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The Story of the World Review by Diane Wheeler and Christine Field

Susan Wise Bauer
The Story of the World Activity Guide
EditedSusan Wise Bauer

History is my favorite subject. I love to read about the people of the past and how their choices and circumstances have impacted the course of history. For the chronological study of history in first through fourth grades, Susan Wise Bauer, co-author of The Well-Trained Mind, has a new book that will make world history come alive for our families.

The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume One is the study of Ancient Times starting with nomadic tribes and ending with the fall of Rome. Volume One is a 334-page paperback and a good size to hold while snuggled up with your students. The book is primarily text with black and white illustrations and several excellent maps. The title really says it all - this is a delightful book of stories. Ms. Bauer's writing style is engaging and easy to read, and she includes details that are intrinsically interesting to children. Some stories are fables from around the world and some are fictional stories that illustrate life in that time in history. The details of real battles, kingdoms, cultures, and customs weave together a story worth telling over and over.

As a companion to the book, The Curriculum Guide and Activity Book is a large and thorough resource with maps, recipes, crafts, and games. The two-page "How To Use Activity Book One" has recommendations for the pattern to follow in each chapter, ideas for multilevel teaching, some good reminders to parents about previewing suggested materials, and a helpful pronunciation guide. As I flip through the 275 pages, I find review questions for each chapter, a page of review cards at the end of every four chapters, and tons of supplemental ideas in between. There are coloring pages for easy craft days and more complicated ideas, such as making a mummified chicken or an Assyrian siege tower! As a craft-challenged mom, I appreciate the thorough directions, the variety offered, and the lists of literature suggestions at the end of each chapter. The grand finale is a Roman feast, complete with costume, meal, and entertainment ideas. The Story of the World is designed as the starting point of history study, not an end in itself, and that goal is facilitated with cross-reference numbers for pages in the Usborne and Kingfisher world history books. There is often discussion of the book on the parent's forum at The Well-Trained Mind website,, and ordering from the publisher is easy at

In the introduction to the Activity Book, Ms. Bauer says, "History is the most absorbing and enthralling story you can tell a young child, because it's true. A good history narrative is as strange and wondrous as a fairy tale. Kings, queens, mummies, wooden horses, knights and castles can be as fascinating as giants and elves - but they really existed!" With this love of history, Susan Wise Bauer has begun to take us on a journey through The Story of the World. Look for the story to continue as she expects to offer Volume Two in the fall of 2002, and Volumes Three and Four in the next two years. This is one journey the Wheeler family plans not to miss.

-- Product Review by: Diane Wheeler, Senior Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

The Story of the World, Volume Two
By Susan Wise Bauer
Activity Guide for The Story of the World, Volume Two
Edited by Susan Wise Bauer

Good news! The story continues! Volume Two in Susan Wise Bauer's history narrative, The Story of the World, begins with the fall of the Roman Empire and continues through the rise of the Renaissance. Throughout this 409-page volume, the reader is treated to Ms. Bauer's engaging style that makes history come alive in the minds of children.

Continuing the commitment to view the world through chronological history, chapters include not only Rome, the early days of Britain, and the rise and fall of kingdoms in Europe, but also the Byzantine Empire, the Rise of Islam, Japan, China, Australia, Africa, and more. In her forward to this book, Ms. Bauer explains her reasons for including certain parts of history, while not including others. She wants us to keep in mind that this is a history narrative designed for young children, and there are parts of history that are better left to older ages (the Inquisition is one example that is too violent to include). In church history, the split into Protestant and Catholic churches is told in such a way that parents from both perspectives can fill in the details of their faith's history. The goal in the grammar stage is not to give a finished study of the Middle Ages. "Instead," Susan explains, "you want to give the child an enthusiasm for history, a basic understanding of major cultures, and an idea of the chronological order of historical events."

The strength of The Story of the World narrative is that children are reminded that history is, indeed, a great story. It was real people, in actual places, doing ordinary (and extraordinary) things that changed the course of the world. I have seen the lights go on in my children's eyes as we read along, and a natural jump is for them to realize that they are real people in actual places and that they, too, can change the course of history.

