History Lesson Log #5: The Islamic World

I don’t always have the resources to delve deeply into a topic, but as far as the Islamic World, the thirteen-year-old and I have read over a few texts and listened to his dad’s podcast on the topic, and I think that’s good for now. We will eventually watch some Great Courses on Islam, but we’re still not finished with the Great Course on Ancient Rome yet! So I’m going to post this log with a reminder that our history lessons are always in flux. We will come back and learn more about certain eras of history at different times. I don’t want to get stuck feeling like we can’t move on to another topic until we’ve exhausted this one. That would never work.

In addition, if you’ve been reading my blog, you may have noticed that history was not on my list of high priorities for this year. (This doesn’t mean we don’t do history.) Since I’m putting a higher priority on other subjects this year, I found World History Detective by the Critical Thinking Co. that my 13-year-old can work through at his own pace. He told me he really likes it. It’s considered a full curriculum that covers all of the ancient world. How cool is that? But we’ll still use my husband’s screencasts, our home library, public library, and other resources whenever we can find the time.

So, here’s our latest lesson log on the Islamic World:

Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “The Islamic World.”

Home Library

One World Many Religions: The Ways We Worship by Mary Pope Osbourne, Chapter on Islam, page 25

The Kingfisher History of Encyclopedia, pages 106-107, 116

From the Local Library

Islam by Michael Ashkar


Great Courses: There are a few Great Courses that include the history of the Islamic World, and eventually we’ll be watching some of them.


None so far

Field Trips

None so far

History Lesson Log #4: Ancient Rome

We have had a lot of fun exploring Ancient Rome, though as you can see, I haven’t used a lot of resources. Now that we have a subscription to the Great Courses Plus, this seems to be the best resource I can find. My twelve-year-old and I have really enjoyed watching the lecture, and there are more courses we are planning to watch as well. I highly recommend the Great Courses for mature middle schoolers or high school students.

Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “Ancient Rome.”

Home Library

The Kingfisher History of Encyclopediapages 62-67, 80-81

From the Local Library

Tools of the Ancient Romans by Rachel Dickinson (This is a really good book. My nine-year-old especially enjoyed it.)


Great Courses: The Rise of Rome (Click link to view the trailer.)

Field Trips

Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University

U.S. History Lesson Log #1: Native Americans

Though we began a more formal study of U.S. history earlier this year, starting with life in America before the arrival of Europeans, I have been teaching my boys about Native Americans in a variety of ways over the past few years. The resources listed here will reflect that. I will return to this page and add more resources as we continue to learn about Native American history and culture.

(Note: We are also continuing our study of world history, and eventually I’ll post a lesson log about Ancient Rome.)

Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “North American Before 1842” and “Contact: Europeans and Native Americans

Home Library

Suitable for small children:

The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose

North American Indians by Marie and Douglas Gorsline

The True Story of Pocahontas by Lucille Recht Penner (Though I am weary of any resource that claims to be “the true story.”)

Raven: a Trickster Tale From the Pacific Northwest


Suitable for older elementary kids or teens:

Smithsonian Children’s Encyclopedia of American History, pp. 18-21

Life in a Pueblo, A Bobbie Kalman Book

Exploring Bandelier National Monument by Sarah Gustafson



The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich

The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich

(Click to read my reviews of the Birchbark books. I highly recommend these books, and we intend to finish the series.)

From the Local Library

The Cherokee: native basket weavers by Therese DeAngelis

Sequoyah by Doraine Bennett

The Cherokees by Jill Ward

Only the Names Remain by Alex W. Bealer

Journey to Cahokia: A Boy’s Visit to the Great Mound City by Albert Lorenz

Red Power on the Rio Grande by Frank Folsom (I do not recommend this particular book for young children or sensitive kids.)

Field Trips

See my post Trip West. We visited Bandelier National Monument, the Indian Cultural Arts Center, Petroglyph National Monument and many other cool places.

Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University

Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA

On our bucket list: Etowah Indian Mounds

History Lesson Log #3: Ancient Greece

I usually wait until I’ve covered three history topics until I write another log, but I’m eager to share our Ancient Greece resources. We spent quite awhile with Ancient Greece because The Odyssey and the myths took a long time to read, and we’ve been taking a break this summer from history too.

Although these are the resources I’ve used so far for Ancient Greece, we probably won’t stop here. I will add more resources to this list as we find them. I plan to move on to Ancient Rome in the near future, but my eleven-year-old is interested in doing U.S. history too, so we’re going to start with that this September, and we’ll see how long it takes to get back to ancient history. Having a big timeline on our wall helps us keep the dates straight! If you have any questions about anything, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.

