It is hard to find a good history curriculum for one key reason – most of them are boring. Reading dry accounts of times past can be monotonous and cause a distaste for history all together. While school-approved textbooks presented all the necessary facts, dates, and noteworthy names it was a struggle to engage my daughter in the material, especially since it was torture for me to sit through it as well. One series that I use and highly recommend is called “Story of the World” by Susan Wise Bauer. It is a fantastic curriculum designed for grades 1-4 but may be used up to sixth grade.
Key historical events are covered and explored in the form of a story, from the early nomads of 5000 BC to modern times up to 1994. This is spread across four volumes which are also available as audio books (some parents listen to it while traveling between classes or appointments). The books carry you through the past of different lands and introduce the readers to local customs and tales. Some portions even retell events or circumstances from the viewpoint of a fictional character living then. Based on my own knowledge of events, I would rate it at about 85-90% accuracy. Sample pages area available on the publisher’s website.
One of the best things about this curriculum is the activity book which is to be used in conjunction with each volume. For each chapter you will find review questions (with suggested answers), a sample summary, additional references, and activities. The activities range from coloring and map work to creating clothes and cooking meals. While we don’t do every listed activity, I like that there are plenty to choose from to fit our time and desired involvement level.
References are made to religion but only in presenting its impact on certain civilizations and how it shaped the lives of the people it touched, good or bad. It is mostly unbiased and I have not detected any personal or otherwise undertones. Sometimes there may be an extra chapter or two that expands upon the beliefs but it does not affect the studies if you wish to skip it. World geography is also highlighted as you examine where the different countries are in relation to each other and how those borders changed with each world power fighting for the conquest of more land. You will find illustrations every so many pages and the art style appeals to both boys and girls.
There is also a book of tests which basically asks your child to fill in the blanks and answer questions pertaining to certain people, events, or places. I began using this in addition to the oral review to make sure the information really sunk in with my daughter. It has also been beneficial in tracking and documenting her progress through the book. I would suggest ordering the combo packs for each volume. These include:
- One paperback copy of the text
- One paperback copy of the Activity Book
- One set of consumable sheets
- One paperback copy of the Test and Answer Key
My daughter really enjoys the way the books are written. She is able to immerse herself in the story and try to imagine what life was like at that time. She loves the time we spend together reading and doing the prompted activities. Doing her studies in Story of the World is like sitting down for story time, even now that she’s in the fifth grade.
With Story of the World, your child will not only learn history but they will learn to enjoy it!