Marvelous Monday – History

     This Marvelous Monday, Kendra and I are reviewing History materials.  We’ve quite a list of homeschool subjects lined up for the next several Mondays.  However, we have no desire to sound as if we know it all, because we don’t.  It is our hope that as you read what’s worked for us and what hasn’t worked for us, you will find some encouragement and, perhaps, some direction as you select curriculum and/or homeschooling methods for your own children.  We’re not discussing our individual posts with one another in advance.  Perhaps we’ll agree, perhaps we’ll disagree – that’s just part of the fun!  We hope you’ll agree.  

     I LOVE history!  If my mom could hear me say that I loved history, she’d be shocked.  I did not like history in elementary school.  I don’t even remember having a history class in junior high.  And I most certainly did not like history in high school or college.

     More importantly, my children love history.  Each of them, save for Will, has developed a special interest in a specific era.  Dani really enjoys the World War II era.  Aaron is, at least for now, smitten with anything having to do with the war in Vietnam.  Will generally enjoys whatever he is studying for history, and right now he is very much enjoying early California history.  So why the difference?
     I have only had two approaches to history in the twenty years that I’ve homeschooled my children, but there have been a variety of great resources I’ve used.  I hope my words here will be helpful to you as you consider how to approach history with your own children. 
     Bob Jones University Press Heritage Studies.  The first few years I homeschooled my oldest two, we relied quite heavily on a text book approach to everything.  It was all I knew!  In those days, resources especially for homeschoolers were few and far between.  In fact, even the materials from BJU Press were class room materials published for Christian school class rooms, but I was greateful to be able to buy them!  BJU Press offers a Heritage Studies specifically for homeschool use now, but the pros and cons of the program are unchanged.
     The curriculum for grades 1 – 6 covers American history only.  World history is not introduced until seventh grade, which I think is a shame.  This is standard textbook faire, albeit with a decidedly Christian bent.  The children read the assignments and answer the questions printed in the book.  There are printed tests available, as well.  Teacher’s Manuals are a necessity (for planning and for rounding out the reading assignments), which makes the program rather expensive.  Textbooks, of course, can be reused by your younger children, and then resold which does help with the cost.  I did not enjoy teaching this program, and my daughters really didn’t enjoy it either.  However, if textbooks are your thing, BJU Press is probably a good choice. 

     Along about our third year of homeschooling, I was blessed to attend a workshop given by Rea Burg.  That one hour session, “Teaching History Through Literature”, opened my eyes to a whole new way of homeschooling!  Since then we have used almost all of the study guides published by Beautiful Feet Books and have loved them!!  Each study guide is rated, usually, for a fairly broad age/grade span so that you can cover the same history period with many ages at once.  The guides themselves are quite inexpensive, $13 – $17, and include everything you’ll need to teach through that particular his
torical period.  Each “lesson” includes the pages to be read from the literature selection, and offers age appropriate discussion questions and/or activities related to the reading.  You are, of course, free to pick and choose from these as best fits your own family.  

     The study guides are completely reusable.  However, this is a literature based study, so you will also need the books listed for each study.  I have always been very pleased with the titles used in these studies, and my children have enjoyed reading them about 95% of the time.  Interestingly, the books that have not been received with much enthusiasm have varied from child to child.    

     The books listed for each study are, generally, readily available through most library systems, and I would suggest that route if you must keep costs at a minimum.  However, I would really encourage you to purchase as many of the books listed as your budget will allow.  Your children will want to read them again and again, and this is also an easy way to begin building your own Heritage Library.  Most titles are available as a package deal from Beautiful Feet, but you’ll likely be able to buy most titles used through Amazon, or other sources, which will help with the cost.  Beautiful Feet Books also publishes some lovely timeline figures to accompany most of their study guides.  These are quite reasonably priced at about $10
– $12, and William has especially enjoyed using these as he’s compiled his history notebook.

