Is history the story of God or the story of mankind? Who is the primary power in the universe? What does any of that have to do with history curriculum? It turns out it has everything to do with history curriculum, with how your children learn and relate to history.
TruthQuest History is a complete homeschool history curriculum written by Michelle Howard Miller. As she explains on her website, history isn’t the story of what man has done; it is the story of what God is doing. Michelle shifts the focus of history off of mankind and his achievements to God and His pursuit of His creation. He created everyone of us to live with and respond to Him. God began history by speaking the world into existence, and one day, He will bring the world and history as we know it to a close. Every moment between those two points is filled with God drawing people to Himself and people’s response. What people believe about God (whether true or not) and how they then view their own purpose for existence is what motivates and constitutes history. Michelle calls these the Big 2 Beliefs. When a man conquers to expand his kingdom because he desires wealth, power, and glory, could it be that he is doing so because of how he views himself (deserving of it, desiring to get everything possible in this life because he believes there is nothing beyond death, etc.) and how he views God (whether the true God or one of many substitutes mankind has fashioned for himself)? When a man sacrifices all to defend another, could it be that he is doing so because of how he views the other person (of incredible value, made in the image of God) and how he views God (as One Who has called us to serve others ahead of ourselves)?
That is the worldview from which TruthQuest History builds. It is a literature-based history study that is packed with living book recommendations for every period of history explored. But do not let the booklists fool you. This curriculum is so much more than that. Each historical period is introduced and explained through a short narrative, followed by book lists. Thought-provoking questions are sprinkled throughout, called ThinkWrite™ exercises. This approach gives students the facts of the time periods but focuses on encouraging them to experience the history through stories and literature and internalize what they have read about through thought-provoking exercises. This makes history much more than “just another class.” This makes history alive, relevant, and a tool by which they can understand the world around them – and be challenged to change it.
I don’t know about you, but I remember stories far more easily and much longer than dry facts. The “people” I meet in stories teach me more about a time period or event than simple textbooks ever can. Russian history was always completely mysterious to me – until I read the Russians series by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella. The Hindenburg disaster was a tragic event but remained distant until I watched an episode of the Waltons when John Boy witnessed it first hand.
TruthQuest History combines historical narrative with both historical fiction and nonfiction, creating a unique way to truly experience history. This series can take your family from 1st-12th grade. I can’t review every title in abundant detail in this post, or you’ll never reach the end of it! What I will do in this post is try to give you a rich sense of what each book covers and a taste of the incredible breadth and depth of this series. Please don’t be overwhelmed trying to decide where to start or feel like if you didn’t start in 1st grade it’s too late. It is absolutely not too late to study and learn the threads that tie history together. Michelle Miller has ample help on her website to show you where to start, no matter what history exposure your kids have had or what grade they are in.
American History for Young Students I: Exploration – 1800
American History for Young Students is a chronological look at American history for 1st-5th grade. As mentioned above, it doesn’t simply share the facts. It begins with a challenge to older students to consider why the New World was discovered when it was. Was there a special reason? It then moves forward with a look at some of the explorers, such as Leif Ericson, Columbus, Vespucci, Cabot, Ponce de Leon, de Soto, Balboa, Coronado, Hudson, and others. It stops by St. Augustine, Roanoke, and Jamestown, and then introduces us to the Pilgrims, Squanto, Massasoit, and many others.
Another thing I love about this American history book is that Michelle doesn’t just refer you to books to read about huge, general topics like the colonies or Native Americans. She breaks it down – New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York; Abenaki, Catawba, Cherokee.
I also appreciate that while Michelle shares the stories of great men of faith like John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards, she does not pull back from the fact that not all of life in early America was Godly. She gently shares about topics such as slavery and the mistreatment of the Native Americans in a way that is appropriate for 1st-5th grade and explores them in more depth in later books for older students.
The first volume of the American History for Young Students series has a lot of ground to cover – from Leif Ericson to the Battle of Fallen Timbers – but it covers it in such a delightful way that I think your kids will be anxious to hear what happens next in the unfolding story!
