The Story of the World: Curriculum Review

The Story of the World: Curriculum Review

This is our second year using The Story of the World history curriculum. We used Volume Two: The Middle Ages last year and are halfway through Volume Three: Early Modern Times this year.


  • Audio CD’s: You can purchase a CD which narrates the textbook. The narration is done by Jim Weiss and is very well done. (If you aren’t familiar with Jim Weiss’ storytelling CD’s you need to check them out. My kids love them.) My kids really enjoy listening to the CD’s and both my boys have loaded it on their ipods. Often we have discussed a lesson and they are very familiar with the story because they have listened to them before bed in their room.
  • Activity Book: The activity book which can be purchased separately contains numerous activities, coloring worksheets, maps, and questions. Personally, I wouldn’t use this curriculum without the activity book. If you use the activity book the teacher prep time is minimal and there are answers to all the review questions. You can make copies of the coloring sheets in the back of the book or buy a separate worksheet pack if you are using it with more than one child.
  • Multi-level course: With six school-aged kids I’m always looking for curriculum that I can use with several children at a time. I am currently using this curriculum with my seven, nine and ten year old. My five year old listens along to the CD, but doesn’t always participate in the questions.
  • Comprehensive: I’m surprised at the level of depth in The Story of the World. My kids are learning things in elementary school that I didn’t learn until college!


  • Secular Worldview: Several years ago we used The Mystery of History and I loved how it wove together history and the Bible. This is my main problem with The Story of the World curriculum. While it isn’t anti-Christian it definitely isn’t presenting a biblical worldview. If this is a must- have for you, skip this curriculum and go with The Mystery of History.
  • Difficult Discussion Questions: According to the CDB website, this curriculum is designed for grades 1-4. My kids might not be little Einsteins, but the end of lesson questions are very difficult. Even after listening to the chapters twice my 10-year old is able to answer about 70% of the questions correctly. My younger kids know the answers to about 40% of the questions. The discussion questions are not mandatory and we do them orally, I do feel like my kids can get discouraged when they don’t know most of the answers. It is hard to facilitate a discussion when every other answer is “I don’t know.”

This is how I’ve adapted The Story of the World for our homeschool.  The kids listen to the lesson on CD while coloring the worksheet for that chapter. After listening to the lesson I ask them the discussion questions from the workbook. If they can’t remember anything from the lesson we listed to it again. We usually skip the narration questions. After the discussion questions we work on the maps together and then sometimes we do one of the projects. The entire lesson takes us about 45 minutes from beginning to end.

The workbook has an extensive list of reading supplements and occasionally we read from those too, but most of the time the lesson is comprehensive enough for the ages of my kids. If I was using this program with a middle school aged child I would definitely be using the supplements.

For the most part I have enjoyed The Story of the World. My kids are having fun learning about history. They enjoy the map work (most of them time) and the teacher’s edition is adequate. There is some teacher planning involved but it is minimal. They love listening to the CD’s before bed and it has definitely helped their retention.

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  1. We’ve been using History Revealed by Diana Waring (published by Answers in Genesis). It sounds similar to this, but comes from a distinctly Christian worldview. It also has an Elementary Activity Guide which has easier questions and activity pages so you can use it across the grades/ages. We love it. I’ve heard great things about SOW too. We also get a lot of the history books that Veritas Press recommends…good stuff.

    Thanks for sharing what works for you guys!! 🙂

  2. My husband and I are just starting the homeschool journey. We have looked at the SOTW, but were frustrated with the secular worldview and that history doesn’t start with creation. We have also looked into Mystery of History. Why did you stop using Mystery of History and go with SOTW? I do think SOTW is a solid curriculum, but am concerned about the lack of a biblical worldview.

    • MOH is geared more to 4th grade and up. I’ve used it this year with my 4th & 6th graders very successfully. My 2nd grader listens in occasionally, but I am doing CHOW with him (via Sonlight Core 1). He does like to do the Pre and post-chapter quizzes of MOH with us.

      I’ve heard that while MOH 1 may be successful with as young as 1st graders, the length and complexity of the lessons, as well as the subject matter, is considerably greater from MOH 2 on up. Also MOH 4 is not yet available. Having used both, I think the activity supplements for SOTW are much friendlier to younger children.

      You can download samples of MOH from the bright ideas press website including coloring page samples (available separately).


  3. We have been using Story of the World as well. For the most part we have really enjoyed it. I haven’t done much of the extras, either. There are way too many.

    As a side note, your link to CBD isn’t working for Mystery of History. I would be interested in checking it out. Have you used it?

    • TheHappyHousewife says:

      Thanks for letting me know. I fixed the link (it was the old version and out of print).
      I did use MOH for two years and LOVED it. Switched to TSOW because I thought it was more “teacher” friendly.

  4. Great review. I’ve used SOTW for about 10 years now. I just wanted to point out the publishers states that the program is actually for grades 1-8. ” Volume One is written primarily for grades 1-4; Volume Two for grades 2-5; Volume Three for grades 3-6; Volume Four for grades 4-8.” So CBD has misquoted the suggested grade levels for SOTW.

    • TheHappyHousewife says:

      Thanks MissMoe! I had no idea what the age level was for the curriculum and pulled if off CBD. I rarely go by grade level anyway, but I know that is important for some people.

