History Isn’t Always Interesting

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You’re all hitched up and rolling down the road. Kids in the backseat chattering away. Coffee in the console. A full tank of gas. Oil checked. Tires topped off. Snacks in the cooler. GPS dialed into your next destination.

An hour into your drive a large brown sign looms on the horizon.

Ah - the brown sign. Brown signs point the way to beauty, to vacation destinations, to awesome learning opportunities and more.

For a moment you are the Old Man in the movie A Christmas Story, gazing at his freshly-delivered crate:

My god, there could be anything in there!The Old Man

Getting closer, you can read the sign.

It’s a….

Well, hold on.

It doesn’t really matter what it is. The important thing is that it’s some place, some thing, some historical spot that you’ve seen other traveling families enjoy, take photos of, and write lengthy blog posts about.

As homeschoolers you feel compelled to also follow the brown sign and incorporate whatever it is into your schooling and your travels.


It just doesn’t interest you.

The Secret About History

Maybe you’ve tried similar stops and just weren’t engaged.

Maybe you just came from a historic building, looking at old stuff in glass cases and reading little printed cards. 

Maybe your kids don’t want to hear about yet another place where people suffered and died.

It’s OK.

Here’s the secret that we have both learned and continue to learn:

Not all history is interesting.

Civil War

Walking through the graves at Gettysburg we felt the weight of the sacrifice of the men who died.

Standing where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address was moving.


We got our fill of the Civil War. We don’t need to know every last strategy employed nor do we need to see every last battle location.

And that’s OK.


We spent years.

Choosing paint. Choosing shingle colors. Designing cement work. Landscaping. Room colors. Lighting fixtures.

It all seemed so important at the time.

After exploring the country for five years it all seems so silly. We had one house out of millions. Five minutes after driving past it you would have forgotten it.

So we aren’t really interested in other houses - no matter how old, who built them, or what list or register they are on.

And that’s OK.

Indian Mounds

In our travels down the Mississippi River we have passed numerous Indian Mounds.

We stopped at Effigy Mounds National Monument.

We read.

We studied.

We know so little about these mounds and without a way to view them from a high perspective they’re kinda just bumps in the grass. We couldn’t even get a good photo of one.  One mound visit was all we needed.

And that’s OK.

Don’t Trade Formulas

The biggest thing we dislike about suburbia is how look-alike houses create look-alike lives.

Don’t ditch the suburban formula only to live another one.

Just because other traveling families enjoy things like Civil War history (or whatever) doesn’t mean you have to.

It’s OK.

Not all history is interesting.

Some History is Interesting

You might think that we are road-weary, cynical long-term travelers for whom everything has become mundane.

Not so.

We enjoy music-related history. We followed Johnny Cash from his boyhood home to the studio he first recorded at, watched a movie about his life and bought his autobiography.

We enjoy Mississippi River-related boating history. Barges moved by poles, to steamboats, to the current-day tug and barge traffic.

We’ve found what history interests us and actively look to make connections place to place.

And that’s definitely OK.

And of course, travel isn’t only about history. We love to see and experience aspects of our modern-day world as well.

Fess Up

What history have you felt compelled to be interested in but just weren’t?

11 Comments History Isn’t Always Interesting

  1. Picture of VagabondMom VagabondMom November 17, 2015

    I’m sitting here laughing to myself as I read this.  The husband and I have had numerous discussions where I say “When the kids are studying US history, we have to drive around the US and visit ALL of the historical sites!  Battlefields are everywhere!  It’s our history!”  and his response is always along the lines of “But that’s not very interesting.”  My feeling has always been “But isn’t that what homeschoolers who can travel are supposed to do?”

    Thanks for reminding me that the whole point of this life is the flexibility to do and see what we and our kids are interested in.  I know if one of our girls develops a passion for Civil War battlefields, her Dad will gladly take her to each one.

  2. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink November 17, 2015

    “supposed to do” - that’s the phrase we’re trying to excise from our vocabulary!

    Thanks for the comment..;)

  3. Picture of Garrett Tershel Garrett Tershel November 17, 2015

    Our biggest “supposed to do” that we have not done is Pearl Harbor.  We have been to Hawaii twice now and not done the tour.  Yes I have been lectured for missing it.  Did I feel bad, ehh.  There are so many things to do.  It will be interesting to see what we do when we are on the road.  What we will skip and what we will take time to see.

  4. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink November 17, 2015

    You didn’t do Pearl Harbor!?? I can’t believe it!


  5. Picture of Amber Amber November 17, 2015

    Along similar lines,  we visited an art museum last week.  I had been wanting to go for years, but I now realize it was only because I thought we “should” enjoy it not because we would.  I can appreciate a nice work of art, but a whole museum…not so much.

  6. Picture of Boyink Boyink November 18, 2015

    Yea - art museums can be hit or miss for us too.

    The right kind of art and I’ll get lost in them.

    Abstract stuff?  #usetherestroomgrabacoffeeandseewhatelsethereis

  7. Picture of VagabondMom VagabondMom November 18, 2015

    Regarding art museums:  Although I love art in general, when traveling with kids, I don’t have the luxury to spend hours in an art museum, so we save them for times when there is a specific piece or artist that we want to see.  In Colmar, France, it was the Isenheim altar piece that I had studied in Art History in college.  In Oslo, we went to the Munch museum because we just happened to be there when there was a special exhibit comparing the lives and work of Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch.  Van Gogh is my favorite artist and getting to see some of his paintings was like a spiritual awakening.  I didn’t like the Munch paintings and drawings at all though, he is just not my style, so if we hadn’t been there for the special exhibit, it would have been a hugely disappointing experience and a waste of money.  I didn’t know how much I dislike Munch’s work until I was surrounded by all of it though, and it probably didn’t work in his favor that the amazing, dynamic and colorful works of Van Gogh were side by side with his art.

    My art museum tips are:
    Research beforehand to determine whether there is a featured piece or artist that you are interested in.
    Look for activities for children.  The Munch museum had a “find the painting” sticker activity.
    If there are no activities, make your own game of “find the painting” using post cards from the giftshop, or save images of works you know are in the museum on your phone.
    Don’t expect to see it all, unless it’s a small museum, and leave when you or the kids get tired and grumpy.
    If your kids find it so boring that they about lose their minds and forget how to behave like humans, table museums for a few years and try again later.  This happened with our youngest, but now at age 4 she is able to tolerate a couple of hours in a museum.

  8. Picture of Kimberly Thacker Kimberly Thacker November 20, 2015

    Thanks for the laugh! We actually enjoy some of the history things! Our biggest killjoy was Mount Rushmore. It’s not that big. LOL My husband turned to me and said, “How long are we supposed to look at it?”  Every time I see a post about its wonder I can’t help but laugh at our disappointment.

  9. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink November 20, 2015

    Hey Kim - thanks for the comment.

    We enjoy some history too.

    But there’s no “traveling homeschooler curriculum” that dictates what we have to see/do.

    I wanted to remind ourselves and others that in addition to freedom of location we also enjoy freedom of interest.

    We enjoyed Rushmore (as a one-time visit) but more for the story of how it got built (pre-laser levels and CAD models etc) than for the experience of viewing it.

  10. Picture of Jenni Jenni November 20, 2015

    Battleships and battlefields - no, thanks.  I’m good.

  11. Picture of Chris Barr Chris Barr February 06, 2016

    Oh man, so true. The town I live now is all about the “historical downtown” area. Absolutely nothing important happened here, but they have a bunch of black and white photos of people who used to live here. Sure, I guess if you have enough documentation of something over a long enough period you could consider it “history” but… Who cares?

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