This year, we are making our way through ancient history with a focus on Egyptian, Greek, and Roman history along with a few forays into other parts of the world.

We’re using the audio version of Story of the World for everyone. Now, if I had only young children, I would use this for history and add a combination of read-alouds books and books they could read themselves for history, historical fiction, and some science as well.

As it is, though, since we have a broad age range at this point, I decided to use several different “spines.” Even though the first volume of Story of the World is definitely too simple for the older children, since we’re using it for the younger children, it still provides a nice jumping-off point, so we listen to a chapter every Monday morning.  Because I am lousy at crafts and my 16-year-old is very good at them, she is in charge of planning a craft for the younger children to go with the  chapter.  She is mostly using the Story of the World Activity Book for inspiration.

In addition to Story of the World, my 16-year-old daughter is using Light to the Nations, put out by the Catholic Textbook Project.  My 14-year-old son and 12-year-old son are both using the first part of The Old World and America. The very complicated part for us was this: I wanted to have everyone studying the same parts of history at the same time so that it would match their literature and philosophy. Therefore, I kept the order of Story of the World but changed the order of Light to the Nations and The Old World and America to match.  That means that some weeks, the older children don’t have a history assignment.  This happens occasionally with Light to the Nations and more frequently with The Old World and America.  Of note, I have heard a lot of positive comments about Connecting with History, but I have not used it yet.

After choosing the history spines, I made a list of what I wanted each child to read as well as a number of read-alouds that we would enjoy together. This year, they had a little say in the matter but not all that much. For many of the read-alouds, I tried to aim toward the middle so that everyone could enjoy them, but I did make some exceptions to that. For example, I think plays are best done aloud, so we all took parts in the three Theban Plays by Sophocles and will be doing so again starting quite soon for Julius Caesar. With Sophocles, I had intended for just the older three children, but my 9-year-old daughter wanted a part too and did a formidable job as Ismene, Antigone’s sister.

Here is a list of the books we used for the various children:

Read-Alouds:

  • The Children’s Homer
  • The Cat of Bubastes (we downloaded this from www.librivox.org)
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh    (children’s version)
  • Pythagorus and the Proportions
  • Pythagorus and the Ratios
  • Archimedes and the Door to Science
  • The Forgotten Daughter (we really liked this one and are looking for more of her books)
  • The Young Carthaginian by Henty (we downloaded Jim Weiss’ audio for this through the Well-Trained Mind website)
  • Julius Caesar
  • The Eagle of the Ninth (we’ll be reading this during the summer)

E and JP (teenagers)

  • The Golden Goblet
  • Mara, Daughter of the Nile
  • Sophocles the King
  • Sophocles at Colonnus
  • Antigone
  • The Iliad (they actually just watched Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver’s lectures for this)
  • The Odyssey (they read this and watched her awesome lectures)
  • Julius Caesar

A – 12-year-old son

  • The Golden Goblet
  • Mara, Daughter of the Nile
  • Sophocles the King
  • Sophocles at Colonnus
  • Antigone
  • Herodotus and the Door to History
  • D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths
  • The Wanderings of Odysseus
  • Several selections from Heroes and Heroines (an old book that might be hard to find)
  • Galen and the Gateway to Medicine
  • Pompeii and Herculaneum
  • City

M – Age 9

  • Mara, Daughter of the Nile
  • Sophocles the King (see above as to why my 9-year-old was reading this)
  • Sophocles at Colonnus
  • Antigone
  • A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls
  • Selections from Heroes and Heroines
  • Herodotus and the Door to History
  • The Traveler’s Guide to Ancient Rome
  • City
  • Pompeii and Herculaneum

I just don’t have it in me to include links to all of these right now, but if you have any questions about the books I’m referring to, feel free to ask.

So that was literature for the year. At the same time, my 14-year-old son has been listening to a podcast called History of Philosophy without any Gaps by Professor Peter Adamson at King’s College inLondon. It’s quite wonderful but definitely not something you want to send an innocent youngster off to listen to by himself as he definitely goes into issues of homosexuality as mentioned in Plato. It isn’t terribly explicit, but it is there.  Some of its fine, but we skipped the lecture of the Symposium. 

All in all, this has been a great year for us.  The children have enjoyed some books more than others, which is to be expected.  I tried to give my teens a good introduction to classical ancient literature, but you can’t do everything.  I think it is better to read a few great works with enough time to mull them over than it is to zip through more titles.  Nonetheless, I must say that for my two teens (soon to be three), time seems very short!

Next year, we’ll be doing medieval history, which is probably my very favorite.  I know my teens will be reading Beowulf, Sir Gawain, Tristan and Iseult, The Song of Roland, Romeo and Juliet, and probably another Shakespeare play as well.  I also know that I want to focus a lot on scholasticism and medieval saints, and there are some great children’s books like Adam of the Road that we’ll be reading for sure.  Beyond that, well, I have summer to figure it out.

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