Monday, August 12, 2013

History Studies ~ Integrating CC and SOTW

A friend of mine asked if I would write a post about integrating the Classical Conversations history memory work and The Story of the World. As I struggled with this issue before joining Classical Conversations, I decided that I would share my thoughts on the subject in the hopes that they would be helpful to someone else!


The “Problem”

Classical Conversations Foundations students memorize 24 weekly history sentences each year in a three-year history cycle. These sentences are only roughly chronological. Cycle 1 history sentences cover very general world history (historical empires, peoples, and countries), ancient through modern. Cycle 2 history sentences cover world history from medieval to modern. Cycle 3 history sentences cover U.S. history from Columbus to current events. Students also memorize a world history timeline (ancients to modern) in its entirety every year.

Many Foundations parents choose to add in some form of history studies at home in addition to the CC memory work.

The Story of the World is a chronological history narrative for children, written in four volumes to correspond with a four-year history cycle.

So, the question is, “How do we flesh out the history memory work with a fuller context for our students? And how do we get all that to work within our history schedule?”

The “Solutions”


Option #1

Read the corresponding card from the CC Classical Acts and Facts History Timeline each week. Add in corresponding pages from a history encyclopedia such as The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History or The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. This is what we did during the first half of our first cycle of CC as I was 9 months pregnant and then had a newborn.


Option #2

Read chapters from The Story of the World that correspond with the history sentences each week. This will involve some skipping about (and fast forwarding), but you could also read straight through each of the SOTW volumes as you would a read-aloud without taking time for additional studies, activities, or crafts. The audio versions of SOTW are handy if you are reading straight through.

(Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood has planners available for free download with corresponding SOTW chapters for each week and so much more.)


Option #3

If you are a love-to-read family, read corresponding picture and chapters books each week. (Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood has an book list to go with Cycle 2. If that list makes your head spin, check out Mandi’s list at Family. Your Way. She’s pared it down to a manageable, quality selection.) This is essentially the approach we took for the second half of our first year with baby on board.

Read corresponding SOTW chapters if that works for you. Or listen to the audio versions in full over the summer.


Option #4

If you love history, are attached to a four-year cycle, want to fill in gaps in the CC memory work, have older children who need (or want) more history, or want to make history more of a spine for literature, memory work, and more—this is the option for you. And it’s pretty much where I’ve landed for our family.

Ignore the CC history cycles for your history studies at home. Memorize the history sentences and timeline during memory work review time. If you must, read the corresponding timeline card during the week. My boys love to memorize the songs (history and timeline), and they don’t care whether they have context right away. Be confident that the history sentences work extraordinarily well as a brief introduction, which will make their ears perk up when you do come to that topic in your history studies (in a month or in a year), or as review.

Progress through history chronologically in a roughly four-year cycle using The Story of the World. Take your time and integrate literature, poetry memory, writing, crafts, fine arts, etc. The book lists in the SOTW Activity Books or The Well-Trained Mind are helpful. Or you can check out our list here.

I’ve found that my boys are much more likely to listen to, enjoy, and retain a chapter of The Story of the World if they have previously (even years before—the point is they are memorizing these sentences permanently!!) memorized a corresponding sentence or timeline title. And they always break into song when a word (name, place, event) triggers it. Every time.

If you are leaning towards keeping the CC memory work and your history studies separate but you value cohesiveness (and it’s still stressing you out), this is my suggestion: Build your own timeline.

There are many blank paper timelines on the market, or build your own. CC Foundations students learn the entire world timeline every year. This means that within a single year of study, a student will have complete skeleton of “pegs” for world history, ancient to modern times. Write each timeline title on your timeline as you memorize it. Write each history sentence on your timeline the week it is introduced. Write the people, cultures, and events on your timeline as you come across them in your history studies. Get the kids involved. When you watch a documentary as a family and your child says, “Let’s put that on the timeline,” do it.

An integrated learning atmosphere is never perfectly organized, and you don’t want to turn down something interesting (like a Renaissance Faire) just because it doesn’t fit into your history schedule. With a timeline, everything has its place, and kids have a visual reminder of how everything fits together!


