Curriculum Review: The Mystery of History (early input)

Aside from some unit studies we have done over the years, we didn’t really have a history ‘curriculum’ at all.   But the kids were expressing an interest in learning more, and frankly, I was interested in teaching more.  So, I started to explore some options for history. 

I had heard some great things about Story of the World and was *this close* to buying it, but a bunch of feedback on some biblical inaccuracies held me back.  After a couple of months of hesitation, I discovered and ultimately chose The Mystery of History.   I didn’t personally know anyone who had used either, so I was only going on the basis of what I had read.   Perhaps the comments on Story of the World were unfounded, but with a the lack of such comments for The Mystery of History, and my desire to remain as biblically accurate as possible, I knew the choice was clear. 

We are taking our sweet time working through this book.  We don’t do a lesson every week.  At some points we don’t do lessons for a few weeks, and then we do a few all at once.   But it fits well with my desire to meander through our studies based on our interests and for that it is perfect! 

What I bought: 

  1. One BIG book (detachable, reproducible pages)
  2. The Audio CDs  (basically an audio book of the lessons)
  3. One CD of printables (maps and such)

Major Highlight:  The biggest ‘plus’ with this program that it begins with Creation and goes from there.  As a product of the traditional school system and a Christian, I grew up knowing both histories, but like many, compartmentalized them.  One history was one I learned at church, from my family and by reading my bible.  The other I learned at school.   I knew they coexisted in reality, but to see them laid out this way has been a real awakening for me.   It’s all interwoven in a way I’ve never seen before.  Isn’t Stonehenge way more interesting when you realize it was created about 80 years before Abraham?  

Here’s my run-down of positives thus far:

  • Right off the bat, I REALLY appreciated being able to print the necessary pages for my kids and put them in binders.  That’s a cost saver that I really do appreciate, and it allows the kids the ability to mark up their own versions. 

Okay, so speaking of ‘marking up,’ when we first started, this is how Caleb highlighted the important parts.  His comment:  “They’re ALL important parts!”   So, like the good teacher-mama I am, I showed him how to really highlight (hence the blue lines among the green). 

  • I love the audio CD option.  The author reads the text herself and speaks with some slang that seems to allow the kids to better relate to her (but thankfully not too much slang).  She has a nice, calm voice and speaks with interest and excitement.  The kids read along and highlight as they wish.
  • What we have done so far has been riveting.  Seriously.  We all love it.  
  • The lessons are long enough to incorporate what needs to be there, but short enough to maintain interest.  For the topics that really pique the kids’ curiosities, we take little detours to uncover more of what’s interesting to us.  (Example:  From Ancient Egypt, we watched a great PBS documentary on Netflix about The Great Sphynx.   The kids lit up with excitement about what they knew from their MOH studies, shouting out facts toward the television.  Cute.) 
  • The material is suitable for all student ages.  The activities are broken into Younger, Middle School and Older students.  Rather than pick the age group, I read all the activities and pick the one that is most relevant  the student.  Or I may allow them to choose from 2 or 3 of them.  My 11-year-old has completed activities of all three levels, for example, based on what I think he’d like.  The idea is to maintain their interest while  learning, so we go with whatever achieves that goal. 

(Gabe and his Ziggurat:)

