If you’ve heard about Story of the World, this curriculum review is for you!
The first solid curriculum decision I made when we started homeschooling way back in 2012 was picking Story of the World as our homeschool history curriculum.
I wanted a homeschool history curriculum that would:
- help my kids fall in love with studying history
- appeal to kids of various ages
- present a complete worldview of history
- not be too much work for me as the teacher (hey, I’m being honest!)
- incorporate well with other subjects, such as science, literature, and writing
It’s now been ten years since we started homeschooling and we still use Story of the World every year.
This year we’ll be studying Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times. (Update: it’s now 2022 and we’re starting The Early Modern Era and my kids are SOOOO excited!)
Before we get any further, it’s important to note that I was not compensated in any way for this Story of the World curriculum review. I received no free products and have purchased all of my Story of the World books and guides myself. All of the opinions and experiences I’ll share below are my own.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that I may make a small commission if you click through or purchase at no cost to you.
Story of the World Overview
The Story of the World homeschool history curriculum is designed for the classical method of homeschooling.
(To learn more about the classical homeschooling method, read this article here.)
The Story of the World curriculum can also work well for the traditional and unit studies homeschool approaches as well.
The Story of the World curriculum is divided into four separate volumes. Each volume requires one full school year to complete.
The four volumes are:
- Ancient Times – From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor
- The Middle Ages – From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance
- Early Modern Times – From Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners
- The Modern Age – From Victoria’s Empire to the End of the USSR
The text and activities increase in difficulty each year. It is great to start with the first volume, Ancient Times, anytime from first through fourth grade.
Starting early means that Story of the World can be repeated three times before a student graduates from high school. Of course, the requirements and assignments increase in difficulty with each repetition.
If you have kids in more than one grade, don’t worry – I’ll show you later how we’ve made Story of the World work for multiple grades at once.
Free Homeschooling Resources
Before we get into the details about this homeschool history curriculum, I want to tell you about the FREE Resource Library right here on the Reluctant Homeschool Mama!
It is full of over 100 printables for you to use in your homeschool. With reading lists, All About Me pages, learning style assessments, holiday fun pages, and more, you’re sure to find something that will help you be more organized!
The Resource Library is password protected. Click on this link right here or on the banner below to get access!
Now that you’re all set with some great freebies, let’s get into all the details about why Story of the World is such an amazing homeschool history curriculum!
Reason #1: SOTW is a fun and engaging homeschool history curriculum
You can probably guess that Story of the World is written as a story. It’s not the story of a fictional person who time travels.
Instead, Story of the World presents events, people, and places in a story-like, conversational tone.
For example, the first chapter of SOTW Ancient Times begins with:
“Where do you live? Where to do you sleep? … A long time ago, families didn’t live in houses and shop at grocery stores. Instead, they wandered from place to place …”
Each volume of Story of the World is divided into forty-two chapters that are designed to be read aloud. Older students can read the chapters on their own if preferred.
The chapters are divided into several subsections, so the reading doesn’t take more than ten minutes to complete.
There are often sections that will tell a fable or a tale from a particular culture. My kids love hearing the story of Anansi the Spider from Ancient Africa or the stories about Osiris and Isis from Ancient Egypt.
The Story of the World homeschool history curriculum also features audio CDs that contain readings of the entire textbooks.
If your kids enjoy listening to a voice other than yours (or you want a short break for yourself during the school day), definitely consider the audio versions of the Story of the World books!
If you have a CD player in your car, pop these babies in for an on-the-road history lesson! It’s awesome how much kids can retain from listening to their history lessons in the car!
Reason #2: The accompanying Activity Books keep SOTW fresh and exciting
The four activity books are an incredible addition to the SOTW homeschool history curriculum! You can check them out here:
- Activity Book One: Ancient Times
- Activity Book Two: The Middle Ages
- Activity Book Three: Early Modern Times
- Activity Book Four: The Modern Age
Each chapter in the Activity Books corresponds to a chapter in the textbook.
Every chapter in the Activity Books contains:
- encyclopedia cross-references
- oral review questions
- narration exercises
- additional non-fiction history reading recommendations
- corresponding literature suggestions
- coloring page
- map work
- consumable student pages with maps, pictures, and more
Let’s talk about each of these together!
Every chapter features encyclopedia cross-references so you can quickly find more information about particular topics. SOTW activity books give page numbers of corresponding topics in four different encyclopedias: the Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World, The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia (revised), The Usborne Book of World History, and The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History.
We’ve used the newer (and less expensive!) Usborne Encyclopedia of World History in conjunction with SOTW with great success. While the page numbers don’t exactly match up, it isn’t hard to look up the topic of the week in the index!
Oral review questions
Oral review questions help students to remember what they’ve heard or read. Reading comprehension is an incredibly important skill for kids to develop. Taking a few minutes at the end of the lesson to ask them a few questions really helps!
Narration is an essential aspect of the classical and Charlotte Mason homeschool approaches.
At the end of the reading, your child will share several sentences about the history lesson. You (or your student) then write down what he or she said. These simple sentences are kept in a history notebook as a written record and a great review of what your child has learned.
