How We Use Story of the World As Our Main History Spine


This is the first year after using 5 years of Sonlight that we’ll be doing something different for history.  The reason is simply that Sonlight’s Core’s go into two years of American History.  Since we’re from New Zealand, it doesn’t hold the same level of interest to go so in-depth into another nation’s history.

So we’re taking the opportunity to use Story of the World Volumes One and Two for the next 2 years (with my eldest child).  The Story of the World series is recommended for Grades 1-4, but many use it with their older children.

We began Story of the World in the last few months of the year, just at an easy pace.  For 2014 we’re going to expand some of the ways we use it.


Why We Love It

  • It gives us a clear and chronological view of history in a comprehensive way, covering both the big events and people in history as well as enough detail to paint a vivid picture of the past.
  • It’s easily adapted for learning styles and varying ages.
  • The language is engaging and lively, and the narrative style of writing reads like a story and not like a list of dates and places.
  • There is variety in the activities, so something for all interests and preferences.
  • It’s similar in style and presentation to Writing with Ease (by the same author) which creates some consistency in our homeschool.

Story of the World covers a broad number of subjects without adding any supplementary material:

  • History
  • Geography
  • English: Comprehension
  • English: Narration
  • English: Dictation
  • English: Reading
  • Art history
  • Art skills
  • Science

Using Story of the World in Our Homeschool

I find that we can get through the chapter and the accompanying activities in the student book in less than an hour, if we do nothing else.  To really make your journey with Story of the World count, I’d recommend using it as a launching pad into further learning and taking at least the whole year to study it.

There are 42 chapters, plus an introduction, so you might like to consider doing one chapter per week.

SOTW Ancient History

Getting Organised

We have organised our Story of the World worksheets into chapter sections, so any activity we do for each chapter (whether from the workbook or supplementary) gets organised into the relevant chapter section.

It also helps immensely if you have planned your history lesson in advance and have all your copies and materials on-hand, and any short movie clips ready to go.


I’m going to make use of my membership to Notebooking Pages, who have fantastic pages for all the periods of history.  They also have a stack of Ancient History Pages, plus plenty of regular options which you’ll need for the writing exercises (blank pages are not included in the Story of the World Student Workbook, which you’ll need).

Notebooking Pages also have timeline pages and Book of Century pages, country pages, and everything else you could possibly think of.

Learning Together

We have another family who have the same books and so we’re working through the chapters together with our children.  It makes for some fun learning, especially when it comes time to do the activities and watch mini-documentaries.  The times around the learning table are lively and fun, with something for each of the different personalities to enjoy.

How Our History Lesson (Generally) Runs

SOTW stamp

Cuneiform stamp

  1. Reading the text aloud (while colouring – younger ones play with lego, playdough, or Quiet Time Bags);
  2. Timeline book, and looking up relevant locations on your world map or globe;
  3. Narration and comprehension questions (younger ones could join in with themed colouring pages or pre-writing pages);
  4. Map Work – from the SOTW student pages;
  5. Activity time – including crafts, activities, movies;
  6. Optional books – we like to save our extra books until the end of our lesson time, such as looking things up from our Usborne internet-linked Encyclopaedia, or quiet reading time with our books or library books.  That way, Mum can spend some time with the little ones who are usually ready by this time.

Supplementing With Other Books

Story of the World has recommended reading lists in each chapter of the workbook.  If you visit my Story of the World Pinterest Boards you’ll find some lists there I’ve pinned that others have compiled also.

We have a stack of wonderful books that we are so looking forward to using this coming year, many second-hand from AbeBooks or withdrawn library books.  [I’ll post more on these in about a week].

For us, the key to expanding our learning beyond just what the textbook and student book offers, is supplementing with real books (ie. not textbooks) and by doing extra notebooking pages.  Lapbooking elements also add a nice touch to your child’s Story of the World folder and it will become something for them to treasure and be proud of.

Story of the World suggests using any of these four Encyclopaedias for supplementary reading, and includes cross-references in every chapter of the student workbook.


Next time I post on Story of the World, I’ll pass on some tips that I’ve found really helpful in making it as enjoyable and smooth-running as possible.

{NB. I was not compensated in any way for this – just passing on what works for us as a family.  I’ve used a few affiliate links in this post.  Thanks for your support!}

Link-up at the Story of the World Blog Roll:

SOTW blog roll

19 thoughts on “How We Use Story of the World As Our Main History Spine

    1. Victoria Post author

      That’s a great list! Thanks for sharing it here. So far we’re finding that all the extra books and activities is really what’s making it so enjoyable. And hopefully we’re learning a thing or two. 🙂

  1. Jessica

    Love Story of the World! We fill in with lots of library books, maps and some of the activities from the Activity Book. When we find a period of time that seems really interesting or important to us, we’ll camp out there for a week or more and find lots of extras.

