School projects are a great opportunity to help children learn about their family, heritage and ancestors without calling it family history. The following are few examples:
Learn one of your ancestral languages
There are books and tapes available at most public libraries that can teach you the basics about most languages.
Read a historical novel
Learn about the lives your early ancestors might have lived. Books in the American Girls, Young Heroes of History and Dear America series are excellent to begin with.
Make family history part of homework
Students of all ages have opportunities to complete school projects by exploring and connecting with family history.
When a child is studying a historical event, tell what an ancestor did who witnessed or participated in that event. Look on the Internet for information about what life was like during that time period and how wars and other events affected daily life.
If a teenager studies a book for school, tell about ancestors who lived at the same time as the author or who may have experienced some of the events described in the book.
Help students learn about geography by looking on a map to see where ancestors lived.
If a student needs to choose a state or country for a report, suggest that they choose a place where your ancestors lived. If you have photographs of the area your family came from, you can use those photographs to augment your child’s studies.
Create projects that engage your senses
Create family history projects that engage your senses on multiple levels.
Encourage a child to create a fact sheet or project about the child's family. This can be done with a parent, sibling, cousin or friends. For example,
Create a puppet family.
Make people-shaped cookies.
Draw pictures of a favorite holiday or food. Show family celebrating the holiday; or draw the family house or grandparents' home.
Cook a favorite family recipe.
Learn a heritage craft
Gain a greater appreciation for the lifestyle of your pioneer forefathers and mothers. Learn about skills they had and how to perform the craft. For example, skills like woodworking, shingle-making, spinning, weaving and quilting were important parts of their lives.
Barry J. Ewell is author of "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering your Family History" and founder of MyGenShare.com, an online educational website for genealogy and family history.
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