American History for Young Students II: 1800-1865
The second volume picks up where the first left off in 1800 and carries us through the end of the Civil War. I am amazed at everything Michelle has packed into this volume! She covers the things most of us are familiar with from American history such as the Louisiana Purchase; the advancements made by men like Robert Fulton, Cyrus McCormick, Samuel Morse, and Eli Whitney; the struggle for Texas; the gold rush; the Pony Express; and the Civil War. She also covers tons of material that isn’t always explored in curriculum such as the Barbary Pirates; War of 1812; Trail of Tears; Osceola and Seminole Wars; Black Hawk War; Santa Fe Trail; Erie Canal; clipper ships; and New England whalers.
This history book introduces you mountain men such as Jim Beckwourth, Jim Bowie, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, John Colter, Broken-Hand Fitzpatrick, Edward Rose, and Jedediah Smith. It shares the stories of the people of the California Gold Rush such as Lotta Crabtree, Sylvia Stark, Levi Strauss, and Snowshoe Thompson. It looks at the work of men and women including Elizabeth Seton, Dorothea Dix, Charles Brace, and Adoniram Judson. It even shares the stories of important animals from history such as Seaman (dog of Meriwether Lewis) and animals of the Civil War including General Lee’s horses and Old Abe, a heroic bald eagle mascot of Wisconsin troops.
I also admire how Michelle handles the Civil War, perhaps one of the most difficult chapters of American history to study. She is honest and transparent, believing that both sides made both right and wrong decisions, that both sides had reasons for believing they were right, and that the only One who truly knows the entire story is God. She makes no attempt to prove the right or wrong of a belief or a side, only to present resources that explore the issues of slavery, tariffs, sectionalism, and the limitations of the federal government. She goes on to study some of the key people and battles of the war as well as the role of Civil War artists, photographers, nurses, medics, and spies.
American History for Young Students III: 1865-2000+
The third volume in the American History for Young Students series is unique in that the history it explores includes the history we are living today. It didn’t just happen; it’s happening, and throughout this volume, Michelle explores a central question – what happens when people or a nation decide they no longer need God and try to live without Him? What happens when they begin to take credit for the advancements that are made and decide that humanity can take care of itself?
This book starts with Reconstruction and moves through the prairie pioneers, the Wild West, Alaskan Territory, and the discovery of more gold. It looks at numerous Native American tribes including the Apache, Arapaho, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Chumash, Comanche, Crow, Kiowa, Navajo, Nez Percé, Northwest, Omaha, Papago, Pueblo, Shoshone, Sioux, and Ute. It continues with a look at some of the many other cultures that came together to make the United States and how and where they lived, including steamboats, lumber camps, the big city, immigrant communities, and more. It digs into advances in technology that revolutionized life for people across the country and the achievements of explorers, scientists, teachers, and many others.
It also sensitively leads students through a study of World War I, the Roaring ’20s, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and beyond. As with her earlier American history books, the lives of both famous and nearly forgotten heroes are explored, and a few fun animal stories are included as well.
The American history series ends with an explanation of postmodernism that is easily understood by elementary-aged students and in conclusion charges us with the words of 2 Chronicles, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV.
Beginnings: Creation, Old Testament, Ancient, Egypt
Beginnings is the first in the series of history books for 5th-12th grade. It begins where all of recorded history truly begins, “In the beginning, God . . .” The moment God spoke life as we know it into existence. It also starts with an honest look at Michelle’s heart and the questions that have swirled in her heart and mind, which can be summarized in the often-repeated phrase, “If God is good, why do bad things happen?” There are many bad things recorded through history, and many bad things we have experienced in our lives. The quest to understand this, to see a glimpse of God’s plan behind it all, is one of the themes that runs throughout Beginnings.
The study of history begins with the Days of Creation and moves through the Fall, Noah, Babel, and the beginnings of the Jewish nation in Abraham. It’s the story of the Jewish people that will occupy most of this first history study, as we trace the story of God’s plan through Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, Saul, and David. The story continues with Solomon, the divided kingdom of Israel, many kings and prophets, the exile in Babylon, and the return to Jerusalem.
Throughout this story, we’ll also learn of other major influencers on world events. We’ll meet the Mycenaeans, explore the history and culture of Egypt, learn about the Canaanites, get acquainted with the Assyrians, and visit Babylon.