    1. Victoria Post author

      Us to Jessica. We’ve enjoyed the chapter on Jewish People in our Ancient History and have stayed there for a couple of weeks.

  2. Michelle G.

    ♥♥♥ Loved this post! We love SOTW, too, and I love how you use it as your main spine and love how you are using it.

    You mentioned that you have used Sonlight for 5 years, so I am guessing you did the first 5 cores, and you are now to Core D? Do you plan to come back to Sonlight later? Cores G and H use all four volumes of SOTW, so that is why I am wondering. We are doing Core B and G this year and will start C soon. But, I am considering not using the Am. Hx cores (D and E).

    ~Michelle {from the Crew} 🙂

    1. Victoria Post author

      Thanks Michelle! You’re a gem! Yes we’d normally be heading onto Core D. We won’t return to Cores G and H in their complete form but will do some sort of customised version. Probably what we’ll do is another cycle of history in 4 years time when my second child is 8 and my eldest (now 8) will be 12. The read-alouds and readers will be suitable for a 12 year old, and we’ll recycle all the wonderful books I have planned for 2014 with my second child. It just works out that I have a four year gap between my first and second children, and our history cycles are 4 years. 🙂
      So are you doing three Sonlight Cores with three children? You’re amazing!
      from Victoria

  3. Chrissy @ Muse of the Morning

    This is a great post Victoria! We love SOTW also. I especially love your order of using the text and activities. Ours is very similar. Generally on Monday, Lil’Miss reads a reading and writes a notebooking page about it and does the mapwork and timeline. Tuesdays, she does an activity or watches a documentary. Then repeat for Wednesday and Thursday. We take Fridays off.
    I put all the activities that I could find into one giant blog post if you’re interested in seeing it:
    I would like to add this post to the top section of general resources if that’ ok with you.
    Thank you so much for sharing this post!

    1. Victoria Post author

      Hi Chrissy! I’m so honoured you’d visit my blog! Of course I know your activities blog post – everyone who uses SOTW knows it. 🙂 It’s an amazing treasure trove and it’s my first port of call when I’m looking for extra activities.
      Yes of course add my post in to your resources page. Thank you very much.
      I love the flexibility of SOTW in that it’s complete if you only want to use the text and workbook. But you can also add in so much more depending on what you’d like to focus more on. We love history around here so naturally we’re going to want to go into more depth.
      Thanks again Chrissy.

  4. Megan

    Thanks for this post Victoria! Always fun to see your creative ideas! We LOVE SOTW as well! We’re on the second book and I just love that the author is able to keep the kids attention! It’s SO hard to find a textbook that my children will listen to and I love the suggested supplements that the author has in her other book “The Well-Trained Mind”. Thanks!

    1. Victoria Post author

      Can you believe I still haven’t finished ‘The Well Trained Mind’ yet? It’s at the top of my homeschool book must-reads! – Victoria

  5. Shecki

    We’re doing My Father’s World, and I’m LOVING the chronological approach to history, too! My own history education was so random, this is helping me put things together in a nice line.

    1. Victoria Post author

      Hi Rachel, it varies from week-to-week. Sometimes we’ll set aside a morning or afternoon and do it all which takes 1-2 hours. This seems to be the most effective way for my kids to retain what we’ve learned if I follow up the reading with hands-on activities. But other times we split it up over a couple of days. Thanks for stopping by Rachel. 🙂

    1. Victoria Post author

      Sorry I missed this! We have the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, as the Usborne ones have some nudity in them (even though it’s in cartoon form).

  6. neversremedy

    Thanks for this well-laid out plan. I found your link courtesy of the Pinterest community. I hadn’t heard of Story of the World before; is it a secular book? How accurate have you found the information inside? Some of Bauer’s other historical works haven’t always been spot on, so I’m hesitant to explore it.

    While my eldest is about enter college for Running Start, my little one has most of his homeschooling life ahead of him, and I never homeschooled before fourth grade. Thanks for your ideas!

    1. Victoria Post author

      Hi, I’ve heard mixed things about the accuracy of Story of the World. I haven’t found inaccuracies myself, and I’m a bit of a historical nerd! It is a secular book, but it’s also not ‘anti’Christian, as the author is a Christian herself. I found that we supplemented a lot depending on what we wanted to focus on. If you have a look on my Pinterest boards, I have one for each of the 4 volumes, and there might be some helpful ideas there. You might be able to pick up a copy in your local library, and that way you can ‘vet’ it to start with. If not, there is bound to be someone in one of your homeschool groups/co-ops who has it and can lend you a copy. Hope that helps! Enjoy


Leave a Reply