My semi-annual history freak-out…Early Modern

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  • crazy4boys

    My history dilemma…..we’ve been homeschooling 9+ years, all CM style. Every year I have several panic attacks that I’m doing history all wrong and need to change it NOW. We’re currently in Early Modern Times and I use the SCM guidebook with some extra books thrown in. While we have always loved CM history I worry that we’re missing stuff. Important stuff. We get a good ‘feel’ for the time period and we meet interesting people. But, you know, it’s not a textbook (gasp!). Textbooks cover lots of little (and big) things that we just don’t hit while reading through our list of beautiful literature.

    So in my panic attacks I think I need to find a spine, not a story/CM type spine but a covers-everything-under-the-sun spine…like a textbook and then add in living books for those topics which have great living books.

    Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me we’re doing enough and it will all be okay. Or tell me about some amazing spine/textbook/curriculum that covers a ton of stuff (in a palatable and engaging way) to which I could add books.

    btw….I do this for every time period, not just Early Modern!

    Richele Baburina

    Oh, boy, crazy4boys, let’s see if we can talk you down off this ledge…

    Yes, Charlotte’s methods are simple enough to make you second-guess but remember, they are also effective.  Okay, you know all this in your gut but since you posted, let’s review some of Charlotte’s methods and philosophy rather quickly 🙂 I’m going to be missing a lot, I’m sure.

    Living books are going to impart vital ideas, not just dry as dust facts while introducing children to men and women who are both noble and ignoble.  Narration nurtures a vast amount of good habits – speaking well and to the point among them. Teaching children to keep a Book of Centuries will help them see the flow of history and how they are part of this whole.  Keeping a Commonplace Book or Reading Diary gives children the opportunity for storing ideas and inspirations from their readings. Additionally, we study history for reasons that surpass remembering names, dates and events: along with an understanding of people’s roles, places and and events in history we are gaining ideas.  What has gone before helps us think justly about what is occurring today.  We are instilling a “sane and serviceable patriotism” and learning from history’s accomplishments and mistakes.

    Just last Friday we were having a morning of bad attitudes. Reading of the selfish desires of Napoleon, the values of Lafayette and the perseverance of Lord Wellington (all are found in SCM’s Stories of the Nations) set hearts aright in a way a lecture from mother or a vast sweep of history from a textbook every could.




    We did that history two years ago and it was great!  I know we will be using it again next rotation.  *I* learned more from it than my 12 years of a textbook education.  The books are great, though we did add in a few more books I did not want to miss, but not textbooks.

    This year, we are doing Ancients and I pieced my own books together because I wanted modules 1-3 all in one year.  I added in the audio of Mystery of History.  It is nice to listen to in the van, but I would not want it to be our sole or primary source of history.  She just finished one for modern times.  I am not sure if it is available on audio yet, but I suppose you could easily add that in to listen to on the go.


    The thing is that there’s no need to panic as if CM method “aren’t enough”. The whole premise of a CM education is that it’s SUPERIOR to a textbook education! Our children don’t have to memorize dry facts that they promptly forget after the test. They learn real history about real, living, breathing people who lived in the very real past!

    When I discovered CM methods, I was sold immediately because the only history I really remembered (and loved!) was the history I had learned about in living books. Ditto for science. Sure, the building blocks were there-George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the big wars, etc. but that was IT! The only date I remembered was “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.” lol. I hated history in school. I’ve always loved to read and grew up with a book nearby at all times but the history textbooks were so boring and dry.

    Now, history is my favorite subject thanks to Charlotte Mason! I am so thankful to have discovered her methods and to have the privilege of giving my children an education filled with living books. My kids know more about history by age 10 then I did when in my early twenties as a result.

    Charlotte Mason’s methods are not inferior-they are far superior to textbooks and dry facts. Our kids get to connect with the people of history-to form relations with them as Charlotte said.

    We have tried to use homeschool textbooks as spines in the past (like Mystery of History). The “spine” always seemed to take over our history studies and my kids weren’t retaining what they were learning. Their narrations were very poor. I found it to be a waste of time and energy when their narrations were so wonderful with living books!

    You are giving your children a wonderful, rich education with CM methods! Think about the big picture rather than the short term and don’t forget to keep a Book of Centuries to tie everything together!


    @Crazy4boys — you made me laugh! I think I go through that phase about once each year… feels like more than that because I start freaking about each subject at a different time – so I’m constantly in a stage of wondering if I’m doing this right.  *L*

    I think for us, doing the timeline / book of centuries helps us to keep things in perspective and on track.  That way, all the dates that everyone else memorizes (and then forgets) is represented and along with that, the stories you’ve read and people you’ve met are right there… that as the children grow older they form relationships and realize the causes and effects of all the DATED material that everyone else has memorized (wars, etc.).


    I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a spine available for the older kids or for YOU to read and then share interesting things from.  Just don’t let it replace the living books.  🙂

    What I’m finding is that as Makayla grows (she’ll be 9th grade this fall – eek!) she wants to have something that gives her an overview (a spine that offers highlights) and then she can dive off that into living books.  We don’t do a book of centuries, it just hasn’t happened around here.

