The Story of the World

Welcome to my Build Your Own Homeschool Library series where I'm sharing with my readers some of my favorite books from my homeschool shelf. Please note that all the posts in this series contain my own opinions, and I have not been compensated by any publishing company for any of the content.


Written for grades 1 through 6, The Story of the World is a set of four well-written volumes covering the four major periods of history:

  1. Ancient Times
  2. The Middle Ages
  3. Early Modern Times
  4. The Modern Age

The text is truly a telling of the story of history rather than a listing of dry facts such as names and dates. Susan Wise Bauer has done an excellent job in communicating the major points and characters of each period of history. Furthermore, while each chapter could stand on its own most of the time, Bauer often relates the narratives from one civilization to what was happening at the same time in other parts of the world. My own children finished these books remembering more than just the names of historical figures; they felt like they knew many of them personally.

These books are excellent as read-alouds, although if necessary, an older elementary student could read them independently.

The organization of the books is intended to work with the Classical method of homeschooling which often follows a 4-year cycle of history, meaning that a child will study each period of history on a progressively deeper level three times in his school career. But, of course, you don't have to be a Classical homeschooler to use these books.

The Story of the World is a very easy way to introduce history to your children, especially for new homeschoolers. It's inexpensive and easy to plan, and the texts provide an excellent foundation for the study of history.

The books are also an efficient way to do a refresher course for older students, such as middle schoolers. It wouldn't take long for a middle school student to reread the books over the course of a summer as a way to do an overall review of history — to get the big picture.

How to use the books

We started reading these books (if I remember correctly) in our second year of homeschooling. I read the the first three books aloud and then had the older two read the last book on their own. We didn't use the accompanying activity books that can be purchased with the main texts; we used them simply as readers. Consequently, we finished the four books in two years, although many homeschoolers prefer to spread them over four years.

Audio CD's are also available for each of the texts. Many homeschoolers like to use these in the car or have their children listen on their own.

You can also expand the curriculum, adding the activity books and tests. The activity books contain map work, hands-on activities, discussion questions, and extra reading suggestions, so you could easily spread each volume over one year, reading other books along with the main texts and doing many of the related activities.

I would highly recommend that you try to find hardback copies of each of the books so they are more durable. I was able to purchase all my hardbacks for less than the cost of a new paperback by using the book comparison site It's definitely worth the time to compare prices for these books online.

View a subject-by-subject list of all the posts in the Build Your Own Homeschool Library series here.

(This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.)

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone
DISCLOSURE: To support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please note that I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Five Js' ideals and that I believe would be of value to my readers. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to You can read my full disclosure here.
Subscribe Via Email
…or subscribe via RSS


  1. says

    Very informative review. I would recommend the activity books because they list additional readings for the chapters. We've discovered some of our favorite books (like Knight's Castle, by Edward Eager) in the additional reading suggestions. Also, the maps are very well done.
    .-= Ellen´s last blog ..Summer Reading: Plan It or Wing It? =-.


  2. says

    I used a few of these books and really liked them. I wish they had come out sooner. She also has a couple of adult-level history books. One of my kids used The History of the Ancient World in high school and liked it much better than other history texts. It is not advertised as curriculum and has no tests with it. I had him write summaries of each chapter for evaluation.
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Fish Sticks =-.


  3. says

    We're finishing up Vol. 3 this year. I love that ALL my boys can do the same history with things just 'ramped up' for my middle schooler. The activity guides are great for extra things to do (reading suggestions, hands-on activities, mapping, coloring pages.) We own the audio CDs which allows us to listen in the car OR for the boys to listen while coloring the coloring page for that lesson. Sometimes I have the younger ones use the book to follow along (so they aren't sturggling with a pronunciation while reading.)

    For the older kids, you can get tests that check their retention of material. We bought these this year for the older boys. However, I am using them more like worksheets after doing the reading and oral questions as a group.

    You can now buy pretty much all the extras as downloads from Peace Hill Press. I did this for the student activity pages and tests so I can print just what I need when I need it. Far easier that scanning each page from the teacher manual.

    I'm looking forward to doing Vol. 4 next year with the boys and then switching gears to US History for a few years. But, SOTW will stay on my shelf for the youngest son to use when he's old enough.


  4. says

    I love reading your reviews!!! You are great at giving us a basic overview of the product!! This is one item that I will have to keep an eye out for! We already have a history curriculum that I like but I might do these books as read alouds. Thanks for all of your hard work!


  5. Lynn F. says

    What a timely review! I was at a bookstore yesterday reviewing history curriculum choices for our upcoming first year of homeschool and this jumped out at me. I appreciate hearing how you used this with your kids. Thanks for the information!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *