The Best Homeschool History Curriculum  

The best homeschool history curriculum for elementary and middle school home educated students and my top picks to use in your homeschool classroom. The needs of homeschool parents and students vary widely and there simply is not a single “best” history curriculum for everyone or every family since everyone is so different. Selecting the best homeschool history curriculum is going to be a difficult task, but I can only speak about our favorites and our most used and loved history curriculum that may help you on your research for your family and homeschool journey. 

The Best Homeschool History Curriculum  

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy. 

Teaching History / Omnibus, {eg: Social Studies} to Elementary students is probably one of my favorite subjects to teach. Teaching Omnibus is the classical Christian educational approach by teaching history, theology, and literature together. Omnibus is a Latin term meaning all encompassing.

BEST ELEMENTARY HOMESCHOOL HISTORY CURRICULUM

Why is Social Studies (eg: History) so boring? It's NOT boring! History has traditionally been taught in a boring manner. Do you recall your History teacher? Did he inspire you? Mine certainly did not and I can be completely honest and state that I didn't even realize I really LOVED History until I started teaching it to my own children. 

Our first History home school curriculum, for Kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade, we used  Story of the World and Mystery of History. I know it may seem strange to use two History curriculum in the same years simultaneously, but my kids and I discovered that we love history. Like, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE history. Our main curriculum was the Story of the World and the supplemental was the MOH for the first year. (My kids were in 4th, 2nd and Kindergarten the first year of home educating and 5th, 3rd and 1st grades the second year of home educating).

Since my approach to teaching History is the Omnibus approach, I taught History and Geography together and our Biblical Studies correlated to our timeline as well. In addition, I selected Literature that also matched the lessons we were studying in History as well as creating art projects that were right inline with the history lessons of the week. Do not be intimidated by this at all. Teaching History does not have match the classical approach at all.

The SOTW and MOH curriculum are great enough they can be used as stand alone subjects. I used SOTW for my daughters, but my son listened and sometimes participated in the projects. My son's curriculum was MOH and my daughters listened, but did not do the worksheets the first year. All the kiddos participated in verbal queries, activities and projects.  

 Image Courtesy of Susan Wise Bauer

Image Courtesy of Susan Wise Bauer

The Story of the World

Each Story of the World volume text book (there are four) provides a full year of history study which can be combined with the separately purchasable Activity Book, Audiobook, and Test book. The Story of the World Text Book is recommended for Grades 1-5. SOTW includes four complete years of history, geography, and literature study–a full elementary program! 

  • The Story of the World, Vol. 1: Ancient Times
  • The Story of the World, Vol. 2: The Middle Ages
  • The Story of the World, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times
  • The Story of the World, Vol. 4: The Modern Age

Volume One: Ancient Times: from the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor: This first volume brings to life the ancient civilizations of Sumer, China, Egypt, Mohenjo-Daro, Greece, Persia, Rome, and more. Includes the author’s retelling of the great myths and religions of each culture. Maps, timelines, and illustrations provide context and detail.

Volume Two: The Middle Ages: from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance: Knights and castles; the Maya and the Aztecs; the rise of Islam and the Crusades; Joan of Arc, Mansa Musa, Galileo, Martin Luther, and Magellan. This volume is jam-packed with unforgettable characters and stories. Includes illustrations, maps, timelines, and a pronunciation guide.

Volume Three: Early Modern Times: from Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners: Clearly and grippingly narrates the exploration and colonization of the Americas, including the Native American response to the newcomers; the Scientific Revolution in Europe; the birth and expansion of the United States, slavery and the efforts to end it; and much more. Includes maps and illustrations.

Volume Four: The Modern Age: from Victoria’s Empire to the End of the USSR: The final volume helps readers understand the American Civil War, the rapid growth of technologies such as the railroad and electricity; new movements for freedom in Africa and Asia; the Space Race; the Cold War and its conclusion, and people as varied as Gandhi, Hitler, Evita Peron, and Martin Luther King. Includes maps and illustrations. 

I did not utilize the audio book, but I did purchase the test books (for book 1 & 2). I also created my own tests for my children and I read each day to the kids. (You will want to read this text because it is SO interesting). But, if you are traveling to activities during the day and have long drives, I can see the audio book as a helpful aide. 

I did purchase the Activity Book for Vol 1 & 2 and utilized a lot of the book, but certainly not every page or activity. There is a large selection and I was also using MOH. The maps are great and the review pages are also amazing. I didn't have my children complete all the coloring sheets, because coloring is not their favorite activity. When I was teaching from SOTW Vol 1, my kids also created a lapbook. The lapbook was created by Alica Heise who used to blog at Run of the Mill Family. These lapbook pages are no longer available from her as she no longer blogs. But I will link to her pages as we really enjoyed the lapbook exercises. My two youngest created the lapbook and completed these activities and projects and my 4th grader did not.   

