Thursday, September 6, 2018

Learn and Love History for Little or No Money!


History is one of the easiest and most interesting subjects to explore with your kids and you can do it for next to nothing! 

Our family is absolutely, positively, and passionately in love with history!  I can assure you that:  
  • You do not have to travel far to enjoy history.
  • Every single one of these events and places was within a one day drive of our home.  
  • Nearly all of them were free!  
  • The most we spent on any of these ideas was $2.00 each!  
  • You do not have to homeschool to do these things!    

Borrow books from the library!  

Let's begin with one of the most obvious choices for free material on history.  In the past two decades we have read countless books related to history.  Weekly, we borrowed a huge stack of books from the local library.  We alternated between fiction and non-fiction until we made our way through the entire stack.

While we read, we filled three ring binders with:

  • fact pages
  • coloring sheets
  •  drawings
  •  notes
  • written papers
  • diagrams




 We worked on:

James' 8th grade project on Stonehenge

  •  posters 
  • designed timelines
  •  made food from various time periods and geographical locations.
  •  created huge maps
  • dioramas and models
  • Presentations

In short, we had a blast!  

But, wait!  There's more!!

Here's a look at some additional ways in which we have discovered and experienced history together.

  Free museum days!

Keep your eyes open!  Most museums offer free days throughout the year.  If it's not a free day and you homeschool, often you can ask for and receive field trip rates for your visit.  Do call ahead and ask.  Sometimes you need to make reservations to receive the special rates or go during certain times. Before you visit, always look for on-line discount coupons on tickets!   

Route 66 Museum in Pontiac, IL
Bishop Hill State Historic Site
Peoria Riverfront Museum

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
New Salem State Park

  Community events.

  •  Christmas open house Flanagan House, Peoria, IL

  •  Communities often open up their historic buildings or museums for free or low cost tours during festivals and holidays. Even if adults are changed, often children are free.  

  • Look for self-guided tours!  Our city has a lovely historical district with permanent signs, which allow you to stroll, read, and learn all about the history of the homes.

    Springdale Cemetery, Peoria, IL
  • Walk through cemeteries.  It's not creepy!  Our family often heads to a local historic cemetery to walk on weekends.  You can learn a lot about local history just by reading the tombstone inscriptions.  For instance, we noticed that a lot of the stones in the section for children were labelled with 1917 or 1918.  Siblings were often buried within weeks of each other.  It was then that we realized that the national flu epidemic about which we read in books had brought grief to a number of Peoria families.  

About 200 Stearman planes participate every year!

 The National Stearman Fly In (Galesburg, IL) We had a blast and got to see the planes up close!  Free admission.

Our dear friend, Don Jackson


 Black to the Future, a local production about the African American experience in Peoria.  It was just $2.00 per ticket!!






Not only have we attended them, our family has participated in several!  It's a blast to get involved!

Daniel and Philip as members of the Wide Awakes - circa 1840. 

James and his friend, Sophie as Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln


  Antique Malls

I know!  This may seem unusual.  You can learn a LOT about history through visiting antique malls.  Our kids call them, "Museums with price tags."  Interestingly, our children have also developed a taste over the years for collecting vintage items - maybe because they hung out at places like this so often.  
When you find a coat identical to yours at an antique mall!
When the items for sale like you a little too much!



I seriously could not show you all the photos of places we have been or the nooks and crannies we have explored for absolutely free or nearly free!  It would take up way too much space and you would tire of seeing me and my family in goofy poses.  So, let's end with some tips on how you can do what I have done.  There are treasures in literally every single locale.  It doesn't matter where you live, you can fill your life and that of your child with a love of history. 

1.  Ask your friends.  There have been so many fairs, festivals, and events about which I was just unaware.  But, your friends have probably unearthed quite a few.  So, ask them.  You'll be amazed what you'll find out about. 

2. Join a local Facebook Group.  Most communities have a presence on social media.  Follow them and you'll be sure to find out about upcoming events well in advance!

3. Sign up for mailing lists and e-mail lists.  When you are looking on line and find a page dedicated to a place or event which you find intriguing, them give them your info.  I know!  It's a drag to get a huge amount of e-mails.  That's why I recommend creating a separate e-mail account specifically dedicated for e-mails of this sort.  When my oldest was looking for colleges we created an account called Jamescollege2014 (or something like that).  So, get a Gmail account (you can have several) and set up one for educational opportunities, vacations, and events.  How about 

4.  When you go, ask questions!  Guides and docents particularly love it when eager young people ask great questions, take the time to listen to their answer, and then converse.  You'll find fantastic opportunities to see relics up close and talk to those who love them!  

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