The Simply Charlotte Mason history series covers Bible, history, and geography for children in grades one through twelve. Each volume stretches across all of those grade levels with age-appropriate activities. Titles of the books presenting these six year-long courses are:
- Genesis—Deuteronomy & Ancient Egypt (Creation-332 B.C.)
- Joshua—Malachi & Ancient Greece (1856 B.C.-146 B.C.)
- Matthew—Acts & Ancient Rome (753 B.C.-A.D. 476)
- Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, & Epistles (394-1550)
- Early Modern & Epistles (1550-1850)
- Modern Times & Epistles, Revelation (1850-2012)
The books are primarily teacher guides for using a collection of other resources that you will need to obtain. Each guide has charts with lesson plans for a quick overview as well as daily plans with specific assignments for the entire family and for each age group. All six of the guides are available as either printed books or downloadable PDFs.
The time dedicated to each subject area varies from study to study as well as by age level. As you can see from the titles, biblical content plays a major role, particularly in the first three studies. The first course is even more heavily weighted toward biblical history as it studies events in the first five books of the Old Testament which include quite a bit of history themselves. In addition to the Bible, it uses Exodus: A Commentary for Children and Numbers: A Commentary for Children for the entire family. Older students will also read Adam and His Kin, Leviticus: A Commentary for Children, Then and Now Bible Maps, Jashub’s Journal, and Discovering Doctrine. The last two items are Simply Charlotte Mason publications that buttress their biblical studies. (Note that Adam and His Kin presents a very speculative interpretation of the biblical stories.) Ancient Egypt is the focus of most of the history, but students also learn about some other ancient civilizations with the family read-aloud book, Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors. Other family read-aloud books for history and geography are The Great Pyramid, Pharaoh’s Boat, The Stuff They Left Behind, Visits to Africa notebook, Material World, and Hungry Planet. The last three items work together to provide photo-based cultural study and mapwork. Specific recommendations are made for additional reading at four levels: grades 1-3, grades 4-6, grades 7-9, and grades 10-12. For example, the youngest group reads The True Story of Noah’s Ark by Tom Dooley while students in the two oldest groups are creating timeline entries for a Book of Centuries, working through Discovering Doctrine, and reading Adam and His Kin.
The second course continues with the study of the rest of the Old Testament and branches out into the history of Ancient Greece. The third course narrows the biblical focus to the four gospels, and historical study moves on to Ancient Rome. Required resources are a mixture similar to the books used for the first course. These first three courses each use a book from Sonya Shafer's Visits to… geography courses that include map work, photos, and traveler’s accounts plus recommended books and activities.
With the last three courses, the biblical emphasis takes second place to history coverage since each course is covering a huge swath of history, but they do cover the New Testament. Uncle Josh’s Outline Maps is used for mapwork for these three courses, but geography also receives attention through other resources that incorporate geography into the study of history.
The fourth course, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, & Epistles, has a strong Protestant viewpoint with a great deal of attention given to the Reformation. It uses resources strongly supportive of the Reformation such as the Voices of the Renaissance and Reformation, The Beggar’s Bible (story of John Wyclif), The Bible Smuggler (story of William Tyndale), and Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation. It also uses other resources such as Famous Men of the Middle Ages, Castle, Cathedral, Ink on His Fingers, and Around the World in a Hundred Years. Most of the recommended resources for individual grade levels are secular. Epistles studied this year are James, Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and 1 and 2 Corinthians.
Early Modern & Epistles slightly overlaps with Middle Ages since it begins with Columbus. It goes on to cover both world and American history from the American colonial period up through the early 1800s. With only one school year to cover so much history, the only way to accomplish this is with selective storytelling, highlighting key people and events.
Modern Times & Epistles, Revelation tries to cover both U.S. and world history. It picks up U.S. history in the mid-1800s using Stories of America: Volume 2, with stories about Abraham Lincoln, the Oregon Trail, and the California Gold Rush. Similarly, using Stories of the Nations: Volume 2, world history also begins in the 1800s with stories of Bismarck, the Boer War, and Marie Curie, and continues up through stories of Sputnik and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Biblical studies encompass 1 and 2 Peter, Jude, all three of John’s epistles, and Revelation. History coverage is, again, very selective. Also, the significant amount of time required to use Christian history resources, such as biographies of George Mueller and Billy Graham, also reduces the amount of time dedicated to the broader threads of history. Your choice of supplemental books for each level is particularly important with this course in terms of broadening the coverage of historical information. At the same time, you might easily overwhelm students with the amount of reading. For example, for students in grades ten and up, two lengthy books by William Bennett (America: The Last Best Hope: Volume 2 and Volume 3) will be challenging to read alongside significant reading on world history. Add the recommended book How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer, and I doubt any student can manage the reading. (Note that the alternative to Schaeffer’s book, 7 Men Who Rule the World from the Grave, is much more manageable for high school students, but this isn't clear from the information in the guide.) The point is that you can provide relatively thorough coverage by selecting the right books, as long as you have the time to get through them.
As you would expect, Charlotte Mason's methods—narration, living books, and timeline activities—are used throughout all of the studies. Brief descriptions are included for some of the books but not all. I think more extensive descriptions that include reading level and number of pages would be very helpful to avoid overload such as the situation I described in the last paragraph.
Each course is presented in three terms and should be easily completed in one school year. Each term concludes with a few lessons with exam questions and one or two optional, hands-on projects. If you want more or different project ideas, check out the “Product Links, Tips, and Extra Info” page for your course at the publisher’s website.
Exam questions are designed to elicit oral narration responses, with questions for each level. You might have older students provide written responses.
Even with the hands-on project for each term and mapwork, the courses are primarily reading-based. However, the flexibility of the course lets you can decide how many of the grade-level books to assign to each child (or read with them). Depending upon how many hours older students spend, you can determine the number of course credits earned.
The Simply Charlotte Mason history series offers a comprehensive implementation of Mason’s methods. If you also want comprehensive coverage of all of the key events of history, you might prefer something else. But those who want to teach history with living books should enjoy this series.