Top Ten History Resources

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Y’all probably already know that I’m a fan of studying history.  I was not fond of history when I was in school.  I remember having a discussion with my grandfather about history.  He couldn’t understand why I didn’t love it like he did.  I’m wondering if history is just something you appreciate when you’re older.  I know my kids don’t love it like I do…but I don’t think they dislike as much as I did when I was their age either.

It is my hope to instill a love of history in my kids or, at the very least, plant the seeds for a love of history.  I’ve got some favorite resources for attempting such a lofty goal.  Below are my top ten:

1.  Story of the World.  Being the classically eclectic, slightly Charlotte Mason homeschoolers that we are, we have long been fans of Story of the World.  I love the way that the SOTW books relay historical facts in an interesting, read-aloud, story-book fashion, peaking the interest of even the youngest readers.

The only thing I haven’t especially liked about Story of the World this year is how gory it can be.  I know that beheadings and such were historical facts, but – sheesh! – there were a bunch of them.  I’m thinking that it suffices to know that someone was killed and that knowing that their head was ordered delivered to the czar in a velvet bag is just superfluous, but maybe that’s just me.

People often ask me if I think that the SOTW Activity Guides are a necessary part of the curriculum.  I always answer that question with a resounding, “Yes!”  If you know me well, you know that the hands-on activities are my favorite part of any curriculum.  The SOTW Activity Guides include not only hands-on activity suggestions for each topic, but also suggested books for further reading, discussion questions, maps, coloring pages, and more.

2.  Pandia Press’ History Odyssey.  We’ve just started using History Odyssey in the last year or so and I’m really enjoying it.  I like that way it guides the user chronologically through history, acting as a spine book for other choices among my favorites, such as Story of the World, great literature, and the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History.

History Odyssey includes its own maps, coloring pages, and activity suggestions.  It doesn’t contain enough hands-on activities for my tastes, but that is easily remedied using the SOTW Activity Guide or library resources.

3.  Homeschool in the Woods’ Timeline Figures.  We love the Homeschool in the Woods timeline figures.  We’ve used them, albeit somewhat inconsistently for several years.  If you’ve been fearful of timelines like I was for a long time, you should check out all the ideas offered on the Homeschool in the Woods website for implementing timelines.  Of course, our current favorite method for maintaining a timeline is a blank, spiral-bound timeline book we picked up a few years ago from Miller Pad and Paper.

4.  A Picture Book of…Biographies.  I love picture books for history because they usually present the important facts succinctly and, let’s face it, you don’t have time to go in-depth with every person and event.  The Picture Book biographies by David Adler have always served us well when we’ve needed a quick, but thorough introduction to a historical figure.

5.  The Childhood of Famous Americans series.  When we have time for a longer biography, we’ve really enjoyed several books in the Childhood of Famous Americans series, the most memorable being the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright.  I think the kids like these books so much because it gives them a glimpse of what many historical figures were like as kids, making them much more relatable.

6.  Dear America books.  We’ve enjoyed the Dear America books for helping us to visualize a certain period in history rather than, necessarily, a certain person.  These books are written as diary entries and are great for getting an idea of what day-to-day life might have looked like in different periods of time.

Most of the Dear America books are written from a girl’s point of view, so, if you have boys, you may want to look at the My Name is America series, which is the same general premise as the Dear America books, but written by boys as journal entries.

There is also a Royal Diaries series that we’ve enjoyed for learning more about famous royals.  Again, these tend to be from a girl’s point of view.

7. The Magic Tree House books.  The Magic Tree House books are definitely on our list of great resources for studying history (and sometimes science).  These are perfect for the 7 to 10-year-old set (possibly older because I enjoy them, t00).  What’s great is that many of them also have a non-fiction companion guides called “research guides,” which our family has found very useful in many of our studies.

8.  Living Books.  In addition to the specific book sets I’ve already mentioned, we just enjoy studying history through great living books as much as possible.  Nothing gets you into a setting like an engrossing book.  There are several websites that I’ve found helpful in finding books for certain periods in history, such as:

9.  The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the World or Kingfisher History Encyclopedia.  We have both of these books that we use with History Odyssey, but they’re also suggested resources for many other history guides (I think SOTW recommends the Kingfisher book).  They aren’t stand-alone books for teaching history, in my opinion, but they complement just about any history study with their chronological overview of history, timelines, and fantastic illustrations.

10.  Maps.  While maps may be associated more with geography than history, I can’t see studying history without them.  Maps (and globes and atlases) help us to visualize who was close to what, making wars and territory disputes make much more sense.  We have several printable outline map books, as well as atlases and a globe to make history more visual for us.

What are some of your favorite history resources?

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. I haven't jumped on the SOTW wagon, and I don't think I will. I want to only have a Christian frame for History, it's the main reason we homeschool! We have tried several just in this 2 years so far, and for the last month started using TruthQuest History. Love it! We read the small narrative of the author that guides us, read real books to get the meat of the time and the kids really are enjoying it. We have Drive Thru History dvds , and I just ordered Homeschool in the Woods Time Travelers study on Colonial life for the hands on stuff.

