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How We Use The Story of the World (vlog included!)


We use The Story of the World, by Susan Wise Bauer, as our history curriculum.   I've had a lot of questions about how we use this in our homeschool.   This post will talk you through how we use the curriculum and tell you why we LOVE IT so much!  

* Is is EASILY ADAPTABLE TO DIFFERENT AGES.   As long as your child can listen to a story they can use this curriculum.  I modify narration, read-alouds, crafts, and activities to each child's level.   

* My children get a comprehensive, chronological picture of history.   We are working through the 4 year cycle of history and I'm confident I'm covering all the big events in history.   

 * It is scripted and rigorous.  The narration questions, mapwork, and supplemental activities are in keeping with the Classical model of education.  The material is also being presented in a way that is consistent with what they are doing in Writing With Ease and First Language Lessons.   

Purchase the book and activity guide!

{ There are 4 volumes of the Story of The World - we are currently using Volume 2:  The Middle Ages }

The activity guide is ESSENTIAL for me.   There are so many additional suggestions (books to read, activities, recipes, etc...), and while I know you can find many things online, it's just so helpful for me to have my own history binder.  

My History Binder
Once I have these books in hand, I head to the office supply store and purchase binders and prepare to make copies.   I three hole punch the activity pages and put them in a binder that will be for ME (I can resell this when I'm done).   I also makecopies of the activity pages and make each of my children their own binder.  

When it's time for history during our homeschool day, I just say "Please go get the history binders" and we are ready to go.  My children treasure their binders, and I've caught them reading their Ancients binder from last year several times this year. 

Mason Jars are cute pencil holders

Gather Supplies 

Be sure to have colored pencils/crayons, glue sticks, and scissors on hand. We have them all in one container so it is easy to transport outside!   A three hole punch and scrapbooking papers come in handy, too.  

Look Ahead

I love that the activity guide gives suggestions for read-alouds and additional activities.  I sit down once every few weeks and reserve books from the library that go with the chapters we are studying.  I keep the books in our library basket and encourage the children to read them.   I also choose a large read-aloud every few chapters.   We have read so many great books this way. 

 In fact, I choose most of our read-alouds from the SOTW Activity Guide.  

I also look for notebooking pages and lapbook elements to add to our history notebooks.   Don't feel limited to just the activity pages.  Adding dimension and personality to the notebooks makes them more meaningful.

Sometimes just a few extra activities make a chapter stick with the children more.   Some of my favorite sites for supplemental resources are:

*You might also like my SOTW Pinterest board.  I catalog my favorite resources there in detail.  

Coloring While Listening

Read and Narrate

We sit together and I read the chapter aloud.   (We have the audio CDs for Volume 1.  What a treat they are!) There are some chapters in which I will require my children to write  their narrations.  Sometimes, however, a verbal review is enough for me.   
They are coloring, taking notes, or building LEGO creations to match the chapter while I am reading.  I love the coloring sheets, paper dolls, masks, and other engaging activity sheets.

Map of India

Map Work

The maps are thorough and the activities for mapping are so meaningful.   We recently completed a color coded map activity to show the spread of the plague in the Middle Ages.  It was amazing how this activity brought the chapter to life. I also keep a globe on hand to reference during our map work.  

Time Line

Choose a way to keep a time line (we like Sonlight's Book of Time and Timeline figures)... I find my children looking through this book and reminiscing about chapters we have read.  That does my heart good.


What can you do to extend the learning for your child?   Are they particularly interested in one certain chapter?  Stop and spend some time there.  I can't tell you how long we spent in Egypt - we took a field trip to a museum which had lots of mummies.  We made an Egyptian feast and still continue to check out books about mummies from the library.   

In this way, using this curriculum fits in perfectly with much of our Interest Led Learning lifestyle.    

I've included a vlog {my first one ever - yikes!} to show you our notebooks and share some more information with you.    If you have any questions, please ask!!  I love this curriculum and wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who will listen.  


Below are the links for the books we are currently using.   A good history encyclopedia and atlas are a good investment, no matter what history curriculum you use! 


For more information you can also read The Curriculum Choice review of Story of The World and The Pioneer Woman's thoughts on Story of the World.  