  • There is a great pre-test before every set of 3 lessons.  We love the ability to do this as a written exercise or verbally, as it’s simply an idea of gauging how much they already know.   It’s very helpful as the teacher to know where to fill in the blanks.
  • Similarly, there is a regular “What Did you Learn?” quiz to help us mama-teachers determine what parts were missed and might need a recap.  In these cases, it’s nice to develop something fun (tactile) to tie to the item missed.  It will help for recall. 
  • I really appreciate that the author says right from the get-go that there is no need to memorize dates, except for a handful of really key historical markers.   This keeps it realistic, and focussed on what’s important, because really, isn’t it more about what happened (and in what context) than the exact year? 
  • There are additional activities to add to the learning.  One is a time line (where we create little figures to stick on a board and track the chronology of things).  We have been creating our figures but haven’t put them up anywhere, mostly for lack of wall space.  (I’m working on a portable option.)  The other is a memory box of cards with a few hints about each lesson.  This will be a great tool for review and study of the key important dates and monumental points in history.  Although we divide up the timeline characters between the children (so we have one master timeline) the kids each have their own memory box of cards.  I expect that as we continue through the future levels of this curriculum, they can still use their box as a valuable reference. 
  • The maps are great!  There’s nothing like building a geography lesson into history. 
  • Of course, there is flexibility in all the materials.  Since I’m a rather eclectic homeschooler, I don’t like to follow too rigid a routine to educate my children.   We are going along at approximately one-third the pace of what’s suggested in the book, and I’m more than fine with that.  In fact, I prefer it. 

A flexible schedule provides the ability to ‘chase rabbits’ and have our learning take us down a path that, although off-schedule, allows us to enrich our learning with discoveries and experiences that will stick out in our minds long after the books are closed and back on the shelf. 

 It’s been a joy!

Here’s my run-down of negatives thus far:

  • …*crickets chirping*…
  • Nope, can’t come up with any yet.  

 Oh, what fun we’ve had with this one!  I’m excited to finish up the first quarter (probably in the late June).   I told you we were taking our sweet time.

This post has been linked to The Homeschool Curriculum Review Roundup.    Click on over to read more reviews from more moms on more wonderful curriculum options!

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18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stef Layton
    May 22, 2011 @ 16:30:51

    Thanks — this really helped me make the final decision to go with MOH !!

    Reply

  2. Stephanie
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 13:33:54

    Thank you! I was just at a homeschooling convention and the lady was trying to convince me not to get this for my 2nd grader. This book has just been screaming at me, but at last I put it back on the shelf and did not buy it because she was insisting that I should go with something different. I think I’m going to order this today and just do it anyway. It’s just screaming my son’s name. Thank you for showing and telling me about the younger ones liking it!

    Reply

  3. Leah Brooks
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 23:05:18

    Great review! Love the ‘crickets chirping’ comment! I agree with everything you said about what an amazing history curriculum this is. We used MOH1 and MOH2 last year in our history co-op. http://www.paceathome.com/content.php?221-Powerline-Community-Church-World-History-I-Co-op-The-Mystery-of-History

    Reply

  4. Robin
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 14:52:47

    Thanks for this review – I’m really leaning towards this for next year, and It’s good to hear from someone who’s actually using it! I can totally relate to the 1/3 pace idea – I tried to keep to a scheduled curriculum last year and it totally stressed me out! I’m glad this one can be modified easily! – Robin

    Reply

    • Trina
      Mar 06, 2012 @ 16:03:02

      Thanks for stopping by, Robin! Yes, I’m a very relaxed homeschooler so we tend to do most things when the fancy strikes. I’m pleased to say that we are still working our way through MOH and my boys have asked to walk to the library twice this week just to research the activities outlined in the book. I am also happy to say that my boys (grades 4 and 6) are doing much of it on their own now. The independent time they spend listening to the DVD and following along to highlight the text, and the study that follows allows me time to teach my kindergartener something else.

      I hope you come by again and let me know what you think of it!

      Reply

  5. ilovehayleeandrj
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 09:24:04

    Thank you for your review! I know now why I have not been at peace about any other History curriculum. When I heard about this one, and a friend let me look at hers, I set the thought aside and kept looking online. I love Queen’s homeschool curriculum, and am going with most of their Charlotte Mason style subjects, but was still not at peace about the history. So….once I started looking into MOH again and reading the reviews, I became convinced that this was it!! I then had complete peace come over me about my decision. I always pray over my choices before I set it in stone. I am soooo excited about using it! This will be our second year of homeschool (I have a 5 and 9 yr old) and our history this year basically consisted the Bible so we are ready to incorrporate that into learning history. It is awesome that they will get to see it all unfold TOGETHER and not as seperate history like I was subject to as a PS student. Thank you again!

