The Mystery of History

A little more than three years ago, I was in a panic. I’d recently launched into the third installment of a multi-year, multi-subject packaged curriculum – a program I’d initially believed would be our curriculum “for life” – and we absolutely hated it. After adoring the first year, we’d struggled quite a bit with the second because several of the resources were not engaging or age-appropriate for my children. But I’d made adjustments and substitutions, believing that once my kids got a little older, the third year would be just fine.

It wasn’t. And I knew there was no way I could continue to use it for even one more week, let alone a whole year or more. But I had no idea what I’d use instead and, despite all the substitutions I’d made the previous year, I doubted my ability to abandon a package program.

Enter my friend Debra, whom I’d met in an online homeschooling forum. As I vented my fears, Debra convinced me to let her “talk me off the ledge.” Calling from 1,000 miles and two time zones away, she described a history curriculum she was certain would suit me to a T.

Three years later, we’re three-quarters of the way through The Mystery of History, Volume III, anxiously awaiting the arrival later this fall of the fourth and final volume in the series. And I am convinced that choosing to listen to Debra’s counsel was one of the very best decisions I’ve made in my homeschooling journey.

The Mystery of History by Linda Lacour Hobar is a “chronological, Christian, complete world history for all ages.” Volume I begins with biblical Creation dated around BC 4004 and continues through 108 lessons to the Resurrection of Christ. Volume II picks up the story with the narratives surrounding the Book of Acts and journeys through 84 lessons to Gutenberg and the printing press. Then Volume III starts with the advent of the Renaissance and continues through 84 more lessons to the very beginning of the 18th century. And, finally, Volume IV continues over the course of another 84 lessons all the way into 2014, ending with a glimpse at what is to come via the prophecies of the Book of Revelation.

The program is unapologetically Christian; in fact, it is Christ-centered, and Mrs. Hobar notes on occasion in each volume how Jesus Christ is the actual “Mystery of History.” But it doesn’t just cover Christian history. Rather, the series fills a unique niche in that it surveys the history of the world – including coverage in Volume I of all the well-known (and some lesser-known) ancient cultures and discussion in the other volumes of many other-than-Christian people – through a distinctly Judeo-Christian (ultimately Protestant) worldview without denigrating other perspectives. Mrs. Hobar simply presents the world’s story as she sees it through the lens of her faith and invites interested readers along for the journey.

The curriculum is family-friendly because it’s designed so that almost any aged child can comfortably participate on one level or another. In fact, every lesson includes follow-up activities for younger, middle, and older children, and Mrs. Hobar explains in the books’ teaching notes how to adapt the readings and other activities for various ages. Thus, a five-year old can listen along while coloring and then share a short summary sentence to use for copywork. A nine-year old can create a multitude of hands-on projects, a 12-year old can take on some detailed geography study, and a high school student can tackle in-depth reading of primary sources – all after engaging together around the same key narratives as shared in the student readers.

Also noteworthy is the fact that through the readings and various activities, all eight multiple intelligence strengths are addressed at regular intervals. For example, a picture-smart child will enjoy the coloring sheets and geography activities. A music-smart child will resonate with suggestions to listen to various eras’ music. And a body-smart kid will love the many activities that call for reenactments of particular historical events. Since each reading includes three possible follow-up activities, every child should find opportunity to express his top strengths on an on-going basis.

I started Volume I when my children were nine and 10. Using Mrs. Hobar’s helpful scheduling suggestions along with my own plan to work through all four volumes before my kids start high school, we’ll finish our first round through the books when they are 13 and 14; our pace has been brisk but not overwhelming. And I plan to re-use the books in high school, utilizing the texts as sources for review while also helping my children to design in-depth reading and research projects about particular people and events of interest to each. We homeschoolers are blessed with a multitude of excellent resources, so I know other good history programs – from a variety of worldview perspectives – exist. But if you’re looking for a solid, engaging, Christ-centered option, consider The Mystery of History. My friend Debra was right; it is the one for me.

This review was originally published in the Fall 2014 edition of Learning Tangent magazine.

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