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Loving History: Part I

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By Tammy Marshall Cardwell

I love history!

How many of us were able to say this in high school? I’m not saying my teachers didn’t try, but only one positively brilliant American history teacher managed to take me beyond the boring, three-paragraphs-per-person history texts. I did manage to memorize myriad names and dates in order to pass the tests. I dare say I retained none of them.

What made the difference? When did my attitude towards history shift from frustration to fascination? Well, it coincided with homeschooling. (Surprise. Surprise.) I caught a glimpse of what American History could be at our first homeschool conference, where I heard both David Barton and Richard Little Bear Wheeler speak, and where I discovered antique books.

As time went on, I learned even more, eventually realizing that it was the historical fiction and biographies I’d loved since childhood that had actually taught me the bulk of the history I’d retained. Knowing this, I was particularly interested when introduced to Greenleaf Press. This company uses biography and historical fiction to teach history chronologically from the beginning. I’d already begun enjoying American history like never before and this new method settled history’s place both in my affections and our homeschool.

I’ve given a brief look at my journey to make a point. History need not be a boring subject that you and your children merely endure. It can be a fascinating exploration that helps you better understand, and retain information about, the world you live in; you need only take advantage of some of the truly wonderful resources at your disposal. What follows are introductions to just a few.

Studying Chronologically

While there are many ways to study history, this is my hands-down favorite. A timeline is every homeschooler’s best friend, but it can only offer so much help in grasping the ways in which one civilization affects others, especially those that follow it. This understanding, one I never had in school, makes a world of difference.

Back in the day, when I was working conferences for Greenleaf Press (the happy customer was an enthusiastic salesperson), I would often recommend that people consider beginning their studies with Genesis 1:1 and proceed chronologically through Daniel, then study Ancient Egypt before picking the Bible back up again. While you could certainly study the entire Old Testament before moving on to Ancient Egypt, I had discovered that understanding Egyptian culture gave me much greater insight into what I’d just read (Daniel) and set me up to experience Exodus in a much more enlightened way.

Resources for Chronological study may have been scarce in my early homeschooling days, but today’s homeschooler has many options.

EHO Reviews

Chronological Bibles
The Narrated Bible (NIV)
The One Year Chronological Bible (NLT)

Geneveive Foster books/A Slice of History
Augustus Caesar's World
The World of Columbus and Sons
The World of Captain John Smith
George Washington's World

Greenleaf Press
Famous Men of Greece, Famous Men of Rome
Greenleaf Guides to Famous Men of Greece and Famous Men of Rome
Greenleaf Press Time Charts

Memoria Press
Famous Men of Greece
Famous Men of Rome
Famous Men of the Middle Ages

Chronological History-based Unit Studies
Ancient History: Adam to Messiah
TRISMS: Discovering the Ancient World
TRISMS: History Makers 5500 B.C. to the Present
A World of Adventure

Miscellaneous Publishers
Story of the World: History for the Classical Child Vol.1: Ancient Times
History in His Hands, Volume I
Mystery of History, The, Volume I: Creation to the Resurrection
Mystery of History Volume 2: The Early Church and the Middle Ages
World History: The Fertile Crescent to the American Revolution
Annals of the World, The: James Ussher's Classic Survey of World History
TruthQuest History: Renaissance, Reformation and Age of Exploration

Timeline Resources
History through the Ages
History Through the Ages Collection of Historical Timeline Figures on CD
History Through the Ages Record of Time
History Through the Ages Suggested Placement Guide
Greenleaf Press Time Charts
Historical Timeline Figures (CD-ROM)

Historical Fiction

Only as an adult did I realize how much history I had learned from the historical fiction I’d enjoyed since childhood. This genre is sneaky; it draws you into the characters’ lives and teaches you about their worlds on the sly.

Take Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series, for instance. I read these books every summer when I was growing up and every year I learned more about Laura’s world. The era interested me by default because someone I’d learned to care about had lived through it. Yes, these could almost be in the biography section, though they are fictionalized, but I have discovered that we tend to develop attachments to books’ characters even when we do know they never really existed.

Throughout my life, historical fiction has sparked my interest in further study of specific time periods. Again, using Wilder’s series as an example, from wanting to know what awls and lasts were to seeking more information on how their artisans affected the lives of settlers out west, I always found more questions, more to learn. And all that without teachers or formal assignments. Imagine!

I suggest carefully selecting a few books and leaving them lying about where they can capture the interests of unwary readers, the way Wilder’s books captured mine.

EHO Reviews

We have too many historical fiction reviews to list individually. These are the topical categories.

American Revolution Fiction
Civil War Fiction
Other American History Fiction
World History Fiction
World Wars Fiction


I clearly remember the first time I pulled a biography off the shelf at school. It was third grade, and when I saw the name George Washington I thought it would probably be interesting. In my hurry, I’d accidentally picked up a book on George Washington Carver and it proved to be both a surprise and more fascinating than I could ever have imagined. It not only introduced me to science in a new and interesting way, but also exposed me to the realities of life for a whole group of people during the time George Washington Carver lived. Never having experienced prejudice in person, this was a real revelation to me.

So, pull out some biographies of people who lived during the era you’re studying. You will quickly see just how much reading about real people can affect your history studies...and even your life.

EHO Reviews

We have too many biography reviews to list individually. These are topical categories.

American History
Art & Music
Missionary & Christian
Science & Medicine
World History

Antique/Vintage Books

I mentioned in the introduction that my fascination with American history began with antique books. First, I learned that the history taught in American history textbooks has been subtly rewritten since early in the last century. Not appreciating that I’d been taught some things differently than my ancestors, I immediately wanted to know what misinformation I’d been given and what had been left out of the books I’d read.

I also found, upon reading these older books, that they tended to be more interesting. Unlike the dry texts of today, even the older schoolbooks told their stories in such a way that I actually wanted to read them.

Should you desire to seek out antique books for yourself, hit the used bookstores and check copyright dates. I prefer books from the 19th century, myself, though I will buy interesting books that were published as recently as 1923 or so.

I use a simple test when deciding about purchasing an American history text. If it covers the time period, I open to the section on the French and Indian War and read what it has to say about the Battle of Monongahela. During this battle, George Washington’s experiences were nothing less than miraculous, and he gave God all the glory. If a book fails to share this part of the story, I figure there’s a good chance it also leaves out other points I would consider important. This test, of course, is only really needed for books published from the early twentieth century through today and might only apply for Christians who care about whether or not God gets equal time in the study of HIStory.

Hunting down antiques can be a great adventure, but it is not a necessity. Today, there are many publishers reprinting from their own collections.

EHO Reviews

Antique History Reprints
Annals of the World, The: James Ussher's Classic Survey of World History
Brave Deeds of Confederate Soldiers
Of Plymouth Plantation

Antique Biography Reprints
Some Successful Americans (ebook)
The Soul of Lee
Gaining Favor with God and Man
Boys of Grit who Became Men of Honor & Boys of Grit who Changed the World
The Mothers of Famous Men

Primary Sources

Any historian knows that primary sources – books and other written material from the time period in question – are by far the best option for history studies because they are more likely to be accurate. Admittedly, shifts in language can make reading primary sources, like reading antique books, a challenge, but the rewards are great. (For early American history, a copy of Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary is invaluable.) Such resources can definitely make history studies more enjoyable, more interesting, and more gratifying; there is nothing like reading words written by the person who lived back then, who walked down the road in question.

EHO Reviews

Ancient history from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline
Of Plymouth Plantation

Part II of this series will focus on some of the extraordinary extras, powerful options that every homeschooler should consider making room for in the schedule and budget.

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