     I highly, highly recommend the study guides by Beautiful Feet!
     We’ve also used materials from
Greenleaf Press.  Greenleaf Press offers “twaddle free” history “for the thoughtful child” through their study guides and materials.  The Greenleaf Press guides cover history chronologically and rely, for the most part, on biographies.  As history is, really, the life stories of those who have gone before, this is a highly appropriate way to study history.  Their web site offers a huge selection of books, listed by era, and is a terrific resource for some lesser known titles.  I especially like the variety of materials they offer on Ancient Israel and the Twentieth Century. 


     It is my practice to cover all of world history, beginning with creation, with my children three times.  Twice during the 1st – 8th grade years, and again in high school.  In the high school years, we continue with a living books/literature approach; but I reach for Streams of Civilization: Earliest Times to the Discovery of the New World (Vol 1) and Streams of Civilization Vol. 2: Cultures in Conflict Since the Reformation.  These two texts are a wonderful resource.  Covering history from “earliest times” through the late twentieth century, these textbooks offer an in depth study of world history.  The texts are from a Christian perspective, but I especially like the look they take at the way various religious beliefs have shaped world history.  Each chapter includes a variety of suggested activities for you, or your student, to select from to complete the study.  The books are visually appealing, with plenty of illustrations, maps and side bar notes to compliment the text.  Each text retails for $19.95, but they are available through Amazon for $13.57.  These text books can be used as a complete World History course by themselves, but I stretch them out over two to three years and supplement heavily with biographies and literature, appropriate to the period we are covering.

     I’d like to take just a moment or two to address the most common argument I hear against using living books/literature as the backbone of a course in history.  Many feel that this type of study does not produce a deep enough, nor a broad enough look at history.  That can be a problem, but it can also be overcome by providing a wide variety of literature (and source documents for older students) for each period being studied.     
     It has been my experience that my own children retain much more information from a literature approach than they do from a text book only approach.  God’s Word does not give us a list of dull, dry facts to memorize.  Rather, He gives us a beautiful narrative!  This is the same difference I find between text books and good literature for history.  The best history text book in the world does my child no good at all if he is not drawn into the story of mankind portrayed. 
     If you haven’t already done so, head over to Kendra’s for her Marvelous Monday – History post.

(Photos:  The History of a Very Silly Boy)

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!
Proverbs 31:27

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6 comments to Marvelous Monday – History

  • Thanks for another great post.  I have bookmarked all your recommendations for future reference.  

  • History is my favorite subject. We spent this last year in the American Civil War. Not sure where we will go next year. My kids have a passion for the American Presidents. On their own (outside of school) they have studied them. I look forward to checking out the guides you mentioned.

  • Thanks, Cheryl!  I’m excited to check further into Beautiful Feet Study Guides!  Sounds like it’s right up our ally… (I love that it’s literature-based!)

  • Thanks Cheryl. I am off to look into those and check out what Kendra is saying.

    Love the pics!!!

  • Hi there,

    I popped over here from Kendra’s site. I like the idea of using real books to teach history to my kids. (I’m just getting started with my six-year-old and have a 4 1/2, 2 1/2, and 7 month old 😉 I think I lean towards reading biographies as opposed to historical fiction just because I figure it will help my kids keep their facts straight. Might get a little tricky when they’re young to use historical fiction. What has your experience been with your kids? Do they ever seem to get confused when you read historical fiction about what is fact and what is fiction? If so, how do you deal with that? Also, I was wondering what differences you have noticed between Greenleaf and Beautiful Feet. They both have study guides and use similar books. I’m wondering which one we should try to utilize. Do you just reuse the study guides when you cycle through history with your kids?

    Anyway, I was just wondering if you could give me more information on these things that you’re using. I’m very interested in the approach and trying to decide what we should try to use for the upcoming school year. I know that both of these curricula state that they have a Christian world-view. Does one have more references to Scripture?

    Thanks for your time and for the time that you’ve put into these reviews!!


  • I loved beautiful feet curriculum, as well as many others you listed here. Homeschooling is just grand! Love reading your posts as they get me excited about homeschooling in the future!