History lessons can become dull when they are full of dates, long lines of royal ancestry, and political play-by-plays. There's no need to make homeschool history like that!
Studying how the people of a certain time period lived every day, including what they ate, where they worked, and how they dressed, can help bring history to life, especially for younger children. Going to museums or looking at picture books are great ways to illustrate historical concepts, but hands-on projects make for more exciting learning.
Cosplay for Learning
Short for “costume play,” cosplay is a popular hobby among both comic book and gaming fans and history buffs. War reenactments and Renaissance festivals (RenFaire being the most popular) are perfect examples of cosplay in action. The costumes are created to match the details and styles of the period for which they are trying to emulate.
Of course, creating a full-sized Elizabethan gown with embroidery and bead work, a functioning ruff, corset and all the underpinnings might be a bit more than you can fit into a daily history lesson – and probably far above your skill level, and your child’s. But there are many ways to use costuming in your history lessons, no matter your skill level or your time commitment.
Attend Festivals and Shows
Just seeing all the lavish costumes can be inspiration enough for your children. There are Renaissance Faires held in each state at different times of the year. Of course, the time period covered is the Renaissance era, so you will only find a certain kind of costume at this festival. Other great places to see historical costumes are war reenactments and historical sites, where many of the characters are dressed in historical costume. With reenactments, you can even get a front-row seat to a simulated war scene. Search for what’s local to your area. A final option is to visit a museum when there is a costume display. Many history museums will feature a costume section, though the selection may be limited.
Sew Them Yourself
If you’re up for a challenge, you can create your own historical costumes with your children. You don’t have to start from scratch. If you do want to cut and sew your own costume, you can buy a pattern from a local fabric store. Patterns are available for many different kinds of historic dress. If you do choose to sew your own costume, you can easily combine the lesson with an arts or “home ec” lesson.
If you don’t want to sew the whole costume, you can find used clothing to alter to your needs. An old long-sleeved shirt would be easy enough to convert into a tunic with a slit at the neckline and some string. Likewise, a corset could be worn over a blouse and billowy skirt to create a female costume. Help you children think creatively by looking at ways they can transform objects by adding some elements and taking away others.
If you don’t want to sew any of the costume, there are tools that can help you “sew” without ever having to thread a needle, including fabric glues and fusible fabrics.
Bio: Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she's been researching scholarships for music students. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, taking weekend trips, and practicing martial arts.
Are your kids into cosplay? Have they made any historical costumes?
Photo courtesy of Steven Groves from FlickR under a creative commons license.