Ancient Greece

Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “Ancient Greece

Odyssey Online: Greece (See field trips below for explanation)


Home Library

The Kingfisher History of Encycolpedia, pages 52-56

The Usborne Encylcopedia of World History, pages 154-161

Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times, pages 137-187


From the Local Library

Ancient Greece by Philip Wilkinson

The Odyssey retold by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Victor G. Ambrus

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaires


A year later, we found these graphic books, which are great for older kids:

George O’Connor’s The Olympians Series

The Odyssey A graphic novel by Gareth Hinds


There are some fun videos on Ted Ed about Ancient Greece. Do a search for Ancient Greece.


Field Trips

Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University – This museum has artifacts from many ancient cultures! According to their website: “Some 17,000 artifacts from ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Rome, the Americas, Asia, and Africa, as well as works on paper from the Renaissance to the present day.” We spent an afternoon this summer at Emory, and we loved this museum. A post about this museum is coming up next.

If you aren’t local, check out their website. They have Odyssey Online, which are interactive web sites for kids. Some of these are still in the making, but the one on Greece is great. They also have a podcast.

History Lesson Log #2: The Hebrews, Ancient India, Ancient China

our homemade history timelines (and our cute dog too)

As promised, I’m continuing with my detailed record of what resources we’re using for history. Sometimes we may simply read about a topic, and other times we may go on field trips and do activities. Over time, we may add more to our studies, so I may come back and add more resources to these lists in the future. These logs are a work-in-progress.

My husband is a history professor, so we’re fortunate that many of these lessons, documentaries and books are supplemented with conversations with him. We also have the benefit of using his college history lectures too. See this post for access to all of those. And this post will explain our choice of textbooks.

The Hebrews

Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “The Hebrews

Home Library

 The Kingfisher History of Encycolpedia, pages 24-25

The Usborne Encylcopedia of World History, pages 142-143

Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times, pages 35-45

One World Many Religions: The Ways We Worship by Mary Pope Osbourne, chapter on Christianity, p. 13


Ancient India

Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “India

 Home Library

The Kingfisher History of Encycolpedia, pages 33, 78-79

The Usborne Encylcopedia of World History, pages 174-175

Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times, pages 59-65

The Kids Books of World Religions by Jennifer Glossop, chapters on Hinduism (p. 12) and Buddhism (p. 18)

From the Local Library

The Elephant’s Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India by Marcia Williams

 Children Just Like Me: Celebrations by DK Publishing, pp. p. 18, 34, 50 (We read about three yearly celebrations that take place in India: Holi, Raksha Bandhan, and Diwali. It’s also a fun book to read about celebrations around the world.)


Michael Woods’ “The Story of India” – Love this documentary. It was the second time we watched it.


I’ve shown the boys photographs from my own trip to India.

Field Trips

The Art Institute of Chicago – collection from India (We visited the Art Institute on our most recent trip to Chicago to visit relatives over Thanksgiving.)


Ancient China

Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “Ancient China

 Home Library

The Kingfisher History of Encycolpedia, pages 18, 39, 58, 70

The Usborne Encylcopedia of World History, pages 268-269

Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times, pages 66-75

The Kids Books of World Religions by Jennifer Glossop, chapters on Taoism (p. 52) and Confucianism (p. 54)

From the Local Library

If I were a kid in ancient China by Cobblestone Publishing

Where is the Great Wall? by Patricia Demuth

Ancient China by Arthur Cotterell


PBS NOVA’s Secrets of the Forbidden City

PBS NOVA’s Chinese Chariot Revealed

We are also planning to watch Michael Wood’s Story of China.

Field Trips

Genghis Khan exhibit at Field Museum (We actually visited this a long time ago, so I’m not sure the boys will remember it. I include it here because it’s a good web resource, and I’m sure we’ll visit the exhibit again on another trip to Chicago.)

History Lesson Log #1: Intro, Prehistory, Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt

our homemade history timelines (and our cute dog too)

As I mentioned in my last post, I plan to keep a detailed record of what resources we’re using for history on this blog. Sometimes we may simply read about a topic, and other times we may go on field trips and do activities. Over time, we may add more to our studies, so I may come back and add more resources to these lists in the future. So these logs are a work-in-progress.

My husband is a history professor, so we’re fortunate that many of these lessons, documentaries and books are supplemented with conversations with him. We also have the benefit of using his college history lectures too. See this page post for access to those.

