13 Living Book History Series for a Charlotte Mason Based Homeschool

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I’m thrilled to be participating again this year in the Virtual Curriculum Fair. A special thanks to Susan at Homeschooling Hearts and Minds and Stacie at Super Mommy to the Rescue for hosting this week’s fair where homeschool bloggers are sharing their reviews of various homeschool tips, techniques, and curriculum focused on the social sciences and the natural sciences.

It’s always best when you have an addiction to be honest about it, so consider this my moment of honesty.

“Hello. My name is Chelli, and I am addicted to narrative history book series.”

I rationalize my addiction because 1) I majored in history and used to teach it so I really love it, 2) we have a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool so I’ve got to have living books around, and 3) I will use my addiction to benefit others.

Number three is what this post is all about. I’ve chosen 13 of what I consider the best living book history series to share with all of you. These books make great spines for your history studies {A spine refers to a book or books that you are using as a basic overview of the subject or topic. In this case, history.} or great read alouds. My criteria for this list was two-fold: a series of more than one book and written in an engaging story-like format. I have tried to give suggested grade levels for each series but, of course, use your own judgment based on your own children.

13 Living Book History Series for CM

Drumroll, please……………..…………….

The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer Grade Level: 1-6 Coverage: World History

This four volume series is a widespread favorite among homeschoolers for good reason; it is a solid, engaging tale of world history.  It is a perfect introduction to world The Story of the Worldhistory for the elementary grades, especially early elementary. Last year we finished reading through the first three volumes together during our Morning Meeting time. In fact we had some laugh out loud moments reading through it. My children and I still make jokes about the sacred chickens who got seasick. While there are accompanying activity books for each volume that turn these books into a full history curriculum, they are also fabulous books just to read aloud to your children. The series is composed of Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor, The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance, Volume 3: Early Modern Times, and Volume 4: The Modern Age: From Victoria's Empire to the End of the USSR. 

The World of …….. series by Genevieve Foster Grade Level: 4-8 Coverage: American and World History

Genevieve Foster booksThis six volume series is one of my favorites for one main reason: the integration of American history and world history. Foster takes famous men from American history and uses the story of their life to relate the events that occurred in the world as well. There is only one volume that does not follow this pattern and that is Augustus Caesars’ World for the obvious reason that the United States didn’t exist during his lifetime. The writing is in a perfect story-telling format that is engaging and interesting. If you wished to study these books in oGenevieve Foster TOCrder, you would have solid coverage of the beginnings of the Roman Empire through the life of Christ and American/world history from Columbus through Lincoln. The series is composed of Augustus Caesar's World, The World of Columbus and Sons, The World of Captain John Smith, The World of William Penn, George Washington's World, and Abraham Lincoln's World. 

The Book of the ……. series by Dorothy Mills Grade Level: 6-8 Coverage: World History

Dorothy Mills bookThis four volume series is the perfect bridge between elementary history studies to high school history studies without losing any of the narrative qualities that make history so interesting. Mills’ series is also wonderful because she focuses a lot on cultural aspects of each time period and not just leaders and battles. This provides almost an anthropological and sociology feel to the books that is much more memorable to me than just reading about king after king. I highly recommend purchasing the versions edited by Memoria Press since they have cleaned up racist and religious bias that some of these older history books seem to have. The series is composed of The Book of the Ancient World, The Book of the Ancient GreeksThe Book of the Ancient Romans,  and The Middle Ages.

 Landmark Books by Various Authors Grade Level: 3-8 Coverage: World and American History

This huge series covers history from ancient times through the 1960’s. Once America enters the scene, the series becomes almost solely devoted toLandmark books American history except when that overlaps with the rest of the world. These books are exciting narratives of specific events and people throughout time. The best part of using this series is that a very helpful blogger has put all of these great books into chronological order {and in a printable pdf format!} so that you can pick and choose what books you would like to read based upon the time period or topic you are covering in history. Most of the Landmark books can be found for around $5 through Amazon and used book sellers. Some are still in print and some are out of print so you might have to search for specific titles. 

The Story of the ……….. series by Christine Miller Grade Level: 4-8 Coverage: World History

The Story of the Ancient WorldThis five book series is actually a reprinted and edited version of H. A. Guerber’s original works by the same title. Miller has added in some extra information and edited out some racial and religious bias which results in a wonderful narrative history. Cultural and historical facts are combined with biographical information to make a text that reads like a story, but contains solid history. My only personal problem with the series is found in the first volume, The Story of the Ancient World. While this volume is named The Story of the Ancient World it is more aptly called by its original title The Story of the Chosen People because this book is centered around the Jewish people from creation to the end of the Persian empire. Miller takes some liberties with Biblical accounts {I’m looking at you tower of Babel and Nimrod!}, and there was not enough information on other civilizations in the ancient world for my preferences. The other volumes in the series are top notch, in my opinion. The series is composed of The Story of the Ancient World, The Story of the Greeks, The Story of the Romans, The Story of the Middle Ages, and The Story of the Renaissance and Reformation. 