{This post is NOT a review.  It was done simply because I receive a lot of questions about how we use SOTW.  I have received no compensation for this post.}


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Reader Comments (28)

We really enjoyed sotw for a few years. Then my kids completely burned out on it. I hope to return to it the year after next. I really enjoyed it myself. You did a great overview.
Blessings, Dawn

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

We are enjoying SOTW so much more now that I have given up on needing written narrations every single day. Now I go through, make a list of all of the people that are really well-known and I have them print pictures of them out and take notes on them while I read. We do verbal narrations and video links. On chapters where there really aren't famous people to look up, they do the written narrations because I agree--it's an important skill to have.

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa

I wanted to add that I enjoyed your vlog! It was nice to hear and see you and your kids notebooks! I plan to get more into notebooking next year--the little bit that we have done this year has been great!

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa

thanks Mary...this is helpful to see how it all works for you and how you adapt to the ability level of the child.

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Ruberg

We're getting ready to start SOTW 1 with our six year old this summer so thank you for this very timely post! As far as the encyclopedias, do you only use the Kingfisher encyclopedia? Does it work well for your first grader?

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Love this post Mary! I use TOG and they schedule in SOTW. We haven't done a lot from the activity book, but I love the text!

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Great post, Mary! We're SOTW users and lovers, too! (Great to see you, too, btw.)

Love your vlog! We use SOTW too and love it. :)

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

This is very helpful. We are actually switching back to SOTW this next year, so this really gets me excited to start putting plans together and get it all organized. Thank you!

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMel

We are SOTW users here too and I enjoyed your post tremedously!

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacquelin

You did a great job with your vlog! Lots of great information about using SOTW, very inspiring :)

I've been very interested in this curriculum but I wasn't sure if it was structured enough for me. I want a lot of help and direction as a new homeschoolers. Mne are still in Pre K and K so we aren't ready for this yet but this is helpful info for me.

June 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristi

This was so great, Mary! Thanks! A question for you- why put the activity guide in a binder rather than pull out the pages, maps, etc and copy for the kids? I have a binder for each of my children but I keep the guide intact. Whatever activity pages, maps, etc I have pulled out to use, I keep in a folder. I'm wondering what the advantage of a binder is? Thanks so much for your helpful tips :)

June 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

Great review of SOTW. We have used it for awhile but I think I am trying something else next year. I loved seeing your vlog too! Great presentation. :)

June 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Can I come learn history from you?

June 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Lyon

I love the story of the world....we are on book one. Thank you for the suggestion of taking notes as I read:) I will be having my 6 year old do that and my 3 year old can do legos then. :)

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I am using Story Of The World Volume 1 with my 1st grader (and preschooler) this year. I can't wait to get started. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas and resources, I'm adding the activity guide to my list right now!

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabrielle

Great post.
I have used SOTW for many years, at different levels. My youngest and I are now doing the 3rd one. She likes it too!

October 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

WOW, Thank you....We are starting SOTW in 2 DAYS and we cant wait. I loved all your tips and advice, Thanks again.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

LOVE THIS! Thanks so much!!

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaniela Waddell

This was great. Story of the World is our favourite curriculum. We just finished the Plague so I recognize those sheets in the video! I hadn't been using a timeline and have added that to my wishlist and plans for next year. Thanks for that!

March 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSharla

You mentioned that you "unbind" the activity book. Are they all perforated and you pull them out, or do you get that done somewhere else? Thanks.

April 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

I would like to order the Sonlight Timeline book and some figures, but there are a lot to choose from! We are on Volume I of SOTW. Do you have a suggestion as to which figures would make sense for that period?

Thank you!

June 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCindy R

Very informative, Mary. Thanks! I love that timeline book and those figures!

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

We are using Sotw 1 and 2 this year. I had the spines cut at Officemax ($1.09 per cut), then I bound them in a 3 ring binder just like you did. I also scanned them (we have a scanner that does Auto Doc Feed), saved as a PDF and uploaded the teacher manual section into my Ipad. It is very convenient because I did not have to carry the book all over wherever we were homeschooling (kitchen, library, park, etc).

September 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLulu

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