I am a visual person, so in order to wrap my head around history, I made two timelines – big ones – that you can see in the photos. If it helps me, I thought it might help my boys too. I don’t add everything we study to the timeline, but I’m adding many details to it. I plan to keep this up until both boys graduate from high school and maybe even longer. See this post, if you’d like to learn how I made the timelines.

Note: We have learned – and continue to learn – a tremendous amount about the Earth’s history through our science studies. We love that too, but for the sake this record, I’m going to refer to human history. However, The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History begins with many chapters on the Prehistoric World, if you are looking for a source. I also recommend NOVA’s documentary series, Origins, which deals with the origins of the universe and life itself.

2nd Note: To read about the history books I added to our library and use as a “spine,” click here.


So, we began with prehistory, which refers to the time before there were any written records.

Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “Prehistory

Home Library

The Kingfisher History of Encycolpedia, pages 3-8
The Usborne Encylcopedia of World History, pages 86-109
Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times, pages 1-13

(Page numbers are approximate. Sometimes we read beyond these specific topics.)


These are all excellent, but the first two are my absolute favorites:

Dawn of Humanity
Great Human Odyssey
Iceman Reborn
Secrets of the Sky Tombs
After Stonehenge (Secrets of the Dead)



Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “Mesopotamia

Home Library

The Kingfisher History of Encycolpedia, pages 9, 21-23
The Usborne Encylcopedia of World History, pages 110-113
Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times, pages 32-58

From the Local Library

Life in Ancient Mesopotamia by Shilpa Mehta-Jones
Gilgamesh the King by Ludmila Zeman


NOVA’s Eclipse Over America – Obviously, this is more about science than history, but there is a part in the documentary about how Babylonian astronomers kept track of each eclipse and eventually were able to predict when another would happen. It shows excellent examples of clay tablets with cuneiform writing.


Ancient Egypt

Sources I’ve used for this topic:


My husband’s lecture and screencast titled “Ancient Egypt

Home Library

The Kingfisher History of Encycolpedia, pages 10-11, 26-27
The Usborne Encylcopedia of World History, pages 114-117, 134-139
Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times, pages 14-20, 25-31

From the Local Library

Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures Ancient Egypt by Joanna Cole (Best book for kids on this topic, IMO.)
Kids Everything Ancient Egypt by Crispin Boyer
The Ancient World: Ancient Egypt by Nel Yomtov
National Geographic Treasury of Egyptian Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli (The boys loved these stories, and the illustrations are beautiful.)


BBC’s Egypt: Rediscovering a Lost World – This is a six-episode docudrama about the discoveries of the ancient tombs. It’s excellent, and my boys loved it. I have linked to the first episode on YouTube. We watched it on Netflix. Be sure to search for all six episodes!

Field Trips

We have visited the Field Museum’s exhibit on Ancient Egypt several times on our trips to Chicago. It’s perhaps one of the best exhibits of Ancient Egypt artifacts in the country. You can explore what an Egyptian tomb would have looked like and view real mummies. Check your local natural history museum to see what they offer!

Feel free to leave information for any resources on these topics that you have found useful too.

Homeschooling: Diving into Human History


I’m extra excited to tell you that one of the things I added mid-year are history lessons. If there’s one thing I’ve been wanting to learn more about, it’s history. 🙂

Until now, history is something I have not worried about incorporating into our homeschool lessons for several reasons. First, I don’t think young children need a lot of history unless they are interested in it.** I doubt they will fully understand it or remember it. Also, my husband is a history professor, so I knew we would get a good history education with his help. Indeed, he peppers our documentary-watching with relevant historical facts as needed!

Until this past year, my eldest son didn’t show much interest in history. We watch a lot of documentaries, but when the boys were smaller, they needed to be nature documentaries. They liked animals and nature, but documentaries about people were boring, and frankly, over their heads. However, this changed during this past year~year and a half or so. We have slowly begun to watch other kinds of documentaries such as science, engineering and history, especially those dealing with archaeology. So I saw more of an interest in history creeping up. It was at this time I made my big history timeline, and as we watched or read about historical events or people, we would add a tag about them to our timeline. But I still didn’t do “formal” history lessons.

Then, my boys began to play digital games that incorporated military tanks and ships, etc. In the games, they would learn a tremendous amount about many, real military vehicles, and they soon wanted to know more. One of their Christmas presents was a big book about tanks, and they still study it everyday! This is one of their major interests right now.

