Changing my mind about our history selection

Last week I scrapped our history book for the rest of the year.

When I began homeschooling Ella in 2007, I was drawn to the Charlotte Mason method, specifically: living books, habits, picture study, narration, nature study, and the Book of Centuries.

As we proceeded through that first school year, I was trying to edit the Hillyer text and incorporate biblical history into our readings, and I became frustrated with all the work that required of me.

We switched to Mystery of History (Vol. 1) , and it suited us well. I really liked the simplicity of having one book to read from and I appreciated biblical history weaved into the text.

I purchased Volume 2 for this year and we plowed ahead. We have two months left and we'll be finished with that book.

The readings this year are waaay longer than they were in Volume 1. There is a lot of information packed into each lesson, and while it is very thorough and I appreciate that, it has been drudgery at times. I try to edit it down as we go, but that's difficult to do as I'm reading. I recognized this at the beginning of the year, and I went through the Mystery of History book and noted where I could replace a particular lesson and read from other sources, and we have done that from time to time.

Last week I pulled out our Mystery of History book and turned to the lesson. On the top of the page I had handwritten a note about reading from Our Island Story for that particular lesson, which was about William the Conqueror. I began reading.

This is what I noticed: my kids gathered around me and were captivated by the story. They were wide-eyed, curious and engaged. I kept reading into the next chapter. They actually *thanked* me. I read the next chapter, too. They were so full of the story and we talked about all we'd read and they all had things they wanted to say and by the days end, Mark and I had drawn up a whole new plan to finish out our year, using Ambleside's recommendations.

I had all of the books already, because I'd started down that path. But somewhere in there I had forgotten the power of a story to engage their minds. In a season of babies and very little time for planning, I opted for ease. (And honestly, I can't say I wouldn't make the same choice again.)

But I'm freezing that moment in my brain: those three eager faces, hanging upon my every word as I read the story of William the Conqueror~ and I know it would be a disservice to go back to more of a textbook-format. That day we read twenty pages, because they were asking for more. They narrated it very well to Mark at lunch. Their retelling of it was so much more than I'd been hearing from our Mystery of History readings.

I am so grateful to know my children well: to know how they learn best and to be able to make changes based on that knowledge.

I don't want to be down on Mystery of History. It is a very thorough text and I am truly grateful for what we have learned from it, but we're all excited to be digging into our new (old) history picks, and I plan to stay the course.


  1. there is freedom in letting something go. I too, am a huge believer in real stories and my children begging me for one more chapter. Good Job in choosing what is right for your family!

  2. We LOVE our Island Story!!! but don't give up entirely on Child's History of the World. The first chapters are no good, I completely agree! But some of the stories in CHOW are WONDERFUL! and my boys love it even more than Our Island Story. We are currently using both of these books in our school routine.
    One more fun note, Our Island Story is read aloud for free streaming or download on It is one of the books on Librivox that is well done. On super crazy days this is a really nice option.
    Glowing eyes and excited narrations definitely tell you that you are on the right track and everyone is learning. YEAH!!!

  3. Carolynn~
    Yes~ to freedom in letting something go. I feel immensely relieved and grateful to be on the right track for us. :)


    I know. I think most of the editing came in the readings from Year One (well, that and I have the oldest copy of that book imaginable!) It's not so *much* an issue as it was... and I agree: I love Hillyer. Thanks for the Librivox tip for Our Island Story.

    Blessings to both of you today!

  4. Never say "I'll never..." :)

    And you know you can do both, right? And that there are seasons for everything? This just isn't your MOH season.

  5. Kendra~

    Did I say "never"? ;)

    I do know... this is what suits us for this season, and while I have a hunch we'll stay here, you never know what tomorrow will bring! :)

  6. It is always so refreshing to get a fresh start. We've actually done that with a few subjects this year. It is against my nature to start something new without finishing the old, but it was needed. Enjoy your breath of air!

  7. We started Mystery of History Volume 1 this year. I decided we were going to switch to The Story of the World for next year, but there was a four hundred year gap between the ending of MOH1 and SOTW2, and since I am just learning this history stuff too, I ordered SOTW1 to find out if there was any thing we needed to cover. Well, it turns out we like SOTW much better than MOH. We are still doing our plans for MOH, but skimming over the lessons and the reading a similar lesson in SOTW (if there is one). When I read SOTW, my son is so focused that he can't finish his coloring page! Whereas with MOH, I am not sure he is even listening. I think MOH will be better when he is older, and I wish I would have just started with SOTW this year. I have also heard good reviews for "Our Island Story" -- does anyone know of a place to get a free Kindle version of the text?

  8. Kristin~
    I'm the same way. I like to actually complete something I start! In this case, though, I'm okay with it. :)


    I have a dear friend who really likes Story of the World, too. That's so great that your son is so invested in the story. :) Love it.

    Blessings to you and yours,

  9. Another great site for Charlotte Mason style ideas

    Great job on scrapping what wasn't working in this season of your life.


  10. Stacy! I can not believe how the scene in your home matches exactly what we have experienced this year. We scrapped everything but our Ambleside readings a little over a month a go and we have our children back! Its been the most beautiful and peaceful times of learning for me and the kids since we have moved to NYC. I am over the moon with encouragement reading this, Stacy. Seriously. I wonder a lot about how other moms with big families are *really* doing and how things really flow...and sometimes if I am just the only one flailing around trying new things! ha! Such peace and rest comes from just knowing and relating to our sweeties :)

  11. Which year of Ambleside are you starting with?

  12. IrieMomma~
    We're currently using Year 3. I just commented a LOOOONG response on your blog! ;)

  13. Thank you for the LONG (but informative) post on my blog! I've always wondered about Ambleside ... they seemed to frown upon combining kids, but I always wanted to do as much TOGETHER as possible! Nice to see how you have blended it all seamlessly! Enjoy your vacation!



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