Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Updated Homeschool Review: Connecting with History Volume One

This review was originally published in June 2011. Since then, I have learned more about the program and Sonya, the author, has developed a new website and additional resources so I decided to update the review before writing one on the second volume. You can read the original one here.


I spent a long time last year searching for a history program. I wanted something cyclical, so we could start with creation in first grade and come back to it again in a few years. I wasn't sure I wanted something specifically Catholic, but that's what I found.

Connecting with History is a Catholic history program based on the classical model. Families can study history on a four year cycle, eventually. Volume One, Volume Two, and Volume Three are available. Volume Four is currently being developed. In each volume, reading lists are provided for four levels: Beginner (1-3), Grammar (4-6), Logic (7-9) and Rhetoric (10-12). There are recommendations in a few of the units for combining students at different levels for some of the books.

The goal is to "connect" the student with history. You can read more about the six steps here. Each unit includes a summary, list of timeline cards, vocabulary, essay and research ideas, creative writing ideas, ideas of hands-on projects, maps from Blackline Maps of World History (which is now out of print; information on substituting Map Trek is available upon request and in the file sharing groups), and memory and copy work suggestions.

In Volume 1, we studied Old Testament history and Ancient cultures. The main textbook at the Beginner level is a children's Bible along with engaging nonfiction books. Every unit also includes literature suggestions of which they recommend you select at least one to read with the children.

Learning to be archaeologists
We loved almost every single book suggested in the units. One of my favorites was Old Testament Days, which is a wonderful book full of not only lots of activities that really help kids understand what life was like for the people in the Old Testament, but also short pieces that expand geographical, political and religious knowledge for kids. (Me, too.) Another one the children really enjoyed was Famous Figures of Ancient Times. It's a good thing two of each figure are included in the book. First Son and First Daughter both loved putting all the figures together. First Daughter could do most of them herself (at four years old).

I would have liked to do more culminating activities for each unit. Those were some of the things I cut from our schedule. Volume 1 provides only a few examples and suggestions for writing assignments and big projects, but I've glanced through Volume 2 and they've really expanded that section for each unit.

I think, too, that we read far too many of the literature selections. They were all excellent, but we had trouble finishing our history in a timely manner. (In fact, we have another week or so of history readings. I want to make sure to finish Volume 1 before we start Volume 2 in the fall.) I really hope to try to rein myself in a little more next year!

Making a salt dough map of the Promised Land
I started out with American history twice a week and Ancient history twice a week. After a few months, it was obvious what I'd selected for American history was not pleasing us. I cut that out and spread our Ancient history out over four days. Not only did we enjoy the readings more, it helped to shortened our history readings, narrations, and mapwork short, which made First Son much happier. Next year I'm adding American history back in, so we'll have to see how it works out.

Volume 1 is heavily focused on Western history.  At first I was disappointed to find nothing on other ancient cultures (like China and India), but realized later that these cultures are introduced as Western civilization encountered them. While it remains Western history, there is the opportunity to expand readings on those cultures as much as we'd like.

I was very pleased with our history and have already ordered Volume Two (and most of the books!) to use next year.

This review is my own opinion. I did not receive anything in exchange for it. Currently, RC History does not have a referral program, so I will not receive anything if any purchase is made. (Updated in 2015, RC History does now have a referral program. If you would like to make a purchase under my account, please use this link to enter the store. I have not modified the links within the text so they are not referral links.)


  1. I am considering buying Volume 2 for January. We are Catholic and have just been using Story of the World for Ancients. I was looking for reviews. It seems like you have been happy with it. Thank you for writing up about it. Is there anything that has really bugged you about it, other than the seemingly Western emphasis?

  2. Really, I think our Connecting with History is one of the few subjects I like just as it is. The only thing I change is that we don't do every single reading or book. Partly that's because we choose to do American history two days a week and World History two days a week. The author is releasing an updated volume 1 in January with daily lesson plans. I had a sneak peak of them and think they are a fabulous addition to the program, making it really easy to implement. I know she intends to add them to every volume but am not sure how long that will take. (You can register your volume at RCHistory.com to receive updates for free.) The forum is a wonderful resource as well. There are a lot of families that switch from Story of the World so you can get a lot of advice about how to handle the switch.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Laurel, I see you've deleted your comment here, but I have a copy in my email and I'd be happy to answer your questions. There are a lot of religious books which are not carried by the library. What I try to do is look at the syllabus and choose only one of the suggested biographies. (In fact, sometimes they indicate you should choose one or two.) I do tend to focus my resources on those kinds of books because the library doesn't have them and I appreciate having shelves full of good Catholic options.

      Send me an email if you'd like answers to your other questions or suggestions on specific titles!


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