History! with living books 1: a spine

Studying History Chronologically in a repeating 4 year pattern- where to start, how to create a spine.

When we hit that point of tears and we are all DONE homeschooling one spring, I realized that the only thing I felt we were doing well- something we enjoyed and learned from joyfully was history. That is when I decided to start using more living books and our own style. We had done it all along for History- maybe out of my lack of ability to PICK one? Anyway, this is how we had studied history and enjoyed it.

I read about teaching kids history in order.

Creation to the Fall of Rome (year 1)

Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, Explorers (year 2)

Early Modern World, Industrial Revolution, American Civil War (year 3)

Modern History- 20,21st centuries. (year 4)

I do not have a set pattern for history like I have set up for other classes. This one is far more loosely based. I simply follow a timeline for a *spine*. Here are some examples.

I first read about it when I began homescholing (I pulled my kids from public school in elementary- we did not begin at home) in “The Well-Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer. I borrowed it from the library, so I have not looked at it in many years, but I remembered that it had a similar 4 year study where she listed important events and people in each year of study. (*a spine*)

I am an admiring fan of Tapestry of Grace. I feel guilty even saying it because as much as I admire and long for this curriculum I cannot bring myself to actually purchase it. I feel like I am advising you to follow it but not buy it. This, I hope, is not the case. I think there is a GREAT value in the curriculum! I have a tendency to have a short attention span and shy away from some prices because I tend to ditch things after a few months. This is MY weakness. Not the curriculum. If you are able to purchase this, I recommend it.

I shop through Tapestry of Grace’s recommended books! They recommend GREAT books! and I use their scope and sequence as (* a spine*).

I loosely schedule out events or people we want to cover through the year like this:

week 1:

Creation, Patriarchs

week 2:


week 19

Plato, Aristotle

week 20:

Athens, Sparta

This kind of schedule gave me a list to search for at the library each week. Sometimes what we studied that week had a lot to do with what the library had!

OR  just simply target marks,  like this:

first 9 weeks- Bible, Mesopotamia, Egypt

second 9 weeks- Greece and Greek Mythology

third nine weeks- Rome

fourth nine weeks- The life of Jesus Christ

I believe Susan Wise Bauer writes that she uses The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of History as (* a spine*)

I collect books all the time. I know what ‘year’ of history is coming up, what my kids might like, what I want to learn. I prepare ahead with a lot of resources. (it is my favorite part 😉 )

Then after I have a ROUGH spine mapped out, I use the resources I have, shop for them as we go (Amazon, Abebooks, TOG year 1 list…I’m not the only one do you know how hard it is to buy a book from a used site in January? you’d better be quick! ) or whatever is available from the library. (If I have mapped out a list of people and events through the weeks of the year- I can search these at the library and go with whatever I find.)

Another (*spine*) is to work alongside a printed history like Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer or Mystery of History

We have often followed these resources we just don’t -stick- to them. I simply read lessons in order and when we come to -Mesopotamia, Egypt- I might set it aside and read or do projects from Ancient Israelites and their neighbors, Read from the Bible or Children’s bible, or I might make Duct Tape Armor from Egypt. I might watch ‘The Prince of Egypt‘ with my children. When I come back to Story of the World, I often find that I can skip ahead several chapters because I feel we’ve already covered that and pick up where- usually- I’m not sure what we should do next. When we get to a point that I am bored of reading from this book, I find another resource or remember something on my shelf- or as inevitably happens- I don’t really like how this subject is covered here- well we just add another resource. another point of view! I love the discussions that happen when we do that!

History is something we read together. I don’t do anything more then drag them out of their beds. They laze around under blankets looking dreary eyed and half asleep.I just read to them. Usually for an hour- but goodness is that flexible: sometime more, sometimes less, sometimes with discussions, sometimes with journaling, sometimes we work on projects or coloring sheets or sometimes even worksheets. Dover coloring books make a good listen along resources.

Two of my favorite things to DO during this time is with journaling in notebooks. Our favorites are these from Miller Pads and Paper. We buy stacks of these each year at our homeschool convention.

They draw and write something (Charlotte Mason Style) and keep their very own record.

We get out the world map and draw and map where we are studying.

I hope to put up a list of history resources we’ve enjoyed and some ideas on how to put this together but until then sample of favorite resources for year 1 that we have used repeatedly :

World History Made Simple by Ruth Beechick. Biblical stories are included. In younger years I read them from a children’s Bible.

Greek Mythology unit including The Odyssey series by Mary Pope Osborne here is book 1 (We’ve always studied the Greek Mythology. 1) my kids have loved it 2) there are SO many pop culture references! 3) they are great stories! Classic Literature! and 4) It gives a glimpse into the lives of people in this era.

Drive Thru History: Greece and the Word, Rome if you want to

Shakespeare is studied next year during the Renaissance, but we’ve always read the play ‘Julius Caesar’ during our year one study. There are some great children’s resources to read the story or the play. (another thing that Susan Wise Bauer promotes in ” The Well-Trained Mind” is that you read these (hard to read) classics in the easier kid form to introduce them and it will be easier for them to absorb the originals in High School and College)

Genevieve Foster’s book “The Life of Augustus Caesar” Beautiful Feet Books has a history Curriculum to follow using these books. I love them from the birth to death of Augustus Caesar- what was going on all over the world. also available: Life of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln







5 thoughts on “History! with living books 1: a spine

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