When I was researching homeschool curricula, I made charts to compare my top three or four choices for history, math, writing, spelling, and grammar. The last few weeks I have been sharing my comparison of history curricula, starting with the Tapestry of Grace curriculum, then BiblioPlan, and My Father’s World last week, since these three were my top choices for history for our family. (Here are their website links: Tapestry of Grace (TOG), My Father’s World (MFW), and BiblioPlan (BP).) All three companies follow the classical or Charlotte Mason models of education.
Originally when I began researching options that followed the classical or Charlotte Mason models of education, I had only heard of Tapestry of Grace; but I soon found that there are many other options available to homeschoolers.
Plethora of other similar programs to choose from:
Story of the World (SOTW)—Written by Susan Wise Bauer, author of the layman’s primer of classical education, The Well-Trained Mind (WTM), these history textbooks are for grammar and logic stages, written to be used with all of your children grades 1-8. This accomplishes history the way she suggests in WTM without making you go bananas inventing the curriculum yourself. You can order “Activity Guides” (AG), large manuals with hands-on activities, some literature suggestions, review questions, and other helps for the teacher. Other extras: timeline figures, tests, or CDs of Jim Weiss reading the texts. Very reasonably priced, and very easy to find used.
Mystery of History (MOH)—Best for grades 4-8, they say it can be used for the lower and upper grades as well, but most people stick with the middle grades. These are written like mini-biographies, from what I hear. Based on the samples, the writing style was engaging. Also come with CDs of printables and extras (timelines, notebooking ideas, etc.) More expensive than SOTW, but these are tomes. Only the first three volumes are published, with the fourth expected in the next year.
Truthquest History (TQ)—Highly recommended for being Christ-centered, for questions that try to get the child to think from a biblical worldview about history and old philosophies. However, you have to do a lot of scheduling yourself. Gives a ton of flexibility, but more work for Mom. Some complain that the script is annoying as well—flip-flops between addressing the parent and child and has a lot of ……..!!!!!!! 🙂 Most similar to BP in my opinion.
Veritas Press (VP)—Rigorous, a great example of classical Christian education. Classical Christian schools use their full curricula. They recommend Saxon math, Shurley English, Latin, logic, and have their own Bible, history, and literature. It seems pricey.
I originally didn’t go with them, in spite of their wonderful catalog, because I thought you had to do a different history with each child. (It’s scheduled to go chronologically through history in five years, from 2nd to 6th grade. Then you begin “Omnibuses” in junior high and high school.) Then I heard that all the children from 2nd to 6th can do history together and just read literature on their level.
I didn’t like that they don’t have a textbook for history or Bible. However, they just published the first volume of two textbooks called Pages of History to correspond with their cards. They print Bible and history “cards,” with a small caption on the front and some historical information in paragraph form on the back, with some suggestions on the card for activities or books to read. The children memorize the cards, play games with putting them in order, etc. Seems lighter, outside of the memorization. Some people say it is a bit dry; I suppose that depends on what books you purchase to supplement the cards.
While I prefer a textbook, VP’s method is true to classical technique, to have the children memorize the history facts in the grammar stage. I managed to get the 5-year set of cards used and laminated from someone, so hope to implement that for the memory portion of our classical education, as most other classical curricula actually don’t seem to have a plan for that, amazingly, outside of VP and Classical Conversations.
Their catalog is an annotated list of the best books to go along with history. Some overlap with MFW and TOG book choices, but there are a lot of nice suggestions. I pull it out and drool over it every couple of months and cross off more purchases I made. 🙂 I also like Douglas Wilson, who helped edit the omnibus, apparently, and some of his fiction is in their catalog.
WinterPromise (WP)—I checked this out months ago and don’t remember everything. At first, it seemed impressive. Really beautiful website. It uses MOH, SOTW, Usborne, and some other neat books. But it was expensive. They do offer ebook collections. I also didn’t like their groupings of ages and studies. Users’ reviews thought that sometimes the books were wildly difficult or easy for the age group recommended. Some of the activities suggested seemed useless or crazily involved. They have their own language arts and science programs that seem unheard of. They use Saxon, Horizons, and Life of Fred for Math. There were too many things I didn’t like about it enough to advance it up my lists of favorites. They are also notorious for poor customer service.
Diana Waring’s –I briefly checked this out. Some people love it. It also cycles chronologically through history. It uses audio CDs of history with Diana Waring instead of a textbook. You choose other books from their recommended resources to study from. They are for grades 5-12 but have an elementary component for K-4, so the whole family can study the same topics. It divides history into three years of study (ancient, middle, and modern).
