How to Include the Truth in Your Homeschool Social Studies Lessons

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Christopher Colombus discovered America. 

The Tulsa massacre didn't happen. 

Slavery was beneficial to black people. 

C'mon, really? 

Enough with the lies already. It's way beyond time to teach kids reality. 

Let's take a look at your options for including the truth in your in your homeschool social studies lessons.

Reconsider Your Lesson Plan Materials

Start by making sure the social studies curriculum (history, geography, etc.) you picked matches your values. Unfortunately, there are a lot of homeschool curriculums out there that only educate kids about the lives of mainstream populations (e.g., white, male, able-bodied, straight people).

Think about how these types of lessons can confuse your child because it's not what they're seeing in real life. Kids need to know that the world is made up of all different kinds of (good) humans.

Review these questions you can ask yourself to make sure your lessons don't repeat outdated stereotypes:

  • Are people with disabilities represented in the lessons?
  • If there's a conflict in the storyline, are characters with¬†dark skin blamed?
  • Does the curriculum encourage your child to connect to their real-life experiences, communities, and cultures?
  • Are there references to different cultural traditions, languages, religions, names, music, and clothing?
  • Are diverse family structures (i.e., single parents, adopted or foster children, same-sex parents, other relatives living with the family, etc.) represented?
  • Does the curriculum expose your learners to a group of diverse authors, characters, identities, and cultures?
  • Are people of different cultures, skin tones, and abilities central to the stories being presented?

If your answer to the majority of the questions above is 'no,' modify your social studies lesson with material that doesn't repeat lies from the past. Here are some ways you can do that. 

Continually switch out 'old school' books

You're not actually required to use the non-diverse books suggested by your homeschool curriculum.

For example, you could substitute (or supplement) books about traditional white male historical figures with more culturally-relevant books about notable female figures. There are plenty of choices (Mother Theresa, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.)

After you decide on new historical figures to study, think about what type of conversations you could have with your student about why schools traditionally offer lessons about white males only. Talking about historical stereotypes is a big conversation, and of course it's up to you as a parent to decide when/if your child is developmentally ready.

Food for thought.

Whatever you decide about conversations about stereotypes, keep subbing in multi-cultural books throughout the schoolyear. 

Teach the right words

Substituting outdated books with more culturally-relevant lesson material isn't the end of the road; there's more you can do.

When you're teaching culturally-relevant material, use language that matches what you're teaching. For example, if you're teaching a lesson about U.S. history and slavery, you could explain that we use 'primary' bedroom today instead of 'master' bedroom because the idea of masters and slaves is such a deplorable (but true!) part of American history.

Language-related examples like this usually go a long way towards getting your point across. Educate yourself on the latest culturally-appropriate language. 

Maintain a steady pace

You don't have to utilize the suggestions in this article all at once. You can do each one individually - the key is to keep things consistent. Continue making curriculum adjustments that align with cultural fairness.

Here are some ideas:

  • Keep assessing each lesson plan before you start teaching to make sure it aligns with your values.
  • Only substitute/supplement one book at a time.
  • Progressively explain and use current lingo whenever you're talking about cultural awareness.

Keep evolving!

Note: Whether your kids are currently elementary grade schoolers or high schoolers, the information in this article about woke homeschooling applies universally.

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