Using Halloween To Teach History in Your HomeschoolAmy Schaffner
October is my favorite month of the year. I know; I know. November has Thanksgiving, and December has Christmas. But for me October is the perfect month. The leaves start to change color, the weather turns crisp and cool, and everywhere you look are sweaters and happiness.
Even though October doesn’t have one of the big holidays, it does have Halloween. If you are like me, you look for every way you can to bring more history into your homeschool, and Halloween is steeped in history. Halloween, unlike Christmas and Thanksgiving, is a holiday that tends to divide the Christian community since much of the celebration revolves around death. It gives us pause when we see people roaming our streets dressed as ghosts, witches, and zombies.
We want our children to grow up to be people of conviction who handle life with knowledge and understanding, so why would we ask our kids to celebrate a holiday that can seem opposed to all of the other beliefs we have every other day of the year? If our children are thinking people, then one day this contradiction will confuse them.
Knowledge will counteract the confusion. Teach them the why behind what we do October 31st. And hopefully it goes without saying that we should also be teaching them the why behind what we do the other 364 days of the year. There is so much more to Halloween than costumes, haunted houses, and candy. Whether we celebrate Halloween or not (this isn’t an opinion in either direction), let’s teach them the history behind why people do the strange things they do on this night of the year.
This one day of the year can be used to teach our kids history:
- Celtic history
- Pagan religion
- Christian religion
- the Irish potato famine of 1846
- the importance of harvest in the ancient world
- what syncretism is and how it has shaped our world
With the beauty of the Internet. we can use all kinds of amazing resources to teach our kids the backstory of why they dress up as ghosts and goblins and why they say “Trick or treat” to random strangers. But the Internet also harbors dangers. You really don’t want to tell your kids to head to YouTube and look up Halloween unless you are prepared to stay up with them when they can’t sleep for the next month. Because of this, I’ve previewed the resources I’m going to share with you so that you can trust the links to teach and not frighten your kids.
If your kiddos scare easily, begin at 0:36 and beware the very last second of the video has a scary creature. Other than that, this is a great, kid-friendly video to explain Halloween.
As with most National Geographic videos, this one is very well done. I found it to be kid-friendly, but there are some creepy images from historical paintings.
Entertaining and kid-friendly in that it uses mostly cartoon versions of Halloween to explain some of the traditions. But, don’t forget, sometimes the cartoon versions are freaky as well…
This short video goes into detail about some of the traditional aspects of Halloween celebrations.
If you prefer reading about the history of Halloween, this article from LiveScience does a very good job of explaining where many of our traditional Halloween festivities come from.
If you’re just looking for some quick fun facts about Halloween, look no further.
(affiliate link) Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween
If you, like me, would prefer a book to read on the subject, this one by Lisa Morton does an excellent job of explaining the ancient history of the holiday.
I hope these resources prove to be helpful in your homeschool. Brush up on your history, throw on your clown/fairy/zombie costume, and eat your weight in chocolate! Happy Halloween!