The Activity Guide for The Story of the World: Volume Two takes this great book and makes it a history curriculum. Each chapter has review questions, a request for narrations, and recommended books for further reading. Maps, coloring pages, crafts, and other activities make it easy to provide hands-on learning opportunities. There are also page numbers for corresponding topics in Usborne and Kingfisher history books. This allows older children to read additional information on the topic, and to practice some outlining, summarizing, and paper writing, if appropriate. I am using The Story of the World with children from ages four to 13. My four-year-old listens to the story, and enjoys coloring pictures in the Activity Guide. He also does "map work," and we praise his "creative" efforts. My second and fifth graders participate in narrating, coloring, doing detailed map work, and reading additional books together to satisfy their new interests. My fifth grader also writes short papers on selected topics. My seventh and eighth graders help with the reading aloud, do as much of the coloring as they like (more than I would have guessed them to do), and then read the suggested pages in other history spines to take the learning further. Longer papers and timeline work complete their history curriculum. Thanks to my older children, we have done some of the recommended crafts. I am craft-challenged and mess-phobic, so I enjoy having older children that can lead the craft crew's latest endeavor.

Examples of activities are making a knight's spurs, designing a samurai's family crest, creating a pop-up Tower of London card, and making a Japanese carp kite. There are cooking projects for a Japanese meal, a Moorish feast, Alfred Cakes, and lots more. There is something for everyone, and yet the material does not depend on you doing it all. You can choose the things that are the most interesting, and leave the rest.

To order The Story of the World, or to see what other books are offered by Peace Hill Press, please visit their website at for availability. In the future, Volumes Three and Four of The Story of the World are planned for publication, and this is a story that you don't want to miss!

-- Product Review by: Diane Wheeler, Senior Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

The Story of the World, Volume Three: Early Modern Times
By Susan Wise Bauer

Peace Hill Press
18101 The Glebe Lane
Charles City, VA 23030

Susan Wise Bauer's captivating story of history for grammar school children continues into early modern times with The Story of the World Volume Three. Starting with Queen Elizabeth I, and continuing around the world between the years 1600 and1850, this narrative once again tells the story of history in a way that grabs the interest of students and parents alike. One of its distinguishing features is that it provides stories from all around the world, east and west, rather than just focusing on American history or Western Civilizations. Chapter titles include Protestant Rebellions, Warlords of Japan, New Colonies in the New World, The Middle of the East, The Moghul Emperors of India, The Rise of Prussia, A New World in Conflict, The English in India, Fighting over North America, Catherine the Great, The Rise of Bonaparte, Mexican Independence, China Adrift, and The World of Forty-Nine. Not intended to be a comprehensive study of all the events and dates of these years, The Story of the World serves as an effective introduction to history. Susan Bauer's story-telling ability engages the listener, and the hooks will be in place for the next time through the history of the world.

Our family has found The Story of the World to be a great asset to our history program. I am intrigued to see what people and places interest my children, and a great side benefit has been their understanding of geography increasing as they map out the areas studied.

We want our children to see history as the story of people's lives, not just economic, political or social forces outside of our control. The Story of the World paves the way for seeing history as a great story, really the best story, worth telling over and over again.

-- Diane Wheeler, Senior Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Another perspective on this book:

Story of the World, Volume Three: Early Modern Times

For those of us who devoured volumes one and two, the long awaited volume three of Story of the World is now available. In her engaging, conversational style, Mrs. Bauer takes us from the Holy Roman Empire, through the Protestant rebellions, the new world explorations, colonization and slavery, the far east, plague in England, Russia, the English in India, the American revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte to the Gold Rush of '49. Whew! Written for ages 5 - 11, the story of history is told in an understandable way that ties together the events and connections of history. We love these books! If you are inclined to keep a timeline, at the back of the book is a list of important dates and events covered in the study.

Each volume has an accompanying activity book. The corresponding activity book for volume three is due out in Summer of 2004.

How can these volumes be used? Part of what makes them so good is the variety of applications. An older child can read them alone as their history text. A younger child enjoys hearing the stories as a read-aloud. The books can serve as the spine for a literature approach to history, helping to tie the works together. These books are so well written, they can be used as a bedtime story! Your children will be engaged and intrigued.

If you love history and want to convey that love to your children, these books are indispensable.

--Product Review by: Christine Field, Senior Correspondent, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Story of the World, Volume One, Audio Book
OpenTexture and Peace Hill Press

As I have written in my reviews of The Story of the World, author Susan Wise Bauer is a gifted storyteller. She makes history come alive and has certainly managed to captivate my family's interest in the study of world history.