Mystery of History

Mystery of History employs a classical (using rhetorical teaching techniques), chronological (instead of thematic) and Christian approach to teaching history. The Mystery of History is written from a Christian, young-earth, perspective, teaching children to see God’s hand throughout history. MOH is written in a conversational style, and many lessons are presented in the form of mini-biographies, tying in fascinating stories with the events of the time.

 Image Courtesy of Mystery of History

Image Courtesy of Mystery of History

Mystery of History Volume I - Creation to the Resurrection: This volume covers world history from Creation to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The text spans the incredible stories of ancient times, ancient lands, and ancient peoples.

Mystery of History Volume II - The Early Church and the Middle Ages: Volume II expands on the fall of the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages that followed.  Delve into the chivalry of knights and damsels, kings and queens, and the peasants who faithfully served them.  Students visit Vikings and villains; castles and crusades; and the poetry of Dante and Chaucer.

Mystery of History Volume III - The Renaissance, Reformation, and Growth of Nations: Volume III will look at what was going on all over the world in the order that it happened. While the Renaissance and Reformation were taking shape in Europe, students will look at the rise of wealthy empires in West Africa; the Mogul dynasty of India; and the peaceful lives of the Aboriginals of Australia.  We will also visit Ivan the Terrible in Russia and the Tokugawa family in Japan.

Mystery of History Volume IV - Wars of Independence to Modern Times: Volume IV, the last and final volume of this world history series, spans three pressure-filled centuries from 1708 to 2014. Starting with Bach and Handel, two of four major composers included in Volume IV, the time period will see numerous “wars of independence.” From the American colonies, the heart of Mexico, the gold mines of Australia, the mountaintops of South America, the shores of Greece, and the walls of the Alamo, we will find mankind desperately striving for liberty and freedom through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Arranged by quarters and weeks, each quarter begins with an “Around the World” summary of events to introduce the time period; lessons progress chronologically with each week having three lessons, a pretest, review, and an exercise or quiz. The 108 lessons will take a year to complete if you follow a traditional 36 week school year.

The Lesson Activities are partitioned by age group (younger, middle and older students) and reinforce the material just learned through fun activities and projects that engage all learning styles. These projects and activities are based on the classical grammar/logic/rhetoric stages.

The review exercises review the timeline and map work exercises. The quizzes are cumulative reviews that cover material from the previous lessons. The semester-long tests are similar, reviewing materials the previous lessons. The suggested schedules in MOH for different age groups are included, as well as a variety of reproducibles. The answer to all reviews, pretests, quizzes and test are included. 

Also available for additional purchase is The Mystery of History Volume I Companion Guide. I have the actual printed guidebook, but I think this is only available in CD or download nowThis PDF file includes everything from the print edition of the book except the lesson text (which needs to be purchased separately). Inside are various activities, teaching prompts, and reproducibles, organized by lesson numbers. There are also coloring pages, memory card ideas, Wall of Fame timeline suggestions, grading aides, a supplemental book list, Bible reading list, answer keys, and more included in the companion guide!

 The Companion Guide contains:

  • Quarter Summaries
  • Pretests
  • Instructions for making timelines, memory cards, and a history notebook
  • Map work
  • Quarterly worksheets
  • Quizzes and semester tests
  • Answer keys
  • Supplemental reading/video list
  • Extra activities and instructions for using The Mystery of History for high school students to gain a high school history credit

Now, the MOH volumes progress in history and the volumes also progress in content and level of rigor. The assumption is that you will progress through the volumes as your children progress through school. The suggested grades for MOH is grades 4-8, which I agree. The author explains very well in the introduction of MOH how best to utilize the textbooks. The lessons are very well written and activities well planned. The MOH texts are easy to understand, intuitive and the learning curve is minimal. The resources included in MOH are quite beneficial and the time it takes to complete a lesson each day with your children are practical and realistic. 

I do want to point out that based on your own family's morals, ideals and values, I suggest reading the material prior to your lessons. There are some lessons that contain information that you may not want to read to your children, teach to your children or may not even be reading to discuss based on the age of your children. If there is material included that I do not want to teach, I simply do not read these sections. I have actually gone as far as to black out the sentences I don't want my children to read. 

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

In order to teach History effectively, I suggest supplementals as well. I have a couple of globes in our classroom. I have various maps all over the classroom too. In addition, I have the following books in our homeschool library. I didn't purchase all of these books all at once. These are books I have collected over the many years of home educating my children.

