If you've used The Mystery of History
Volumes 1 and/or 2, like me you've no doubt been waiting on pins and needles for The Mystery of History Volume 3
to come out. (Around here, that's literal. Little ones, learning to sew, aren't always careful to keep track of their tools. Painful, too, if you walk around in bare feet!)
I was a little dismayed to see the new Mystery of History
come out in two parts, a hardcover Student Reader
(see accompanying review
) and the Companion Guide
. It was mostly price that concerned me. We're counting every penny these days. However, after going through the materials and counting the cost, I can say I think that the new Mystery of History
is an excellent value.
To begin with, the Student Reader,
and Companion Guide
give you over 1,000 pages of material. The Student Reader
contains the stories that make up history, complete with color illustrations (Volumes 1 and 2
are black and white). The Companion Guide
contains all the additional material that supplements the reading: maps, activities, resource lists, quizzes, answer keys, etc.
There are pros and cons to buying teaching materials on CD-Rom. The biggest “pro” I can think of is not having to run to the copy shop to prepare for lessons! You can just print the pages you need as you need them. (That's also a “con” by the way—with our inkjet printer, printing is expensive! But I suppose if I figure in the gas and cost of making copies at our local office supply store, it works out about the same.) Lesson planning can be a little more difficult. I can't do my history planning at the coffee shop anymore; I'm rather tied to the computer until I figure out just what pages I'm going to print out for the coming week, and print them.
I like having everything in one place; in Volumes 1 and 2
the lessons were laid out in chronological order, i.e. the pre-test appeared before the reading, and then you had age-appropriate activities immediately following each lesson's reading. After every three lessons there was review material. Maps and additional material (answer keys, reading lists, activity suggestions) appeared in an index. It's all bound together in one book, if you're using Volume 1 or 2
. (With over 1,000 pages of material, Volume 3 might resemble the phone book if it were all one volume! Hmm, perhaps the publisher is saving homeschoolers from backaches!)
On the other hand, the CD-Rom takes up a lot less shelf space, there are no wasted pages, and the pages you print can go directly into your teacher's notebook and your students' notebooks! (Also, if you or your students tend to misplace papers, it's not hard to replace them; you just print out another copy.)
It's fairly easy to jump around the Companion Guide
CD-Rom. The first file that opens up in my computer's auto-run (and so hopefully, will work the same in yours), is a page that looks like the cover of a book. This is Home
, by the way, and every page has a link that will take you here. From this “Home” page you have quick links to parts of the Table of Contents that you'll be referring to repeatedly: outline maps, activity supplements for many of the lessons, additional resources, and answer keys for pre-tests, tests, and map exercises.
The Home page contains a simplified Table of Contents. Clicking on one of the topics (“Letter to the Teacher,” “Quarter 1, the Age of Rebirth”) takes you to that page inside the book's detailed Table of Contents, and from there you can scroll through the pages and click on the page you want to see, jumping from the Table of Contents directly to the page.
Let's talk a little more in detail about the contents of the Companion Guide
The author begins with a letter to the teacher, explaining how The Mystery of History
came about, and includes a list of the current and planned volumes. As you already know, three volumes have been published, covering history from Creation to 1707 A.D. Two more are planned, to bring the study of history up to the present time. A discussion follows of all the parts available for your use in The Mystery of History
, in fourteen steps. Note to new homeschoolers: You can choose to do any or all of these.
The author supplies web links offering additional support: Yahoo discussion groups are available for each of the three volumes. This section concludes with advice for adapting your history study for younger (Grades K-3) and older (Grades 9 and above) students, including for the latter suggestions for additional work and calculating high school credits. A reproducible Grade Record form is provided for your convenience.
The Mystery of History
uses homemade flashcards (Memory Cards), timeline, and mapwork to supplement the history reading. The introductory material covers the making and use of the Memory Cards for students of varying ages, as well as how to make a folding timeline out of a sewing pattern board. (I have to mention how astonished I was when we first applied the Memory Card idea, using Mystery of History Volume 1
. Even my youngest students were able to make up flashcards, copying what they could from our whiteboard, and dictating summary sentences to me or an older sibling.)
The author concludes this introductory section with a discussion of the classical educational method. Let me reassure you that Mystery of History
will work well, whether or not your family is following the classical method.
Now you're ready to get into the meat of the matter. The course is divided into four quarters (two semesters), 28 weeks in all, though some families stretch out the learning and take two years to go through a volume. Each week consists of three lessons. If you use all of the provided material, you'll begin with a pre-test, just to see what you and your students may already know about people and events. Each week contains three lessons. Like its predecessors, The Mystery of History Volume 3
begins each lesson with a reading selection, followed by activities divided by age level. Some activities may be suited to a wide range of ages, others might be aimed specifically at early elementary or middle school.
Activities range widely. There are discussion questions, craft ideas, suggestions for further reading, recipes, and research topics. There are suggestions for vigorous physical activity to “act out” an event or concept. There are suggestions for notebook pages, as well as map activities and timeline figures.
Review is built into the program with the flash cards, timeline work, as well as pages dedicated to review, as you work your way through the Companion Guide
. For each quarter, there's a “Put it all together” exercise, sort of an open-book test that summarizes seven weeks of learning. There are also two semester tests, prefaced by study suggestions and notes to the teacher on how to adapt the test for younger or special needs students. Answer keys for the pre-tests, exercises, worksheets, quizzes, and semester tests are provided.
In addition to the wealth of material provided in the lessons themselves, the Companion Guide
offers an appendix of in-depth instructions and copy masters for some of the more involved activities, keyed to the lessons. For example, you'll find charts of historical figures; crafts complete with patterns, step-by-step instructions, and photographs (helmets, crown, Native American and settlers' dwellings, fur vest, cradle-board and more); recipes, discussion questions, writing prompts, and more.
The appendix also includes an exhaustive resource list put together by the author and others, of additional materials, mostly books but also videos and websites, organized by lesson and grade level. Many of the listings include notes summarizing the contents of the resource, and suggestions about when there might be a need to preview or be selective in presenting information to your students.
The Mystery of History
is very flexible: suited to a study of one student and a homeschool parent, multi-level learning, several families learning together, or one or two teachers with a co-op class. Lesson planning is fairly simple; just go through the lessons, jotting down supplies needed, at a minimum, along with any supplementary books or videos you might need to put on hold at the library. Remember that you don't have to do every single
activity! If I were to use this material in a co-op class I'd want to set aside some time to do all the activities I'd planned to include, in order to know how much time was needed for an activity (approximate times are listed for certain hands-on activities) and perhaps to have a model for my students to follow.
The curriculum has obviously been put together with a lot of thought, by an author who is fascinated with history and wants to spark an answering interest in the student. I know it's worked for our family!
The Mystery of History Volume 3 Companion Guide
is also available printed and three-hole punched for $39.95, and on CD-Rom for schools and co-ops for $74.95.