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Starting a Living History Group

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By Jennifer Pepito

Starting a Living History Group

Sitting at the table with four other ladies as we assembled flapbooks to prepare for our first Living History co-op meeting of the year caused my mind to flash back to years past. Whether learning Spanish while we studied Latin America, pretending to be Vikings while studying early American history, or eating Greek food in togas while reading about Ancient Greece, Living History groups have enriched our home school experience tremendously. Starting a Living History group is easy, provides wonderful educational experiences for your children and builds friendships that can last a lifetime.

The first step to launching any study group is to find a few friends who are interested in learning about the same topic. When we did a science co-op, it was with my sister whose daughter was at the same stage in science as my children. Through our several years of history co-ops, we usually found a few families who are studying the same time period and we study together. Once we identify interested families, we set a date to plan out the year.

During the first planning meeting, we lay out the topics for the entire year as well as each mom's duties, month by month. This year we are studying the period from 1800 to the early 1900s, focusing on history as it relates to North America. There are nine months, each with a new topic, and we will finish up the year by studying the Great Depression. Once we have a topic chosen for each month (typically in chronological order), we assign duties.

Deciding which activities you want to include will help define these duties. With our current group of families, we have a relatively wide age span. This creates the added challenge of making the activities fun for our little guys while stimulating our older children. Some of the activities we are including are a game or drama project, art or science time, and a section for oral reports. We are also including a picture book or activity for little ones and a time period snack provided by that month's hostess. Each family has a turn to host the group and the hostess gets light duty on the other activities. In past years, we have included teaching time; this year we are opting to let moms do the teaching at home before we come together to focus on the activities and projects that may be missing in our day-to-day classroom experience.

One thing I am especially excited about this year is our flapbook time. A flapbook, or lapbook, is a file folder folded in thirds to make a presentation folder. It is a fun and creative way for the students to present their work for the year. We are including a mini timeline and small maps inside with markings related to that month. We will add quotes or information about important people, dates and events from each topic. During scheduled flapbook time, we will also do work on a large map marking the routes of explorers, various paths of the Industrial Revolution, or the locations of resources and inventors.

Deciding on a schedule is another important part of a Living History co-op. We have chosen to meet once a month for approximately 5 hours. This is workable with all the other commitments these families have and gives us a month to prepare projects and reports as well as study the topic. Other groups choose to meet for shorter sessions bi-weekly or even weekly.

Whatever format you decide on for your learning co-op, prepare to have fun. Living History has been a delightful resource for our family and has provided opportunities for the children to do something besides changing diapers, planting vegetables for science experiments and mucking the horse stall for P.E. Our years of doing Living History co-ops have greatly enriched our life!

Jennifer Pepito is a homeschool mom of seven who recently returned from four years working to help the less fortunate in Mexico. Contact her at: jennpepito@yahoo.com.

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