  • The Student Bible Atlas
  • Map Trek The Complete Collection
  • Veritas Press History Cards Set of 5
  • National Geographic Atlas of the World (this book is huge)
  • National Geographic Kids books - Various
  • A History of US, Third Edition: 11 Volumes
  • DY Eyewitness Books - Various
  • Usborne Encyclopedia of World Geography
  • Everything You Need to Know About American History
  • Legends & Leagues Mr Tardy goes from here to there
  • Legends & Leagues Workbook
  • The World Reference Maps & Forms (Evan Moor)
  • The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide
  • A Trip Around the World
  • Another Trip Around the World
  • Maps & Globes
  • Geography from A to Z
  • The Getting to Know the U.S. Presidents (book series by Mike Venezia)

You can certainly teach MOH as it is laid out in the textbook utilizing all supplementals from the companion guide and the notebooking pages, which we did use and are quite helpful for teaching note-taking (an essential skill to teach your children). However, I didn't like the pretest, quizzes or tests that were included, so I created my own curriculum(daily worksheets for each lesson, quizzes and tests) to go along with each volume of MOH. There are a number of sites that offer free downloads as well. BibleStoryPrintables.com has a entire set of notebooking pages and timeline printables that coincide with Volume 1 AND there is a an incredible set of downloadable notebooking pages at The Notebooking Nook.

BEST MIDDLE SCHOOL HOMESCHOOL HISTORY CURRICULUM

Since both MOH and SOTW are recommended through grade 8, I would say, these two are my top favorite picks for teaching History to Middle School students. I have also used another curriculum, but this is a rigorous curriculum. If you do not enjoy history or your child does not enjoy history, I would not recommend using Omnibus by Veritas Press until high school. It is recommend to begin Omnibus I Primary in grade 7, but can be started in 9th grade. 

Omnibus is truly taught combining history, theology and literature. These particular texts really help students grow in appreciation of the unity of all knowledge. Each year offers two courses; the primary books course and the secondary books course. They can be taken separately, but taken together, students earn three credits—history, theology and literature.

Omnibus I and Omnibus II Primary texts are taught from a Biblical viewpoint, so keep this in mind. Completing Omnibus I will provide full high school credit in Ancient World History I, one in Doctrine and Theology I, and one in Ancient Literature I.  Diploma students completing the course will be given a credit in English: World Ancient Literature I. When combined with Omnibus I Primary Books, Diploma students will be given three credits, History: World Ancient History I, English: World Ancient Literature I, and Religion: Doctrine and Theology I. The text assigns the readings in the primary and secondary books for each semester. Homework will average 4 - 5 hours per week, depending on reading speed.

This daily approach includes lesson plans and will make teaching and interacting with the greatest works of Western Civilization both enjoyable and profitable. Students will also apply and further develop their skills in composition, logic, and aesthetics. Students completing all six years of Omnibus will have carefully studied every book of the Bible too.

Omnibus I is a unique course covering topics in literature, history, and theology from the Reformation to the Present.  The goal of this course is to help students think both critically and biblically about the events and ideas presented in the reading material.  Students should learn to see how ideas that have shaped the past continue to influence the present.  In other words, ancient ideas, philosophies, and religious beliefs are not isolated in history.  The consequences of these ideologies continue to exist in contemporary thought.  Students will also be expected to evaluate the Great Works of literature in light of God’s Word, learning to defend the truths of Christianity against false thinking.  Additionally, students will apply and hone their skills in composition, logic, and aesthetics.

The recommend reading books to go along with the Omnibus text for Omnibus I and II are available at Veritas Press. I did not assign all this reading to my middle school students. As the parent, I knew the challenges of this course and I also knew my children's strengths. If you have veracious readers, enjoy the full reading list. 

I read with or to or listened to my children read or pre-read these books. Your kids may fall in love with some of the books, dislike others, and discover favorites – this is all part of learning great classic books. Middle School students may find themselves struggling to understand some of the books – this is very normal. Just like learning a foreign language, comprehending historical works takes time and self-discipline. Reading skills are like a muscle and will get stronger as they are used. Have your middle schoolers focus on grabbing the big ideas, and to ask loads of questions.

Here are the books I assigned for Omnibus I:

  • Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis
  • Epic of Gilgamesh by David Ferry
  • Codes of Hammurabi and Moses by Davies
  • Odyssey of Homer by R. Lattimore
  • The Landmark Herodotus by Strassler
  • Plutarch's Lives Vol. 1 by Arthur Clough
  • Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • Chronicles of Narnia: Magician's Nephew
  • Voyage of the Dawn Treader or The Last Battle
  • Theban Plays by Sophocles
  • Last Days of Socrates by Plato
  • Early History of Rome by Livy
  • Aeneid by Virgil
  • Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
  • Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Here are the books I assigned for Omnibus II:

  • The Church History by Eusebius
  • Confessions by St. Augustine
  • The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers
  • On the Incarnation by Athanasius
  • The Ecclesiastical History of the English Peoples by Bede
  • The Rule of St. Benedict
  • Beowulf
  • Song of Roland
  • Macbeth by Shakespeare
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Divine Comedy – Inferno by Dante Alighieri
  • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
  • Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
  • Henry V by Shakespeare OR Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare

BEST HIGH SCHOOL HOMESCHOOL HISTORY CURRICULUM

If you continue with the Omnibus curriculum through high school for History, the next class is Omnibus III. Given the nature of some mature content in these works, it is important for parents to have an open dialogue in the home about the readings. Families may have differing perspectives on what is age appropriate for their students. As parents, we know out children best and can select to edit a reading if needed. Again, I do not have my children read every single recommended reading book. 

