Create Your Own History Curriculum

I promised I would talk about what we would be doing next year instead of Sonlight.  The truth of the matter is, I am creating my own curriculum.

Did I scare you?  I scare myself.

I have done this in the past, but it was an utter failure.  The main reason I failed at my own curriculum was because I didn’t stick with it.  It wasn’t very well thought out or planned out, so I was always trying to blindly figure out what to do next on the fly.  I finally caved that year and went back to a curriculum I had used in the past to “get us by.”

This time I am taking the curriculum to the next level.  I am giving substance to the ENTIRE YEAR, not in a rigid day by day schedule, but in a progression that says do this, then this, then this. I must admit, despite the long hours of planning, it has been immensely rewarding and even fun!

I started with this book: All Through the Ages by Christine Miller (Nothing New Press).

I found this book years ago at a homeschool convention.  I wasn’t looking for it, but a woman standing next to me told me to buy it. {yeah, I listen to total strangers at homeschool conventions ;) }

This book is a GEM! It is separated out chronologically and by age, so if you want to study Ancient Greece, you need only to turn to that page, find your child’s age group, and choose books from that list.  In addition to this, there are fabulous little history overviews scattered throughout the book.  I learned a lot just by reading those!  Miller has also made notations of any problems you might find in the books, so you are aware.

Next, I took All Through The Ages and sat down with a piece of paper and pen and made note of all the books listed in the appropriate time frame from the appropriate age groups that I thought would be good reads. {I also used Veritas Press’ catalog.  Most of their books are excellent, but you do have to be aware of the aspects I mentioned in my post on the other side of Classical curriculum.}

Many of these books I already owned, but there were several I did not.  The first thing I did was to cull from my bookshelves all the books I already owned that were either on the list or went along with that time period. I put them in a box and set them aside.

Next, I went to my computer and opened three windows:
One for my local library
One for PaperBackSwap.com
One for Amazon.com

For every book I did not own, I searched my local library first.

If it wasn’t there, I searched PaperBackSwap next.

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

For those of you unfamiliar with Paperback Swap, it is a place where you can get rid of books you no longer want (paperback or not) and request books from other members.  You post your books and when another member requests a book from you, you package it up (at your expense) and send it off to them.  You get a book credit in return.  Every book credit allows for you to request a book from another member (free of charge to you).  You keep a running list of books you would like and when those books come available from another member, PBS alerts you, asks if you want the book, and then handles the transaction of credits.

However, you do not have to post your own books to participate!  You can purchase book credits for $3.45 a piece.  But, if you are like me, you likely have a few books lying around you would like to get rid of.  For the record, I ALWAYS check PBS first, even if I don’t have any credits because you will be hard-pressed to find many books that are cheaper and include shipping elsewhere!

If the book is not in my personal library or available on PaperBackSwap, I add the book to my Wish List on PBS and head to Amazon.com.  You can keep a running Wish List on Amazon as well that can be made available to relatives looking for gifts to bless your family with, so keep that in mind as you are searching.

I search out the “missing” books from my list on Amazon and check prices.  If it is a book I know I really, really want and it is not yet on PaperBackSwap and I think there’s a good chance it won’t show up there anytime soon, I go ahead and purchase from Amazon.  Otherwise, I just wait it out. {That’s the good thing about starting early on a project of this magnitude.}

After I had listed on paper where each book I wanted could be found, I started my Progression List using what I had in my box as well as the books I hoped to own or find at the library.  I separated things out by time periods so there were natural breaks in the curriculum.

I also added in suggestions from Vision Forum’s Building a Winning Curriculum.  This book has most of Vision Forum’s educational products divided into chronological and thematic categories.  I made notations of those I owned and those I want to own so when a sale comes up, I can take advantage of that sale.

If you are wondering why I am choosing to do a Progression List rather than a full-blown Lesson Plan with daily assignments, here’s my reasoning…

1. School doesn’t always happen 5 days a week, Monday through Friday around here.

2. If I get off track, I don’t feel guilty because I don’t have a lesson plan sheet telling me I should have done such and such on Monday, but here it is Thursday and I am just now getting around to it.

3. I set the pace.  I make it manageable.  And I know precisely where I left off because everything is done in progression!

Please understand, this is a test…this is only a test…in the event I use this homeschool curriculum and it creates an emergency, an alarm will sound followed by another post telling you I am changing course…again.  Thank you.

