See the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
The Story of the World (SOTW) by Susan Wise Bauer presents world history through narration and storytelling in this four-volume series. While these books are written at increasing levels of difficulty, they might be read aloud to younger children and read independently by older. The SOTW books are available in your choice of hardcover, paperback(lay-flat binding), PDF downloads, and audiobook on CD or MP3 download.
Many will recognize Bauer as one of the authors of The Well-Trained Mind (www.wwnorton.com)—an exceptionally useful book on providing a classical education. This history series is intended to be used within the context of just such an education, even though it will also work within more traditional approaches.
The SOTW books have only a few black-and-white illustrations and a good number of maps. These are not colorful, history picture books for browsing since they are intended to either be read aloud or used for independent reading by older students.
The SOTW books are intended to be used as spine books around which you can build a complete study. To help you do just that, the author has also created activity books for each volume. These activity books serve as curriculum guides, providing parents with detailed information for creating multi-sensory lessons that can be used across a wide spread of grade levels. For each lesson there is a compilation of questions, narration exercises, reading lists (for both history and literature), map work, coloring pages, and activities to accompany each section of the text.
Reproducible student pages in SOTW activity books are segregated from lesson plans into their own section, which makes copying easier. You are given permission to copy these pages for only your family. However, the publisher sells the reproducible pages as separate packets which might be worth purchasing.
You will find some very unusual project ideas in the activity books such as mummifying a chicken and making Greek tattoos with pure henna. Reproducible blackline masters in the activity books are used for all sorts of things—mapwork, board games, paper dolls, making a lighthouse, and more. Another useful feature is “Review Cards”—reproducible pages with illustrations and blocks of information on each card. They are to be copied onto card stock and cut out. (I would suggest enlarging each page slightly before copying.) These cards can be used as flashcards to review key ideas.
I particularly like the review questions that begin each section. These help children focus on the reading from the text. The narration exercises are also very helpful for parents who have trouble figuring out how to implement narration techniques. The guide truly supports the grammar stage of classical learning with its focus on information and comprehension.
In all four SOTW volumes, cross references are included to The Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World, The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, The Usborne Book of World History, and The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History. You would do well to purchase at least one of these additional basic resources. These books supply the colorful illustrations lacking in the core history books as well as more complete historical information on some topics. Other recommended books should be available through your local library, but they are optional.
For each of the four SOTW volumes there are also an activity book (available in both softcover and downloadable PDF versions), extra sets of looseleaf student pages, and test booklets with answer keys....
The four books are:
Volume 1: Ancient Times (earliest nomads through the last emperor of Rome)
Volume 2: The Middle Ages (fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance)
Volume 3: Early Modern Times (Elizabeth the First of England to the Forty-niners/Goldrush)
Volume 4: The Modern Age (1850 to the present)
See descriptions of each volume and the ancillary products in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.