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?



This post contains affiliate links.


Visiting Jamestown Settlement

We got a chance to visit Jamestown Settlement on our recent vacation to Colonial Williamsburg.  Before going, we had read that most people take 1 1/2 hours in the museum and 1 1/2 hours with the settlements and ships.  On the advice of my mom, we decided to bypass the museum to ensure we had enough time on everything else.  I’m glad we did.  It took us more than 3 hours just to get through the settlements and ships.  We were burned out at that point and spent no time in the museum.  I’m sure it is very interesting, but it will have to wait for a future trip.

Jamestown Settlement

We wanted to go to Jamestown Settlement prior to Williamsburg because it is much representing a much earlier time period than Williamsburg.

There was a homeschool discount available when we were there.  After showing our HSLDA card, we paid $6.50 per person (adults and kids).  It never hurts to ask for a homeschool discount.

At the Jamestown settlement, there is a Native American village, replicas of the ships that first sailed to Jamestown, and a reconstruction of the original Jamestown settlement.  I thouht I’d share some of the kids’ favorites.

What the kids liked:

In the Powhatan village:

  • people working that you could talk to
  • going inside the houses
  • the specifics to this geographic location near the ocean (we’re been to Native American villages at Meadowcroft and Natural Bridge)

Canoeing in the Powhatan Village


  • going into the cabins and below deck
  • moving the rudder
  • lying down on the really small beds
  • that they actually sail the ships during the year

Jamestown Settlement:

  • April Fool’s Joke  (Ruthie loved that she came up with an April Fool’s joke for us to share on facebook.  We shared this photo of our “new” home.)

Our new home (April Fool's joke by Ruthie)

  • the demonstration of the musket being fired
  • wearing the armor (that we saw on Drive Thru History)

Wearing the armor

Jamestown Settlement was a great way to start our Williamsburg area vacation.  (It also was apparently where I took more pictures than all of Colonial Williamsburg.)

the ocean view at Jamestown

 This post contains affiliate links.

Visiting Colonial Williamsburg

We recently went on an awesome vacation to Colonial Williamsburg.  (If you are unfamiliar with Colonial Williamsburg, it is a reconstruction of the city of Williamsburg at the time of the American Revolution.)  Our family had three fun-filled days in Williamsburg including lots of re-enactments, marching in the colonial army, and completing the spy mission, RevQuest.

Visiting Colonial Williamsburg

If you are a homeschool family visiting Williamsburg, remember to bring some sort of homeschool ID (we have cards from HSLDA) so that you can get the educator discount.  We were able to get our adult tickets for half price since we are home educators.  We heard about this ahead of time but did call to verify before we went as well.  We also really found that buying their refillable cups was a huge money saver.

Our children all were able to enjoy Williamsburg at ages 5, 7, 8, and 9.  I think our kids would enjoy Williamsburg even when they are older as well.  It seemed quite stroller friendly but would have been much more tiring with littler ones.

In the three days, we didn’t do probably half of what was offered.  We really loved the buildings of Colonial Williamsburg and seeing how things worked back then.  Part of the reason we did not get to visit every building in Williamsburg is that our kids asked great questions.  There were many stops where other families came and went while our family was still listening eagerly.

The more time you take at each stop, the more you will learn.  For example, at the cabinet maker, we listened as some kids from a school group went through and asked about simple machines.  They filled out a worksheet they had and were out the door.  The 4 little Hogans listened to all of this and more questions from other people.  Then they fired away with their own questions.  Because of this, we found out about secret compartments in a desk, how they make harpsichords, and much more that the man in the shop was not sharing with other families.

I noticed at many of the stops, once the people working there saw that you were not just a casual passerby, they go into much more detail or bring up topics that you didn’t even know to ask.

So if you take the trip, and I hope you do, don’t rush from one place to the next, take the time to really learn in each location.  It is always nice to leave while you are still wanting more.  Plus a few days before our visit, they restructured the ticket policy.  We were going to buy a 3 day pass.  Now that same pass, for the same price, is called “multi-day” and is good for the rest of the calendar year!  We hope to go back and see some of what we missed.

I feel like we could write a blog post on every location in Williamsburg, but I want you to make the trip.  I could not do a good enough job of describing everything anyway.

Below is a list of the places we visited and one thing that we learned.  The kids filled in most of these:

Governor’s Palace:  Govenor Dunmore (Whose real name was not Dunmore) left the Palace with all of the stuff still inside, so the colonists got many weapons and a lot of wealth.

 Kitchen – An old cow has yellow fat and a young cow has white fat.

Gunsmith and Foundry – They made the whole gun there.  I was amused when he said, quite literally, “We make the whole gun: lock, stock, and barrel.”

Brickmaker’s Yard – They made the mortar from oyster shells.

Cabinet Maker – They had desks with secret compartments.  The desk that the man was working on was modeled after one of the antiques that was in a local museum.  It had a secret compartment within a secret compartment.

Randolph House – The family had a lot of slaves, but most of them were not in the house.  Instead they were out on plantations that the family owned.

Cooper – Coopers don’t just make barrels, they also make buckets, butter churns, and anything else made with staves.

Magazine – Seargents and captains carried pikes and pole-arms so that they could be identified easily.

Great Hopes Plantation – When they build new building, they constructed it somewhere else, disassembled it, and then reassembled it in the final location.  They were using an open area at the plantation to build the new market building and it would be moved to the town when it was finished.  This is the way they would have done it in colonial times also.

Blacksmith and Armory – People in colonial times would specialize.  Some blacksmiths would make lots of kinds of things, but others would just be a nailer, or some other specialty.  A regular balcksmith could make 300-500 nails in a day, but a nailer could make 3,000 nails in one day.

Public Gaol (Jail) – If the jailer did not like you, he would make you clean the septic tank (it was the only building with indoor plumbing).

Milliner – A corset or a stay (from the 1700s) was not uncomfortable.  It actually supported the woman’s body and helped her keep good posture.  The idea that it was uncomfortable and injured women is a myth.

Silversmith – Most of the things people bought were made out of their own silver.  A customer would bring in silver or a silver item that they did not like anymore.  The silversmith would weigh it, make something new, and weigh it again.  He would keep some of the silver for himself as payment.

 Capitol – Virginia wrote a state constitution when they declared independence.  Many of the ideas from their state constitution were used in the U.S. Constitution (like the separation and balance of powers).

Geddy House – Woman did not play instruments other than the harpsichord or small guitar because they “should not lift their arms or contort their face”.

Military Camp – Open your mouth when there is going to be a loud noise because it helps equallize the pressure in your ears.

In our 3 days, we did not get to:

Playbooth, Wheelwright, Basket Maker, Bruton Parish Church, Weaver, Colonial Gardens, Shoemaker, Courthouse, Printing Office, Bindery, and Post Office, Wigmaker, Joiner, Apothecary, Wythe house, Hospital, Museums, Many Taverns and places to eat, and maybe some other places that I am forgetting.


There is a lot of talk of slavery on the tours and talks because 52% of the town’s population were slaves.  It is presented well, and I think it is a good reminder, but you should prepare your kids so they are not caught off guard.


In addition to the buildings we visited, remember that our kids also got to learn to march in formation, see skits in the streets, be a part of the army for a reenactment, and complete a spy mission called RevQuest.  This was an amazing part of our trip, but I wouldn’t have done it if we only had one day in Williamsburg.


Oh and there are lots of shops where you can buy Revolutionary style games, toys, clothes, and more.  At the Prentis shop, you can buy items that they actually make during the demos.  The prices there seem very high until you remember the hours of labor that it took to make the items.  Then they seem almost reasonable.

Visiting Colonial Williamsburg was yet another favorite family vacation.  We are looking forward to going back again!

Combinations and Permutations with Children

When we talk about combinations in the English language, we have a problem.  People regularly use the word “combination” when that isn’t what they mean at all.  Combinations are a collection of things when the order DOES NOT matter.  Choosing which 3 stuff animals out of a collection of 10 to take with you on a trip is an example of a combination.  A combination lock is a great example of using the word incorrectly.  The order of the numbers matters in order to open the lock.  When the order matters, that is called a permutation.

Combinations and Permutations for Children

Another great way to look at this can be through sports.  If a basketball coach needs to pick his starting line-up from a team of 8 players, he can have any combination of 5 of the players.  Whatever order the players are selected, it is still the same group of 5 starting players for the line-up.  When a baseball coach is deciding the batting order, the order of the players matters.  The baseball example has to be a permutation.

Combination Activity with Dress-up Clothing:

I had my son select 3 dress-up hats and 2 weapons.  We then had a photo-shoot of him with the different combinations that he could have (assuming he has to have a hat and a weapon).  There are six different possibilities.

Combinations of 2 weapons and 3 hats

If we also can have no hat and no weapon OR just one of each, that adds another 6 combinations.

Combinations of no objects or just one of them



Permutation Activity with Play Animals in a Zoo:

In this example, we are going to use 3 animals to show the different permutations of the animals in cages at the zoo.  The order that we put the animals in their cages matters, so this a permutation.  (Other variations of the same idea would be having 3 children sit on 3 chairs or putting stuffed animals in order.)

With our 3 animals, we have a total of 6 different permutations.  If we have 4 animals, we would have 24 different permutations.  Permutations can become large very quickly!


Permutations of AnimalsI hope this helps you understand the difference between combinations and permutations and that you can have fun with these ideas with your children.  Please let me know if you have any questions about this!


Using Audio Resources In Our Family

We love to listen to audio stories in our family.  I wanted to share why we listen to audio, how we make the time, and some of our favorites.

Using Audio Resources In Our Family

Why do we listen?

To learn:  We have learned a ton of history and science through audio resources.  It’s amazing all that we can learn when we take the time to listen.

To use our imaginations:  I love how audio stories force the kids to use their imaginations.  Instead of using a dvd player in our van to watch something, our children are “watching” in their heads with whatever images they create.

To experience books together:  Our family can all talk about a story together when we listen together.  The joy and wonder of a new story or new learning is so fun to do together.

When do we listen?

On road trips:  Any time we are traveling more than an hour away, I try to have some audio stories to listen to in the van.  On our big road trip last summer, we listened to more than 20 hours of audio.  Traveling to relatives’ homes or even just a day field trip are great times to add in additional learning and use our imaginations.

While doing tedious tasks at home:  Seth has spent many hours this winter doing Elijah’s hair.  We’ve listened to over 15 hours of audio while doing hair since Christmas alone.  We also like to listen to audio during a meal or while working on laundry.  We used to mainly just listen in the van, but listening at home means that I can see the excitement on my children’s faces as they meet Reepicheep or hear about Aslan for the first time.

While they play:  The kids also listen to audio while playing with legos or even coloring.  I do have to say that some of the kids get so caught up in the story that they don’t get much playing done.

To what do we listen?

There are tons of options if you want to listen to audio.  Any quality audio book is good, but these are some of our favorites.  (Some of these were already mentioned in our Educational Gift-Giving Guide.)

The Chronicles of Narnia Radio Theatre has been lots of fun this winter.  I love listening to these stories with my children..  Since Christmas we have listened to 5 of them.  There actually are other stories available from Focus on the Family Radio Theatre such as Ben Hur and The Secret Garden.  I was actually surprised at how large the collection is now.  I listened to Ben Hur before having children.  I remember enjoying it but can’t speak to how much my children will enjoy it yet.  The sound effects can be intense in these.  (In the photo, we have an older edition of the Chronicles of Narnia cds.  If you buy them now, they come as a complete set.)

Jim Weiss has a large about of amazing audio stories.  We love his history CDs especially George Washington.  I am hoping to get a number of his fictional stories at our homeschool convention this year.    

Jonathan Park Volume 1: The Adventure Begins is the first Jonathan Park CD collection we own.  We love it, and I am sure will buy more in the coming years.  They are fun science adventure stories that teach a number of Christian concepts.  These CDs come from a young-earth creation perspective.  In the first volume, we have heard topics addressing dinosaur graveyards, aliens, Fibonacci numbers, cave formations, and archaeological evidence as well as moral lessons with each story.  The sound effects can be intense in this series as well so young listeners might be scared.

 Hero Tales are a set of audio cds that actually are reading the old book Hero Tales from American History, which was written by Theodore Roosevelt.  These have a higher vocabulary level than other cds we have, but we enjoyed them.  

Your Story Hour History cds are yet another way to listen to history.  These were originally a radio show so there are sound effects in them.  We don’t love them as much as Jim Weiss, but there were different stories in the collection we had than our Jim Weiss history cds.  The kids enjoy listening to these on their own.  

Adventures in Odyssey Bible stories and For God and Country are our favorite Adventures in Odyssey.  Sometimes the regular Adventures in Odyssey stories have too many whining children or concepts we don’t want to cover.  The Bible stories CDs and the history in For God and Country are definitely our favorites.  We have listened to these in the van, and the kids listen to them on their own.

Little House on the Prairie Series narrated by Cherry Jones is our favorite collection of audio books from the library.  The narrator grows on you as you listen.  Our family really enjoyed these almost three years ago.  We are going to get them from the library again soon to listen to them again.

Do you like using audio resources in your family?  Do you have any favorites not mentioned here?


This post contains affiliate links.