My 10-year-old began asking questions about the world wars, and one day, I let him listen to his father’s U.S. history podcast about World War II. It was at this point that I felt we could start history lessons. I considered doing American history first since his interests seemed to gravitate in that direction. In addition, I’ve been reading to them about Native Americans now and then for a while now too. But ultimately, with my husband’s help, I decided to go with World History first because that’s what I wanted to do in the first place, and we happened to find some very cool books that we both loved. (I want to give a shout out to my online friend, Kristina Daniele, for sharing her history resources with me. She helped me get started in my search for history resources that would appeal to my young boys.)

What’s exciting about studying history as a homeschooler is that we can start at the beginning and spend time delving into each era, and we don’t have to stop. In public school, I got bits of history in each grade, but I only remember the big events of American history. I know I never studied ancient humans or ancient Egypt. I know I never understood “the big picture” of the human timeline (until now). I am sure when my boys are adults, they will have forgotten a lot of our history lessons too, but that’s why I made the history timeline, I’m going slow, and in high school, we’ll circle around to the beginning again. Even if they don’t remember the finer details, they are going to understand the big picture of human history.

I’m going to write in more detail about our history lessons as we come to each unit. But below is a blueprint of how I’m getting started and what I’m using for our “spine.”

I am using my husband’s history lectures as a “spine” or guide. Even though his podcasts are for college level students, they are short, and my boys can understand most of what he’s saying. I use the “key terms” he lists under the lectures as a guide when I’m searching for additional books at the library. I don’t try to get a book on everything, but for example, under “Mesopotamia,” one of the key terms is “Epic of Gilgamesh.” When I looked up Mesopotamia in the library search engine, I found a storybook for kids about the Epic of Gilgamesh — that’s a nice supplement to our studies on Mesopotamia!

We also bought three history textbooks that we’re reading as we go along too. My husband gets a lot of free college textbooks to review, but we obviously needed books that would appeal to young kids. Finding the perfect world history text for kids didn’t prove easy! My husband and I spent some time searching for books on Amazon, and I checked these out from the library before we bought them. I’m going to list them in order of our preference.

The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia — This is our favorite. It’s a beautiful book with rich photographs and illustrations, and it has all the relevant information in it that we’re looking for. However, this is not meant to be an in depth look at history. Like my husband’s podcasts, it can be used as a starting point. For example, “Ancient Egypt” covers a two-page spread. Still, this is the kind of overview that kids would be getting in a world history class, and you can pause wherever you like and get more books from the library about each section. (This is a perk of homeschooling — no rushing through a curriculum!) As we get further into this book, I’ll be able to tell you more about it.

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History — This is a great book too with beautiful illustrations and photographs. It doesn’t have quite as many details as the Kingfisher, but it covers everything and then some. We bought this intending to let our son read it on his own. Usborne considers “World History” to also mean “Earth’s History,” and it begins with about eighty pages dedicated to prehistoric time, what fossils are, and evolution, etc. When I think of “World History” I tend to think of that as “Human History,” which is what they do in school. But that makes little difference, and there is something to having the “big picture” laid out in one book. However, we’ve already learned so much about Earth’s history through our science interest that we already know this information. So I’m not requiring my son to read those first eighty pages unless he wants to.

The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer — We are well aware of the criticisms of these books, but having looked at the first one, we decided we would try it because learning about history through story form might interest our sons. As a history professor, my husband reviews many college level textbooks, and he tells me that many of them have biases. The point is that you should never use just one text as your information source just as you should never use one media outlet for all your current news. By studying many different resources, you will be more informed and better able to find mistakes or biases, and learning how to do that is a good learning lesson in itself. We have not gotten very far into SOTW, and my 10-year-old doesn’t love it, but I think my 7-year-old liked it better. I am not sure we’ll continue with these books, but I’ll let you know.

As we get to each section of our history curriculum, I plan to write short posts about what we’re reading for each. For example, right now we’re studying Ancient Egypt, so I’ll tell you what books I found for that soon.

If you have any history resources you love, please tell me about them in the comments.

**Note: My seven-year-old is less interested and perhaps doesn’t understand the history I’m teaching as much as my 10-year-old. However, I usually ask him to try to listen, but if he’s really bored, I don’t make him. I think he picks up on quite a bit, however. At this point, I’m not requiring any written work. We’re just enjoying reading about history.


How to Make a Big History Timeline for Your Wall

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We have a hallway upstairs that is rather drab with nothing on the wall, so for quite some time, I was eyeing that hallway with the keen observance that only a homeschool mom can have. Pretty artwork? I couldn’t afford that even if I wanted it. No, it was the perfect spot for a history timeline. This past spring, I finally got around to making that timeline, and once I was finished, I realized I had room for one more!

