When I was in high school, every history teacher I had wrote copious notes on the board which we were required to write in our notebooks, word for word, for a test grade. History was boring.
When I began homeschooling, I decided there must be more to this subject of history. I'd heard others say they love history. My husband loves history. Surely, I must be missing something.
Early on, I decided to teach history in chronological order because that made sense to me. Teaching about the Pilgrims followed by the Mayans followed by the Greeks seems ... well, out of order and confusing. Initially, I chose to use The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. My oldest son and I enjoyed the book and the activity book. We checked out several recommended extra library books, made a Nubian costume, colored maps, and made all sorts of crafts. We got through the first 10 chapters out of 42 in our first year.
During this time, people were beginning to talk of a new book called The Mystery of History and how wonderful it was, but I was content with The Story of the World. After finishing volume 1, we began The Story of the World, Volume 2: The Middle Ages, but there was something missing. I purchased a copy of The Mystery of History: The Early Church and the Middle Ages and immediately switched.
The Mystery of History by Linda Hobar, like The Story of the World, is written in chronological order, is conversational, and has an activity guide. However, The Story of the World is meant to be a secular text, and The Mystery of History is unabashedly Christian. Once we came to the middle ages and the Reformation, understanding church history became necessary to understand any history of Europe at all. In Bauer's attempt to be secular, the history of the church and thus all of Europe at the time, was anemic. Also, I felt that Bauer's writing in her first book was markedly better than that of her second book (and I hear that her third and fourth are worse) and that the historical events were not in a strict chronological order, which drove me crazy. Finally, I believe The Mystery of History is more easily adapted for older students.
In the "Letter to the Teacher," Hobar writes, "I think one of the easier ways to 'know God better and to make Him known' is to first know the stories of Him found in history and the Bible from the beginning to the end! That to me is history. I believe history is the story of God revealing Himself to mankind and that He did it most perfectly through the person of Jesus Christ. For that reason, I call this course The Mystery of History, believing that the 'mystery' is the gospel of Jesus Christ." I agree, wholeheartedly, which is why I love this series; it is strongly Christian and yet strongly academic.
Some have complained that Hobar shares too many opinions and is too conversational, but my sons and I thoroughly enjoy her writing style. They look forward to reading history every day.
The book can be adapted for a variety of ages and has suggestions for doing so. The activity book has an excellent list of literature or other books to accompany this curriculum, broken up into categories for older, middle, and younger kids. There are tests, quizzes, activities, maps, and other fun ideas in the activity book as well. Timeline figures are available from Homeschooling in the Woods to make a timeline, or you can make your own pictures. We used the pre-made timeline figures for Volume 3, and I had my oldest make notecards with important points listed for each chapter. My youngest listened to the chapter with his brother and to any additional books, fact or fiction, that we chose to read to go along with the chapter.
Currently, The Mystery of History Volume IV is not written, so we have taken a break from world history and begun studying United States history. However, we anxiously await Hobar's next and last volume.
Finally, I believe, God used The Mystery of History: Volume III The Renaissance, Reformation, and Growth of Nations to reveal Himself more fully to my youngest son. In August 2011, we studied Lesson 71 about Blaise Pascal (1654). Pascal was a brilliant man who invented the first calculator, came up with Pascal's Law and Pascal's Theorem, and refined the Theory of Probabilities. However, unlike most history books, Hobar shares Pascal's testimony of how he trusted Christ as his Savior after losing control of his carriage and almost losing his life. His life was radically transformed, and he dedicated the rest of his life to Christian causes. It was during this lesson that Titus decided to trust Christ. As Hobar says, "history is the story of God revealing Himself to mankind and that He did it most perfectly through the person of Jesus Christ." Amen!
Oh, and by the way, I love history now. It's one of my favorites, as long as I'm not copying notes off a blackboard.