Using Mystery of History

We enjoy using Mystery of History in our family, but we don’t use the curriculum in its entirety.  Mystery of History has a textbook that a mom could read aloud.   There are activities, quizzes, and many other aspects of it.  I’m sure all of these are great, but we don’t use any of that.

Instead, we listen to the audio CDs as we drive around running errands.  When lessons are only 5-10 minutes long, it is easy to get at least one in when we drive to the grocery store, library, or any other local errand stop.  We often will just sit the van in a parking lot or our driveway to finish a lesson if we arrive before the tract ends.

My kids love history.  We memorize a timeline, history sentences, and geographical locations through Classical Conversations.  My kids read endless history books from the library.  Mystery of History audio CDs are a great addition to everything else we already do.


What do we love about Mystery of History?

It is Christ-centered.  Between including Bible history as part of the history lessons, pointing out problems in a false religion or philosophy, and learning about Christians throughout our study of history, there is no mistaking that this is a Christian curriculum.  Even with all that, MOH still doesn’t shy away from teaching about the founding of Hinduism or what Plato or Socrates believed.

We recognize names and dates from our CC memory work.  While listening to the introduction to the first quarter of Volume 2 yesterday, we heard references to at least 5 points on our CC timeline or in history sentences we recently learned.  Mystery of History gives us more information about our memory pegs, but those pegs help the information to stick with us.  I don’t particularly try to “match up” our Mystery of History listening with our CC memory work.  When we run across something we have memorized, it gives us a chance to review (even if it was something we memorized two years ago).

We learn history that we haven’t studied before.  Just from listening to Volume 1 and the beginning of Volume 2, we have learned about people and places that we didn’t know before.  We’ve connected history in various parts of the world with each other.  The stories of various people are fun to hear and have led to my kids wanting to read more about that person.  (In fact, Ruthie’s Faces of History presentation was about someone we first heard about on Mystery of History.)

Great conversations happen when we listen together in the van.  We enjoy learning together as a family.  Listening together allows our conversations as we walk through the store to be about the current lesson.  We can have tough conversations about what martyrs faced in the early church and what persecution people face today.

Listening in the van is an easy way for me to add in more learning to our days.  Let’s face it.  Sometimes, we just need to run errands.  As a homeschool mom, I love when those van trips (and store conversations) are part of our educational experience instead of “wasted time.”


The kids and I were so excited when MOH volume 2 arrived at our house yesterday.  We listened to 7 lessons in the van just yesterday afternoon.

We finished volume 1 around Christmas time.  I’m not sure why I took so long to order volume 2, but I’m not going to wait that long again once we finish this one.

Obviously, I can’t speak to the content of volume 3 or volume 4 since we haven’t listened to them yet, but we intend to as soon as we finish the CDs we have.  Volume 4’s audio is currently available only throuhg mp3 files but will probably be out on CD soon.

TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE:  Mystery of History’s site has sample audio lessons.  We have the ones with some music in the background.  When we got to the sample lesson as we listened through volume 1 as a family, my children remembered the lesson.  It’s amazing to me how much these kids learn.  Go here to hear a sample of Volume 1.


How does your family like to study history?



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Interactive History Adventures: Books To Experience History

I am always on the lookout for new series of books the kids will enjoy.  My son loves history, and it can be challenging to find good history books for boys.

It seems like there are a lot more choices of historical fiction series for girls:  American Girl books, Sisters in Time, and so on.

Interactive History AdventuresA few weeks ago, the topic of presentations at CC was to share a favorite book.  A boy in my daughter’s class shared Ancient Greece: An Interactive History Adventure.  Ruth came home and told Elijah that he would love this series of books.  She shared how the book let you make choices that led to different outcomes.  Since we are studying U.S. history this year, I put a few of the U.S. ones on hold at the library.  The first to come in was The Oregon Trail.

Elijah tore into the book while in line to check it out of the library.  He had so much fun trying out the different choices to see if he would survive or not.  Our second book just came in at the library today with very similar results.  I think we have found a hit.

When Elijah finished his first one, I wanted to chat with him about his thoughts on the book.  He explained to me that it was kind of like an interactive game about the Jamestown settlement we played the week before, but he said, “It is way better than the silly game because it’s a book.”  If I teach him nothing else in life, at least I have taught him to love books.

I went through all of the books I could find on Amazon and grouped them by Cycle for CC (or history topic for non-CC people).  We love to read books that aren’t even related to what we are studying.  This makes for a really great way to review our past memory pegs.  I know Elijah is going to want to read the whole series this year, and then we will read them again as topics come up in future years.  I will be coming back to this post again and again to look for more books to read.  At least 2 of the books were published in the last week so this series continues to grow.  Our library does not have them all yet, but I am hopeful that eventually they will.

Tips for finding these books at your local library:

I have had to search by each title, “Interactive History Adventure”, “You Choose History”, or the author to find these books at our library.  For some reason, our county library system is not always consistent with how books are entered into the computers.

To make my list not quite as cumbersome, I left off the various sub-titles that Amazon has given the books.  If you click on the link, the sub-titles are there.


Cycle 1 (Ancient Civilizations):

Ancient Egypt
Ancient Greece
Ancient Rome
Life as a Gladiator
Ancient China
The Aztec Empire

Life as a Samurai

Life as a Ninja

Cycle 2 (The Middle Ages, World War I and World War II):

The Middle Ages
Life as a Knight

Exploring the New World
 (This book includes explorers from Cycle 2 and Columbus from Cycle 3.  I love built-in review.)
The Sinking of the Lusitania (World War I and II are covered in both Cycle 2 and 3 so I listed the books under both.)
World War I
World War II
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
World War II Spies
World War II Pilots
World War II Naval Forces
The Vietnam War

Cycle 3  (U.S. History):

Exploring the New World  (This is the same book I listed in Cycle 2.)
Colonial America
The Revolutionary War
The Boston Massacre
The Battle of Bunker Hill
Westward Expansion

The Battle of the Alamo

The California Gold Rush

The Oregon Trail

The Underground Railroad

The Civil War
The Battle of Bull Run
The Wild West
Ellis Island
Orphan Trains
The Child Labor Reform Movement
The Titanic
The Great Depression
The Dust Bowl
The Sinking of the Lusitania  (The World War I and II books are listed on both Cycle 2 and 3.  We studied them more in Cycle 2, but I listed them under both.)
World War I
World War II
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
World War II Spies
World War II Pilots
World War II Naval Forces
The Japanese American Internment
The Civil Rights Movement
The Race to the Moon

I hope your children enjoy these books as much as I think we will.  I’m going to keep an eye out for new books being added to this series.  It’s great to have history books that my son loves.  Interactive History Adventures are definitely a hit!

NOTE:  These books do sometimes have you (as the main character) die.  If the topic is about a war, sometimes a friend or family member might die as well.  At least one book (World War II) had people playing poker for chocolate bars.

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Hot Molecules Move Faster, But How Can We See It?

This is a simple experiment to show the movement of molecules.

Heat is a measure of the kinetic energy in a material.  The hotter something is, the faster its molecules move.  In this experiment, we will not be able to see molecules (since we do not have an electron microscope), but we will be able to see a very obvious effect caused by this movement.

All you need is:

2 glasses


food coloring


The experiment:

Pour equal amounts of water into each of 2 glasses.  Heat the water in one of the glasses.  Then put 2 drops of food coloring into each glass.  (Do not mix)

2 Cups, One Hot, One Cold   The Color Starts To Spread

The Longer You Wait, The More It Spreads   Isaiah Getting a Better View


Why does the food coloring spread out faster in one of the glasses?

Because the molecules are moving faster in the hot water, so they mix the food coloring in faster.  The food coloring in the other glass will eventually spread out too, but it will take much longer.

The discussion:

I also used this experiment to discuss with the kids how to have a controlled experiment.  I asked them questions like:

What was the same with the 2 glasses?

The size and shape of the glass.

The amount of water that was in each.

The high from which the food coloring was dropped.

What would happen if I dropped the food coloring from different heights?

Some drops would hit the water faster and that would cause the coloring to spread faster.

What if we used 2 different colors?

This was perhaps the most interesting question.  Elijah said that it would do the same thing.  I pointed out that the company that made the food coloring may have changed the formula in order to produce the different colors, so one color might spread more easily than another.  I pointed this out just to say that we really want to control every factor in our experiment (I did not think there would actually be a significant difference between the colors).  Then we repeated the experiment with blue.  The blue coloring did not spread nearly as quickly as the green.  There really was a difference.  It was a good thing we controlled parts of the experiment even if they did not seem important.

The Blue Coloring Sank  It Took Much Longer For the Blue To Spread

What would happen if we changed 2 things with the glasses:  say, the temperature and the shape of the cup?

This question was to drive home the point of controlling our experiment.  If there was a difference we would not know if it was caused by the temperature, the shape, or a combination of the two.

How does this experiment relate to the third law of thermodynamics?

Our kids had just memorized a simple version of this law, which says, “It is impossible to reach the state of absolute zero temperature.”  The kids had been thinking that if matter is hotter the molecules move faster.  I pointed out that you could also state the conclusion of our experiment as – if matter is colder, the molecules move more slowly.   Then they got the answer, “If you could reach absolute zero, there would be absolutely no movement of the molecules.”

I hope you enjoy this easy experiment and can make a good discussion out of it too.

More Fun Pics:

Cool Formations   Cool Swirls

Isaiah Being Silly



Soldier Fritz: a review and a giveaway (contest ended)

Not too long ago, the kids and I read an enjoyable read-aloud called Soldier Fritz and The Enemies He Fought.


First, the review:

This book takes place in Germany in 1525.  The main character in the book is the son of a Count (Fritz).  Fritz has always wanted to be a soldier and wishes for a sword for his birthday.  Instead, he finds out about a different kind of sword and chooses a Bible for his present.  This leads the family to faith in Jesus Christ and many conflicts with the priest of the castle.  I don’t want to give away the plot to this wonderful book, but I do want to share a few of the great discussion topics we had with this story.

Soldier Fritz led to discussions about the following topics:

  • The importance of God’s Word and how blessed we are to have it
  • How God’s Word can teach us even if we have nothing or no one else
  • That we need to follow the Lord Jesus and not just a man (even a great Christian leader – in the book’s case, Martin Luther)
  • How low Jesus Christ humbled Himself when He came to Earth.  This is brought up in the book when someone’s situation is humbled greatly, but not nearly as great as the Lord.
  • How to be a soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ
  • How we still have to battle our old sin nature even after becoming a Christian.  The struggles that Fritz had with pride, impatience, and other sin are written out in such a way that my kids really started to understand the battles against the “old man” that we face.
  • The importance of just doing the Lord’s work wherever we are.  There are people of different occupations and economic standings that just continue to faithfully serve the Lord and proclaim Him.

Now for the giveaway:

Salem Ridge Press has graciously provided a copy of Soldier Fritz and the Enemies He Fought for our contest.  If you’ve never heard of Salem Ridge Press, they are a small publishing company run by a homeschool graduate.  They re-publish carefully selected older books.  There are a number of books about Church History as well as other topics.  I think I first ran across them at a homeschool convention a few years ago and usually pick up a few of their books each year.  The main Church history set of books is still a little old for my children, but we have 3 books from the Junior Church history set (Solder Fritz being one of books) as well as a few other young readers they sell.  Anyway, if you are unfamiliar with their books and looking for some great reading, you might want to check them out.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

More World War I and World War II resources and discussions

More World War I and World War II resources

I already shared our library finds for World War I and World War II, but I wanted to also share some other resources we like (that didn’t come from the library).

Jesse Owens and his Olympic run:

  • My kids have read books in the past about Jesse Owens (Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive and Jesse Owens: Running into History are two we found at the library.)  Between the Olympics having just happened and Owens running in Germany 3 years before Germany invaded Poland, this has led to lots of great discussions.  We have talked about why sometimes people don’t like others that are different than them, how God only created one race – the human race, how the world was deceived by Hitler, and lots of other discussions.  

Christian connections  (here are just a few):

More WW I and WW II resources - including Christians

  • Different organizations like the Gideons and the American Bible Society made sure the young men going off to war had a Bible as they went.  The kids and I talked about why we thought people did this.
  • Missionaries like Eric Liddell (and many others) were sent to internment camps in China by the Japanese. (Eric Liddell died in the internment camp in 1945)
  • Christians like the ten Booms (Corrie ten Boom’s family) who worked to help Jews and others escape or hide from the Nazis.  
  • We also talked about other times in the Bible when people tried to kill the Jews – when Moses was born (babies being killed), Esther in Persia.  

Fictional books ( know there are lots more than this so feel free to share your favorites):

  • Twenty and Ten – I bought this 2 years ago from Amazon, lost it, and just found it last week.  Yay!  I can’t wait to read it with the kids.
  • Snow Treasure – The kids’ grandma just recently bought them this book because she remembered it from when she was a child.  Again, I’m looking forward to it.
  •  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – my kids get a kick out of the fact that this book starts off talking about the bombings in London (World War II tie-in).  It actually has led to great discussions about people sending their children away to safety.

Dvd resource:

My kids have watched the dvd Torchlighters: Eric Liddell and really want the newest Torchlighter dvd which is Corrie Ten Boom Story but we haven’t bought it yet.  If you aren’t familiar with the Torchlighter dvds, they share the stories of missionaries.  You might want to check them out (We bought the series at a homeschool convention, and they are in our chapel library as well.)

What other Christian connections or missionaries have you taught your children about during your studies of the World Wars?  What great discussions have you had?  

Classical Conversations Carnival