Using Who Was Books in your Homeschool

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Since the beginning of our homeschool adventure, I’ve been looking for the perfect history and science curriculums.  Every pre-designed, boxed program I found didn’t seem to work for us for various reasons, and I spent our first homeschool year piecing together random lessons from across the internet.  We still learned some great things that year, but the prep work on my part quickly became overwhelming.  I knew we needed something different, but after scouring the web for recommendations I still came up short.  Then, during one particularly blessed library trip, I struck gold.  I came across the Who Was book series by Scholastic, and our history/science combo curriculum was born.

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I was initially drawn to the interesting caricatures on the covers.  I mean, how does this not catch your eye?
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These books are amazing for teaching history/social studies and science topics in a way kids can enjoy.  Each chapter is full of easy to understand facts and supplemented with lots of illustrations, including maps and diagrams.  D-Man and KD, who are 9 and 7, read through these books pretty quickly and have never complained about them being too long, as they have with some other chapter books.  I think the illustrations help.

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There are currently over 120 titles to choose from, including Who Was/Who Is, What Is, and Where Is options.  You can find the full list of available titles on the book series website.  I love that these books go beyond historical figures to include things like, the Battle of Gettysburg, Ellis Island, the Underground Railroad, the Great Wall of China, and more.  And because this is a New York Times Best-Selling Series, there are more titles to come!

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The Where Is books include foldout maps!

What I’ve done with the kids so far is let them choose a title from the series and give them a couple of weeks to read the book, take their notes, and put together a project board which they will then present to me and their Dad.  The project board and presentations solidify what they’ve read and make it come alive, plus they’re covering history, presentation skills, language arts, sometimes science or art, and more!

For us, learning through these books has offered lots of benefits, like:

Student-Led Learning – In my experience, kids learn a lot more (and far more eagerly) when the subject is something they’ve chosen on their own and/or something they find interesting.

A Variety of Subjects – I mean, 120 titles!  Historical figures, current influential figures, important historical events and places.  There’s something for every child.

Enhancing Research Skills – More than just reading, the kids are learning to pull key pieces of information from what they read and take notes to help in their projects.  This is such a critical skill that they’ll need for life.

Subject Overlap – I’m a big fan of the double whammy, so this is great.  Many of these books have both history and science elements.  For example, Who Was Marie Curie? or Who Was Leonardo Da Vinci? (think history, science, AND art)!

Our local library stocks many of the most popular titles, but if you’re looking to purchase your own copies, they are reasonably priced on Amazon.  D-Man just started Who Is Jane Goodall? (Who Was…?) and already has Where Is The Great Barrier Reef? lined up next.  And KD, who is into all things martial arts, is about to begin reading Who Was Bruce Lee?

The absolute best part about this curriculum idea?  The kids are enjoying the process!  They love choosing which book they want to read next and putting together project boards to show us all they’ve learned.  They are in charge of their research and flourishing!

Do you have any Who Was? readers in your house?  What have been some of your favorite titles?

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