The Mystery of History
Publisher: Bright Ideas Press
This is one of my 101 Top Picks!
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The Mystery of History
See the complete review in 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
Volumes I, II, and III of the projected four-volume Mystery of History series are a great resource for homeschoolers. They are designed so that even inexperienced parents can break free from traditional textbooks. They combine read-aloud information with age appropriate activities to create a multi-sensory curriculum for history and geography with a very strong biblical base. They are designed to be used with children in grades K through 8 for the first two volumes, although the reading level is about sixth grade. Volume III stretches into high school level. Some families have adapted lessons in the first two volumes for use with high schoolers.
Titles for the volumes are:
Volume I: Creation to the Resurrection
Volume II: The Early Church and the Middle Ages (A.D. 30-1460)
Volume III: The Renaissance, Reformation, and the Growth of Nations (1455-1707)
Volume IV: Revolutions to Rising Times (1708-the present) (will not be available before 2014)
Volume I relies heavily on scripture since the Bible is a source for much of what we know about ancient times. Other than that, the historical information is all presented within this book as it would be in a textbook. No other reference works are required for this study except for research activities older students might pursue. However, a large list of other books and videos that expand upon subjects is in the appendix, presented lesson by lesson and broken down by age level.
Beginning with creation, the study follows biblical history, incorporating other sources as they fit into the chronological story. Thus, Stonehenge, early Egypt, and the Minoans are taught before Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph....
Each volume is structured for a school year with four quarters divided into two semesters. Lessons are arranged in sets of three with the expectation that you will complete three per week. Each quarter begins with “Around the world” background and introductory information that you will want to read aloud with your children. Each week includes a pretest designed to spark interest, so you want to present these in a light-hearted fashion (à la a Trivial Pursuit game) rather than as a test.
Three lessons follow, each with a similar format: read-aloud information is presented from the book then you choose an activity for each child to complete. An activity is given for each of three levels.... At the end of every third lesson is a reminder for students to create “memory cards.” These are 3” x 5” notecards with key information on each event. A color-coding system helps students group events by time periods. These are used for oral drill, games, or independent review....
Review activities are always included at the end of the three lessons, sometimes including field trip suggestions. Activities include work on timelines, maps, and a review quiz. Nine reproducible map masters are at the back of the book along with answer keys for the geography assignments....
Hobar also shares creative and inexpensive ideas for making timelines with detailed instructions for using folding sewing boards as the base for portable timelines, although any timeline will do.
You can see how all of this can break out easily into three days of lessons with their activities, a fourth day for timeline, mapwork, and quiz, and a fifth day for a field trip or focus on other subjects....Younger children will spend more time working one-on-one with a parent. They have more arts-and-crafts type activities that are not graded. Older students do more independent research and writing that is graded.
While this is essentially a study of history, it is also a Bible study of sorts with an apologetic flavor in spots....
For Volume I, you can now purchase a set of eight audio CDs with all the stories in this volume read by the author to the accompaniment of appropriate background music....
Other extras for Volume I are:
- Reproducibles CD-ROM - PDF files for all pre-tests; post-tests; quarterly worksheets; semester tests; individual maps; Appendices A,B,C,D,E & F; the suggested reading lists; and more.
- 36 Coloring Pages - downloadable PDFs that correlate with lessons
- Challenge Cards - downloadable file for creating the memory cards
- Notebooking Pages - downloadable set of more than 400 PDF pages appropriate for both younger or older students
- Folderbook files for creating folderbooks for each quarter of the course—full year available on CD or each quarter available as a download
- History Through the Ages timeline figures - sets for Volumes I and II are not specific to Mystery of History. For Volume III, History through the Ages created a custom set.
Volume II: The Early Church and the Middle Ages follows the same layout as the first volume although it no longer follows a biblical chronology past the first few weeks of the course....Bright Ideas Press’ new WonderMaps (www.brightideaspress.com) should work especially well with MOH. (WonderMaps is a customizable collection of over 350 different maps available either on CD-ROM or as downloadable files.) Lists of additional resources you might use are at the back of the book.
Hobar’s selection and presentation of topics is fascinating. Given the huge time period she covers in Volume II, she does a great job of pulling out key people and events so students get the big picture.
For Volume II, you can also purchase a set of 12 audio CDs with the “stories” as for Volume I. All the other extras described for Volume I are also available for Volume II.
Volume III is formatted differently than the first two volumes. It is divided into a Student Reader and a Companion Guide: Curriculum and Student Activities. The Reader is a colorful, 441-page, hardcover book, while the Companion Guide is a black-and-white, 600+ page “book.” Pages of the Guide come three-hole punched for insertion into your own binder. The Companion Guide is also available on CD-ROM.
The Volume III Student Reader has more text than Volume II and significantly more than Volume I. Author Linda Hobar says the target audience is primarily grades four and up, but Volume III seems to me best for junior high and high school level simply because of the breadth and depth of information covered. Hobar suggests that younger students in grades K through 3 might listen in on parts of lessons and participate in age-appropriate activities—there are plenty of activities for all ages! I suspect that the quantity of material as well as the depth of the content might still be too much for even some fifth and sixth graders....
... high school students might complete more than one volume of Mystery of History per year, but that might preclude the entire family working through volumes together since younger students would likely need a slower pace.
Note that those pursuing a classical form of education will likely want to select more of the primary resources and “Great Books” from the supplementary reading list, and this would certainly be another way to “fill the hours.”....
Volume III covers the time period of the Reformation. Although Hobar does a better than average job of trying to present the Catholic side of issues (e.g., indulgences), the content is strongly Protestant.
Volume III currently has Coloring Pages, Challenge Cards, and Timeline figures available with other extras in the works. Check the Bright Ideas website for availability of other ancillary resources.
I think this combination of self-contained history and multi-sensory activities should really appeal to many homeschooling families.
- Learning Styles: multisensory - suits most learning styles
Suitable for: group and one-on-one work with some independent study.
Audience: grades K-12
Need for parent/teacher instruction: moderate to high
Prep time needed: moderate to high depending upon choice of activities.
Teacher's manual: this is your manual except for Vol. III. Reader can be used on its own, but you'll likely want to use the Guide too.
Religious perspective: Christian, Protestant
Bright Ideas Press
PO Box 333
Cheswold, DE 19936
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