93 Comments

93 thoughts on “Create Your Own History Curriculum

  1. I like the sound of this! So are these mostly literature-type books or what? What is your typical daily format? I’d be interested in a follow-up at some point where you highlight some specifics of hoe you are implementing this.

  2. I would absolutely love to win a copy of the curriculum book…I’m trying to formulate a plan for my son who will be 6 in September. I’ve debated using Sonlight but there are some things about it that make me unsure…I’d really love to come up with my own curriculum, the way my mom did when she was homeschooling me and my younger brothers!

  3. Interesting, yet scary. How does building your own curriculum compare cost wise to purchasing from MFW or Sonlight for example. This will be my first year purchasing a history curriculum, so the comments from everyone on your blog has been of great use to me. My two main concerns are: exsposing my kids to unwanted topics and budget (looking to use for all 5 as they get older).

    • It’s hard to give a cost break down because I have been schooling for 8 years now and own a ton of books already. If I find some time I’ll try to give a cost break down, but um…don’t hold your breath…I’m a writer, not a mathematician! lol

  4. I don’t plan on buying any “boxed” curriculum… Since I’m just starting, your post is very helpful for ideas on how to plan. I’m also along the, plan a day (possibly a week) in advance mode. I hope to be organized like you!

  5. I would love to win a copy. I am trying to decide now if we will give sonlight a try next year , or if I should build my own curriculum.

  6. I would love to have have that book. I have been looking at the History Portfolio by Homeschool Journey. This book could be used easily with that.
    Thank you.

  7. Great post! So glad you followed up with what you were going to do instead of Sonlight.

    We just started Sonlight and already hit several things we just didn’t care for, so we’re stopping it NOW. I had every other subject covered, but not history. We decided to go with Mystery of History. Can’t WAIT for it to get here!

    I’m not sure if I have enough courage to do my own curriculum quite yet. We did the all-in-a-box stuff for 2 years. Now we’re a little more … eclectic? Have things from several different companies this year. Give me a few years and I might end up wanting to do something similar LOL ;-)

  8. Wow. This is so timely. I have been using Sonlight for 6 years now and am nearly finished the combined 1 & 2 core and wondering what to do next. I have MOH and SOTW so this would be a great read for us.

  9. Boy! You are brave. I cannot wait to hear how it goes. I have never heard of Paperback Book Swap. Thanks for the resource. It is so tough finding a curriculum that works. We are changing this year too. I am praying for wisdom!

  10. I LOVE coming up with my own curriculum… it’s true my oldest is only 3.5 and I haven’t really had to sit down and thing through a whole entire yr yet. But I really enjoy picking up great tools and using them to help him learn. Some of my fav so far have been found in the thrift store. :)

  11. Wow, that’s really cool. I had never really thought of making my own curriculum…
    Even though it would be a lot of work, I can see so many benefits.
    I might just try this myself.
    Thanks!

  12. I also bought All Through the Ages at a home school conference, because a total stranger told me to. I have used it this year and love it. Thanks for the book links.

  13. Amy, this is my heart exactly! I’ve been designing our own curriculum the last few years, and try to do so for as FREE or nearly free as possible. If you don’t mind my sharing a link, this topic is why I wrote the following article for ~Heart of the Matter~ http://heartofthematteronline.com/homeschooling-for-free-or-nearly-free

    I know is does take time & creativity to pull the resources together, however, I find I feel I OWN what I’m teaching my children {in other words I’m excited about teaching it} when I design it myself I’m excited to see where the Holy Spirit is leading your family’s education. {and I hope I win the give-away, lol.}

    (Note: I posted another comment before this but I couldn’t tell if it was sent or not…sorry if this is doubled :- )

  14. It sounds perfect. I hope it works out for you. Please continue to let us know how it is going. My professor in college insisted that we put a gigantic long timeline up all around the classroom so kids could add what they learn. They can add personal things, too, to help with perspective and make it more meaningful, such as their birthdays, their grandparents’ birthday, etc.

  15. Sounds like a good plan that’ll work well for you! I’ve been thinking of doing something similar for next year as well.

    I’d love to win the book!

    Thanks!
    Joesette

  16. Very similar to what I have done for years. I also use All Through the Ages. I always start out by pulling our in-house resources off the shelves and adding them to baskets. The I check the library and other on-line sources for additional material. I type out all the books and activities and do not assign dates. We just study together until we are done. Some things get skipped and some things are added in as I see fit. I do try to plan our daily reading out each week, but like you said sometimes “schoolwork” doesn’t get done every day. In fact, we are taking the day off from most school work today in order to get our house in order.

