Child-Led Learning: Teaching History & Building Ships

I had been thinking about how to incorporate history into our child-led homeschool curriculum, while stills staying true to their interests when my older son suggested we build model ships out of cardboard that he found in these Cross-Section books. This was the perfect opportunity to leverage an interest to dive into the subject of history.

Child-Led Learning Based on Interests

I did ask that we start with the oldest ship in the book which was an Ancient Greek ship called a Trireme (yeah, I’d never heard of it either), but it was awesome because while I helped with the ship building, he read about the ship to me, and then we tried to match the time period in our A City Through Time and A Street Through Time books so we could see what people were doing on land during that time as well. There is so much to learn about ancient Greece, so I knew we weren’t going to cover it all and that’s really not necessary in third grade anyway, my goal is to develop interest and a love for learning.

Child lead learning history homeschool history lesson fun ways to teach history
Yes, those oars are chopsticks.

Child-Led Curriculum Offers the Ability to Dive Deep into a Topic

The next ship we built was the Mayflower, which worked out perfectly because we did it during Thanksgiving week. We had a ton of activities that went along with this one and some great history read alouds. During this time we were also learning about local Native Americans so it fit in perfectly. Notice, that each ship gets progressively larger – wait until you see the last one. Massive. Let’s find the biggest Amazon box we have and ask Mom to simply cut a ship out of it, shall we?

Child lead learning history homeschool history lesson fun ways to teach history
So proud of the finished project! (Yes, those are toothpicks, thanks)

As Interest Builds, So Does Knowledge & Excitement

Last, the greatest ship, the one we all had been waiting to build, the QUEEN MARY!! Yes! The excitement was palpitating as I hot glued this sucker together. I mean, three floors? thousands of crew members? Could it get any more exciting? What we learned about this ship is that building was halted for a few years during the Great Depression. Oh really? Well, what is the Great Depression you ask? Let me tell you! We did a bunch of fun learning around the Great Depression, which took us right to the stock market and what that was. We also learned about the dust bowl.

Child lead learning history homeschool history lesson fun ways to teach history
SO massive, so amazing.

Child-Lead Learning Mirrors Play for Children

I found a bunch of great, free printables for this project likes these cool paper dolls from different time periods and some coloring sheets about the Great Depression. We printed out pictures of people from the 1930s, cut them out and put them on the ship. My son even read a book about Roosevelt without being asked!

This Approach Brings Joy to Learning

The child-led approach requires a bit more listening and a lot more letting go of expectations, but what you get in return is the joy of learning alongside your child and often, as he/she expand their knowledge base, they become the teachers!


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