Written by Debi Polen
Switching to a Different History Curriculum
In Part 1, I reviewed the Greenleaf Press’s History Curriculum that we used in our home school from Grades 3-6. I said that we wanted to begin teaching history “from the beginning,” and as it turned out, that had been the same desire of the founders of Greenleaf Press, Rob and Cyndy Shearer.
The Shearers sought a homeschool curriculum that would consider Creation as the beginning and would then progress “in a logical, readable, chronological way.” When they couldn’t find a curriculum like that, they created their own, founding Greenleaf Press in 1989. This curriculum uses the Famous Men series of biographies that were first published in 1904. Greenleaf Press reprinted these books and added study guides that reviewed how the Shearers used them in their own home school.
One of the reasons why I wanted to cover history chronologically was that I didn’t have that approach when I was in school. There were gaps—lots of gaps. I found I had very little knowledge of the history of countries other than the United States. In fact, it was almost as if history began in 1492 with Christopher Columbus!
My son learned differently! We started at Creation with The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History and then progressed chronologically with The Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Egypt, Famous Men of Greece, Famous Men of Rome, Famous Men of the Middle Ages, and Famous Men of the Renaissance & Reformation. Although the Greenleaf series continues to modern times, we stopped using it at the Reformation for a few reasons. I’ll cover those reasons in this article.
Why We Switched
Pre-Made vs. Customized Worksheets
Since the Greenleaf Press History Curriculum can begin at Grade 1, the biographies are usually read aloud. There is opportunity for discussion, but very little paperwork. We had a problem with this in that we began in the 3rd Grade and we needed paperwork to go into the portfolio that we were required by law to present each year.
The Shearers suggested hands-on activities in their study guides, and we really enjoyed going on field trips, but oral testing was not adequate once the unit was completed. For the portfolios, we needed a variety of worksheets to go along with written reports that showed progress. We also needed an assortment of activities that fought boredom. So, I created some worksheets for my son to fill out: crossword puzzles, timelines, word searches, maps, etc. This wasn’t a problem for me until serious family health issues demanded more of my attention. As a result, I decided to search for a curriculum that covered history in a similar manner as Greenleaf, but also came with lots of pre-made worksheets.
World History vs. Western History
Greenleaf Press’s History Curriculum emphasizes Western History. This isn’t a problem if all you want to cover is Western History, but we wanted World History, which also included the history of such places as Japan, China, India, and Africa, among many others. Knowing something about other countries helped broaden our knowledge and understanding, especially when it came to studying Current Events.
Story of the World History Curriculum from Peace Hill Press
After attending a local homeschool convention and listening to Susan Wise Bauer of Peace Hill Press, we decided to give her Story of the World History Curriculum a try. We started with Volume 2, since we had already covered the periods that were part of Volume 1 (The Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Empire). Volume 2 overlapped with Greenleaf’s Famous Men of the Middle Ages and Famous Men of the Renaissance & Reformation books, but we didn’t mind because the Story of the World “episodes” supplemented the biographies of Greenleaf.
Bauer was home educated herself and then she and her husband home educated their four children. In her introduction to Volume 2, which was written during her children’s homeschooling years, she explains that the more violent episodes in history, such as the Inquisition, were left out of her books, because these volumes are aimed at young children. The chapters, like the biographies in the Greenleaf series, are designed to be read aloud, but they may be studied independently by older students.
Certainly, it’s not necessary to cover all of World History from ancient times to the modern era when educating young children, so Bauer had to be selective. She states in the Foreword of Volume 2, “In selecting what episodes to include, I have tried to focus on what would prepare a child to understand today’s world, rather than on the intricacies of past history. So I have given priority to those events and names which a child should know to be culturally literate, and also to those events which laid the foundation for the present day.”
The Story of the World comes in four volumes: Volume 1: Ancient Times: The Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Empire, Volume 2: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance, Volume 3: Early Modern Times: From Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners, and Volume 4: The Modern Age: From Victoria’s England to the End of the USSR.
These volumes each have an Activity Book companion and test sets (which came later and coincide with updated editions for Volumes 1 and 2). The Activity Book contains maps, recipes, crafts, and games. Older students are given more challenging projects, including outlining, review questions, and further reading.
For our personally-used first editions, we’ve placed the text and activity book together in our catalog, but if you desire new copies, you may be able to find them in our affiliate stores in the Virtual Mall.
Our Lesson Plan
At this point, you might be wondering why I haven’t covered how we actually put our history lesson plan together (that’s what’s promised in the title of this series of articles, after all). Our plan spanned several school years because we were covering a lot of history. It was solely our choice to cover World History as Pennsylvania’s homeschooling law only required that we teach national and state history. I’ll discuss the results of our efforts in Part 3.
Peace Hill Press’s Story of the World in Our Catalog
Below are the gently-used The Story of the World titles that we have from Peace Hill Press. If you’ve got world history titles that you’d like to sell, we’d appreciate your consigning with us to make them available to other educators.
Gently-Used 'The Story of the World' Titles from Peace Hill Press
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 3: Early Modern Times: From Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners (Paperback Book/Activity Book Set)
"Explorers discover treasure beneath mountain rocks. Pirates roam the seas. Kings huddle on their thrones, hoping that they wil keep their crowns—and their heads. And adventurers sail around the world on tiny wooden ships, risking starvation and treacherous seas to find strange new lands." — Susan Wise Bauer, Author
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 2: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance (Paperback Book/Activity Book Set)
"The hardest part of writing a word history is deciding what to leave out. In The Story of the Word, I have tried to keep history simple and straightforward by highlighting the major events, personalities, and national stories of the world's cultures, in (more or less) chronological order." — Susan Wise Bauer, Author
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4: The Modern Age: From Victoria's England to the End of the USSR (Paperback Book/Activity Book Set)
"A fourth or fifth grader who has a vague idea of what is going on in the world deserves to be started on the path to understanding." — Susan Wise Bauer, Author