  17. I’d love to be added to this giveaway. We’ve been homeschooling for the last 4 years and I’m seriously considering putting my own curriculm together.

    Thanks!

  18. I may have to get that literature book with the lists of books! I have used Tapestry of Grace, but really all we do is get the books, read them and do either timeline cards or people cards (a 3×5 card with a photo or map and a little summary of the person or point of history) I have found recently that my local library, once a treasure trove of old good books, has begun to cull them! Books I could find four years ago, I cannot anymore. It is driving me a little crazy, because, as much as I would love to own all these books, it is expensive!

  19. I admire you doing it all this way. It’s very similar to our method, but this year I am going ahead and purchasing Tapestry of Grace to use because she has done all of the work for me and all I do is go to my library’s site and order the books I need for each unit a week or so ahead of schedule.

  20. All Through the Ages is on my nightstand right now! It is an amazing resource. I’ve been heavily evaluating the direction I’m taking my homeschool over the last few weeks and I’m definitely going to be using that book as a guide. We’ve always built our own curriculum, but I’m looking to streamline it for greater simplicity.

  21. This is one of the best posts about how to systematically build your own curriculum. I’ve been thinking about doing it myself for a year or two, but have always chickened out. :) I may just have to try it. Thanks!

  22. There is another great used book site called Alibirs, that I have found many out-of-print books for $.99+ media shipping. I really like this site, the only thing to keep in mind when ordering is to make sure you are ordering from the same “bookstore” withing the site to keep shipping cost down. This is also very easy to accomplish and a lot of books are discontinued library books so they’re library bound…. always a plus for me because the binding is so sturdy! The site is http://www.alibris.com Good Luck!

  23. I am making our curriculum for next year as well, and I’m very excited! I am, however, doing a more rigid schedule as that is just how I work. I’m making lesson plans for the entire 190 days!! :D It has already been a lot of fun, and b/c we’ve homeschooled for so long now, we have a lot of the things that I need already on hand! ;D We are really looking forward to a much more advanced curriculum! :D I know yours will be great as welL! :D–S

  24. I appreciate how you follow up your posts with practical solutions (depart from Sonlight-creating your own curriculum). Often, because I love to teach my children certain things, I find myself straying from the course set out with the Sonlight, etc curriculums, which is why I have adopted the method of creating my own. But this post has given more meat and substance to my method. Thank you!

  25. I have never heard of the first book you mentioned, I may have to go check it out. When I first started homeschooling (10 years ago) I was way too scared to attempt to put something together myself. Now, I prefer to do things my own way according to our family’s needs.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

    Jessica

  26. You know, I’ve always done a day-by-day (lesson plan) schedule… and yes, it does stress me out if we can’t get the work done one day and I feel like I have to work the kids SO hard to catch up! What a brilliant idea to make a progression list instead! Thanks for sharing what you’re up to – such a good way to get ideas and hear other ideas about school planning. :)

  27. Oh!!! yea!! I so appreciate this post. I am dreaming about what I should do next year (more like having nightmares). I am too daunted by making my own curric, but this sounds do-able.

    Hmmm…ok, a few Qs:
    1) Do you make lists for ages/age groupings?
    2) What years will you be studying?
    3) I’m wondering about using TOG again, but the cost is the big factor. How much is your budget for each age grouping or in general?
    4) How do you kick it up a notch for high schoolers? (do you have any yet, I can’t remember?)
    5) I’m feeling convicted about the number of books I own already and spending more… which is leading me towards building my own, but… eek! How many ‘weeks’ (loosely) have you developed and how long has it taken you?

    THANKS!

    • I have my children grouped in 2 different ways:
      1. Littles & Bigs
      2. Littles, 10 yo, 13 yo
      In answer to Q4, my 13 yo will be reading high school level books. All Through The Ages has the books broken down in age groups, so I just used their suggestions to “kick it up a notch.” Blake will also be spearheading some of the activities as well. We’ll be studying Creation – Rome just prior to Christ’s birth. I am just about to finish making all the lesson plans. I started 2 weeks ago.

      I wish I could give you a budget, but I can’t. I tend not to think that way because it changes every year dependent on specific needs. Hope that helps! :)

  28. Thanks so much for sharing this! Even with books that offer a daily lesson plans – we go with a progressive type attitude. I go through the book and simply list out what I would want for each day, but no due dates, etc. Then we can accomplish what we can when we can and it is amazingly less stressful to all of us!