    Also, when I read a spine for myself in addition to living books it gives me a broader sense of when things happened and how they related to one another.  Then I can share pieces of that with the kids as they relate to conversation or happenings in daily life.  An example, we’re studying Africa this month and the kids learned that French was a major language in one of the countries we were studying.  “Why would they speak French so far from France?” one of my kids asked.  I’ve just been learning about the European colonizations of that continent, the explorations of various people, etc.  So we looked at a map in our atlas that showed which European countries owned areas of Africa clear up into the 1900s, then a more current political map that showed how many of those have gained independence just in the last 60 years.  Without my own exploration of a spine to hit the highlights of events I wouldn’t have been able to share anything.

    Hope that helps give you a slightly different perspective!  Spines are not bad, they just need some living books to add flesh to their bones.


    Well, I started off with several nice living books for early modern and we jumped right in….kids loved them for sure and I too thought I needed a spine that would throw in a little more that may be missed in the living books. I added in This Country of Ours which is free online and was on AO’s website… flopped around here big time. So I dropped it and added in a Mara L. Pratt’s American History (also free online thru Baldwin Project) and they are accepting this one much better, but as I am reading it, they keep stopping me and telling me that it is just duplicating what was in such and such book. So I’m not even convinced I need it and they are not crazy about it and so now I have resorted to just reading the chapters from it that have not in any way been covered in any book we have read. This entails me reading everything first etc and is quickly becoming a huge pain and I see it getting dropped soon.  So while I am new to CM, I see that it is perfect for my family because my children are retaining so much more information and I love that they are not afraid to tell me what they think….even if I don’t care to hear it sometimes. LOL  Hope this helps and best of luck.



    Care to share what books you added in for Ancients-Module 3? We are finishing up Boy of the Pyramids and are looking for some more add ons to enhance our year.


    Crazy4Boys thanks for the topic. I too have been going back and forth about History with SCM but this thread gave me the peace to keep the faith and enjoy the fruit of the process!


    I do not mind sharing, but I am not at my computer now. I made a reading list for my 5tb grade son for history to read independently daily. He just goes to the next book whenever he gets done with one so I do not schedule it in detail. He really likes history and finds the books so interesting, he reads a lot of history in one year. He gives me daily oral narrations. I also scheduled Biography 2x/week of the Jeanne Bendick books Herodotus, Archimedes, and Galen…then the first 7 stories in Trial and Triumph about the early church. He just finished Theras and His Town for Greece and really liked it. We do not go much into mythology at this point. I also used the audio of SCM Egypt and Her Neighbors. It was good. I am not reading aloud any history to them this year – just using audio books and assigning them living books for independent reading. I did read aloud Star of Light with a setting in north Africa and am starting Travels with aunt Laura Sojourn in Africa by Elizabeth Wagler from CLP and we will read the Holy Land book in the same series after that. I try to read aloud at bedtime too but it does not always happen.


    I wanted to add that I have semi annual freak out  modes as well! Mine are in the areas of science and math in the middle and highschool years. 🙂


    @ Lovinlife:

    Boy of Pyramid

    Adam and His Kin

    Egyptian Craftsman by Caselli

    True Story of Noah’s Ark

    Pharoah’s Boat

    The Curse of King Tut’s Mummy


    Theras and His Town

    Aristotle and Scientific Thought by Steve Parker

    Alexander the Great by Worms and Lewis

    The Greek News by Powell

    The Parthenon by Elizabeth Mann

    What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?

    Detectives in Togas


    Triumph for Flavius

    City by Macaulay

    Cleopatra by Stanley

    The Roman Colosseum by Mann

    Roman Diary by Platt

    Through Time: Pompeii

    My second grader is reading King Tut…Lost and Found, Trojan Horse, and Pompeii…Buried Alive (all step into reading), Usborne Time Traveler with Egypt and Rome, and Ancient Greeks by Kerr, plus Triumph for Flavius (a 64 page reader).

    Audio books: MOH Ancients, SCM Egypt and Her Neighbors, and some Jim Weiss

    Video:  Drive Thru History (we have some dvds, but it is free online at iTBN or the Roku TBN channel).

    Sorry to stray away from OP’s topic, but my son’s eagerness to read his living history books, and his excitement and knowledge for history at his age should be a strong testimony to the power of the CM living book ways.  Have confidence!  And the audio were added to listen to on the go in our van with no set schedule, no narrations – just for fun.  And the video is with dad in the evenings because we like it.


    I do not give my son the list of books all at once, unless by term, or it would overwhelm him.  I have the list and the books set aside so I can give him the next one.  If we get close to the end of the year and he has a lot left, I give him the more important ones.  If he has read them all, I start searching for more for him.  We have some Heritage History on the kindle, but he prefers real books in his hands.  I may use Beautiful Feet Ancients next rotation for his 9th grade.


    Thanks everyone. I have concluded this Freak Out. I will resume freaking out at a later time.

    Funny story….I read through quite a few textbooks and other history spines via online samples, the library, and things I had at home. I tried to read chapters of persons/time periods we had already studied so I could compare what they were saying vs. what we had read in our living books (in a much more interesting and in-depth manner I will say). I was all, “Hey, we know that. And that. And that too. But we learned MORE than your blurb of boringness.”

    We do use audio books as we drive to and from the co-op (Story of the World and soon Diana Waring). We also watch as many videos as we can like Drive-Thru History as mentioned above. They’re pretty good with their Book of Centuries too.

    Peace restored. 🙂


    I’m so glad you’re feeling better  about your history plan. It sounds like you’re doing a great job!

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