A Picturesque Tale of Progress by Olive Beaupre Miller Grade Level: 3-8 Coverage: World History

I’m probably going to gush a bit on this review because this is my latest find and I’m in LOVE! Classic history book series for children, loads of pictures, and lots of information. What’s not to love about that? This nine volume series covers history from prehistoric man to the discovery of the Americas.  One thing I A Picturesque Tale of Progressfind unique about this series is that there are two volumes devoted to the cultures of the Far East and the ancient Americas. Generally in the older history books there is a very Eurocentric viewpoint and other civilizations are either lightly touched on or not at all. The other thing I find fabulous about this series is that almost every page has illustrations, some in color and some black and white {I’ve included a photo of the interior of the first book so you can see what it looks like. Peeks inside these older, out of print books are difficult to find}. There are multiple sets of this series and, in fact, they are reprinting it in paperback covers instead of the original hardcover. The information in the reprint is exactly the same as the original series, but the color pictures are not there. Instead, they are all black and white. Look to purchase sets of the original series at various used book sellers on the internet and eBay. The series is composed of Beginnings I {prehistoric man and Egypt}, Beginnings II {Ancient Near East}, Conquests I {Ancient Greece}, Conquests II {Ancient Rome}, New Nations I {Middle Ages part 1}, New Nations II {Middle Ages part 2 and Renaissance}, Explorations I {Asian Empires}, Explorations II {Ancient Americas}, and an the ninth volume is an index.

American History Stories by Mara Pratt Grade Level: 3-8 Coverage: American History

This four volume series provides great coverage of early American history from the Viking discovery of the North American continent through the Civil War. This series is one of the best written, narrative style, elementary American history books I have found. The text is written like a storyteller is relating the events to you making it perfect to read aloud to early elementary students. The major flaw with this series is that no one has taken the time to update the text before reprinting it. Therefore, racist terms and thoughts towards minorities are present and prejudices toward religious minorities as well. I would love for someone to get ahold of this series and update and edit it like the Guerber series has been. There is such a need for a good elementary American history series and this would fit the bill perfectly. I still use it, but I edit on the fly and reword things. The series is composed of Volume I: Vikings Through the French and Indian War, Volume II: Revolutionary War, Volume III: Washington's Presidency To Secession, and Volume IV: The Civil War. 

The Story of the World series by M. B. Synge Grade Level: 6-8 Coverage: World History

This five volume series is a simple, easy read of western history specifically written for the middle grades. It reads more like a fiction novel at times than a history book, but that is part of its appeal. How often can you say you got enraptured reading a history book? This series could provide a great spine for the middle grades when narrative histories become more difficult to find. Short chapters make it great for narrations. In my opinion, this series really shines with its coverage from the Reformation on with lots of good details and information not found in other history books for children. The volumes are: On the Shores of the Great Sea: Abraham to the birth of Christ, The Discovery of New Worlds: Roman Empire to Columbus, The Awakening of Europe: Reformation to American Colonization, The Struggle for Sea Power: World Colonization to Napoleon, and The Growth of the British Empire: Revolutions in Spanish America to Revolt in India 

History on the March series by Various Authors Grade Level: 3-8 Coverage: American and World History

History on the March illustrationsThis will probably be my other gushing review just because I have such a love for great, vintage history books. This is a three volume series {as far as I know if I find more I will update} that is not mentioned often in homeschool circles or on the internet in general, but these are fabulous history books. Easy to read, great illustrations, and, best of all, narration prompts, extra reading ideas, hands on activities, and quizzes at the end of each chapter {photo to the right}. It’s like a Charlotte Mason homeschoolers dream come true! These books are outHistory on the March extras of print and not super easy to find. I’ve been able to purchase all three volumes over the course of a few years by watching used book sites on the internet for a total cost of $40 which isn’t bad for vintage books. I’m currently reading through these now with my girls during Morning Meeting and they love it, especially the pictures {I’m including a photo of the inside since pictures of vintage books are difficult to find}. Titles in the series are: Builders of the Old World {Cave Dwellers to Columbus}, Makers of the Americas {Vikings to United Nations}, and America—Land of Freedom. 

The Story of the Americans by Helene Guerber Grade Level: 5-8 Coverage: American History

This two volume series has been edited and combined into one volume by Memoria Press making it a wonderful source for the Middle Grades to study from discovery of the Americas to the Spanish-American War.  The chapters are short with lots of illustrations and a wonderful narrative style. I prefer the edited and condensed version by Memoria Press because of the racist overtones in the original, but the original two volume work is quite a bit lengthier than this version. I plan on using this book in a couple of years with Grace for her history studies because it is really perfect for those middle grades as a spine. The original first volume is The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and the original second volume is The Story of the Great Republic. The combined and edited Memoria press version is The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and the Great Republic.

