When I was a junior in high school, my French teacher had us create a family tree. It was a fun assignment for someone like me … I was already a history nerd, but had never really thought about tracing my own family history to any great extent.
My dad was ecstatic because he was able to introduce me to his family bible. My mom told stories about how “we” arrived in New Orleans in the early 1800s and walked the length of the Mighty Mississippi to southwestern Illinois where the family finally settled.
What I learned with my first family tree
Through this process, I discovered my French ancestors … which was a bonus for my teacher. What I remember most is how history opened up in ways I had never before experienced. Sure, I had watched North and South and had fallen in love with Gone with the Wind, but even those didn’t compare to the stories that connected me to my family and the times in which they lived.
A family tree can create interest in history
Not everyone loves history. In fact, when I talk about history and heritage in my own college classes, most students have that “deer in headlights” look. They don’t care. It’s not here and now, so has little impact on their present day situations.
But … if a child can experience history in a way that makes it personal … makes it meaningful … then something magical happens.
History class in elementary school doesn’t always cut it, either. I could always remember dates … dates of wars or proclamations or treaties. Dates are what we usually learn in school. We’re made to memorize them along with great speeches. How boring is that? It means little … they’re just dates with no connection to us.
However, connecting those dates and great speeches to how we lived and why the events of the time were important makes it more meaningful. Inserting an ancestor into the story of the time makes it personal and, all of a sudden, you “know” someone who survived … or didn’t … the trials and tribulations of any point in history.
Even as an adult, I find interest in only certain eras. The Civil War has always been a fascination, but not because of battles or Presidents … because of the way we lived, the notion of brother against brother or father against son, the hoop skirts and fan etiquette. The Revolutionary War didn’t come to life for me until I started uncovering who in my family was on which side and why. As a result, I’ve become just as infatuated with this era as the mid-1800s. And I’m over 40! You don’t have to be a child, I suppose.Get kids involved in history by creating a family tree. Click To Tweet
Help your kiddos create a family tree
So … to get your kiddos (or inner kiddo) to learn about history and your own family, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite crafts and activities below. Hopefully, you can find one to do over this summer break. Click on the photo to be directed to the original post. Above all, have fun sharing your history with your kiddos.