Wondering how to share Black History month with your kids? Teach your kids how Black History month originated, where it’s observed, how in the world it came to be in February, and why it’s so important to celebrate it.
You’ll also find out about Black History Month activities for your kids along with ideas for how to homeschool history with a more balanced and accurate approach than you may have used before. Read on to find out how!
Teach your kids how Black History Month began
The forerunner of Black History month was”Negro History Week,” the brainchild of Carter G. Woodson and associates in the early 1900s. Dr. Woodson is often considered “The Father of Black History.” He was one of nine children, born of former slaves, and he was born poor. He didn’t even get a chance to start high school until he was 20. And then, only after his work was done. But this ambitious man didn’t stop with high school; he also earned two bachelor’s degrees, one Master’s, and even a Ph.D. from Harvard. Dr. Woodson became a historian. And as he studied, he became more and more frustrated with the fact that blacks were vastly underrepresented in the history books.
To help combat this underrepresentation, Dr. Woodson created Negro History Week. He chose a week that had two birthdays that the black community celebrated already: President Abraham Lincoln’s on Feb. 12th and the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ on February 14th. Dr. Woodson probably reasoned that using the week that those two birthdays fell every year would provide a catalyst to bring more focused attention to black history in general. So the second week in February became known as “Negro History Week.”
Although adopted by several school systems and municipalities in the U.S., it was not until many decades later that Black History Month was decreed as a national holiday in the United States by President Gerald Ford in 1976, our bicentennial year.
You may not know that Black History Month is not only observed in the U.S., although it originated here. Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom also recognize Black History Month, but in October instead of February.
Focus on Black history during February
And here are some activities and resources that will help:
- Add books to your home libraries about black inventors, singers, architects, athletes, our former President, scientists, builders, and so on. Here are some of my favorite books for kids that honor Blacks. These books are suitable for early elementary through high school students.
- Have your children each choose one person from your reading and write a paragraph or a report, present a multimedia project, or create a lapbook or a graphic timeline of the life of each man or woman chosen and present it to the family.
- If you’re using our unit study tools to create your own units, make sure to choose books that include other races, especially from the black community, from our booklists.
- No matter what curriculum you’re using, make sure it includes historic events from the perspectives of more than just one culture. And if it doesn’t do a good enough job with that, here’s a treasure trove of digitized primary sources from black writers to include in your study of Black History Month. (And here’s another one with primary sources from Asia, Australia & the South Pacific, Canada & Greenland, Europe, South America, and the United States. Be sure to bookmark these links and use them to broaden your history studies in general.)
And why limit your kids’ study of black history to just one month?
Let’s not just think about Black history in February
Although this was certainly a step in the right direction, Dr. Woodson didn’t think we should study Black History in isolation, for just one month of the year. In fact, he said:
Amen! We should study history as it actually happened, including all of the people who were involved. Rather than a revised version that highlights the accomplishments and/or minimizes the transgressions of certain groups of people, we must learn to study history from more than one viewpoint. We need to have those hard conversations with our kids when they are needed.
Keep reading to discover how you can homeschool history more realistically and accurately.
How do we study history more accurately?
Realize that as homeschool moms, we have to put our “investigative goggles” on when we study history. More than any other time in my history, at least, there are many different agendas out there screaming for attention. And as we scan the news and read about past and current events, it’s difficult to know what is truth and what is not. Consequently, as a homeschool mom, you can’t take for granted that everything that you read and hear is true. More than ever, when you study history you have to ask yourself:
- What actually happened?
- What were the factors that led to this event? Why did it happen?
- What were the results?
- What were the effects of this result?
- How do we know what happened?
- Who were the major people involved in the event?
- How can we learn about the event by primary sources (letters, stories, diaries, speeches) from people who experienced it firsthand?
- Can we also learn about the event through secondary sources (books and paintings)?
- If there are opposing sides, such as in a war, how can we find credible information representing both points of view?
Start talking about race early with your kids. I was raised to be “colorblind,” but as a white person, I don’t think that’s fair to other races. We need to start early talking to our children about race. Our very young children’s books should depict children of many races, and we should talk about how God made us all, and that we are ALL made in His image.
It’s our job to educate our children, especially as they get a little older, to the realities that black and brown children face. What kinds of conversations black and brown parents have to have with young children about profiling, about some police. How important it is to stand up for what is right when we see anyone spreading hate by their inflammatory words or actions.
What to remember as we study history with our kids
As a Christian homeschool mom, you want to provide not just a solid academic education for your children, but also one that is full of Biblical truth. One that is lifegiving for your children. So we must view everything we study through the lens of Biblical Christianity. Is that contrary to Dr. Woodson’s words? No, I don’t believe so. We don’t expect everyone to share our beliefs and be just like us. What we do know is that:
- Every person is created in the image of God, and therefore precious in His sight and so should be in ours. Therefore, everyone should be treated with dignity. Genesis 1: 36-38
- We are to consider others more important than ourselves and be willing to listen first and then speak. Philippians 2:3, James 1:19
- We are commanded to be kind to one another, live in peace with one another, and extend grace (forgiveness) as it has been extended by God to us. Ephesians 4:32, Romans 12:18, Colossians 3:13
We need to apply all of these principles as we study history and the people that were part of it. There’s no place for preconceived ideas about people or events. It’s tempting to believe what others say, but we must do our best to be objective and go with what the facts tell us. We must approach the past with humility, just as we approach the present, as God’s plan for history unfolds.
So let Black History month be a bridge to being more inclusive and accurate in your history studies. In other words, if everyone you are learning about in history looks just like you, it’s a great time to rectify that. Check out these Black History books on Amazon or at your public library to get started!