Title: The Mystery of History, Volumes I and II
Author: Linda Lacour Hobar
Series: The Mystery of History
Major Themes: World History, Ancient Times, Arabs, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Persia, Rome, Middle Ages, Renaissance/Reformation
Synopsis: A grand sweep through history focuses on God’s work in and through His people.
Sometime during the school year, as I was reading The Mystery of History, Volume 2 to my children for our morning history time, I realized I had not reviewed Volume 1. So I will do both together.
I have used several different history courses during my 20 years of homeschooling. I like the different facets of each one. Some I have used simply assign readings from various books. Some have brief commentary and suggest books to read alongside. The Mystery of History is a self-contained textbook. Volume I covers events from Creation to the resurrection of Jesus. The main framework for this volume is the Old Testament. For example, the first three lessons are titled Creation, Adam and Eve, and Jubal and Tubal-Cain. Each major person in the Bible has a lesson devoted to them, with lessons interspersed at appropriate places that tell what is happening in other parts of the world at the same time. For example, the legend of the Trojan Horse and the Trojan War comes at the time in which Ruth and Naomi lived. In between Samson and Samuel is a chapter about the Zhou dynasty of China. There are chapters about each of the prophets of the Old Testament, along with the story of the founding of Rome, the Olympic games, and even a chapter about the ancient Native Americans. A number of chapters describe ancient Greece, by telling about the lives of certain people that we know about. About three of the weeks that this book is broken up into talk about the Roman Empire, and the last two weeks tell about Jesus’s life.
Volume I has 36 weeks of lessons, with three lessons per week. Each lesson has suggested activities to go along with it, divided into simple suggestions for young children, more complicated ones for the middle grades, and complicated projects for teenagers. We actually never did any of these; we just read the lessons and did the pre-tests at the beginning of each week and the quiz at the end of the week. There are also reviews for each week, with suggestions for putting figures on a timeline, and doing map work. At the end of each quarter is a worksheet that reviews the entire quarter and a semester test after the second and fourth quarters to review the entire semester. All the way through, there are quiz questions about previous weeks’ lessons, to help children remember the important points. Answer keys are in the back of the book for all of these. I have an earlier edition of The Mystery of History Volume I, with all the activity suggestions, map work, pretests, quizzes, and tests built into the book itself. I have, however, seen the newest edition. It is a hardcover, full-color book, and all those helpful resources are available to the original purchaser of the book, to download. They can also be purchased from the author’s website.
The Mystery of History Volume II covers events from the early church and the Middle Ages. The first weeks’ lessons will be quite familiar to anyone who knows the Bible, as they talk about Pentecost and the disciples, and Paul and his missionary journeys. Then, we learned about Nero, the martyrs of the early church, and the Jewish revolt/the fall of Jerusalem. A couple of those lessons talked about topics that could be disturbing for young children, and I appreciated that there was a note in each of those places that it may be good to skip the next few paragraphs. Another note told me where it would be safe to pick up reading again. The lessons move on through the remaining years of the Roman Empire, with one lesson about India and another about the Maya in Central America. More lessons describe the lives of early missionaries such as Patrick and Columba. Then, chapters about Islam, as well as events in China, appear along with lessons about Saint Boniface, Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, and “Good King Wenceslas”—who wasn’t a king at all—one chapter discusses the ancient legend of Beowulf, and A Thousand and One Nights, along with the background and possible meanings of these stories. More lessons describe the Vikings and their discovery of America, the Battle of Hastings, the crusades—and who was Robin Hood? Then, as we near the end of the Middle Ages, we meet the people who triggered the Reformation. The book winds up with the invention of the printing press. This volume is only divided into 28 weeks, but otherwise, the pattern is the same as Volume I, with three lessons per week and the same activities, quizzes, etc. In mine, they are all included in the same book, but in newer editions, they are separate.
So, what is our opinion of The Mystery of History? We love it! I love the focus on God’s work throughout history, and the way the story of the world is told through God’s work with and through His people. I wouldn’t use this course exclusively, because, of course, there are many events that had to be left out because of space and time constraints. No one history book can tell the entire story of the world. We will definitely work our way through Volumes III and IV, and I’ll probably take my youngest children through the whole cycle again in 10 years or so. I especially like the tests/quizzes. We have done all of them orally, and I am amazed at some of the details the children have remembered. Because these books are written in the form of stories of what happened in the past, they are fairly easy to remember.
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15