Our 10 New Favorite History & Geography Resources

by ChristinaPilkington on June 20, 2012 · 15 comments

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I love reading about history. I love watching documentaries. I love visiting historical monuments, living history museums and sites.

I didn’t always love learning about history, though. Up until I went to college, history meant memorizing dates and facts. The people in my textbooks felt flat and abstract. There were no interesting or exciting stories to read, and I couldn’t connect with the people I read about in my textbooks or relate to them at all.

It was when I was out of high school when I became aware of a whole new world: historical fiction, autobiographies and exciting documentaries.

The most important thing I learned was that I could pick and choose to learn about those things in history that I was interested in – those things I could connect with and relate with.

The more I read about things that I was interested in, the more doorways and paths opened up to me. Before long I found myself reading and watching things that I never would have had an interest in before – the lives of painters and presidents and the details of obscure cultures.

I’m so happy that my kids have grown up thinking about history in terms of stories. They love cartoons, so they have excitedly watched the Animated Hero Classic series. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the Value Tales series, a picture book series about historical figures, focusing on their childhood through adulthood.

I’m also very, very interested in geography and we love to travel. Whenever we travel with the kids, we read about the region or country we’re visiting and also find as many fiction stories we can about the area, too.

Since I love to spent lots of time learning about different periods of history and geography, it’s easy for me to share my love of those subjects with my children. It’s something I’m passionate about and love, so I guess it rubs off on them, too.

Lately, I’ve come across some new resources that I’m really excited about and would like to share with you today.

 Our 10 New Favorite History & Geography Resources

1. Reading the World with Picture Books

I just got this book in the mail this past week and I already love it! Alexa has spent hours skimming though it, showing me books she wants me to check out for her.

The book organizes hundreds of mostly picture books (although there are some chapter books, too) by continent and then by country. It also provides suggested activities that go along with the country you’re learning about, too.

If you’re going to a cultural fair, going to visit another country, or if your child has interest in a particular geographic area, this book is great for suggesting fun stories to read before you go or when you get back.  Don’t just think that picture books are for really young kids, either. Most of these books are very rich, and I’d even enjoy reading most of them even if I didn’t have children.

2.  All Through the Ages

This was another resource I was excited to purchase this week. Just as a pre-warning though. This book is written from a Christian perspective, so there will be some sections and selections that will focus on Bible stories or is written from a Christian world-view. The beginning of the book also opens up with a chronology of the world from the beginning- listing an actual date for the beginning of the world. Even though we attend a Bible church, I would still disagree with that timeline interpretation.

But even if any of those things would bother you, the book is still a great resource for suggesting thousands of books, both fiction and non-fiction, for all the major historical periods.

3.  Liberty’s Kids  

Many of you might be familiar with this animated series about the American Revolution, but just in case you aren’t, I thought I’d suggest it.

We’ve made it a tradition in the past few years to watch this 40 episode series following three teenagers as they are wrapped up in the drama that took place during the American Revolution, starting with the Boston Tea Party through the ratification of the US Constitution.

It used to be on Netflix for free if you had instant streaming, but Netflix recently took it off. At first I was upset about that, but I found out we can watch all the episodes on YouTube for free, too!

4.  Carol Marsh Mystery Books

I discovered these mystery books when I was looking for some fiction chapter books about New York City and Boston. Both my kids have really, really enjoyed listening to two mystery books in this series during our lunch.

I have to say that the plot line of the mystery, I find, is usually predictable and often very cheesy, but my kids do like hearing them. I’d recommend them for kids under the age of 12 or so. What I really like about them is they present a mystery story where the kids in the stories have to find various clues while they explore a historical site. The books provide lots and lots of interesting factual information, too.

5.  US Geography for Children-Schlessinger Media        

I found this series through our library. We’ve really enjoyed watching many of these 25 minute episodes.

6.  Journey Alphabet Books  These books introduce a city to kids by using each letter of the alphabet to introduce a natural setting, a famous landmark, or something else that is indicative of that city. These are definitely not a simple little alphabet book. These are packed with great information as well as nice illustrations.

7.  BBC’s The History of the World in 100 Objects

My kids are not listening to this series, but I am! It’s a wonderful 100 episode audio program you can listen to for free on the BBC website. I actually downloaded the series to I-Tunes so I can listen through my I-Phone when I’m out. The series takes objects from the British Museum, starting with an Oldvaui stone chopping tool and ending with a solar powered lamp and charger, and shows how each object has helped shape the history of the world. The audio episodes are 15 minutes long, and you can see a complete list of each object at the BBC website.

8.  Time Warp Trio Series

We first ran across this series at our library a few months ago. The premise of the series is: a young boy receives a magic book that transports him and his friends back (and sometimes forward) in time (and even inside a book) where they meet many historical figures. Some of the places they visit are: King Arthur’s Britain, the Old West, Ancient Greece and Egypt and Leonardo’s Florence, Italy.

9.  The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones DVD Series

We watched just a few episodes of this DVD series and just loved it! We would have kept watching the series, but we had started reading the Little House books and wanted to watch the Little House TV series while we were reading the books. Once we are done with that, we plan to go back to watching this series together as a family.

It’s a great entertaining story about Young Indiana Jones. Indiana gets himself into lots of adventures and along the way he meets lots of famous historical people including Pancho Villa, William Butler Yeats, Norman Rockwell and Pablo Picasso.

What makes this DVD series so amazing is the incredible 38 in-depth documentaries, a historical overview, an interactive game and an interactive timeline.

10.  History Detectives PBS Series

My kids have seen a few episodes of this series, but this is mainly a series that I watch with my husband. I’d imagine kids about 9 or 10 and up would like watching it, depending on what the episode was about.

Each episode starts with a person finding a historical artifact and asking one of the “history detectives” to research the artifact, authenticate it and give them more information about it. The objects might be a revolver thought to be owned by a famous gangster or a piece of furniture thought to have come from a famous person’s residence. It’s a very, very interesting way to learn about history.

Photo Credit: Rob Young

 What are some of your favorite history resources? Please share them in the comments below because I love finding new resources!

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  • http://profiles.google.com/kacagle Karen Terry Cagle

    You have some great resources listed here ! I didn’t know about a lot of them and now I am super excited to check them out. “History of the World in 100 Objects” is something I did know about but not that I can grab the podcast. I am so much like you, except I didn’t really like History until I started homeschooling. Now I LOVE it.

    • christinapilkington

      Thanks!

  • http://thegettys.blogspot.com Susan

    You have some super resources listed here…some I knew and others I did not. The Young Indiana Jones series intrigues me, and you’ve reminded me about the Time Warp Trio series…I bet my girls would like those.
    I totally identify with enjoying history so much more since finishing official “schooling”.

    • christinapilkington

      Definitely check out the Young Indiana Jones. I think your girls will really like it!

  • http://twitter.com/Justanothermom Tracey Becker

    My kids watch Discovery and History Channel with us all the time. Love the series that are on those channels!

    You mentioned you are in Chicagoland. We have several blogger groups for Chicago bloggers on Facebook if you aren’t already part of them and want to join for connections/etc. my email is mctrickyb at sbcglobal dot net. :)

    • christinapilkington

      Those channels have such great series! We don’t get cable, but we’re able to wach a lot of those series through streaming Netflix and checking them out from the library.

      And thanks so much for the invite :) I’m shooting you over an e-mail right now.

  • Meghon

    I believe Young Indiana Jones also streams on Netflix.

    • christinapilkington

      Awesome! I didn’t know that! Hopefully it will still be there several months from now. I hate when I see a great series I like and then they take it off right when I’m about to watch it :( That way I don’t have to check and re-check it out from the library.

  • Emma

    We love the BBC’s Horrible Histories programmes. They’ve got a strong leaning towards British history (kings and queens, industrial revolution, etc.), but they do have world history in too. They’re just so funny (I think my husband and I actually like them more than the kids do!). Each episode has a song with music video – the most recent series has had a song about WW2 fighter pilots done in a boy band style anda song about greek philosophers done in the style of the Monkees! There are other bits done to seem like adverts and tv reality shows, but all giving history facts. There’s lots of the ‘gross’ bits of history thrown in too, but like you said, its all about the story and relating the facts to people. I’d guess they’re aimed at 8-10 yr olds, but our 2 1/2 yr old still thinks they’re hilarious and sings along to all the songs!

    • Meghon

      We also love Horrible Histories! My 11y/o daughter has even been able to answer some questions on Jeopardy that my husband and I didn’t know based on what she’s learned from HH.

    • christinapilkington

      I fogot that we had watched a few clips on YouTube of those programs. My son wanted to watch the Roman toilets clip over and over again :) I really liked the Medieval Medics – very, very funny! I might check to see if I can rent them from my library in a few months. My kids love stuff like this set to music such as the Schoolhouse Rock DVDs.

  • Natalie

    This is a great post! We tried one of Carol Marsh books, and daughter liked it too. She already read through entire Magic Tree House collection, so I have to find a new series.

    • christinapilkington

      Thanks! We’re in the middle of the Magic Tree House books, too. We just finished the Leonardo da Vinci one. Alexa would read these to herself, too, but Jared isn’t that strong of a reader yet, so we read these together during lunch. It’s their favorite series.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joanotto Joan Concilio Otto

    We LOVE National Geographic’s website – so much great stuff there! We did a major Titanic study using it, and another on Native Americans. :)

    • christinapilkington

      I agree. That is a very awesome website! Alexa has spent hours at a time over there.

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