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Review of Mystery of History

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series

"Teaching Your Child to Love History"

You can read more posts from the series by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

Now that the holidays are over and we’re back to school, I’m returning to my history reviews. We’ve looked at Veritas Press history and Story of the World. Today, I’d like to examine Mystery of History.

moh_rev1

Overview/Format

This curriculum is designed for multiple ages, with the target audience of 4th through 8th grade, but includes activities for use with K-12. The lessons are divided up by week, with 36 weeks per book and 4 recommended days per week. Each week includes

  • a pretest (“what do you know?”),

  • three lessons a few pages in length each (8 ½ x 11 pages, not Story of the World, novel size pages) that could be read-aloud or independent reading for an older child, (She does include some notes and cautions to parents right within some of the lessons.)

  • three sets of recommended activities per lesson (younger students, middle students, and older students),

  • memory card reminders (She recommends that children make memory cards to help them review what they’ve learned through the year.),

  • reviews which also include timeline and mapping exercises,

  • additional exercises such as a worksheet or a crossword puzzle

  • a cumulative quiz.

She also includes quarterly worksheets and two tests (one over each semester), a supplemental reading list which is divided by age category, a Bible reading list to match up with the various lessons, and outline maps (which ideally would need to be reproduced). The maps and other reproducibles (quizzes, worksheets, etc.) are also available to purchase separately on a CD. Also sold separately is a downloadable pdf of coloring pages, audio CD sets with the lessons read aloud by the author, lapbook packs, a CD-ROM of art projects, and lesson plans.

Volumes I (Creation to the Resurrection) and Volume II (The Early Church and the Middle Ages) are large 8 ½ x 11 paperback books which include black and white illustrations and photographs. Volume III (The Renaissance, Reformation, and Growth of Nations) is formatted differently than the first two volumes. (I am assuming Volume IV, which is not yet available, will follow suit.) Volume III includes a full-color, hardback student book with the lessons and illustrations and a separate black and white companion guide which is available as a paperback or as a CD-ROM and includes all the quizzes, activity recommendations, supplemental book lists, etc. Volume III, however, is significantly more expensive than the first two volumes ($59.95 for just the student book). Volume IV will cover Wars of Independence to Modern Times.

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Pros

  • Completely chronological in structure–She doesn’t group by country with a loose chronology like Story of the World, but rather the lessons are strictly chronological. She even provides a date for every lesson (or she labels it “Date Unknown”).

  • Clear biblical worldview

  • Good mix of biblical history and church history in with the “regular” history (You can see this even by her subtitles.)

  • Generally follows the Answers in Genesis/Ussher young earth timeline, which was a big plus for me

  • Four-day per week lesson structure (and could even be done in three days per week)–This is another big plus in my book since we do a four-day homeschool week (rather than the typical M-F school week), so curricula that are divided into five-day weeks throw off our school year.

  • Suggested activities for younger, middle grade, and older students so that everyone can work on the same lesson together (though, as you’ll see below, I think this would only work if you have children close in age, say, hovering around the middle grades)

  • Allows for a 4-year history cycle

Cons

  • Stories not as engaging or as well-written as Story of the World–a little more lesson-like than story-like

  • Lessons not really quite as flexible for different ages, in my opinion, as she advertises–The lessons could work for K-3, but they really lost my kids’ attention (whereas Story of the World keeps their undivided attention). And I personally don’t think that the lessons are anywhere near rigorous or detailed enough for high schoolers–even with the extra activities for older students! This four-year program would be a good fit for 4th-7th grade, in my opinion (or 3rd-6th/5th-8th would probably work as well). To be fair, she admits that she has 4th through 8th graders in mind when she writes.

  • She inserts herself and her opinions into the text. This might just be personal preference, but I didn’t care for her silly comments.

  • It’s pricier than Story of the World (especially Volume III), though Hearts at Home curriculum store always has Mystery of History at 30% off.

  • Volume IV isn’t finished yet, but it’s due to come out this summer (2014).

  • Depending on what you’re looking for, Mystery of History doesn’t have a specifically American history book. This will be true of many classical curricula (including Veritas and Story of the World) since classical histories tend to be chronological rather than divided by subject (American, World, etc.). Mystery of History does include American history where it fits into the overall picture. However, I bring this up here because the publisher of Mystery of History (Bright Ideas Press), also publishes All American History and recommends it right in with Mystery of History in their scope and sequence for K-12. Please be aware that these two programs are not the same. All American History is by a different author. I haven’t personally looked at All American History, so this review should not reflect on that curriculum either positively or negatively.

  • Also be aware that the dates on the History through the Ages timeline package that is advertised to go along with Mystery of History (and is sold by Bright Ideas Press) do not necessarily match up with Mystery of History.

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Conclusion

My children (K and 2nd) have grown to love history so much with Story of the World that we are using that as our main “text.” However, I think Story of the World has some gaps that need to be filled. That’s where Mystery of History comes in for us. Whenever there’s a lesson in Mystery of History that fits within the timeline we’re reading about that covers a biblical event or an early church father, for instance, then I’ll add that to our week. For example, in Book I, we started our year (last year) with Mystery of History rather than Story of the World. Story of the World begins with nomads and farmers. I wanted to begin where the Bible begins. So we read about Creation, a few lessons about Adam’s descendants and the Flood, then the Ice Age (from a biblical worldview) and dinosaurs. That was two week’s worth of lessons. Then we jumped into Story of the World, but we came back to Mystery of History during our Egypt studies to read about Moses, the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle, and Joshua in Jericho. We came back to it again during our studies of the Trojan War to read about Ruth and Naomi (c. 1200, just like the Trojan War) and then Gideon. During our study of the first Olympic Games (776 B.C.) we read about Jonah (c. 760 B.C.) in Mystery of History, and during our study of Rome (748 B.C.) we read about Isaiah (740 B.C.) in Mystery of History. You get the idea. I love those connections we can make between the stories and people of the Bible and the stories and people of the rest of history. I love learning that Homer and the prophet Amos were contemporaries, as were Daniel and Aesop. It’s those connections that put everything into perspective.

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So, we use Story of the World and Mystery of History together. Story of the World is inexpensive enough ($10) that I feel that I can do this without breaking the bank. (I don’t do the Mystery of History pretests, quizzes, etc. with my K and 2nd grader. We just skip over all that.) We also incorporate a timeline song into our history study, and we have a timeline wall, but I’ll post on those separately.

Applicability to Non-Homeschool Families

This book would be a great supplement for non-homeschooling families to use just as I do, by reading together the parts of biblical history and church history that fit with what your child is learning in school. This will help them make those connections!

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Becky Aniol

About Becky Aniol

Becky holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and music and a master's degree in Christian education. She taught classical upper school grammar, literature, and history and lower school composition and grammar for two years, elementary school music for one year, and Kindermusik classes for four years before the birth of her children. She now loves staying home with her three children, Caleb, Kate, and Christopher, and homeschooling them classically.

4 Responses to Review of Mystery of History

  1. We enjoy these two sources used together as well for a very thorough journey that doesn’t neglect our spiritual heritage. By at least purchasing the main text of the Mystery of History, you have enough information (text and activity ideas) to insert the biblical/church history into Story of the World as you might desire for the current grades. Another option would be to go through Story of the World for a first time through history, and then, when the students are older, go through history the second time with the addition of Mystery of History for a more complete picture and more depth. Maybe someday someone will combine the best of both for a phenomenal product. Even if you have younger children and can’t use all of Mystery of History just yet, as a history lover you’ll find it an inspiring read. Thanks for talking about our favorite homeschool subject!

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