This first part of the story of history ends with the story of Esther. This line by Michelle grabbed me the moment I read it, “Esther’s story, then, is one of the most heart-grabbing ever told, because, deep-down, while we are afraid to be disturbed in our obscurity, we all long to be loved by a king.” And in that truth lies the Story of history – the longing of our hearts to be reunited with the King who created us and loves us whom we separated ourselves from at the Fall. His quest to bring us back to Himself and our response will fuel all of history itself.
Why do we still study the ancient Greeks today? What is it about their civilization that continues to impact us today, more than 2,000 years later? Join Michelle as she introduces us to the ancient Greeks through a look at their daily life, cooking, and crafts and then explores early residents of ancient Greece; its geography; the Minoans; Greek mythology; the Trojan War; Athens; Greek art, architecture, science, math, and literature; the Persian Wars, the Golden Age of Greece, the Peloponnesian War, Sparta, Alexander the Great, and more. You’ll also meet Homer, Thales, Pythagoras, Theodorus of Samos, Alcmaeon, Aesop, Herodotus, Pericles, Socrates, Democritus, Sophocles and Euripides, Hippocrates, Lysander, Nicias, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Archimedes, Eratosthenes, and many more. Ancient Greece is designed for grades 5-12.
Following her study of Ancient Greece, Michelle moves on to Ancient Rome. “Rome’s story,” as she explains, “offers an especially significant opportunity to learn the most important lessons history has to offer.” What are those lessons, and what makes them critical to understand? Join her as she leads us through Roman history. We start at the beginning with a look at everyday life in Rome, Romulus and Remus, the Etruscans, and the rise and fall of the Roman monarchy. Next, we look at the attack of the Gauls, Punic Wars, and the fall of Greece to Rome. Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Cicero, the gladiators, and Spartacus lead our look at the civil war, corruption, and cruelty of Rome. Then it is time to move into the life of Julius Caesar, the dawn of the Roman Empire, and Pax Romana.
The next units in the story are my favorite – the birth, life, death, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ! As Michelle puts it, the “Roman Empire meets the Rock of Ages.” Don’t miss this opportunity for students to learn about the early Church in its historical context.
More Roman expansion follows, as it reaches for Britain. Caesars rise and fall, and students have a chance to learn about the lives of Trajan, Hadrian, Diocletian, Constantine, Theodosius, and others. The book concludes with the fall of Rome to the barbarians and a challenge to students to reflect on all that they have learned and truly understand what went wrong – how did an empire as powerful as Rome fall, and what lessons can they learn from its story that can be a blessing to their nations today?
The next stop on your 5th-12th graders exploration of history takes us to the Middle Ages. It’s the time between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance and Reformation of the 1400s and 1500s. But was it really “dark,” as some have tried to label it? Was it a time when ideas were stagnant or when learning flourished? What kind of world did people find themselves in after the collapse of one of the most powerful empires on earth, and how did the world change in the nearly 1,000 years leading up to the next period of history? That’s what this book dives into.
The story of the Middle Ages starts with people such as Attila the Hun, King Arthur, Clovis, Justinian, and Theodora and traces the history of the Anglo Saxons, Franks, Visigoths, and Byzantines. It then studies the growth of the Church and the role of men such as St. Benedict, Columba of Scotland, Gregory the Great, Augustine, Paulinius, and Boniface.
It explores the many kingdoms who exerted power during these years, including the Vikings, Normans, and Mongols. It studies the influence of the rise of Islam and tries to help us better understand the effects the Crusades had on the people who lived through them and on our world today.
Our study of the Middle Ages concludes with the adventures of Marco Polo, the life of Kublai Khan, and the events of the Hundred Years’ War, including the terrible bubonic plague and the Peasant Revolt.
Renaissance, Reformation & Exploration
Why is the Renaissance considered such an important period of history? What happened that led to the Reformation? What was it about the events of this time period that paved the way for exploration and discovery unlike anything the world had seen before? Get ready to start searching for the answers in Renaissance, Reformation & Exploration!
