Lutherans love a good potluck! Everyone brings something to share and, while you never know exactly what you’ll find, you know it will be good! In this series, we dish on curricula we have used. Pull up a chair and dig in!
I have used three different curricula for history over the years, depending on the grade levels of my children and the subject matter.
We started with the engaging Story of the World curriculum by Susan Wise Bauer. We used all 4 years during my first years of homeschooling. I especially liked the activity guides for setting up easy-to-integrate supplemental geography and project-based learning. It also included review questions and narration exercises. In general, SoTW takes a factual, but neutral stance on religion, which unfortunately leaves the three major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) as equals. Parents should be sure to clarify a Biblical stance on these matters, especially when it comes to activities like acting out Muslim-faith traditions. Also, Lutheran parents should be aware that supplemental reading should be done to get a more well-rounded understanding of the Reformation. I found the readings quite interesting, though they were organized in such a way that made it hard to know what I should try to cover over the year: two lessons per chapter, and 42 chapters per book. Should I try to do 2 chapters a week and cover the book in 21 weeks? Or split themed-chapters and cover three lessons per week over 28 weeks?
After our first four years using SOTW, I moved on to America the Beautiful by Charlene Notgrass. SoTW focuses on World History, and I really wanted to expose my children to more American and local history. America the Beautiful fit the bill. It’s marketed for 5th-8th grades, but it held the attention of my younger children, as well. We covered the two volumes over two years, doing 75 lessons per year, but both volumes could be done in one year by a very dedicated family. Notgrass is unique in that is has weekly readings from a separate book comprised of primary sources—a great way for young minds to delve into the true sources for history! While it follows American history chronologically, each five-lesson unit is episodic, taking an in-depth look at a person, place, idea, or the daily life of the time period. Ideas for activities are given at the end of lesson, including geography, Bible, and literature studies. There are optional workbooks, too, one which focuses on “fun exercises” like crossword puzzles, and the other which asks review questions and includes space for the student to answer. I especially love the author’s encouragement in the front of the book, “A homeschooling mother who has one child can complete more America the Beautiful than a homeschooling mother who has seven children and an elderly grandparent living in her home. God will use the efforts of both of these mothers. God does not expect you to do more than you can do. Be kind to yourself. He knows exactly what you and your children need this year. Remember that out of all the parents in the world to whom He could have given you children, He chose you. He is the one who put your family together….[T]his is the day the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it!”
After spending two years on American History, I chose to implement the Mystery of History curriculum for our next go-round starting at ancient times. We just finished the third out of four volumes. MOH is written from a Christian perspective and actually goes through much of the Old Testament in the first volume. I really appreciate how the author shows the tapestry of God’s grace and goodness woven through time. While she is an evangelical protestant, and does have a page in each book dedicated to “becoming part of God’s family” with decision-theology, she does an excellent job of weaving primary sources together into compelling narratives that offer hope, even in the darkest times in history. While some lessons are a little more casual than I would like, (she frequently writes things such as “Well,” “you see,” and, “my favorite is…”), she aims to represent each party in the story fairly, yet with truth, which is refreshing when it comes to many religious-based episodes in history. Again, parents will want to clarify doctrinal issues in this curriculum, but the author does an excellent job of using primary sources to get behind some personalities and issues found in history. It is definitely not politically correct, but yet, it is respectful at the same time. Ranging from 28 weeks to 36 weeks in length, the weeks each contain three lessons, and can be accomplished in the typical school year. The accompanying activity guides are a great resource, too. I’ve already begun planning our fourth year with Mystery of History as the bedrock to all of our liberal arts studies for next year!
Morning Meeting is new in my homeschool this year, based on a suggestion found in Teaching from Rest. Each morning, we gather around the table, starting with a recitation of a longer portion of Scripture (this month is Romans 6:1-11). I take prayer requests in a notebook and we take turns praying aloud. This is in addition to our family devotion at 7 a.m. which my husband leads. Next, we listen to a CD by our “composer of the month” and look at an art card from a famous artist, reading facts printed on the back. On Mondays, we study the composer or artist more in-depth, and color a picture based on a work of art. Tuesdays, we skip this because of co-op. Wednesdays and Fridays are geography, where the children continue sketching and filling in a map they are making of a certain continent each month. Thursdays, we review sentence diagramming. When these activities are finished, each continues to sit at the table, but works independently on spelling words and memory work, before being excused to independent math or language assignments. This practice of “morning meeting” has exposed me and the children to a wide variety of artists that we otherwise would not have studied. It also sparked many interesting conversations in our family. We reap such educational riches from this fun class that is accomplished in only a few minutes each day.
Marie K. MacPherson is wife to Ryan, homeschooling mother of six, and child of God. She is the author of the devotion book Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood (2018), and editor of Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies (2016). A certified Classical teacher from CCLE and Elementary Education graduate of Bethany Lutheran College, she enjoys researching and writing in her free time.