fun! Note: This form and others on the site are in PDF format and require Adobe Reader.

Tutorial or Promotional Video of the Product: As this is a resource site with games and downloadable forms, no tutorial is needed.

Summary: Family history is a passionate hobby of mine, as I’ve been working on my family tree for years, and I occasionally try to help others with finding their ancestors. It’s always difficult to get the kids interested in genealogy. They assume it’s just boring history; however, with Family Tree Kids, they’re able to link family history with fun activities and projects, which helps peak their interest. I wish this site had been around when my kids were younger!

Editor’s Note: Read these Reviews of FREE History Tools:
Create Online Projects, Reports, Assignments, Posters, and More! FREE!
A free online genealogy tool for homeschool history and more!

by on Apr. 21, 2009 at 11:47 AM
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