I’m a very visual person, so this timeline is a huge help for me as I try to grasp history — a subject that I wasn’t particularly interested in as a youth. Now I’m married to a historian and a history professor, so I’m not worried that my boys will not learn about history, but if a timeline helps me, I think it might help them too. It’s also something we can refer back to time and again, and we can see where the stories we’re hearing about the past intersect. They will no longer be separate stories, floating around in “the past,” which could mean yesterday, last year, or hundreds of years ago. With the timeline, we can see that Thales lived much earlier than Sir Isaac Newton, but he lived only approximately 100 years before Pythagoras. It may be hard for young people to grasp the length of time that comes before they’re born, but I trust as my sons mature, ask questions, and study this timeline, they will begin to understand it.

You can see the timelines I made in the photo above. The one on the bottom was my first and most ambitious timeline. My husband was rather dubious when I told him that I wanted a timeline that would illustrate time from the approximately the dawn of civilization to 2000C.E. To say that I’m squishing time into a small space is an understatement.

My plan with these timelines is to add points of history to them as my boys learn about them. I will keep them on the wall for the entirety of the boys’ education five years, so this will be a slow, on-going project. The bottom timeline may fill up to the point where we have no more space left, but that is why I decided to also make a timeline (the top one) from 1700-2000C.E. I imagine that we’ll be concentrating most of our efforts on these years, so I don’t have to squeeze all the major wars and American history into that small space (in red below) on the bottom timeline.

How did I make the timelines? I did it using a little math. First, I measured the wall and determined that I had about 11 feet (or 132 inches) to work with. Then I determined how many years I wanted to illustrate on the timeline. My husband says that there is no way to know exactly when the dawn of civilization occurred, but 3000 or 3500B.C.E. would be sufficient for my purpose. So, I had about 5,000~5,500 years I wanted to get onto the timeline.

There are 100 50-year increments between 3000B.C.E. and 2000C.E. With 132 inches of wall, I used the equation 132 divided by 100 to figure out that I could tick off every 50 years at about 1.3 inches. You can certainly do that, but this is not how I ultimately did it.

From 1000B.C.E. to 2000C.E., I have every 50 years spaced apart by 1.5 inches. From 1000B.C.E. to 3500B.C.E., I began counting the years by hundreds (again, at every 1.5 inch). There are no early records, so dates this far back are all guesswork, and most of our studies will not take us this far back. I marked it clearly on the timeline when I made this change. (See below.) By doing this I had a little more room between years, it was easier to measure, and I was able to get all the way to 3500B.C.E.

For my 1700 – 2000C.E. timeline, I had a generous 2.1 inches to represent every 5 years.

After determining the space I had, I used the following materials:

  • Long roll of white craft paper. I happened to have a Melissa & Doug Easel Paper roll on hand.
  • Tape measure
  • Tape
  • Pencil
  • Something flat with a straight edge, such as a folded piece of paper.
  • Tacky Adhesive, such as this, for mounting on wall. Although you can pin it up any way you like. [UPDATE: We kept our timeline up for 5 years. It served its purpose. However, the tacky adhesive made a mess, and we had to paint the wall. It may be less destructive to pin up with thumb tacks.]

And this is how I made the timeline:

  • I laid the paper out on the floor, and I stretched out about 11.5 feet (more than I needed) of the tape measure in the middle of the paper.
  • I used a little tape to hold down both ends of the measuring tape, and later I simply trimmed each side of the paper, so if the tape messes up the paper when you pull it off, that’s okay.
  • I traced a line on either side of the measuring tape, and then I put a folded piece of paper under the tape measure to use as a straight edge to help me mark off the points where I wanted the numbers to go at every 1.5 inch. (Again, see pictures for illustration.)

Voilà! After it was complete, since it’s so long, the whole family helped take it upstairs and mount it on the wall with the tacky adhesive. It’s heavy, so whatever you use to hang it up will have to be strong. We used a lot of the tacky adhesive in several places along the top and bottom of the paper.

I used a similar method to make the 1700-2000 timeline. You can certainly use this method to make a timeline during any period of history, and it can be as long or as short as you like.

TIP: Use a pencil and don’t press hard. You’ll thank yourself later as you want to rearrange items on the timeline or especially if you make a mistake while writing out all those numbers. (I’m speaking from experience!) As my husband said, “It’s not a piece of art. History is messy.” 

As you can see from my photos, we’ve already started to add a few points of history to our timelines, and we haven’t even done any formal history lessons! It took awhile to get into the habit, but whenever we learn about history through a documentary, book, or even an online article, we make a point to add something to the timeline. My nine-year-old is starting to warm up to history, and I think the timeline is making it fun for him.