 Image Courtesty of Veritas Press

Image Courtesty of Veritas Press

Omnibus

  • Omnibus I: Biblical and Classical Civilizations (7th Grade)
  • Omnibus II: Church Fathers Through Reformation (8th Grade)
  • Omnibus III: Reformation to the Present (9th Grade)
  • Omnibus IV: The Ancient World (10th Grade)
  • Omnibus V: The Medieval World (11th Grade)
  • Omnibus VI: The Modern World (12th Grade)

Omnibus I: Biblical and Classical Civilizations: The student text leads the student through the study of the great works from the dawn of time to the fall of Rome; teaching with the emphasis on ideas, not simply information.

Omnibus II: Church Fathers Through Reformation: The student text leads the student through the study of the great works from the medieval world beginning with Eusiebius and ending with Luther; teaching with the emphasis on ideas, not simply information. 

Omnibus III: Reformation to the Present: The student text leads the student through the study of the great works from just after the Reformation and covers significant works of modern Western culture; teaching with the emphasis on ideas, not simply information.

Omnibus IV: The Ancient World: The student text leads the student through the study of the great works focusing on great works of the ancient world, culminating in the first century; teaching with the emphasis on ideas, not simply information.

Omnibus V: The Medieval World: The student text leads the student through the study of the great works focusing on great works of theology, history and literature of the medieval world beginning with the works of St. Augustine and ending in the Reformation era; teaching with the emphasis on ideas, not simply information.

Omnibus VI: The Modern World: The student text focuses on great works beginning just after the Reformation and covers significant works of modern Western culture; teaching with the emphasis on ideas, not simply information.

Here are the books I recommend for Omnibus III:

  • Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
  •  Westminster Confession of Faith
  • Of Plymouth Plantation
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Foundational American Documents
  • Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton
  • Anti-Federalist Papers by Ralph Ketcham
  • Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beacher Stowe
  • Slave Narratives
  • Lincoln's Speeches
  • Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
  •  Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Omnibus IV is the next level class in this series and by this time, students will have mastery of the following objectives. 

  1. Think biblically about ideas
  2. Understand and recognize the consequences of ideas
  3. Be able to evaluate a work of literature or art within its historical context
  4. Be able to evaluate a work of literature or art in light of Scriptural truth.
  5. Demonstrate clear and logical thinking both orally and in writing
  6. Recognize God’s sovereign hand in history
  7. Gain confidence in defending Christianity against false thinking
  • Iliad 
  • Landmark Thucydides 
  • Bacchae 
  • Republic 
  • Nichomachean Ethics
  • Rhetoric and Poetics of Aristotle
  • Euclid’s Elements 
  • The War with Hannibal 
  • On the Nature of Things 
  • Cicero: Selected Works 
  • Annals of Imperial Rome
  • Metamorphoses 
  • Josephus: The Essential Writings
  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
  • Desiring God 
  • Turabian: The Easy Way

Omnibus V: Student Text + Primary Book Set: First Semester and Second Semester: This will be the final text in the Omnibus series that I recommend. There is one more level, Omnibus VI.

If the Omnibus Series gets to be too much reading or it just doesn't fit with your home educating plan or student, here are some other recommendations.  

Constitution (11th Grade)

  •  The United States Constitution Study Guide

American Studies (11th Grade) 

We live in a young country, but a country with a rich and impactful history. Understanding that history—its themes, conflicts, and the questions it raises—is fundamental to understanding our place in God’s story. The goal of this course is to give an overview of American history from start to current day, focusing on the major themes and issues, in order to better understand where we are and where we are going.

  • Exploring America: History, Literature, and Faith Volume 1, Ray Notgrass
  • Exploring America: History, Literature, and Faith Volume 2, Ray Notgrass
  • American Voices: A Collection of Documents, Speeches, Essays, Hymns, Poems, and Short Stories from American History 

 World History (12th Grade)

  • World History Grade 10 Student Book
  • AP World History Crash Course

A homeschool history curriculum that works well in elementary school may not meet your needs as your children move on to middle school or even high school. I recommend sticking with a history curriculum that works for your family throughout the elementary grades and then evaluate if the middle school level curriculum will also meet your needs. I also suggest doing the same when your child moves on to high school.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.