  2. This year we discovered The Story of the World series. This is the first history book that my daughter has really enjoyed reading. Even though it goes at a fast past she is learning so much. Another of our favorites is the Truthquest History Series, we use it to help pick out books from different periods in time.

  3. Hi Kris,
    We have many of the resources you have listed:) I would also include Liberty kids DVD series My kids loved it and we learned a ton:)

  4. What GREAT resources for Living Books and Period Projects! I have been a little overwhelmed with the idea of finding the "right" living book for our topics. So excited to have these websites!

  5. Some of these I've used, some I haven't. Of the ones I have, I totally agree that they are great. And the ones I haven't — I'll have to look into using those perhaps next year!

  6. A history resource that was new to me this year, that I love, are the TruthQuest History guides. There is commentary about the historical period along with writing prompts, but the best thing are the extensive book lists. We use a lot of books in our homeschooling and the these guides are a goldmine!


  7. We love the timeline figures and Book of Time that we get through Sonlight (I believe they're the same as Homeschool Through the Woods, but I'm not positive). It's amazing to study different parts of history and see how they all fit together. And we'll use the same book all the way through high school, so when she graduates she'll have a comprehensive history of the world from a Biblical view. I LOVE that! And maps. She loves seeing the world.

  8. Our biggest success in history has come by adding historical fiction to our curriculum. We read Blood on the River 1607 as we studied Jamestown. We are reading "My Brother Sam is Dead" as we head into the Revolutionary era. So far, it seems like the details are sticking better and the historical events are not so disjointed as one finds in a text. I use "Teaching U.S. History Through Children's Literature" as my reference for books to choose. It lists dozens of options for each era and offers questions and activities if you want to go further. We are both enjoying this facet.

  9. We started with SOTW when Haley was in 1st grade and are still using it. We love it. Its amazing how much she retains from the stories. We tried Mystery of History briefly, but I felt like it was too biblical, and not enough history. I have looked at History Odyssey but frankly felt like I could most of the things they do on my own and just use SOTW. We also supplement our studies with living books. Love the Magic Tree House books here too! We watch documentaries on Netflix whenever possible.

  10. This year we are studying World History and using A Child's History of the World and Grandpa's Box. We used SOTW 1 last year and some of 2 this year to supplement.

  11. Thanks for posting this list – I always love to read what other people are doing for history. We love Story of the World, now I have some other resources to combine it with. My kids love the hands-on activities from the SOTW activity books too.

  12. Drive-Through History DVDs. They crack me up! Love them!

    The Wicked History of the World and the Horrible Histories series by Terry Deary. Again, funny!

    We also enjoy story-type history books like A Child's History of the World, Story of the World, The Story of Old Europe and New America, and A Little History of the World.

  13. We love the "You Wouldn't Want to be a …." series. They are written by different authors, but they are published by Scholastic. Some titles are: You Wouldn't Want to be a Nurse during the American Civil War! subtitle: A Job That's Not for the Squeamish. Or You Wouldn't Want to be Tutankhamen! A Mummy Who Really Got Meddled With.

    Fun and informative books!

  14. Drive Thru History – I had forgotten about that one! cute!!

    We are using Magic Tree House books at the moment but throw in alot of history that we look up based on what is in the news or This Day in History or postcards folks send us.

  15. Finding your site couldn't have come at a better time. I was never interested in history until I became a parent and now I'm playing catch-up. I don't want this for my kids. We are now needing to go deeper into history but I've never known where to start. It's SO overwhelming! I have heard about SOTW and will be getting it soon. Thank you for all the other resources for history. I'm going to keep your list close to me! Thanks 🙂

  16. We use History Odyssey, too and I am very happy with the living books it uses. We supplement some areas with books from the library.

    We also use the timeline figures from Homeschool in the Woods. That was money well spent!

    I would also recommend the Landmark series books. These were written in the 50's and 60's for children by well-known authors. Some are reprinted, but I have found most of my vast collection at used book sales.

    DVDs from PBS, The History Channel or others. We get these from the library. I don't use these as the core, but maybe as the wrap-up.

    Certain websites: BBC, Colonial Williamsburg, NPS (National Parks), etc.

    One website that my son really enjoys (I realize it may not be for everyone) is called Junior General. He has learned so much history from doing battle simulations (we print off paper soldiers and the website includes background history and instructions on how to play the game).

    Field trips whenever possible!


  17. We use Tapestry of Grace but I often use Story of the World for supplementing my lil' guys! I do love the activity book too! We also supplement with "Galloping the Globe" with a 4 and 6 year-old this really comes in handy! I am finding out that we are slightly Charlotte Mason too ;)….

  18. very excited about this post as we have just started history in our homeschool (Beautiful Feet Books – i have three young boys (4, 6, and 7) and they still love cutting, pasting, coloring and sometimes storytime (they're WIGGLY boys, so storytime doesn't last as long as it used to when they were little!). since reading a lot of the storybooks is a big part of the curriculum, they may grow out of it soon, so i'll be looking into changing curriculum in a few years' time.
    regarding SOTW: i wonder when my boys will think all the beheadings are COOL!
    off to check out all these great history resources! 🙂

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