The latest offering of The Story of the World comes to us in audio format on six CDs, approximately seven hours long. This audio book is very appealing, including convenient packaging, detailed tracking information, and most importantly, the melodic voice of Barbara Alan Johnson. I spend almost 30 hours traveling to Oregon and back with my family each summer. We have listened to a lot of audio books, and have found reading voices that we love, and those that are distracting at best. Barbara Alan Johnson's voice is very easy on the ears and complements the story beautifully.

Included in the CD jacket are chapter titles, as well as an Index of People and a Quick Reference page. Each has the CD track listed to make it easy to pick up the story where you left off last time, or to review a specific spot in the story.

You may order the audio book version of The Story of the World through the producer, OpenTexture at, or through Peace Hill Press at You may also register with OpenTexture to be notified when new works are released.

Why would you use the audio book version of The Story of the World? Not only to allow the CD to do the reading during history (my voice gets tired, since we read aloud a lot!), but also for parents to prepare for lessons or as a way for the non-teaching parent to keep abreast of the family's history studies. But, my favorite reason is to emphasize that history is an exciting story, worthy of a good listen, and beyond that - enjoyable. Let the story begin!

-- Product Review by: Diane Wheeler, Senior Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Story of the World, Volume Two, Audio Book
By: Susan Wise Bauer
Audio Edition read by Barbara Johnson

8200 Montgomery NE No. 236
Albuquergue, NM 87109

Once again, Peace Hill Press and OpenTexture join forces to bring us the audio version of Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World. Volume Two, The Middle Ages, is another excellent volume. This ten-hour, eight CD set again features Barbara Johnson as the reader. Her voice continues to pass the test of my more particular family members with her soothing and pleasant voice. The Middle Ages are filled with great stories, from Beowulf, Medieval Monastaries and the Celts, to the rise of Islam, the dynasties in China, and explorations to the New World. Having an audio edition of The Story of the World allows the story to be heard again and again. We have appreciated having someone else do some of the reading for history, and the convenience of being able to review particular chapters as needed. I have been pleased to see all of my children (from fourteen down to five) eager to hear the next "installment" of the story.

To order the audio version of The Story of the World, you can contact OpenTexture at the

-- Product Review by: Diane Wheeler, Senior Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Activity Guide for the Story of the World
Volume Three: Early Modern Times

Edited by Susan Wise Bauer

Peace Hill Press
18101 The Glebe Lane
Charles City, VA 23030

With all the volumes of The Story of the World, the activity guide is a valuable supplement of materials that makes each book a history curriculum. Volume Three covers early modern times, from Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners. The format remains the same: each chapter from the book has a corresponding activity guide chapter that includes review questions, narration exercises, additional reading recommendations, corresponding literature suggestions, map work, coloring page, and projects. Each chapter of the Activity Guide can be done in its entirety, or you can pick and choose according to your child's interests. If there is one chapter that seems to spark interest, you might work your way through the entire list of additional readings and complete all the projects. If the chapter lacked any area of interest, you could quickly review the chapter and do a narration of the chapter, moving on to more stimulating studies. The flexibility with the guide makes it a help rather than a hindrance in your lesson planning.

Sample projects include building a galleon (a type of boat), making an American flag, cooking a Mexican breakfast and making a Cherokee forest pouch.

In the back section of the book, you will find the consumable student pages. The pages include coloring outlines, black line maps, pages needed for chapter projects, and review cards for each chapter. An important reminder: families have permission to make copies of these pages, but for their family only.

The Story of the World has become a very popular history resource for homeschooling families, and for good reason. It makes the story of history an engaging one, and includes just enough details to spark the interest of our students. The activity guides are a useful addition to the text, allowing you to pursue areas of interest with ease. The fact that you can use what you need, and ignore what you don't - without losing the continuity of your studies - makes this a great asset.

To purchase this or any other Peace Hill Press products, see their website at The final volume of The Story of the World (Modern Times) will be available around July of this year, with the activity guide expected in September. These dates can change, so be sure and check their website for current information.

Thanks to Susan Wise Bauer and the staff at Peace Hill Press, getting the full picture of life around the world in a four-year scope and sequence is now a pleasure for homeschool families. Enjoy The Story of the World!

-- Product Review by: Diane Wheeler, Senior Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine