History Series My Children Love

My children have learned more history from their own free reading time than anything we have done together.  The memory pegs my kids have from Classical Conversations helps them to get even more out of reading these books.

I want to share a number of our favorite series for history in the elementary years.  In no particular order:

 You Wouldn’t Want to Be books.

The You Wouldn’t Want to Be series has a quirky way to catching my kids’ attention with their silly subtitles (like You Wouldn’t Want to Be Mary Queen of Scots:  A Ruler Who Really Lost Her Head).  These are amazing, covering topics from Ancient times to U.S. history. I wrote about them a few years ago here where you can see Foundations Cycle match-ups.  My kids have re-read these many times over the years.  These are the shortest and easiest reading level of books on this list.  When we get these at the library, even the librarians comment on the fun titles of the books.

Interactive History Adventures.

The Interactive History Adventures also cover many time periods.  We love to get these at the library also.  They are choose-your-path type books except with historical themes.  The U.S. history ones are my favorites, but we really enjoy most of them.  I included Foundations match ups here.  (The one on The Underground Railroad has a path where you pretend to be slave catchers, and we just couldn’t even read that path in the book.)

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales

These graphic novels are always about dangerous and challenging bits of history.  The first in the series, One Dead Spy, is about Nathan Hale’s namesake.  The World War 1 book, Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood, gives an amazing overview to World War I.  My kids are already anticipating the fall release of one about World War II (Raid of No Return).

Ken Jenning’s Junior Genius Guides

The Junior Genius Guides include other topics than history, but we love the U.S. Presidents and Maps and Geography for studying history.  These books are packed with information but told in a way that grabs kids’ attention.  These books are set up like a “school day” with class periods instead of chapters.  (The non-history ones we are love are: The Human Body, Outer Space, and Greek Mythology.)  If you decide to buy any of these books, this 3-book set is a far better deal than the 3 books individually.

The Complete Middle School Study Guide series

These “Big Fat Notebook” books have packed with wonderful overviews of American History and World History.  Any piece of CC memory work can be found in these as well as lots of other history tidbits.  I actually think the U.S. History one is going to be an excellent resource for me as a Challenge 1 Director next year.  After each section, there are “Check Your Knowledge” quizzes complete with “Check Your Answers” so you don’t have to wonder if they are right.  My kids don’t really get the “Everything you need to Ace” each class title for the books in this series since we homeschool and don’t teach to a test, but these are a wonderful resource.  (Other books in the series include non-history topics:  English Language Arts, Math, and Science.  The English one does include topics not covered in the CC Essentials program – like theme, plot, etc.)

Note:  These books are secular so they include evolutionary human origins.  They are also very current in their publication dates so the U.S. one include the Supreme Court ruling on marriage (in a very matter-of-fact way).

As I made this list, I’m sure I forgot some of my kids’ favorites.  What history series do your kids enjoy?

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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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Cycle 1 History Videos We Hope To Watch (Including Amazon Prime)

Here is a list of cycle 1 history videos we hope to watch this year (including Amazon Prime selections).  Last year, I made a list of videos we hoped to watch for Cycle 3 (found here).  We honestly didn’t get to all of them, but it was a good reference for me when we had a chance to watch.  (Our family loves to listen to audio so you might like our Cycle 1 audio list as well.)

Cycle 1 History Videos

DVDs we have so far:

(These actually can be bought as a set, Ancient History Series.  We also want to get Drive Thru History Holy Land Series soon.  We love our U.S. history ones we bought last year.)

For family movie nights:

The Ten Commandments (cartoon)
Ben-Hur (We’ll probably watch this at some point since we listed to the audio Ben Hur (from our Cycle 1 audio list).

From Amazon Prime:

(If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can always try the Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.)

Timelines Of Ancient Civilizations: Season 1 – this show includes many of the civilizations we’ll study this year.  I’m excited to check this one out as a family.

Early civilizations (not particular week, but definitely timeline):

Minoans: Public Peace & Ritual Violence (includes talk of secret human sacrifice)

Phoenicians: The Alphabet & Carthage’S Hannibal

The Pyramids & Ancient Egypt

Ancient Israel (weeks 1-2):

Ancient Israel & Jerusalem

Ancient Greece (week 3)

Ancient Athens

Ancient Greece

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (week 4)

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus & The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Colossus of Rhodes & The Pharos of Alexandria

Introduction to the 14 Wonders of the World & The Great Pyramid at Giza

Ancient Rome (week 3, 5, 6)

Rome: The Rise Of Christianity

Rome: Decadence & Decline

Roman Feats Of Engineering


Rome: The Empire

Ancient Rome

Rome: Village To Republic

Rome: Military Conquests

Gandhi (week 8)

Gandhi – I don’t remember this movie about Gandhi so I’ll probably preview it before we watch it.

week 11, 12

Jordan – This video includes ruins from the Byzantine Empire and Islamic/Arabic influences as well as Roman ruins.  (It helps me see where so many of these civilizations existed in the same location.)

Mesoamerican civilizations:  week 16

Mexico – While titled “Mexico”, this talks about a number of Mesoamerican civilizations including the Aztecs (week 17) – it also has a section on the day of the dead that we fast-forwarded.

Mayans: Deception By Temple Rituals

Mexican Indian Civilizations: The Maya

Aztecs (week 17)

Mexican Indian Civilizations: Olmecs To Aztecs

Napoleon (week 24)

Napoleon At Waterloo: The Battle For Europe


My children have been enjoying a few of these videos, but we did run across some ancient civilizations talking about human sacrifices.  Reminder:  false gods, human sacrifice, and other sensitive issues might be in these videos.

I didn’t find videos for every week of Cycle 1, but we also won’t have time to watch every week.  Are there any videos you would had to this list (DVD, Amazon Prime, or even from other sources)?  If so, let me know!  


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Audio Selections for Cycle 1

Not too long ago, I shared about how our family loves to use audio (including lots of our favorite audio selections).

Audio Selections for Cycle 1

As we are looking ahead to the next school year, I made audio purchases based on our topics for next year.  In Classical Conversations Cycle 1, much of the history is focused on the ancient civilizations throughout the world.  You will see that reflected in my choices.  Here’s what I bought:


The Mystery of History Volume 1, Audio Book Set (10 Audio CDs):  My children are really excited about this one.  We listened to samples here before I bought it.  The kids plan to listen at lunch time.  Honestly, I expect them to start any day because they are excited so we may listen to it twice this year.  If we do get through this twice, I will probably go ahead and buy Volume 2 as well.  (I know others like to listen to Story of the World, but we picked Mystery of History for this year.)

Ben Hur (Radio Theatre):  Since we love The Chronicles of Narnia (Radio Theatre), I was excited when I remembered Ben Hur.  It’s a well-done radio theatre with exciting chariot race sound effects.  This is based more on the book than on the movie so the story might be different than you remember.  I enjoyed learning more about Romans during the time of Christ in this fictional story.  When we (will) learn about the names of the false Roman gods in CC, there are names the kid will recognize in this audio story.  The Romans really thought they were gods, and I always try to make sure my kids realize that.  (They’re not just funny stories someone made up.)  

Jim Weiss Selections:

Tales From Cultures Far and Near:  This CD has stories from all over the world including Japan, China, and West Africa.

A Storyteller’s Version of… Arabian Nights:  It starts with the story of the 1,001 nights and then tells: Ali Baba and the 40 theives, and some other fun stories.  Elijah and Seth noticed how certain aspects of these stories were clearly influenced by the real events from the Bible.  In one story a newborn prince is put in a basket and floated down a river. It was kind of the reverse of Moses.

Galileo and the Stargazers: Including Archimedes and the Golden Crown:  Seth was excited that this included the story of Archimedes and the Golden Crown (a famous mathematics story).   Elijah was laughing uncontrollably as the story told of how Archimedes jumped out of the bath and ran to the king’s chamber.   This CD talks about real men who lived and learned in Ancient Times.

A Treasury of Wisdom: True Stories of Hope and Inspiration:  This CD includes stories about or from a number of people:  Solomon, Alexander the Great, Diogenes (A Greek), and a number of others including more modern stories.

Julius Caesar & The Story of Rome:  We haven’t bought this one only because the vendor did not have it at CHAP.  We plan to get it sometime soon.  The telling of Julius Caesar is supposed to be from Shakespeare’s play.  I think this CD will fit in well while we are listening to Ben Hur as well.  

There are some Jim Weiss CDs we looked at but decided against.  While I am okay with my children knowing the names of false gods, we try to not “glorify” them or embrace the “fun” of their stories (at least while the kids are still young).  After looking at these, we didn’t feel like they would fall under what we wanted to study.  If you’ve heard some of these and would like to change our minds, feel free to let us know why you think they are beneficial.  Here are the ones we didn’t pick:  Egyptian Treasures: Mummies and Myths, Greek MythsHeroes in Mythology: Theseus, Prometheus, Odin, and She and He: Adventures in Mythology.


Science (and some history):

We’ll continue to listen to Jonathan Park and his great adventures.  Often there are references to memory work pegs we have made in Classical Conversations.  I don’t know if a list exists somewhere with what science or history topics are in each episode, but we don’t try to “match” up with CC as much as just notice the connections.

For studying animals, Jonathan Park has Jonathan Park Goes to the Zoo and Jonathan Park Goes to the Aquarium which are supposed to teach about 100 different animals each.  I hope to get these soon.  


I also hope to get some historical fiction audio books from the library as well this year.

Do you have any suggestions of what we should add to our family’s listening library?

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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!