    Reply

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  7. Jamie
    Feb 27, 2013 @ 00:37:33

    Thank you for your great review! I’m intrigued!

    I tend to also be an unscheduled person, but I am sort of trying to keep somewhat of a schedule. I have a question for you about that. This is something that might require too long of a answer, but even if you know of a good website to refer to… I always wonder, being new to homeschooling, if I don’t want to follow my curriculum and finish what I’m sort of “supposed to” finish (I’m really thinking more of government requirements here), how do I report that in the IHIP and/or state quarterly reports without making my child look like she’s behind? And even doing it at all… I wouldn’t even know what to put on the IHIP. This year I’m doing Kindergarten, so I haven’t done my IHIP yet, but I’ll have to get one sent in for Sept 2013…

    Thanks for any help you can give! If you don’t know, no pressure! 🙂

    Reply

    • Trina
      Feb 27, 2013 @ 11:16:27

      Hi Jamie!

      As a Canadian living in Nova Scotia, my requirements differ greatly from most states, and even from other provinces within my own country. I don’t need to keep attendance, track my hours of homeschooling, or submit grades (though I can do all of that if I so choose). While, I can’t speak for what your requirements are where you live, I can give my point of view on something that has really struck me these last couple of years. (By way of background, this is my 8th year of homeschooling and none of my three children have ever attended a bricks and mortar school.)

      In ‘school’, the teacher has to work to their number of weeks, and divide his/ her lessons into the weeks they have. If a child ‘gets it,’ great. If they don’t, the class doesn’t wait for them to understand before moving on. They fail, or struggle with the concept, and the class simply moves on. Then everything subsequently gets harder for the child, because they still don’t fully understand what was covered weeks earlier. When I homeschool, we work on things until they are right, and then we move on. Remember, that teacher is on a schedule (let me be clear – that is a flaw in the system, not a flaw of the teacher).

      Homeschooling affords us the benefit of progressing once concepts are mastered, which can only serve to provide a better education in the long run.

      Conversely, if I figure we’ll spend a week on something, and I see that a child understands it right away, I move on immediately. I see no value in hovering over something already understood. It will just create boredom and waste time on things they already know, instead of investing that time in something that needs work.

      So… although I’m not sure how this concept fits within your state, I feel it is a very important thing to keep in mind.

      As for other websites, I would suggest checking out Home Educating Family on facebook and Pioneer Woman, both of which post regular questions from people, to which readers respond. Be sure to indicate your state so people can help more pointedly. Another suggestion would be to find a homeschooling group in your area — other homeschooling parents provide a wealth of knowledge and experience!

      Thanks for popping by!
      Trina

      Reply

      • jamie
        Feb 27, 2013 @ 12:26:52

        Thanks Trina! I appreciate your.response! Has no idea you were not in the US. Thanks for your suggestions!

        Reply

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  9. Kimmy
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 11:59:06

    We feel the exact same way! We LOVE MOH! We are finishing up book 2 in just a few weeks and have spent 2 1/2 years working on it. My Asperger Autistic daughter has learned so much…we BOTH have!

    Reply

  10. Michele P
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 11:56:55

    We have used these all and are anxiously awaiting the last book! I will say I was not in love withthe first book, bu tthe second one hooked us and I highly recommend it as well. Just sent my fist to college…she CLEPed out of History! My second child wants to major in History, and starting with book one again next year with my first grader! Great review!

    Reply

    • Trina
      Apr 23, 2013 @ 12:25:51

      I don’t hear much about the subsequent books (and we’re taking our sweet time working through Book One), so thanks for the info!

      Reply

  11. Michele P
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 11:57:26

    oops, should say first! 😉

    Reply

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