    I hope I win the book – that would be soooo Cool!

  29. P.S. Forgot to say that I love the progression idea! We always finish a “week” on SL because I just can’t stand starting on Day 3 for the next week and I get to confused and feel like we’re behind.

    BUT…I worry that having a progression would keep me from pushing when I need to. Do you have this concern?

    • I’m not worried about that because that is how I have done SL. I guess it’s more the way my brain compartmentalizes things. It looks like we will have 6 sections of history to go through. We school year round, but not every section will take 2 months (Egypt & Rome will be the longer ones). I really think it is doable. :)

  30. Thank you for the offer! I love VF products so I am curious how they compiled their products together for home educating… :)

  31. I really like the idea of creating my own history curriculum and using a progression list. I think that approach would work well for us. You could spend longer in a period because of interest and not feel like you’re off-track!

  32. As a homeschooling newbie, this sound so scary! I look forward to reading about how it’s working for you!

  33. I’m interested in creating my own highschool curriculum. I’ve used SL for years and we own up through core 100, but as I look at some of the highschool books, I just don’t know that they’d work for our family. I’ll have to check these books out to see if they’ll work for hs! Thanks!

  34. Hi Amy,

    We also create our own – basically the same way you do. I don’t know if you are familiar with Homeschool in the Woods. They have a wonderful resource called the Time Travelers series. I have found that these work really well with anything that I put together and any books that I am reading. And it gives us something that we can all work on together, from the 2 year old to the 10 year old. I have no problem coming up with books for us to read, but my creativity fails me when trying to come up with crafts, activities, and writing assignments. The Time Travelers packages are great because she has done all of that for me. We just pick and choose what we want to do. I highly recommend them.

    • I forgot to mention one other resource that is very helpful. The OLD Diana Waring history guides (not the ones from AIG, and not the set before that, but the ones before that). She has great suggestions for all the “extras” that make history so interesting. You can find them used on Amazon for about $5.

  35. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas. We currently have five young children (the oldest being 8, are homeschooling and can use all the help we can get!

  36. I would love to win this! The only subject I have put together myself is fine arts. It has gone well, but we only do it once a week, so it is not too in depth.

  37. We’ve been using the “progression plan” for a few years now and it works SO well. I love not feeling behind but also knowing exactly what comes next. It will make your year run so smoothly.
    As far as the question above on how to know when to push, I put in check points during the year (at the end of each month) so I can double check our progress and speed up or slow down as needed.
    I hope you love your new plan!
    -Rebecca

  38. Sounds fantastic and exactly like what I have been contemplating. I wondered if there was a resource out there like “All Through the Ages”. I will definitely be checking that out. I’d love a copy of Vision Forum’s book too!

  39. Thanks Amy for another resource-full post!

    What a great way to go about it! Never heard of PaperBackSwap til this post. Definitely adding to my list of resources. I have a feeling it will be invaluable. We are eclectic with our curriculum approach. It is so much more inexpensive and diverse. The children enjoy not being tied to one viewpoint.

    I have really just gone on the fly, with some guidance from the local school’s scope and sequence. It is our goal to school everyday, but when life happens the kids know they must engage in scholastic enterprise during “school hours” unless they are so sick they can’t hold a book. But there’s no guilt and we dive right back in the next day.

  40. Thank God you listen to strangers at times! I am planing on homeschooling- but my oldest is only 3. Right noe am leaning twwards more of a non-curriculum method/non-schooling.

  41. I have been eying these books for a while. Would love to win. Thanks for the generous giveaway.

  42. The curriculum building book would be an excellent resource. I also use PBS to request books…though it seems there is always a wait for things I want! :)

  43. This sounds great…I would love to win a copy! I have thought about designing my own curriculum, too, because there just isn’t anything that meets my needs exactly. All through the Ages sounds like a terrific resource.

  44. I would love to win.Thanks for the giveaway.We have tried various things in school as well.It is fun to try new things.~Nikki from Vt.

  45. Thank you so much for sharing this insight. We are gearing up to start homeschooling later this year, so I have been researching and praying about curriculum choices.

    Thank you for the chance to win the resource, as well.

    I enjoy your blog very much. God bless you!

    Kristen

  46. We are not homeschooling yet, but even with my little one nearing 1 year, I am thinking about it. I understand the desire – and the effort involved – in creating your own curriculum from my teaching experience. But, I find that when I teach using my own activities, homework, projects, etc. rather than just from the content in the text (curriculum), the students learn more and we all have more fun. Best wishes!