  5. It’s interesting, I was just reading reviews about SOTW on another (publisher’s) site that was criticizing it for being too secular. (It didn’t mention SOTW by name, but it was obvious to me that was what they were referencing.) We aren’t “officially” homeschooling yet, but I have started reading the SOTW books with my kids (6&8) just as nighttime reading, and I was just so excited to find something that didn’t *ignore* Christian history, rather than thinking about it not presently a strictly Christian worldview of history. It’s so overwhelming to me as a new homeschooling mom to pick and choose from all of these options we have for our kids’ education! My kids, too, have really enjoyed SOTW, and my 6yo son especially has caught me and others off-guard when he’ll say things like, “The Romans were so bloodthirsty…” (they were really struck by the section about Roman gladiators.;) And we ALL are gaining a better understanding of the nature of this world as presented by Bauer’s chronological storytelling, as my 8yo daughter will say, all world-weary, “Here we go again: more conquering…” !

  6. stampedwithgrace says:

    we are starting Mystery of History this year, and they have a newer edition, so your link doesn’t work. here’s the new one at Christian Book:

    I’m really looking forward to using it because of the Christian world view 🙂

  7. We have been using SOTW for 3-4 years now. We usually cover a lesson/week and they do the coloring sheet or play quietly with building toys while they listen every day. The lessons are shorter (7-15 minutes), and this time gives me a chance to change a diaper or the laundry while they are still working. By the end of the week (or we go Wed-following Tues), my 6yo will only miss 2-3 when given the test verbally, and my 8yo only misses one occasionally. They really GET it! For example, recently during the coverage of the royal wedding, when they mentioned Prince William, my 6yo asked if that was William the Conqueror, and then corrected himself noting that was a long time ago. When they mentioned the cathedral built? by Edward the Confessor, he said, “Hey, we studied him!”

    It is great to have the CDs in the car and that is nearly always our go-to for audio. They just like to start at the beginning and listen through while we are on vacation.

    Thanks for the great review. It is one of our favorites, too!

  8. Here’s what we do. We listen to the story at least 2 times before trying the review questions. It takes us a LOT longer to get thru each chapter (sometimes a week or more), but I’m not concerned about being “behind.” We do several of the activities, all the color pages (the kids do them while listening to the story), all of the map pages, and many of the extra reading books (many of them are excellent read aloud books.) I have my oldest (3rd grade/ 8 years old) tell me the narration and I write it for him. My favorite thing is that all the kids can do this together–they are 4 years old to 8 years old. (We also have a 5 month old, but she doesn’t do much at this point. 😀 )

  9. So you use something for Bible that you incorporate into SOTW? I’m looking for something that not’s strictly from a Christian worldview, but I want to do history and biblical history chronologically and simultaneously. Tapestry of Grace, maybe?

  10. We’re using SOTW with my 3rd, 1st and kindergartners and are really enjoying it. For us, the Biblical worldview comes from me as we’re reading. I sometimes stop and interject during the stories. I find the ‘secular’ worldview to be refreshing compared to some Biblical history texts which tend to minimize the achievements of societies that were not Christian. I’ve heard Mystery of History is very good, though.

    As to the issue with review questions, I notice you are skipping the narration and that could have some effect on their ability to answer the questions. The narrations are designed to teach them to comprehend, recall and summarize what they’ve heard. The more you do the narrations, the more they’ll have those skills, and the better they’ll be able to answer the review questions.

  11. I haven’t had any history curriculum and we’ve just pieced together things using what we have and what we check out at the library. I’ve been wanting to get at least the books for this set for a while and I think your review just sealed it. I saw that she has books for older students as well, do you have experience with those?

  12. Norma Jean Wallace says:

    I have used both SOTW and MOH. I had a hard time deciding which one to go with as I heard so much good about both. In the end, MOH won out due to the biblical worldview. I used it with 4 high school children and one six year old. It was very good for us but my younger child could only do some of the activities. I gave him the test orally which was still a little hard. That’s when I decided to use SOTW for my younger one and continue using MOH for the older ones. It was double teaching on my part, but SOTW was so much more age appropriate for my younger and he seemed to really enjoy listening to the stories. He could do the tests and exercises much better. I love it when a curriculum includes a Christian worldview, but I decided that his history did not necessarily HAVE to as we go to church, Sunday School, and do nighttime Bible Story with question and answers. We 10 children and have been homeschooling for about 25 years.

  13. Is there a more hands on type science curriculum that you would recommend? I have struggled to find something for two of my three school age children that they love. We have done a Charlotte Mason approach the last year and a half and although they enjoy nature study and it allows us to talk about God’s world, the living books they have chosen my children just can’t seem to get into to and actually have a hard time understanding.

    • Hi Rachel, we’ve been doing God’s Design series by Answers in Genesis. It very logically and systematically covers all aspects of science. Each year covers 3 parts of science, with an overall science theme – for example – one of the themes is God’s Design for Heaven and Earth in which the 3 parts are: Astronomy, Geology/Earth Science, and Water & Weather (meterology, water cycle, ocean tides). The lessons read more like a textbook, but there are two sections for each lesson: 1-3 grade and 4-8 grade. What I love best about this series is: 1. I know we will cover all aspects of science in 4 years, 2. I can incorporate most of my children together and minimize my teaching time, and 3. the “labs” are easy to do and use mostly everyday supplies. We tried Aplogia’s Science series once and while it was great for my animal loving 4th grader, it was incredibly in depth /intense, was on the same topic all year, and the labs were more involved. It was too difficult to bring in my younger child to such a focused and detailed study. This fits us better since I want to present a more broad overview of science at the earlier ages (when they may not have the attention span to retain such detailed information) and build on that into high school (and give them room to explore more interest in one field or another knowing that they have at least a basic understanding of all aspects of science already). Doing this with a few other homeschooling families made this even more fun (and possible because of the wide age range) and took the entire teaching burden off of me.

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