Our list for Living Books for Ancient & World History: Classical Conversations Cycle 1 is below! I am so happy to share these with you! (Weeks 8 and on will be added soon!)
We are on the threshold for a new school year. With a new fifth volume, Classical Conversations has updated their guides and CDs. I am very pleased with the history sentences and songs (with some exceptions) and corresponding geography.
We will be doing Classical Conversations from home this year. For a number of reasons, but most importantly, so we can slow. down. We will focus on history, geography, and the math only, but I do appreciate community and hope to do it again some time.
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All of the books I suggest below could hopefully be found in your local library. I’d suggest searching from home and holding lots of items and going in to pick them up sans children. This is my trick for when I am in the library, so we don’t come home with twaddle.
There are many books that I can recommend for an overview of the time period covered in Cycle 1 for Classical Conversations. We personally work with our literature using the narration method is — that is, simply, that a child tells back what they just read. What parts they remember, what parts are important. This is oral until fourth grade when we will begin written narrations which will lend itself to composition in the future. You can find more about narration at Simply Charlotte Mason for a free narration guide or Karen Glass’ Know and Tell: The Art of Narration, which I highly recommend and currently cannot put down. She has the entire scope and sequence all laid out, with many examples in this well researched book.
To start, Beautiful Feet Books has a beautiful Ancient History Intermediate Pack that I highly recommend. Their guides are exquisite, and the literature choices cannot be beat! I have scoured many of theses books and cannot wait to get them into my children’s hands when they are developmentally ready for the material.
You may want to pick up A Child’s History of the World by Haarer. This is a beautiful living history book, narratively written for any child. Written in 1924, it is not influenced by modern culture and is a classic in Charlotte Mason circles. You’ll need to skip the first couple of chapters, but beyond this there is nothing questionable for a Christian reader.
There are two Story of the World series. I will begin with the older version, The Story of the World series, by M. B. Synge. The first in the series is On the Shores of the Great Sea which focuses on the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ. Histories of the Ancient Israelites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans are all expounded upon. This living text shares stories of many historical figures and we plan to tackle these later in our homeschool journey. The next books are: The Discovery of New Worlds, The Awakening of Europe, The Struggle of Sea Power, The Growth of the British Empire. Ages 9 to adult.
Next is the Story of the World series by Susan Wise Bauer — a wonderful read aloud for the whole family. This four-book lively account of world history is one we listen to each year on the wonderful “liquid gold” audio with the voice of Jim Weiss. I highly recommend going to your local library to see if they have these if you decide you cannot purchase. We invested in these and play them in the car, which has worked well for long or short car rides as it consists of many short stories of common people and larger historical figures who lived during the time. There are Volume 1: Ancient Times Book and CD, Volume 2: The Middle Ages Book and CD, Volume 3: Early Modern Times Book and CD, Volume 4: The Modern Age Book and CD. Activity books are also available. Ages 6 – 14.
John H. Haaren’s Famous Men series has been redone by Memoria Press. Memorial Press has a beautiful student guide (and teacher guide) if you prefer a question and answer run down after each chapter. Famous Men of Greece, Famous Men of Rome, Famous Men of the Middle Ages, and Famous Men of Modern Times.
If you have older readers (fifth grade and up), you may be interested in Dorothy Mills accounts, which are also excellently written: The Book of the Ancient World, The Book of Ancient Greeks, The Book of the Ancient Romans, The Middles Ages.
And of course, no living book list would be complete for the ancient world without a significant mention of Plutarch. Charlotte Mason emphasized beginning readings of Plutarch’s Lives starting in fourth grade (Form II). You can listen to the “why” and “what” of the Plutarch question to discover if these lives would be beneficial for further reading. His introduction to each life within their own historical context are exceptional.
We will start with Plutarch’s Lives for Boys and Girls by W. H. Weston, though there are many choices. Selected lives from Plutarch retold in this volume include six Greeks (Aristides, Themistocles, Pelopidas, Timoleon, Alexander, Philopoemen) and six Romans (Coriolanus, Tiberius Gracchus, Caius Gracchus, Caius Marius, Julius Caesar, and Brutus).
While F. J. Gould wrote two volumes for younger children, The Children’s Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks and Tales of the Romans separately, Weston’s prose is much richer and for a maturer audience. So the Gould version may be beneficial to pick up for the younger child ages 8 and up.
And another mention of of Jim Weiss is in order, we purchased a few other CDs that he has created for Peacehill Press. We are so impressed with his storytelling skills and the kids listen to these when going to bed. The following would work well for Cycle 1:
- Jewish Holiday Stories
- Egyptian Treasures
- Pharaohs and Queens of Ancient Egypt
- True Adventures of the Ancient Greeks
- Greek Myths
- She & He Adventures in Mythology
- Heroes in Mythology
- Julius Caesar and the Story of Rome
We also have many Usborne reference books that we adore! My children love scouring these books, and they are wonderful even for the ones that are not yet confident readers, as the illustrations are very engaging and they can learn history on their own just from looking at the pictures!
