A Review of a Great History Resource

In studying history we follow a living book approach – no textbooks – just lovely books written in a thought provoking way that makes history come alive through literature. I use a variety of sources for building booklists, and always with great success. Just in case you’re wondering I’ll list my favorite resources here:

:: Reading Your Way Through History
:: Reading Your Way Through History blog
:: RC History
:: Emmanuel Books Catalog
:: Winterpromise Catalog
:: A well worn but treasured (and now sadly out of print) copy of Let the Author’s Speak by none other than my mom 😉 (one day we’ll add to this treasure so we can reprint, mom!)

I gather my booklist resources and catalogs, think about the period we are going to be studying, age ranges and reading abilities, and make lists. Beautiful lists!

This year, however, had me stumped! Both my oldest children are studying some greek history, roman history, early church, and early middle ages. That was easy to make booklists for. BUT…Sweet Pea is studying and focusing on the Victorian period for the majority of her year. Her entire year (actually the next two years) are spent following Anne of Green Gables through literature and history. It was a joy to put this curriculum together for her. In looking into adding some age appropriate context for the Victorian period I came up short though. What I discovered in my hunt led me to discover a treasure I knew about, but had forgotten – so I wanted to share it with you here because I think these are treasures for history studies!

My first stop was at Learning Through History Magazine headquarters and there I found an entire magazine devoted to a study of the Victorian period! Jackpot!!!!!!!!!! Readily available as a back issue I decided to order it and check it out. It was wonderful! Full of insightful articles on a variety of subjects all relating directly to life in the Victorian period. As well, many if not all the articles list books of interest to further reading on particular articles. There were lists of movies/documentaries that coordinated, recipes, games. It could not have been more perfect!

I decided to order a few more back issues choosing from their great selection of back issues. I chose some magazines that would coordinate with our other history studies and was equally pleased with the magazines! Learning Through History magazine is well written and seems ideally suited to the middle school ages, but each magazine has in the back a nicely done unit study written more for young ages making this magazine very appropriate for teaching across a span of ages as most of us homeschooler do. There are literature study guides in the back of each magazine that are very nice as well. Consider checking out their offerings! (**Exercise caution from a Catholic perspective on some subject matter**)

Still searching, I stumbled upon another forgotten resource – Cobblestone and Cricket magazine publishing. They now produce a myriad of educational magazines for children ranging from baby up to the middle school age. Of particular interest to me were their history magazines, and Cobblestone in particular. This publication has been around since before **I** graduated high school!!! And they’re still going strong. Similar to the Learning Through History Magazine, each issue is built around a theme. They have back issues available all the way back through 1980!!!! This is a treasure filled goldmine people!!!!! I ordered a few back issues in subjects that were pertinent to our studies this year. I discovered that we actually prefer the older issues – the new ones are still nice, but the older issues seem to have a lot more meat to the articles albeit a lack of gloss and polish present in the newer publications. A trade I’m more than willing to make!

One of the Cobblestone magazines I ordered came from 1981 – Old Time Schools in America. I ordered this issue to coordinate with Anne (of Avonlea) as Anne is teaching in the schools in Avonlea. I thought it might offer some great context of Anne’s experience teaching in a one room schoolhouse. I was not disappointed. There are several articles with great historical background, and one on old time textbooks that is very interesting. There is a lovely article on private schools with the majority of its focus on St. Elizabeth Seton with great respect and depth given to the historical Catholic contribution of this American saint and her order. In addition, most of the Cobblestone back issues have teacher’s guides available. The questions are fairly textbook-y and predictable reading comprehension questions, but the writing assignment ideas were helpful I thought.

All total I think I have 12 history magazines (I tucked away a couple others for the future). Some of them are definitely well below Sweet Pea’s reading level – Appleseeds is definitely more suited for a younger student – it is a perfect fit for my 4th grader this year. Calliope is nicely written and though I haven’t previewed it in detail, the issue on Charles Dickens, the Great Storyteller is full of articles and related features. This magazine comes with a teacher’s guide as well.

If you’re having difficulty rounding out a period of history, consider a back issue of one of these great history magazines! I think you’ll find them treasures!!!

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  1. I'm glad you're enjoying Reading Your Way Through History. I've pretty much been updating through the blog in recent years.

    That's so cool that your mom wrote “Let the Authors Speak”!

  2. I updated to add the Love To Learn blog to the resource list in the post. I have that bookmarked, but I didn't know you were updating there mostly, love2learn mom. I'm glad you told me because I'm at your site all.the.time!

    Thanks for sharing that!

  3. Jenn

    Fascinating post:) I love reading indepth plans.

    I had no idea that your mum was the one who wrote Let the Authors speak. No wonder you know books well.

    If ever it is re-printed I'll be first in line!!

  4. Oooh– perfect! I need to plan the boys' history for the upcoming year, and this post is timely–I'll sit with a cup of coffee after breakfast and comb through it!

    I remember the Cobblestone magazines from my childhood–what a nice memory! 🙂

  5. That's so neat about your mom's book!

    I hope this comes out OK, I'm having trouble wording it so it doesn't sound condemning…those magazines look interesting, but what is the difference between them and, say, a book I could find in the library on the same subject? Am I missing something by NOT getting the magazine?

  6. Hi Amy!

    Thanks for the comment!

    Your question doesn't sound condemning to me at all! I understand it completely!

    First, I'll say my preference will always be a living book for studying history. My older daughter's study of the Victorian period was a little unique. I consider books like Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Charles Dickens, CS Lewis to be those living books associated with the period, but I wanted to provide a bit of a context for her for this period of history since she had not been introduced to it before. I found a couple of biographies on Queen Victoria, but was coming up short otherwise. Finding these magazines offered some really nice articles that rounded out our study in a way that does sort of set the stage and provide that context.

    Is there a need for them? No. Are you missing something by not getting them? Hard to say. The actual information can certainly be found in other sources and through books, but if you're looking for something to jump start a study, these magazines would be extremely helpful. Their book lists and coordinated resources alone make them very valuable.

    I wasn't trying to say that they're the be-all of history study, just that they are a good resource to consider. I think they are written in an engaging way. They are written (particularly the older Cobblestones) in a living book way – conveying high literary quality and communicating important knowledge about a given subject.

    So….do consider them – they offer great resources for rabbit trails and booklists and furthering study….don't feel like you're missing out on the next best thing to sliced bread if you stick with your library list of living books! 🙂

    Hope this helps, Amy!

  7. Thanks SO much Jen, you answered exactly what I was trying to ask. They do LOOK great, I just always need to temper my first inclination to buy, Buy, BUY with the wisdom you so generously shared about them. 🙂 Thanks again!

  8. Amy, you're so welcome!!!!!

    It is tough discerning and spending wisely!

    You know my mom homeschooled my brother and sister some 20 years ago. At that time, the challenge was finding enough material suitable for homeschooling. We frequently muse about how the challenge now is discerning from the dizzying array of materials now available! There is so much of good and lovely quality!

  9. Jen,
    I've been pondering history for my crew next year and appreciate your thoughts about these magazines. I had not thought about them. Thanks! I have a question if you don't mind in addition, however. Why do you do different historical periods with your children? I ask, because I'm musing about this myself at the moment. Some of my best friends teach many ages and stages and do different historical periods with all of them. It makes my head spin. Up until now, I have combined my two eldest and just let the youngest school age child “osmose”. This year I am caught up short trying to determine if that is the best course or not and I am garnering others opinions. I am a mostly lurker, but I have always read your opinions eagerly.

    God bless,

  10. Hi Kathleen.

    Thank you for your comment!

    I don't usually jump around in history – we prefer to study one period at a time all together with the children reading from living books appropriate for their age and reading abilities. But, this year, the curriculum I designed for my oldest daughter was focused on and around the Anne of Green Gables series. She is following Anne for the next two years. The Anne books span the Victorian period and go through WWI. Because my daughter is in the 8th grade and has a good concept of time and the relationship of events in time, particularly as she works regularly in a book of centuries/timeline, I decided to let her continue studying along chronologically (with Greek, Roman, Early Church, Early Middle Ages) as well as providing some history and cultural context for the period she was going to immerse herself in with her two years following Anne of Green Gables through literature and history. I think she can study these two periods concurrently as long as she continues to provide a visual place for events on her timeline. The timeline is really the key to connecting events. Once a child has a grasp of time, and is able to visualize (through the use of a timeline or book of centuries) how events relate to the whole, I think you could probably study any period of history at any time with success. I prefer to move chronologically through time, but I don't think it is necessary.

    Does this make sense, Kathleen? If you haven't introduced a timeline or a book of centuries to the children that would be my first suggestion. Allow that timeline to be the framework from which you hang information and facts. Once a child is accustomed to adding pertinent historical events to their timeline, all of history is open! You could be studying Ancient History right now, but with the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, you might pause, flip to 1964 on the timeline, allow the children to journal a bit about the moon landing with some creative illustrations, basic facts…spend some time reading and exploring this event…and then go back to Ancient Egypt. The timeline has allowed for the connection and understanding that the moon landing occurred a loooooooonnnnngggggg way off from the building of the Pyramids, but it still happened in time.

    I sure hope this made sense.

    Here are some resources for you to consider for more information about a book of centuries:

    From Ambleside Online:

    From Simply Charlotte Mason:

    God bless you, Kathleen.

  11. How cool about your mom and the book…I would LOVE to have a copy! Let me know when one is available! I have never read these magazines before…I have to go find some, to be sure!
    Thanks Jen!

  12. Thanks for putting together those links to the resources you use for gathering your reading. My daughter is just getting old enough that I get to start thinking about this, which is very exciting for both of us! I also particularly appreciate what you had to say about timelines in the comments. I really want to start some sort of timeline/book of centuries this year but I haven't quite pinned down how I want to do it. I need to decide soon though!

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