Today I am going to try to delve into the details about the different home school curricula that have stolen my heart over the course of my 9 years of homeschooling. I feel like I have tried all the most well known ones (save for Tapestry of Grace). I am just going to dive in and give you an overview of each curriculum and the pros and cons of each. Then I’ll share which one we are using this year and why.
Mystery of History:
I own: Volume 1 and Volume 4, although I have only used a full year of Volume 1.
Overview: Mystery of History is set up as a classical schedule which satisfies the ideas of The Well Trained Mind (I book I LOVE and refer to often!) of a 4 year, chronologically paced history program that is broken down into 4 years; Ancient, Middle Ages, Early Modern and Modern. They actually title it differently and line it up with significant church history events as follows:
- Ancient = Creation to Resurrection,
- Middle Ages = Early Church
- Early Modern = Reformation
- Modern = Wars of Independence
- It has a VERY thorough church history and early biblical accounts of some of the lesser known books and figures of the bible. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know and the Old Testament has been better understood knowing and following the secular/cultural historical events that surrounded it which brings me to my next point…
- It has enough secular history to be a solid curriculum.
- It has ONE book that includes not only the text but also the activities, maps, pretest, tests and a suggestion of the timeline figures to use for each chapter from History Through the Ages (which I own AND LOVE!)
- The sections to read daily are short, very manageable, written to the reader and easy to understand.
- It is the 4 year classical, chronological progression of history that I gravitate to.
- Fairly inexpensive and non consumable.
- WonderMaps makes maps that match up with lessons and are noted as such in the program when you buy it! SCORE! And the maps that correspond are located in the appendixes of the MOH book!
- Coordinating literature books are also included in the appendixes but (IMO) not as an extensive and detailed list as SOTW.
- Has a GREAT audio book resource that can make it car friendly or just give your voice a break from reading once in a while.
- Secular history was a bit scarce for my liking. I understand the reasoning in the book we did (Ancient/Creation – Resurrection) as MOST of the Old Testament was covered and if you want to keep it a ONE year curriculum you have to pick and choose what you use. This was heavy on church and a bit lighter on secular. This could be a pro depending on how you see it. I just wish it were a TAD more balanced. That being said, this is exactly WHY I bought it to use last year. We had just finished a 4 year cycle of Story of the World and had heard that Mystery of History was stronger in biblical history. It was indeed and doing a round of Ancients in both books I like the complementing subject matter in both interwoven together in our brains.
What I own: Year 4 (Family Guide, Timeline, Cool Histories, Coloring Pages and Companion)
Overview: Biblioplan isn’t quite a “curriculum” but more of a guide of using resources to put together a comprehensive curriculum of your own. It offers you lesson plans with several different “spines” and a suggested reading plans for different age groups as well as family read alouds. It also lays out for you bible lessons and activities suggesions for all ages.
- HUGE reading lists and the reading lists give you a good idea what the books are about so that you don’t have to wonder if your particular child will be interested. MAJOR POINTS!
- Works through various resources so that you can pick and choose which one you want to use. Want to combine Story of the World with Mystery of History, NO PROBLEM!
- It is also is set up as a 4 year classical, chronological progression of history that I gravitate to.
- It is digital download that keeps the price low and gives you immediate access to the products you buy.
- It offers a TON of extra resources that you can buy separately: timeline figures, “Cool Histories” which are basically like comprehension worksheets, map work and now they even have their own text book to use as a spine.
- Offers a 3 week sample that is FREE so you can really see if it’s for you.
- All the extra resources are extra which can add up.
- The book list is HUGE… this is a pro and a con for me. I have such a love for books that sometimes I just can’t weed out enough and I get overwhelmed trying to make it through all of them.
- I never used the bible lessons so I kind of felt like I was paying for a part of the curriculum that I never used. (I think this was a mental thing…)
- Again, too many resources staring me at the face made me want to use all of them. The whole point is to have a lot to choose from but sometimes to me that was like putting a whole bunch of sparkly things in front of my eyes and asking me to choose my favorite. A hard task sometimes.
What I own: Age of Revolution III
Overview: TruthQuest is really not a curriculum but and EXTENSIVE resource/book list. It lists topics, give a blurb about each topic (kind of what a “spine/text book” would do and then lists A TON of whole books in a variety of styles (picture, chapter, novel, biography, text) that appeal to different age groups. The idea is that you get familiar with the subject matter in the blurb and then dive into good books to make it come to life.
- Quite honestly this is my IDEAL curriculum. I LOVE LOVE LOVE books. I love learning from living,whole books that make history come alive.
- The book list is HUGE. You can surely find something on amazon or at your local library that matches each and every topic and subtopic.