We begin with a study of the lives of two famous men: John Wycliffe and Jan Hus. Next, we take a peek at the growth of the medieval town and what life was like for the people of the time. Since no study of the Renaissance would be complete without a look at the art of the period, we learn about the lives and work of artists including Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Ghiberti, and others. We’ll switch gears for a bit and look at the dawn of the period of exploration with a look at Henry the Navigator, Diaz, and others. We’ll visit Italy and meet the Medici family, learn about Johann Gutenberg’s revolutionary development in movable type printing, and dig into the Wars of the Roses.
From there, we’ll study artists of the High Renaissance such as Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Correggio, and others. We’ll learn about Ferdinand and Isabella, the Battle of Granada, Torquemada, and the Spanish Inquisition, and then take some time to explore with Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Vasco da Gama, Amerigo Vespucci, Balboa, and Ponce de León.
Then it is time to learn about the Reformation and the lives of Martin Luther, Zwingli, Menno Simons, and John Calvin. We’ll also learn about the Counter-Reformation as well as what was going on in Russia during this time period.
This chapter of history closes with a look at the race for the New World, the Spanish Armada, the Dutch War of Liberation, and the advances in science made by men such as Galileo, Kepler, and Brahe.
Age of Revolution I, II, and III
These final three titles complete your high schooler’s exploration of history. These are rich, meaty titles that challenge your students to think about where the world has been, where it is going, and what part God has given them to play in it. Each book primarily explores what was going on in Europe and North America and how all of these people and events are connected. Even a simple list of everything these titles cover would go on for pages, but here is an overview:
Age of Revolution I, 1600-1800: King James I, Gunpowder Plot, the King James Bible, Champlain and Hudson, Jamestown, Thirty Years’ War, Rembrandt and Rubens, Pilgrims, King Charles I, the Puritans, Native Americans of the Atlantic Coast, Baroque Art, the Puritan Revolution, George Fox and the Quakers, scientific developments, King Louis XIV, the French in Canada, the rise of Prussia, England’s Great Plague and the Fire of London, the life of Isaac Newton, King Philip’s War, Bacon’s Rebellion, life in the early American colonies, the Second Battle of Vienna, Monmouth’s Rebellion, the Glorious Revolution in England, the Salem Witch Trials, composers of the early 1700s, the Hanovers, Louis XV, Ben Franklin, the Great Awakening, the War of Austrian Succession, the final Jacobite uprising, the French and Indian War in America, Pontiac’s Uprising, the explorations of Captain Cook, and Catherine the Great. It spends much of it’s final chapters on a very thorough study of the American Revolution and concludes with a look at the early republic in America and ongoing conflicts in England.
Age of Revolution II, 1800-1865: America’s early republic, the Louisiana Purchase, Barbary pirates, Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr, Napoleon, the War of 1812, the Industrial Revolution, pioneer travels, Seminole War, Black Hawk War, the mountain men, Santa Fe Trail, life on the Erie Canal, Simon Bolivar, James Monroe, the Monroe Doctrine, early American writers, slavery and the Missouri Compromise, Nat Turner’s revolt, Amistad revolt, the Irish potato famine, the Romantic composers, key artists, famous authors, Karl Marx, the Revolution of 1848, Queen Victoria, Texas and the Alamo, Oregon Territory and Oregon Trail, “Gold Fever,” clipper ships and business on the high seas, the Pony Express, the Underground Railroad, Abraham Lincoln, and the events of the Civil War.
Age of Revolution III, 1865-2000: the Victorian Era, famous missionaries and authors, the impact of Charles Darwin, Reconstruction, the move West, life in the Wild West, stagecoaches and trains, Native Americans in the West, the Battle of Wounded Knee, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Oklahoma land run, immigration, big business, changes in science and technology, firsts and feats, reform movements, women’s suffrage, an honest look at “progress” and the changes it brought, the Spanish-American War, Woodrow Wilson, schools of art, movements in music, key authors, heroes of the faith, events in Israel, life in England, changes in China and Russia, Mussolini, the Roaring ’20s, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the “New Deal,” problems in Germany, World War II, the Nuremberg Trials, Israel becomes a nation, the Korean War, existentialism, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War, space exploration, Vietnam War, an honest look at the worldviews that shaped our modern history, and a final challenge to follow the Lord and let Him use us to change history for the better.
“From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.'” Acts 17:24-27 (NIV).
Notice of material connection: I received these books from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.