Cornerstones of Freedom series by Various Authors Grade Level: 1-4 Coverage: American History

Cornerstones of FreedomThis huge series of books are like the picture book version of the Landmark books. They cover events, places, and some people in American history. I used certain selections from these series to cover symbols and important landmarks as a makeshift first grade curriculum for Sophia. There is a complete list sorted by century located here. The best thing about these books is that they are really easy to find and cheap. They make a great introduction to American history for lower elementary or as independent reading for upper elementary. The writing is factual but also in a narrative format as well. We have gathered quite a collection, but I still have more to purchase.  

Biographical Picture Book series by Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire Grade Level: 1-4 Coverage: American History

These books are probably among some of the most beloved by Charlotte Mason homeschoolers and for good reason. They are large, beautifully illustrated books with wonderful story telling that grabs children from the first page. All three of my children love these books; Levi looks and talks about the pictures while Sophia and Grace read them. In my opinion, there is nothing better for introducing young children to history than these books. They are easily found in almost every library, but you will definitely want to purchase them at some point for your own home library. The books in the series are: Leif the Lucky, Columbus, Pocahontas, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Buffalo Bill. 

Famous Men of ………. series by John Haaren and A. B. Poland Grade Level: 5-8 Coverage: World History

This five volume series provides biographical information on famous men from each time period, but it is told in a narrative style that ties into the historic time that these men lived. These books are a perfect way to add some independent reading for the Middle Grades as you cover each time period. The chapters are short and interesting while providing a written timeline of people to know from each era. These books are great resources for narration and copy work. The only mistake I made with these is trying to use them too young. Definitely wait until upper elementary or middle school for these. The titles are Famous Men of GreeceFamous Men of RomeFamous Men of the Middle Ages, Famous Men Of The Renaissance & Reformation, and  Famous Men of Modern Times .

Do you think I left any off of my list?

Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for more books!

Feels good to share my love of good history books in the tree house,


P.S.  Be sure and check out the other bloggers sharing their favorite social and natural science resources in the Virtual Curriculum Fair 2015. 


 Exploring World History Through the Eyes of Scientists by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Exploring Our World With Social Studies by Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue

Relaxed Homeschooling: Science and Social Studies in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Living History by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Primary Sources for Delight-Directed History by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Watching History, or Using Video Courses for Social Studies by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Exploring our World: High School Studies of Ancient History, American Government and Economics by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

History, Geography, and Worldview Lessons in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

Our Curriculum Choices 2015 ~ Science, History & Geography by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun

Our Favorites for History, Geography, and Science by Becky @ Milo & Oats

Globe Trotting by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Around The World by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Bible-Based History Curriculum and Resources by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

13 Living Book History Series for a Charlotte Mason Based Homeschool by Chelli @ The Planted Trees

Social Studies and Science in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

The Science Life by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

History, Geography Science for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

History Social Studies and Science...VCF Week 3 by Denise @ Fullnest

Learning About our World and History by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Taking the Mystery Out of History and Other Subjects Too With Our Favorite History Curriculum by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma


  1. Hi Chelli. (KeriJ from TWTM board) I have Makers of the Americas (History on the March). We're using it next year. Love it! The inside cover lists 6 books total in the series. My sister owns the first one, Pioneer Children of America. The Pioneers and Patriots book by CLP is a reprint of that one. We compared our books one time and realized they were the same. I have my eye on Builders of the Old World on Amazon. :) I'd love to find others too!

    1. Thanks for letting me know that there are more books in the series! I'll update my post to reflect that.

  2. Excellent list! I've been forgetting about some of these books and really appreciate the reminder.

    1. There are some really great books out there! If only there was more time.

  3. What a wonderful list! Thank you for linking to my blog, as well! I'm glad it led me over here because your blog looks like it has lots of great stuff to explore. :)

  4. Hello! For Builders of the Old World - when you say from "Cave Dwellers", how far back is that going? we are cycling back through History, starting with Creation - would this book work or not go back far enough?

    Thanks for the great recommendations!


  5. I just found your post when I was searching Living Book History Spines...we have been loving Simply Charlotte Mason's Stories of the Nations. They are so engaging for kids age 7 to adult.

  6. Thanks for the Recommendations! Going to check out History of the World.

  7. I just found Makers of the Americas at a used book shop and found it very engaging. It's exciting isn't it!

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  9. Do the History on the March books have any racism?

  10. This is a great list! I've done Story of the World (Bauer) 2 or 3 times during my homeschool journey and this year I'm using Genevieve Foster books for my spine. I'm having trouble finding a spine that picks up where Abraham Lincoln's World leaves off. Any suggestions for late 19th century forward? My kids are 8, 10, 15 and 18 (but he's done). :-)

  11. Great list, and thanks for putting it together! I wanted to add a newly published book to this list. It is titled "Ride to Rendezvous" and tells the story of a young mountain man traveling west. This book is filled with questions, activities, and primary sources to get the reader to better understand the time period. Thanks for sharing!

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