Last spring we finished up the Mystery of History series with my then 7th and 5th grade children, so I though it was a good time to share with you a little bit about what we learned as we went through the series and our thoughts on the Mystery of History as compared to other curriculum that we have tried and/or reviewed. Let’s dig right in.
Age Appropriate from a Christian Worldview
For those unfamiliar with the series, Mystery of History is a history curriculum divided into four volumes with the expectation that they would be completed over a 4-year cycle. The first volume covers everything from creation to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The second takes a look at events during the early church and middle ages. Volume 3 continues through the timeline and covers everything from the Renaissance and Reformation to the spread of humanity across the globe. Finally, volume 4 is jam-packed with more modern events, covering everything from the War of Independence to the World Wars and all the way up to 2014 with a look at the global war on terror.
Each of these volumes provide fascinating stories and biographical information of the time period. In addition, each volume tends to progress in difficulty such that volume one tends to be a more interesting read aloud for younger readers while volume four tends to include longer reading passages with more heavy war-filled and moral topics being presented. While they could probably be read in any order, they are definitely intended to be read sequentially. More on that in a minute.
I also want to say that the four volumes progress in content appropriateness better than some other history curriculum I’ve seen. For example, in Story of the World, volume 1 of their 4-part history cycle tends to put a lot more emphasis on mythology which can be a bit confusing for younger students who are unsure what they believe. This is one reason you will often find more conservative box-curriculums not using volume 1 of Story of the World as a spine.
However, Mystery of History Volume 1 puts more emphasis on the people and place of ancient history than the stories making it much more age appropriate if you plan on starting this series with younger students. Don’t get me wrong. Mystery of History still presents big topics such as Buddhism, Confucism, etc., but the emphasis is more on the story of the Good News throughout history rather than the story of history for the sake history itself which I really appreciated.
How the Volumes and Editions Differ
It should be noted that there are a few differences both between the volumes and the editions available. To begin, volume one is more time consuming with 36 weeks (if done 3 times a week) or a total of 108 lesson where the other volumes each have 28 weeks or 84 lessons of content which tends to be a bit more manageable. If the first year of 36 weeks tends to be overwhelming, a few weeks could easily be added to the second year of content which would still make that second year manageable since it is only 28 weeks long.
As far as the different editions, if you are buying a used version of the Mystery of History, you may wonder how the different editions compare. The main thing I have noticed between the newer editions and the older editions is that the new editions are hardback bound with beautiful colorful images vs. the older black and white paperbacks which tended to not hold up as well. The companion guides are also now available as a download verses an additional purchase. And, the activities are now only available in the companion guides instead of being included at the end of each lesson in the text which has made the student reader a much more appealing and less distracting read. Speaking of companion guides, let’s talk about what Linda Hobar includes in these power-packed guides.
What is Included in the Companion Guides
For those that enjoy making history come alive through living literature and hands-on activities, this is where Mystery of History’s Companion Guides shine. Linda does her best to provide several age-appropriate activity suggestions for each lesson as well as literature and movie suggestions. In volume one she also includes a Bible reading list for families wishing to line up their personal Bible readings with early history.
Each volume also includes:
- Weekly pretests
- Memory card suggestions
- Review worksheets
- Mapping exercises
- Timeline suggestions
- Weekly quizzes
- Quarterly worksheets
- Semester tests
- Quiz, Worksheet, and Test answers
- Field trip suggestions
- Pronunciation Guide
- Supplemental material lists
- And more!
That said, it is actually easy to be overwhelmed with all the options she gives. Several other curriculums such as Timberdoodle and TruthQuest actually use Mystery of History as a spine and provide their own additional activity and resource suggestions, but Linda Hobar has provided more than enough on her own such that additional resources are not really necessary.
What Do I Need to Cover at Each Age?
With so many resources available, the next question is how to pair everything to provide the best age-appropriate history experience. First, I suggest that you don’t do everything Linda suggests, or at least that you don’t do everything every year. This curriculum is intended to be repeated every four years. As such, every resource does NOT need to be used each year. That’s just a great way to guarantee burn-out.
While I tend to enjoy reading history from a variety of perspectives, Mystery of History could, in theory, be the only history set you buy for your homeschool, since you can repeat the cycle for at total of three times throughout a child’s education.
That said, for the early elementary years, I would suggest reading aloud the text, choosing a few young student activities (we tried to choose one a week), creating a timeline, finding the age-appropriate locations on a map, reading a few early elementary living book suggestions, and memorizing the 12 important dates that Linda suggests.
When students repeat the cycle during the middle school years, this would be the time to add the pretests to see what they remember from the first time they completed the cycle. Depending on the academic level of your child, you may also want to let your child read the text on his/her own and begin taking the worksheets and tests. But again, Linda provides additional activities and mapping skills that are age appropriate.
This age could also review the important dates to memorize and find the dates on the timeline they created in the first cycle. Or, if you have a book like Usborne’s Timeline of World History, this would be a good time for them to look those important dates up in a timeline book to see what else was happening around the same time. As always, don’t forget to add supplemental living books to reinforce what they are learning; she provides plenty of age-appropraite suggestions.
In high school, students can then complete the curriculum one final time. This time, they should definitely complete the pretests, worksheets, quizzes, and tests as well as the the older activity suggestions which will include the writing of several papers and the reading of several supplemental literature resources.
The nice thing about having one curriculum that can be repeated and made age-appropriate for all levels is that families can cycle through history together and the overall cost is minimal over the course of one’s homeschool years.
Other Suggestions to Make Mystery of History Better
While I have stated it before, Mystery of History is definitely strong enough to stand on its own. That said, for those looking to make it better, here are a few things that we have found that enhanced our experience with the curriculum:
- If you really enjoy reading quality living literature, consider researching books by time period on Google, in a book like All Through the Ages by Christine Miller, or look what other homeschool curricula use for the same time period. We always like to compare our book lists with literature rich curriculum such as Sonlight and My Father’s World.
- If you have researched your family history, consider talking about family members who lived during the time you are reading. We did this especially during Volume 4, and it was amazing how much more intriguing history became when the girls knew someone or at least knew they were related to someone relevant to the historical setting we were studying.
- If you like supplementing history with video content, like we do, consider researching major topics on YouTube and creating a playlist. Or, if you like it when someone else does the research for you, my friend, Dr. Melanie Wilson of Grammar Galaxy and the Homeschool Sanity show has already created one for Mystery of History Volume I, which is fantastic. You can just as easily look up “Mystery of History” and the volume number and “playlist” on YouTube to find several who have created similar lists for easy access.
- Research field trip ideas around where you live. While Linda Hobar provides several field trip ideas, there are probably many more she doesn’t know about in your own state. For example, there are two Egyptian mummies on display within one hour of our house as well as several large dinosaur fossils as a local science museum. These would provide some great field trips to reinforce Volume 1. Ask your friends on Facebook, look up local travel guides, and see what else you can find near home to make your study special. If you live in Oklahoma, I’ve actually made that easy with an Oklahoma Field Trip database.
So there you have it—an inside look at the Mystery of History curriculum. I hope you have found this review helpful. I was in no way paid or endorsed to share this review (although I may receive an affiliate stipend should you purchase from a link I provide). This is just our personal experience with this outstanding biblical worldview curriculum.