The Mystery of History Series is a four-volume series covering world history from Creation to present. Meant to be used with students grades 4-10 and written at about a sixth grade reading level, they combine read-aloud information with age-appropriate activities to create a multi-sensory curriculum for history & geography with a strong Biblical base and world-wide coverage.
The scope of the four volumes are:
- Volume I: Creation to the Resurrection
- Volume II: The Early Church and The Middle Ages (A.D. 30—1460)
- Volume III: The Renaissance, Reformation and Growth of Nations (1461—1707)
- Volume IV: Wars of Independence to Modern Times (1708—Present Day)
How Do These Work?
These books are a cross between textbook and unit study. Like a textbook, required material is self-contained, and the book is structured to be completed within a normal school year. The books are broken into two semesters and four quarters, each quarter containing nine one-week chapters. Original editions of Volumes I and II include all exercises, reviews, quizzes, and tests, and an answer key for these is in the back of the book. Like a unit study, these books include activities for multiple age groups that draw on other areas of interest (as well as consistent map work) to enable students to dig deeper. Volume II is the only book still like this, as the newest edition of Volume I, Volumes III and IV are hardcover texts with an included downloadable activity guide.
Each chapter begins with a "What Do You Know?" pretest designed to both stump the know-it-all and also pique students' interest. From there, the chapter offers three readable lessons which include age-appropriate activities that encourage thinking beyond simple comprehension (the use of memory cards and student notebooks are encouraged for research and retention). Following the three lessons is a "Take Another Look" review, which includes a variety of activities (including timelines, map work, and other projects).
At the end of each chapter, alternating weekly, the student is presented with one of two options: One week, you will be given a "What Did You Miss?" exercise, which is designed to be an open book refresher on the week's lessons and an aid to placing cultures, people and events in context. On the subsequent week, a "What Did You Learn?" quiz is offered. This quiz is one of the most unique aspects of Mystery of History, as it incorporates the idea rarely found in history courses—though quite often in subjects like math or grammar—namely, the cumulative review. This helps students remember important facts and figures they might otherwise forget.
Each quarter concludes with a "Put it All Together" worksheet. This is like the chapter exercises, but covers the entire quarter and is usually longer. Like the exercises, it is not meant to be a closed-book test, but a chance to review material covered. Finally, each semester wraps up with a semester test (like the quizzes, but longer), covering material from the previous two quarters.
Our Honest Opinion:
This is an overview course. There isn't a ton of in-depth information, mostly just introductory material on the more important figures and events. Since the series was intended for middle schoolers, we don't think this is a problem; they'll be covering the same topics more thoroughly in the average high school history curriculum. If you really want more depth, we recommend supplementing with the Truth Quest guides and the timeline materials from Home School in the Woods.
The texts can be wordy, and the illustrations in the first two softcover books are few and black and white. The newest edition of Volume I now features full-color illustrations, as Volumes III and IV have done all along, though the writing style doesn't substantially change. These seem a bit pricey, but when you consider the text and amount of downloadable material, we think they're worth it. The absence of hundreds of distracting pictures leaves more room for information, and since this is an overview course it is easily supplemented with more visually engaging books.
This is a very adaptable course, perhaps the most of any of the multi-age courses we've seen. A wide age-range of kids will find the material interesting, and you can hold information back from younger kids or add more work for older kids. You probably won't want to typically use this for high school students as they should have a more thorough course, though if they switch to another curriculum in high school after using Mystery of History, they should be ready. Not the coolest history program out there, it is nevertheless a good, solid one, and we think an excellent overall survey for elementary to middle school students.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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