Option #5

I was going to stop there, but this next one might be even better than the first four. Use The Story of the World as your history spine, but condense it into three years rather than four. The best way to accomplish this would be to pick and choose which chapters you want to focus on (with supplemental reading, activities, field trips, etc.) and double (or triple) up the others. Study Ancient History (and into Medieval period a little) during cycle 1, Medieval and Renaissance during cycle 2, and modern history/U.S. History during cycle 3.

It’s okay not to start with the ancients if you are jumping into cycle 2 or 3, but don’t manipulate your studies so that the history sentences line up with your history studies at home. And spend more than 24 weeks studying history.

Here’s why I like this option:

If you begin in first grade (which I would recommend), you can go through the three-year history cycle twice before students hit the Challenge program in 7th grade (even if you start somewhere in the middle, like with the Medieval period). Make the first time through a light introduction with picture books. The second time through can be a deeper study with chapter books added in.

The greatest benefit to option #5 is that the history-based writing in Essentials (4th-6th grades) will correspond nicely with your studies at home as you go through the three-year history cycle a second time.

There really isn’t a right way to organize history studies. Do what works for your family!


Tsh said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this post, friend! And for saying yes when I asked for it. ;)

These are all super helpful suggestions, and I love that you provided 5 options. That alone helps me remember that there's no one "right" way to do this.

If we do CC this year (still on the fence—ha!), I think we'll go with a version of your option 4. Like you, I love history and want it to be our spine for most everything else. But even more, SOTW is one of those resources that I'm pretty sure we will always use. We travel so much, I can't guarantee that we'll always do CC every year. But the SOTW audiobooks? We're constantly playing them.

We did the CC songs last year, even when we did traditional school, and our kids learned so much from them—even without any formal study! So I can attest to their power. If we go back to our CC group, I think that's what we'll do—incorporate the songs & timeline cards as we go through SOTW, but not sweat it if it doesn't totally line up.

We're actually on schedule to do SOTW2 regardless, so they'll line up somewhat with CC. We'll see!

Thanks again for writing this. Super duper helpful. I'm sure I'll be referring to it often (as I do so many other posts of yours).

Julie said...

This is one of those things that has always bugged me about CC (this will be our 4th year). We've tended to do more of option #5, but I may look into the others. Thanks for the help!

Jennifer said...


Thanks so much for this post! We are joining a CC community this year (finally) and I have been struggling with how to make it all work with my history-loving kids without flying through the timeline. We just constructed a wall timeline... hoping to post pics soon.

Great stuff here. Thank you, thank you!

Kellie said...

Every time I read one of your CC posts I wish we had joined a class! I waited and waited for us to get a local class, but by that point I had decided it wasn't a good fit for my son who has autism and doesn't fit neatly into a certain CC level and I just couldn't give up my own history plans (the cycle they were doing wasn't going to line up with what we were on). If I had read this post a few years ago, my decision might have been different. ; )

Instead we've just kind of come up with our own version of memory/history work and this year it would be most like your Option 4, except we're still using the VP cards and 3rd edition of the CC manual.

The Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood blog you linked does look! I'm almost scared to look for fear I will add even more to our reading list for the year. : )

Barb said...

Thank you, thank you for this post & for reminding me that I have options!!

Lindsay said...

On your recommendation I purchased the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. What a gem! It's the perfect addition to our library. One could pretty much flip each page and sing through CC's timeline song...such a great coordinating resource!

Unknown said...

I am curious if you have a resource that puts the history sentences from all 3 cycles in CC in chronological order and can save me the time and effort of going through all three cycles to do it myself.

Also, do you have a resource that would correlate SOTW to the CC timeline cards - again so as not to reinvent the wheel?


Tracy said...

Thank you! I so wish I would have read this before finding all of our library books available to line up with CC history. Have you done the skipping around in SOTW? I am leaning towards that since I have already done the work of finding correlating books, but I am afraid the flow will be confusing.

Unknown said...


This idea was really stressing me out as a brand new homeschool mom who has already decided to join a CC community when I discovered SOTW. Lots of great ideas and ways to make it work, and most of all hope and inspiration to try! Thank you!