(And remember, I’ve got cute, free binder covers for you in the Resource Library!)
Learning to form coherent sentences and write them down is an important skill for later schooling (and life!).
Now let’s talk about some of my favorite features of the Activity Books!
History reading recommendations
I love the lists of recommended non-fiction readings for each chapter!
It is so easy to plug a few of the titles into my local library’s website and reserve a few extra books about the history chapter we are studying.
The Activity Books also offer a reading level analysis for each of the recommended books so you can easily choose the best books for your kids.
Sometimes I leave the recommended history books on our homeschool bookshelf for my kids to pick up at their leisure. Other times we will do a more formal reading from them.
My kids and I have found so many great fiction books to read aloud together from this section of the Activity Books. We read these literature selections as part of our morning meeting every day.
Reading aloud is a foundational part of our homeschool and finding ways to reinforce other subjects with our reading is a big win!
If you are homeschooling toddlers or preschoolers at home, these coloring pages are a lifesaver!
While I do print a few coloring pages for my elementary-aged kids from time to time, I always have a history coloring page on hand for my preschoolers. They love scribbling away at their “schoolwork” that comes from their older siblings’ official curriculum!
Almost every chapter in the Story of the World Activity Book has a blank map (or two!).
After the reading, there is a short guided geography study to help your kids understand where the events they’ve read about took place.
Finally, the activities in the Story of the World Activity Books are lots of fun!
There are plenty of projects to choose from for each chapter, from making paper dolls, cooking traditional cultural food, deciphering codes, writing personal “historical” documents, memorizing poems, constructing replicas of historical buildings, and more.
In all honestly, I am a decidedly non-crafty mom, and I don’t love tons of projects. But there are so many options to choose from that we’ve never had trouble coming up with activities to do.
Usually, we choose one or two of the suggested activities per chapter.
It is not required to do them all!
But if your kids really get interested in a particular topic, it is okay to pause your history study and spend some extra time where you’d like.
Reason #3: SOTW incorporates optional testing
Next, the Story of the World also offers simple test books for each of the four volumes.
If you prefer a more formal approach to homeschool or want to help your kids develop their test-taking skills, try these test books!
We didn’t use the test books during our first four years with the curriculum but have added them since.
The tests offer a great review of what we’ve covered and my kids enjoy getting graded feedback now that they are older.
You can find the test books and answer keys right here:
- Story of the World Volume 1 Test and Answer Key
- Test and Answer Key for Story of the World Volume 2
- Story of the World Test and Answer Key Volume 3
- Test and Answer Key for Story of the World Volume 4
Reason #4: SOTW is an inexpensive homeschool history curriculum
Believe me, I know the financial obligations that come with homeschooling, especially in the start-up phase.
Buying one history curriculum that will work for ALL of your students is a big money saver!
Related article: 14 Great Ways to Save Money When Buying Homeschool Curriculum
Unlike many other curriculums, you only need ONE activity book for the entire family. This can be huge savings if you are homeschooling multiple kids at once.
In fact, the affordable price of the Story of the World was one of the major reasons I choose it as our homeschool history curriculum.
You can now purchase one year’s worth of Story of the World curriculum in a bundle package! The bundle includes the textbook, the Activity Book, and the test and answer key.
Check out the separate bundle packages here:
- Ancient Times (Volume 1) Bundle
- The Middle Ages (Volume 2) Bundle
- Early Modern Times (Volume 3) Bundle
- The Modern Age (Volume 4) Bundle
(If you don’t want the test and answer key, do the math to see if it is worth it to buy the bundle or the text and Activity Book separately.)
Reason #5: SOTW works well for multiple grades
It is very easy to use Story of the World with kids in multiple grades.
Here is what we do in a typical history session:
- I always read the chapter section out loud to everyone.
- My older kids read additional information from a history encyclopedia or non-fiction book and take notes. They also add important events to their own timeline notebook.
- My younger kids and I do their narration, map work, and oral review.
- We do one of the suggested activities together (IF my big kids are interested! Sometimes they have other work to do, and that is okay with me.).
It is such a time and money saver to be able to teach all of your kids at once – even if it’s just for one subject!
Common criticisms of SOTW
Now I won’t pretend that Story of the World is perfect for every homeschool. There are some families who don’t like it.
The most common criticism of Story of the World revolves around the fact that is loosely Christian-based.
This is most obvious in the first book, Ancient Times, where the dates given for the nomadic period correspond with Biblical timelines. Also, there are chapters featuring the stories of Abraham, Moses, and the birth and death of Jesus.
Because I am a Christian, I am not bothered by these topics included in the reading.
Other world religions, such as Confucianism and Islam, are discussed throughout the books as well.
If you are looking for a history curriculum that is completely secular, Story of the World may not be a good fit.
Final thoughts about the Story of the World homeschool history curriculum
I have zero qualms about recommending The Story of the World to every homeschool mom I talk to!
It is a highly-detailed, well-organized, affordable curriculum that works for students in many different grades.
If you have more specific questions about the Story of the World homeschool history curriculum, feel free to send me a message or drop a comment below!