Tips for Using Story of the World

Tips for using SOTW collage

Our main history spine for this year is “Story of the World (Volume One): Ancient History”.  So far we are really enjoying working through history chronologically, and learning about the world in which biblical history is woven through.

The text is written in narrative form, and the student workbook consists of review questions, narration exercises, map work, colouring, crafts and activity suggestions, and more.  Although ‘Story of the World’ is complete in itself, supplementing with other activities is what’s really bringing it alive for us.

Planning and Using ‘Story of the World’

Here are a few tips for making ‘Story of the World’ a memorable and smooth experience for your homeschool:


  • Plan ahead each week what activities you’re going to use from the Student Workbook, or organise others as this an important part of reinforcing the lesson content and making history fun.
  • Supplement to cover all different learning styles that your children may have (kinaesthetic, auditory, visual) or where you want to reinforce a particular area of the topic.
  • Use notebooking pages for competent writers, either in addition to the narration in the student workbook (which are usually only two or three sentences long) or instead of them.  The pages we print from are a beautiful addition to my daughter’s work folder, and also encourages her to write nicely.

Using it

  • Read the chapter and have your child complete the colouring page while they are listening to the reading.
  • Look at your timeline chart or book, once you’ve finished reading, and reinforce what time period the day’s chapter was covered.   Add in important dates and people.  I like to bring in biblical history, even if it’s just a mention, so as to tie everything in together.
  • Complete review questions, narration and mapping immediately after you’ve finished reading the text, as this is the time when your children will retain things well.
  • Watch a couple of short clips on the chapter’s topic.  For Volume One, I like Discovery Channel (which I always watch beforehand).  This helps to break up the writing activities.
  • Invest in one of the suggested Encyclopaedias – Kingfisher or Usborne.  I recommend you read reviews on both.  We have opted for the Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World.
  • Use supplementary books if possible.  You may be able to obtain some from your library (but make sure you read them first).
  • Make use of The Story of the World audiobooks, narrated by Jim Weiss which are well worth the investment if your child does well with learning by listening.
tips for using SOTW notebooking

Using beautiful pages from for our narration and copywork.

I often see things online that I might use another time for supplementary activities, so just pin them to my Pinterest Boards (I have one for each of the four volumes). Pinterest is a great way of filing things away for future use.

We also have a number of supplementary titles, which include books that have some great activity ideas.  You’ll find that list here near the top.

One of the things I have brought in during our history times, is to add in a perspective on history according to our worldview as Christians.  We discuss Egyptian gods, other religions and beliefs, and the cultural world that the Old and New Testaments were written in.  There are opportunities presented in this history text that can open up these learning times with our children.  I’ll write on this another time.

Tips for using SOTW making bread

Making Egyptian flatbread and cooking outside in our cob oven

As we currently work our way through Ancient Egypt, we are getting set to make our own paper beads, Egyptian mural, perfume, date candy and mud bricks.  So many fun things to look forward to!  I know for myself that unless I plan ahead and schedule these activities in, the activity books will stay shiny on the shelf and we’ll forget to use them. So I encourage you to do the same, plan when and what you will do in advance, and prepare the materials you need ahead of time as well!

I’ll cover how I include my two younger children during our history another time.

Do you have any tips for using Story of the World in your homeschool?

tips for using SOTW mud bricks

Making Egyptian mud bricks.

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11 thoughts on “Tips for Using Story of the World

  1. Terri

    My kids still talk about the mummy chicken! I’ve found as they’ve gotten older, I do less from the activity book. We read. We do the workbook pages. We find all the geographical places. We review a little bit. I know I should make more of an effort to do more activities, but it gets pushed to the side with the other academic subjects we do. Maybe your post will “wake me up.”

    1. Victoria Post author

      Which volume are you doing Terri? If you take a look at my Pinterest boards, I’ve pinned some extra ideas for all the volumes. Perhaps you’ll find some ideas on the blog roll too! 🙂 If you don’t have time to prepare crafts and activities that take a little more effort, sometimes there’s some fairly simple supplementary activities you can do too. It just makes the history experience so much more memorable! Bless you friend.

    1. Victoria Post author

      Hi Dusty! I’m in the middle of writing a series of posts on this very thing. I find that bringing in biblical history, but more so, a biblical perspective, comes naturally in the process of reading and discussing the book’s content. There are some aspects of ancient history that are obviously very contrary to how we live as Christians (eg. polytheism). Ancient People sure did depart from following God’s law for many generations. But it’s into this world that Jesus came. It’s a great area of discussion with your children, and I find that even with my very sensitive 8 year old, I can negotiate talking about the often violent parts of ancient history if I talk about it from the perspective of people having gone their own way, and Jesus our Saviour came into this ancient world to ‘seek and save the lost’. I’ll post on this in the next month or two.
      I do have some other books that we use to supplement SOTW. If you look at our Curriculum for 2014 (in the menu at the top) you can see these listed. ‘Homeschool in the Woods’ have an excellent project pack on ‘Great Empires’ also.
      Hope that helps! – from Victoria

  2. Angelue'

    I was considering SOTW for my girls next year. In your opinion, do you think K and 1st grade is too young to start?

    1. Victoria Post author

      I think it might be a little young Angelue, as SOTW recommends starting with Ancient History and going through the volumes in order, so you’d be starting with Ancient History. Ancient History was fairly unpleasant at times, so the content itself might be a bit mature. I waited until my daughter was 7-going-on-8, which was the right fit for us. A good place to start, as a way of easing into it, might be to look at an overview of history and civilizations. ‘Homeschool in the Woods’ has a really great lapbook on this, especially if you’re children like cutting and pasting and putting things together. You could also look at doing some smaller unit studies on aspects of Ancient History, like pyramids or way of life/dressing etc. Have a look under my Story of the World blog roll, and there’s lots of links others have put there to some of the things they’ve done. It’s a fun period of history to study.
      I hope that helps! Best, Victoria

  3. Pingback: How We Use ‘Story of the World’ in our Christian Home | Homemaking With Heart

  4. Rachel

    Hi, we’re working on SOTW middle ages next year. I have subscribed to but I’m having a hard time matching up the notebooking pages with the chapters. Did you just use the topical index and print out what was relevant? How did you decide what to print?

    1. Victoria Post author

      Which SOTW volume are you doing? With Ancient History, I just look up the zip file with all the ancient history pages, and printed off the ones with headings that went with the chapters in the book.


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