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Monday, January 20, 2014

A Classical Approach to Ancient World History for All Ages

This is week 3 in the 3rd Annual Virtual Curriculum Fair and our theme is:

Exploring Our World: Social Studies and more Science

Today I’m going to share with you how I do a classical history study with all my kids, ages 4 to 13!

ancient world-001This year we are studying the ancient world, from prehistoric times on up the the Roman Empire.  This is our second time through this part of world history and so we already have a sizeable library of quality books to choose from.

This is just one stack.

The truth is…I have TOO MANY books!  In order to teach each and every book I have for this time period to my children, well, I just couldn’t do it.  We’d have to rush through them at break-neck speed and my voice would give out.


6-1/2 years ago when I started this homeschool journey, I did try to do it all. 

Big mistake!

I burned out quickly.  There are so many great books to use and so many great things to learn, but the reality is that you simply cannot do it all---nor should you try! 

Learning is a lifelong adventure and your kids will continue to learn far beyond anything you can hope to teach them.

My goal is not to teach them everything, but to help them build a solid foundation upon which to add future learning.

And the key there is this:  I am helping them.  I don’t do it for them.

When our children are tiny babies, we nurse them, then spoon-feed them, then watch as they flick applesauce all over the walls while they learn to feed themselves…learning is no different.

We help them get started on the journey, show them how it’s done, but eventually we need to step back further and further into the background and watch them go!

It’s a balance---if we turn the responsibility completely over to them too soon, they won’t get enough intellectual nourishment and will stall out…but if we hold onto it too long, we’ll stifle their initiative and their drive will wane.

Each of my children is at a different stage in terms of intellectual and emotional development. 

Each of them needs a different level of involvement from me and their capabilities vary considerably.

A couple of years ago, I tried giving my oldest a completely different history program from everyone else.  While this was, for the most part, successful, it also created a bit of a gulf between him and his siblings.  He felt like an island---he was doing his thing, they were doing their thing.

As he approaches high school, it is probably inevitable that he will feel at least a bit like an island, but this year we are doing our history studies together and it’s going very well. 

How we study Ancient World History at multiple levels:

Note:  Affiliate link alert!  This post does contain affiliate links.  I only recommend resources that our family actually uses.

  1. We have 2 spines:
    1. The Story of the World: Volume 1: Ancient Times is our read aloud spine (I read a short selection 3 days a week to everyone and we discuss it).
    2. The Human Odyssey, Vol. 1: Prehistory Through the Middle Ages is my 13-year-old’s additional spine.  He reads 1-2 chapters a week.  I match up the SOTW chapter’s with HO’s chapters, so the SOTW reading is like an introduction for him before he reads on the same topic more in-depth.
  2. I select 1-2 additional non-fiction books to read aloud during each week of our study.  Or I add in a free internet resource or a documentary.
  3. Each week the younger children are asked to create a notebooking page (might be a summary or mapping, drawings), pertaining to that week’s history learning---the children create their own page and choose what will be on it.  My oldest writes short bios of important historical figures, summaries of important events, and adds dates to his notebook timeline.Peter's notebook  page on Otzi the frozen mummy at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  4. We keep a stack of books available (at various reading levels) that the kids are free to read on their own as they wish (or not!) that pertain to what we are studying at the moment.  I have found that they are much more likely to check them out if it’s not required.
  5. I give my oldest some additional reading assignments (they might be articles from National Geographic or additional books).  Right now he is reading and outlining Dorothy Mills’ The Book of the Ancient Greeks .

Oh, but what other books are you using?

I could list every single one of the books on my shelves, but I don’t want you to get stuck on a particular booklist.  We are using books we already own or that are readily available from our library, but you can do this with whatever books you have available.

Having a reliable spine gives me a framework from which to work.  If we have a crazy week and only read the spine, that would be fine!  You don’t have to do it all!

It’s very easy to peruse the table of contents of books you want to use to see how they fit in with your “program.”  Just be careful to not plan to do too much, and remember to give kids a chance to explore some books on their own.

2014 Virtual Curriculum Fair Week 3:  Exploring Our World with Social Studies and Science at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Now, let’s see how other homeschoolers are Exploring Our World with Social Studies and Science:  (note links will all be LIVE by noon on 1/20)

A Classical Approach to Ancient World History for All Ages by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Supercharged Science's eScience Program by Kristi K. @ The Potter’s Hand Academy

Social Studies & Science Resource Lists by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

History and Science: Learning About the World Around Us by Leah@As We Walk Along the Road

Designing a Unit Study for History, Geography, or Science by Amy @ Eclectic Homeschooling

Virtual Curriculum Fair:  Social Studies by Joelle @ Homeschool for His Glory

Uncle Sam & You- Notgrass by Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles

My Favorite History Books for Boys by Monique @ Living Life and Learning

Social Studies in Our Homeschool by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

A Peek into our Homeschool: The Sciences by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Our Curriculum Choices 2014 ~ History & Science by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun

We're having a Social Studies-heavy Year by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Our Journey Around the World by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

My Favourite Social Studies Curriculum by Kim @ Homestead Acres

Raising Map Nuts: Learning Geography Naturally by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

The Whos, Wheres and Whys by Michele P @Family, Faith and Fridays

Exploring Our World: Social Studies and Science in our Classical Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

Time Travel Throughout the World {or History and Geography in Our Homeschool} by HillaryM @ Our Homeschool Studio

Virtual Curriculum Fair Week 3: Exploring Our World – Social Studies and More Science by Stacie @ Super Mommy To The Rescue

Why We're Ditching Story of the World by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  I may earn a commission if you click my affiliate links.  I only link to products I actually use in my own home.  Thank you for supporting Homeschooling Hearts & Minds.


  1. I have Story of the World but haven't tried it yet with my kids. I like how you add in other books as well.I like the notebooking pages the kids have done as well.

  2. We use SOTW as well, but not withn a classical approach. I am so impressed you are on your second round! It takes a lot of staying power but is a great way to teach.

  3. great post. I saw you used the History Pockets. We loved using those in our studies in years past.. Such a great hands on addition.. Thanks for sharing..

  4. Thank you ladies.

    Michele-this is our 2nd round, but I don't know how long it will last. It gets harder as you add more kids in with a greater variance of abilities.

    Lynn-the History Pockets are a great add in. It's easy to just use a little of them without feeling like you have to do them all.


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