Classical Conversations (CC) –This seems to work best through a co-op. I haven’t heard of anyone trying it by themselves. They used to use VP’s history cards, but just published their own. They also heavily emphasize the memorization of facts for every subject up through 7th grade—math fact for the week, grammar fact for the week, history fact for the week, etc. They have a little jingle to sing to help memorize the history facts. Not totally my type, but thorough. I don’t especially like memorizing so many facts “out of context.” History is chronological in a 3-year cycle.
Sonlight (SL)—Well-loved by many, around for years, SL sells all subjects you need for homeschooling (@$900/year), or you can just buy their history cores separately if that’s all you want (I think their language arts is required as well). The full list of all subjects is expensive, but that includes some pricey textbooks, like Teaching Textbooks for math (which seems like a good math program!)
Many people have complained about SL’s language arts. SL doesn’t use reading textbooks(elementary) or very many history textbooks. SL is like a glorified reading list. You can try to purchase the Instructor’s Guide separately, and buy all of the books used, or you could purchase them all through SL at their prices. However, most of the books could easily be found very cheap—like Henry Huggins, etc. I don’t like that you can only combine a couple of grades together, so usually you can only teach two of your children together in one core. That’s better than teaching each one separately, but another negative is that they do history in a 2-year cycle, I believe (maybe it’s 3-year?)
There are lots of different cores to pick from. Even if you don’t go with Sonlight, it is worth it to save their reading lists in a document somewhere and learn the titles, so you can introduce good literature to your children. They have some neat titles in their Eastern Hemisphere list.
Heart of Dakota (HOD)—Loved by users, but some negative reviews. HOD is high up on my list of favorites. I’ve re-looked at them so many times. It seems like a really neat program but maybe difficult to implement with several children. Big downer for me—you can only teach at most two grades together. HOD doesn’t like combining children of ages far apart. They feel that is not best for the children.
Similar to MFW, they provide most subjects; in fact, they also schedule poetry, spelling, grammar, and writing. Some users complain that HOD is not as easy to work with if you want to depart from their LA selections. I like their grammar selection—Rod and Staff. They teach history chronologically in a 4-year cycle; the cycle doesn’t begin however, until Creation to Christ, which your child will hit at earliest, 10 yo, more probably 11 yo.
They have four read-aloud package selections for each year of history—history interest package, boy interest, girl interest, or self-study extension for older students. They use some Yesterday’s Classics books for history and science that are cheap on the Kindle. Many of the other books are popular and recommended in TOG, MFW, and VP. To complete your package for literature study, you have to buy a student book and teacher’s guide.
They schedule Singapore Math in an appendix, but you can choose a different math. They offer other ideas for how to teach Singapore math. Their science selections seem like a lot, but neat—Apologia, Beautiful Feet books, Answers in Genesis, Yesterday’s Classics, etc. Based on a 4-day week that can be stretched to 5 days when needed.
Ambleside Online (AO)—free Charlotte Mason education organized on the internet by week/year! In connection with the Baldwin Project, which enters many famous old history books online, so you can read them for free, AO seems like a great program. Their chronological history cycle seems awkward, though. They don’t study ancients until last in the cycle for elementary. They are more on a 6ish-year cycle.
Their readings are rigorous. Might be interesting to use their selections for literature or read-aloud choices along with another history program. Many of their history spines are YC titles on the Kindle. This site is also extremely helpful to read summaries of Charlotte Mason’s thought. This is also helpful if you wanted to do art and music appreciation through them. They have a cycle with internet links all set up for you.
Simply Charlotte Mason (SCM)–they have a couple of textbooks they have been writing to accompany their history. You can get a good feel for their schedule and philosophy through their thorough and helpful website. They also follow a 6-year history cycle. Their prices are reasonable, and they offer cheaper e-versions as well, which is helpful.
Heritage History (HH)—a digital collection of e-books that can be used to teach history on its own, or you can use their books to replace books from TOG or AO lists in order to save money. For missionaries, it is especially helpful to note their CDs of digital libraries of e-books organized by history and region of the world.
Beautiful Feet (BF)—Seems light, but has great collections of old books that only they print now, such as Genevieve Foster’s books for history. Lots of really excellent books. They also teach the history of the horse-drawn carriage or California. ! They have a unit study for history of science and music as well that have lots of neat books. The packages are grouped by topic and age level. This is another website that lovers of childrens’ books will want to be familiar with!