History was a subject I always struggled with and hated in school. When I started homeschooling, I came across the Story of the World history curriculum and have been using that from the beginning. During the 2017 fall semester, I also tried out the History Odyssey Curriculum. This article reviews my experiences with both Elementary History curriculums.
Elementary History Curricula
Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer
The Story of the World Series consists of 4 volumes covering ancient history through the modern age. The books are available in printed, PDF, kindle, or audio recording. Additional supplementary books are available for each level including 1) an Activity book, and 2) a set of tests for each chapter. The activity books include review questions, summaries or narration exercises, additional book resources, activity projects, map work, and coloring pages for each chapter. The supplementary materials are available in printed or PDF format.
The main books are written in story format, which I think makes them interesting. I wish my history books had been written in this format. My children enjoy, or at least successfully tolerate listening to the history stories. Although we do not do many of the activities from the Activity book, we do do the review questions, narration exercises, and map work. I find that these resources help my children better understand and retain the content.
This elementary history curriculum may not be a good fit for children who are either unable to listen to a story or read it themselves; however, additional video-based resources could be found from other sources and used as supplements.
History Odyssey Level 1: Ancients by Cathy Whitfield
The History Odyssey curriculum is a set of lesson plans covering a specific time period. I tried out the Level 1 book about the Ancients. You must purchase other books and materials to use this program. For Level 1, the required books are: 1) “The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History,” 2) “A Child’s History of the World” by Virgil M. Hillyer, 3) “Story of the World,” Vol. 1, 4) History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations, Egyptians and Their Neighbors (by Evan-Moor Publications), 5) Some activity books about Egyptians and Isrealites by Marian Broida, and 6) a couple of coloring books about Rome and Greece by John Green. The program also includes a set of maps to go with the lessons.
Each lesson plan tells you what you need to do to prepare for the lesson. Specific activities and chapters from the required resources are listed. Additional books are also listed and described that could be borrowed from a local library.
The History Odyssey curriculum has compiled lessons from a variety of resources. If your children like doing projects, activities, and learning about the same material from a variety of perspectives and resources, this curriculum may be a good fit. I really liked the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History. I found the pictures and descriptions in this book as very detailed and interesting to look at and explore. The little we did read from A Child’s History of the World also seemed to be written in a child-friendly and interesting format.
Limitations of the elementary Level 1 History Odyssey Curriculum
- My big hesitation of originally trying out the History Odyssey curriculum was the need to purchase so many other additional resources to use it. So in addition to the cost of the lesson plans, you will also be spending a lot on other resources driving up the cost of the program.
- Although I liked many of the required resources, my children did not. I have one child who hates projects, crafts, coloring and absolutely hated doing the History Pockets and other recommended activities. Another one of my children likes art and craft activities and liked making some of the projects from the History pocket book, but could not complete them independently. This child absolutely hated the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History.
- One aspect I did not personally like was that the lesson plan format required jumping around through the chapters of the various resources. This just may be an inherit need when several books/resources are used within a single curriculum. I also didn’t like that certain chapters from the Story of the World were excluded.
Final Recommendations on a Elementary History Curriculum
After trying out the History Odyssey curriculum for a few months, I have discontinued it. It just was not a good fit for my children. I do consider History Odyssey to be a quality set of lesson plans that would be a good fit for children who like to learn from a variety of resources and activities.
For my family, we went back to exclusively using the Story of the World curriculum. The stories are interesting and my children enjoy, or at least tolerate, the history lessons in the story format. I do highly recommend the Story of the World Curriculum for elementary history. I also would recommend using the additional Activity books and tests from the Story of the World Curriculum as you can easily pick and choose which parts you want to include that may be a good fit for any particular child.
If you are new to homeschooling, I recommend reading the book, “The Well-Trained Mind,” also by Susan Wise Bauer. CLICK HERE to read my review of this book.