Choosing or Creating a History Curriculum


Choosing a Homeschool History Curriculum

When we first started homeschooling, I read The Well Trained Mind. The thought of covering history in four year cycles sounded like a wonderful way to approach history. After all, the kids would build on their former knowledge… learning about the ancient world several times, but going into more depth each time round.  History was broken into  these four year cycles:

  1. Ancients
  2. Middle Ages and Early Renaissance
  3. Late Renaissance/Early Modern
  4. Modern Times

That was the path we set out on, but it didn’t work out that way for us. For one thing, we went much slower… taking our time and exploring different topics in different depths. And by the time we were “ready” to explore and read about Modern Times I had a preschooler and I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to talk about the World Wars and so forth since history is one of the subjects we cover together.

So our family’s history journey has looked more like this. Each dot is roughly one year:

  • Ancients – pre-history, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece
  • Ancient Rome, Middle Ages, Age of Exploration
  • American Geography, American Landmarks (We moved back to the USA this year), Age of Exploration, Frontier history, Early American History, the American West
  • A year-long study Africa (plus a unit on slave trade/triangular trade and slavery in the New World)
  • A history of India (and after studying Gandhi… the Civil Rights Movement) and a semester on China
  • This year we’ll be doing a large unit on Native Americans.  I also plan to have us study the Middle Ages which wasn’t as in depth the last time around as I felt it should be.  My big question mark is that I feel like the kids need some basic civics and economics. They could definitely use some study of not just how the federal government works (see our free Constitution pages here), but also how our state and local government function.

But the amazing thing about homeschooling? I know what we’ve covered… and I know what holes are there for the kids. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be flexible… and it’s okay to follow rabbit trails through history.


History Curriculums: This is NOT a complete list of options, but this list will give you a starting point in your research!  You might also want to order the (free) Rainbow Resource catalog which has extensive reviews. Their catalog is larger than a phone book!!

Story of the World – The history books have wonderful stories that are written in an engaging way. Most every homeschooler I know has the books. Not everyone has used them from beginning to end, but most of the families I know have at least used selections from these books. There are four volumes.

Story of the World Activity Guide – I am listing this separately because these are an outstanding resource if you want to create your own units or areas of study.    The activity guides have wonderful project ideas and lists of fiction and non fiction books to supplement any unit.

History Odyssey – This program combines the classical approach with real books. It includes both fiction and non-fiction titles that help bring history alive. Students create a portfolio of their work. You can read more about this program at Cathy Duffy Reviews.

A Child’s History of the World – We use this as a supplement to our units. The books is written in a child-friendly tone.  I wouldn’t use it as a stand-alone curriculum, but I glad we have it as a resource.

Sonlight – This program uses a wide selection of books both fiction and non-fiction. The book recommendations include biographies, non-fiction and historical fiction selections. There is an instructor’s guide with daily (and weekly/semester) lesson plans.

Joy Hakim’s American History Series – She has written an  eleven-volume set of narrative history books. I know a number of homeschoolers who have used her series as the core for studying American History. We’ll be using the first volume in this series this coming fall.

Mystery of History – I don’t know much about this curriculum, though I’ve heard other people mention it from time to time.  It is marketed as a “classical, chronological, complete user-friendly, christian curriculum for all ages.”

Tapestry of Grace – I have heard good things about this program. I’ve heard parents mention that it is fun and has lots of project ideas. Like the Story of the World, it approaches history in 4-year cycles. This curriculum program is from a classical Christian perspective.

Usborne History or Kingfisher Encyclopedia – I like having these colorful resources on hand, though I don’t find them in-depth enough for our needs.  I often use them as a review and supplement in our units.

Other  resources:

  • Evan-Moor History Pockets
  • Draw and Write Through History
  • Classical Conversations – I have a number of homeschool friends who participate (or participated) in the CC co-op.
  • Hands-On History Activity Guides: These days you can find project ideas for almost any history topic.  Here is just a small sampling:
  • Creating a Homeschool History Curriculum
Classes Taught By Professors: There are also resources such as Coursera which allow adults and students to take college level classes free.  The Great Courses offer DVD classes that you can purchase. The price on these classes can be a bit high but  they go on sale fairly regularly.

History Videos and Documentaries: And of course, there are amazing history documentaries on Netflix, you tube and elsewhere.

*You can also create your own unit studies combining the resources mentioned above. We often go the library and check out 10-20 books from the library including activity guides with hands-on projects for kids. Many homeschoolers have covered history with lapbooks or by notebooking.  If you look around, you’ll find various history unit studies and lapbooks available at places like Homeschool Share, Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus (free lapbooks) or  Currclick.

On a related note, I thought I’d share some of the ways hands-on projects we’ve done to make geography more interactive. That post is coming up tomorrow.

See you soon either here or over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page!

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