- They now offer resources to go along with their book lists: lapbooks, notebooking pages, maps, timelines, etc.
- Have I mentioned I LOVE books? Have I mentioned I overwhelm myself because I don’t like to pass on a “good one”? Well, welcome Villa de la Overwhelmed! I just couldn’t stand to leave topics out, books out or even blurbs out. It would have taken me 5 years just to get through the ONE resource guide I bought at the speed I was wanting to do it at. If you’re good at skipping things and not going back to rethink if you should have skipped it at all then this may be perfect for you. But for me it was a con.
- It isn’t broken down into the 4 year cycle I liked.
- While it is perfect if you live very close to a library or go to one very regular I tend to have waves of libraryness (yes, Mr. Spell Check that isn’t a word…I made it up…). One month we will be regulars who deserves their own desk and mug with my name on it and the next month my fines from overdue books because we haven’t been there rival my food bill. Because of this I like to own a lot of the resources we use during the year. Being able to grab them off the shelf is much easier than tracking them down at the library or waiting for them to come in because someone else has it checked out when I need it. With that said my house nor my pocket book is large enough to accommodate all the books I would
wantneed to get to make this whole-book-history-nirvana for me.
- The PDF is HUGE! I was thinking of having it printed and bound because it is hard for my brain to navigate the flipping back and forth in a digital book, but it was 408 pages! So, I just never did it.
Story of the World:
I own: All 4 years including text and activity books.
Overview: This is another 4 year chronological sweep through history. It is biblically biased but not overwhelming so. It is basically 2 parts. The first is the text which is tells the “story” of history. The second is the activity book. This includes all the coloring pages, activity print outs, maps. It is also an amazing resource for sample narrations (Charlotte Mason style), comprehension questions and amazing literature selections.
- That 4 year thing again. I like it, what can I say?
- LOVE their literature selections. Our eyes have been opened to some really great books.
- I think they do a very good job of pulling the whole world into the history story. So many curricula focus ONLY on European history. While the majority of it is Eastern European (because most of the major events and empires where located there) they do a great job of tying it together with what was happening in other, more remote places.
- It leans toward a Christian emphasis but not heavily. This may be a “con” to some but for me, personally, I like to tie in to biblical events but still have the flexibility to really teach that from a more personal place about our faith (than someone I don’t know interpreting it for us, if that makes sense).
- We have done ALL FOUR YEARS so I know this curriculum well.
- Map work is tied to the lesson and included in the activity book and helps further drive home the lesson. It is also pretty simple and doesn’t take ages to accomplish.
- Activities, for the most part, are simple, fun and tie in to the lesson well.
- I learned a LOT more about history during my four years of Story of the World. I also have retained it thanks to some of the awesome discussions and activities I have put together for my kids.
- There is an AWESOME resource that lists all of the books from Sonlight’s book list in chronological order and by reading level and how they match up with Story of the World’s 4 year cycle.
- Some of the more political segments got boring and confusing (Especially in volume 4). I think that is just part of it though. Not all history is existing and clear cut.
- Again in volume 4 they really changed things up and did more of an “schooly” approach. Instead of containing comprehension questions and fun activities it is just boring outlines… I get bored with Times-New-Roman-Run-of-the-Mill-Outlines. But again, personally, I retain more when the creative side of my brain plays a part in the learning too. Even notebooking we like to turn into a chance to make it creative.
- While it does have an audio book, the narrator is not one of our family’s favorite voices. Because of the unanimous vote that we don’t like listening to it we rarely use it.
So with all that said the curriculum we KEEP coming back to is: Story of the World. Maybe it is because it is familiar. Maybe it’s because it is comprehensive enough to satisfy my OCD about covering everything. I don’t know. But it seems like every time I put it down in search of the “holy grail” of history curriculum I come running back within a month or two. It seems to be the perfect balance for me. The spine offers enough information to seem cohesive and “whole”, while the books we sprinkle in through family read alouds and individual readers really make the story come to life and offer a deeper understanding and feeling for the time period and the activities really draw in the younger crowd and give them memories that allow them to retain the information leaned. Also it is solid enough in the geogrpahy category to seem complete for the K-6th grades while not being overly overwhelming for either kids or mommas. Can I get an amen to that. Also because the spine is such a main part of the curriculum the family readers and readers purchased to use with it yearly make it a whole book curriculum that doesn’t break the bank or require the use of a storage shed/library to house. Also, I have found that the books we love we hold on to and they are used again and the ones we don’t care for (not many have fallen in that category) we pass along and purchase different ones when we hit that time period again. Again it is a 4 year cycle so the kids will complete one cycle while young and activities and being introduced to the subject mater will be the focus and again when they are older and can understand the more complex features of the time period.
Which is your favorite?
What are you using this year?