January 4


Best History Curriculum for Homeschool

By Carol Henderson

January 4, 2020

history books

Choosing the best history curriculum for homeschool can be confusing and overwhelming. How do you get through all the noise and find what will work for you and your students?

For starters, you need to find that one key book that will keep you energized all year long Whether you call them spines, sourcebooks, core books, or textbooks, you can’t ignore the need to have one all-encompassing history guide to keep you grounded and make sure you leave no obvious gaps.

History is the one subject where having lots of outside reading and supplemental books is a great idea. It’s fun for both the teacher mom and the kids.

But using a lot of outside reading books can get confusing. You may read about the 1800’s one day and then are back in the 1700’s the next.

That’s why your core book, your textbook, is so important. This book will reinforce the flow of events, even if your outside reading is chronologically a little before or behind it.

All that to say…when you look for the best history curriculum for homeschool, your primary objective is to get the best core book, or textbook!

With a good core book, everything will work out just fine. Because you have that good core book, your outside reading doesn’t have to be EXACTLY in order. And you can relax knowing you aren’t leaving any major gaps behind.

All the other supplemental history activities and history reading lists can be provided by the curriculum, OR you can DIY them with the help of A Book In Time! We have plenty of ideas on this website for the timelines and crafts and outside reading so you can do this on your own.

Best History Textbook for Homeschool

So back to the best history curriculum for homeschool. What’s more important is getting the best history curriculum for YOUR homeschool!

And that starts with your core book.

Now that we know how important your core history book really is, which one do you choose?  The decision becomes even more confusing if you’d like to venture outside the box of traditional textbooks. 

One place to start is to browse the list of textbook suggestions at www.abookintime.com, and here are some things to keep in mind along the way.

History Curriculum for the Younger Child

For the early grades, standard curriculum texts can be rather dry and boring.  Or they may not be appropriate when you are teaching more than one child and grade level at the same time.  

Some alternatives for American History are books such as McGraw-Hill’s The Complete Book of US History or the more advanced Dorling Kindersley’s Children’s Encyclopedia of American History

For the K-2 grades, you may want to skim over the Table of Contents before your year starts and pick out one big topic for each week instead of trying to read it all.  Then supplement with picture books from the library along the way.

My personal favorites for early elementary world history are published by Usborne books. Their simplest version is called First Encyclopedia of History. They also offer the all-encompassing Book of World History, or its revised (not necessarily better, just different) edition, Encyclopedia of World History. Again, for the youngest students, you don’t have to read the entire thing this time.  You want to engage, but not overwhelm.

And some of the curriculum suggestions for upper elementary below also have books for the younger ages. So keep reading…

History Curriculum for Upper Elementary & Junior High

I still tend to avoid traditional textbooks for the middle grades simply because of other available options with a lot more appeal.

If we’re talking favorites, my American history choice is a no-brainer! I have loved Joy Hakim’s series The Story of US since I first opened the cover. These books are thorough AND engaging, and kids really do like to read them. Since it is so thorough, you may want to spread this series out over several years.

Of course, there are some other good American history options, including the Dorling Kindersley book mentioned above.

For world history, Usborne Publishing is once again at the top of my list, with the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia following close behind. All of these books are concise, yet complete, and the color illustrations that pack each page keep the reader’s attention. If you are combining age groups, the illustrations make it much easier to include younger children.

Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World series is a 4-book set with an enchanting, storytelling style, although it doesn’t include many illustrations.  You would need to allow 4 years to complete all 4 books.  American history is said to be intermingled with everything else, but I am not convinced your child would have a solid American history foundation with it alone.  I would recommend following up the series with a year (or 2) of American history emphasis.

There are several other series that are worth noting. Tapestry of Grace gets rave reviews from it’s fans, as does the Mystery of History series.

The Biblioplan series is very well done and another of my personal favorites.

Remember, curriculum publishers tend to encourage lots of bells & whistles, which can get pricey. If your budget is strained, just get the primary textbook and supplement the timelines and crafts and outside reading on your own…with the help of A Book In Time, of course!

History Curriculum for High School

Since high school needs to prepare a student for the structure of college academics, textbooks become a much more viable option. With a solid background in history from the earlier grades, a student is less likely to zone out with all the detail, instead absorbing and understanding new concepts. Extracurricular reading becomes even more important at this age to keep interest level high.

History Curriculum for You

Although this is not an extensive list, it is a good place to start as you figure out what the best history curriculum for homeschool is best for YOU.

Keep your long-range plan in focus when you shop around, choosing a book for this year with next year’s selection in mind.

And always plan to reinforce your learning with lots of extracurricular books and activities. Your child(ren) should come away from each history year with a better understanding of who & what shaped the world around them because they know the important people and events that came before them.

Article originally published April 5, 2016

Carol Henderson

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