  47. ohh, you are sounding so organized and on top of things, yet realistic as one who has been there.

    This book sounds like a great resource.

  48. Hi Amy,
    This is great. I’ve been doing a similar thing for y.e.a.r.s. One catalog I used to love for literature ideas but haven’t been able to find in a while was Elijah Company. They broke down all their books by subject and age level.
    Oh…enter me in the drawing, too.

    • I remember that catalog! You had to pay for it, right? I remember a friend having a copy and telling me it was worth the money. I wonder if they went out of business?

  49. You are much braver than I! I am the point of just starting with homeschooling and no where near confident enough to write my own curriculum! God Bless you, I love your blog. It is such a great resource to those of us just finding our way.

  50. May God bless you and your efforts to making a working curriculum for your homeschool. I hope that you will make it available to others, after you have tried it out. I remember my mom making “her own curriculum” for various subjects. Most of them were shorter unit type studies. That she felt she could do and save money on verses buying someone elses and she could tailor it to our family needs.

  51. I would have bought a book suggested to me at a Homeschool convention too! Sometimes, that is the best way to shop, by what others have loved!

  52. Great Post!! I LOVE this idea! I’m stubborn..and prefer not to follow a set lesson plan. It’s fun for my kids when, after I’ve chosen which workbook/curriculum for a particular subject, we open the book and scan through to decide how many pages per day or how many chapters a week, etc. My oldest especially loves having a general idea of what’s to come and how much we have left. This way of doing history would work well for our family, too! Thank you for being an encouragement!! I really enjoy reading your blog!

  53. I love your plan!! I have been blessed to be handed-down an older version of Sonlight for my children, but I always do lots of tweaking on my own! If that source dries up I will probably create my own curriculum also!

  54. This is wonderful. I love the idea of eliminating the guilt when interruptions (or rather “life lessons”) put us a bit behind on the daily work. Thanks so much for sharing! God bless!

  55. I also own All Through the Ages with the idea of creating my own curriculum. I appreciate you sharing your plan of attack. We ended up using TOG but it is too much and school has become a chore for the kids and for me. I realized that I was making too hard to do out of fear of missing something. I have learned better now and will give it another try. I would love to have the give away book to help in my efforts. Pray for me and I for you in our DYI curriculum ventures!

  56. Great idea! I would love to do the same. I have been using Rod and Staff and I love it but I would like to “tweek and add” at my own discresion. I love Vision Forum!

  57. Great job with organizing your own history curriculum! I, too, have tried to pull it together in the past, but that was too hard for the season of life I was in. I think our oldest was 7 at the time, with 4 younger. Now we use Tapestry of Grace, mostly because it’s all laid out. Flexibility is the key, I’ve found, and with anything, not all book assignments will work for our family. That curriculum guide from Vision Forum sure looks good!

  58. I know what you mean about creating your own curriculum and getting so far off track…well you just want to give up. Good luck! I’d love to win this book.

  59. Hello Amy! I started reading your blog because of the skrit parts (as I said over on fb- I could have wrote the intro!!) I’m excited about your blog and have started using the laundry idea also! What a blessing! I’d love to be entered in your giveaway, we are going back to homeschooling after stepping away from God’s calling for two years and being in mirsery for it!

  60. We are beginning our first “official” year of homeschooling so any help would be wonderful!! This book looks like a wonderful resource.

  61. I love the more laid back curriculums and how you have it planned out! We currently use a box curriculum but we don’t always get things done the way we are supposed to LOL!

    I love Vision Forum products.

  62. I make up most of my own curriculum. But I will use unit studies sometimes and adapt them…I try to use lots of living books (very Charlotte Mason) but this sounds like a great resource! love Vision Forum. thanks!

  63. this is our first year of homeschooling, your blog has been such a blessing. the book looks like it would be very helpful

  64. I am also trying to piece together a history curriculum for next year- thanks for this post!

  65. My daughter’s favorite subject is social studies. I’m quite interested in this resource. I enjoyed reading your post on classical curriculum.

  66. Would like to win. We are doing a classical model and the children are young… could see us changing as they are older, too. Some of the same reasons that your OWN CHILD pointed out!! And I really like to be able to choose books that can be studied…. along with the progression list… I have never thought about doing that but it goes great with our “routine” family. Thanks, Amy!!