Timelines of World History: This book is an absolute gem and I recommend it to anyone! I did a comparison and most timeline events are covered!
Time Traveler: This books goes back in time into Egyptian, Roman (and Medieval and Vikings) civilizations.
Encyclopedia of the Ancient World: This book does not mention evolution (the Encyclopedia of World History does) and is a wonderful overview of many of the civilizations studied in the Classical Conversations timeline!
Ancient World: This wonderfully illustrated books takes the reader through all the civilizations he has learned about — we love looking and the pictures and reading the small chunks of information. There is also a Medieval World.
Classical Conversations: Cycle 1
Weeks 1 & 2: Ten Commandments
Of course the best book to read is directly from The Living Book, the Holy Bible, whichever version you prefer, to read Exodus 20 together. We wrote these on a “scroll” together last year and will take that out again this year.
Genesis: Finding Our Roots by Ruth Beechick is a wonderful book that tells the account of many civilizations during the Bible’s record of creation and on. China, Mesopotamia, and more are written within the Bible’s perspective, with footnotes and references. Ages 7 yrs to adult.
Week 3: Greek and Roman gods
D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire is the most wonderful book to introduce your child to Greek Mythology. All of the D’Aulaire volumes are gorgeously illustrated and written.
A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys by Nathaniel Hawthorne includes Greek myths in this living book for ages 9-12: The Gorgon’s Head, The Golden Touch, The Paradise of Children, The Three Golden Apples, The Miraculous Pitcher, and The Chimæra.
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne is the follow-up to A Wonder Book and includes the myths of: Theseus and the Minotaur, Antaeus and the Pygmies, Dragon’s Teeth, Circe’s Palace, Proserpina, Ceres, Pluto, and the Pomegranate Seed, and Jason and the Golden Fleece.
Greek Myths & Legends is an illustrated reference guide detailing about Greek gods, heroes, and monsters.
Book of Greek Myths is an illustrated treasury of many of the Greek gods and goddesses stories with lovely illustrations!
Illustrated Stories from the Greek Myths is for the younger child, with beautiful artwork — this volume makes the stories of Medusa and Hercules accessible!
Week 4: Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Mary Hoffman: This lovely living book shares the journey of one small boy and his trip around the Ancient World. This is the book I have chosen to purchase as it is a living text with lovely illustrations rather than dry images and/or text. This is the Amazon synopsis: In this exciting tour of the ancient world, Callimachus, Royal Librarian of Alexandria, is researching a new book and decides to take his young apprentice Philip on his Mediterranean journey. As Philip marvels at the most breathtaking and beautiful buildings, gardens, and statues ever built — at Giza, Babylon, Olympia, Ephesus, Halicarnassus, and Rhodes, he knows that he will remember this trip for the rest of his life. But when they sail home to Alexandria, there is one more surprise waiting. Mary Hoffman’s storytelling, based on the latest research, blends with M.P. Robertson’s creative reconstructions in this inspiring introduction to the ancient wonders.
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Peter Clayton and Martin Price: This book is very in depth and is more for reference than a living book to read with children; it does share black and white illustrations and lays out each Wonder in its context.
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Diana Bentley: This encyclopedia type reference books is interesting with various illustration and text and will entertain your reader about the Seven Wonders.
The Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt
Pyramid by David Macaulay: An exquisite look at life in ancient Egypt through Macaulay’s black and white illustrations of the architecture of the day. Ages 7 – adult.
The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw is a historical fiction novel is about an orphan in ancient Egypt. A story of suspense and action showing poverty and wealth in Egyptian life.
The Cat of Bubastes, A Tale of Ancient Egypt by G. A. Henty
Young Amuba, an Egyptian slave, finds friendship in the house of an Egyptian high priest, where a cat is accidentally killed. Engaging story details life in Ancient Egypt and the different between the God of Judaism and Egyptians’ polytheism.
The Longest Night by Laurel Snyder and Catia Chien: This dramatic story, set in Egypt, about a Hebrew family that pursues its freedom and endures hardships will help young children make sense of Passover traditions.
Beyond the Desert Gate by Mary Ray: This sequel to The Ides of April tells of the volatile and dangerous times in Palestine during AD 70. The book brings to life the time period of the Jews revolting against Roman authority while the Greek cities get caught in the middle.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason: Story of a poor archaeologist and English university professor finding a cuneiform about life in Babylon. Financial and life advice for the reader. Ages 9 yrs – adult.
I may add books about further wonders in the future:
the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece.
the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.
the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
the Colossus of Rhodes.
the Lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt.
Week 5: Roman History (27 BC to AD 467)
City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction by David Macaulay: A story of how the Romans planned a city in the middle of the country! Architectural details on how buildings were constructed. Ages 7 – adult.
Pompeii…Buried Alive by Edith Kunhardt: The story of the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius as well as the recent discovery of the buried city and what is there today. Large print. Ages 5 – 9 yrs.
Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster: Foster has an incredible way of weaving a story through historical events in her living books. She delights her audience in learning stories of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony, as well as historian Livy and how Virgil came to write the Aeneid. Foster takes readers all over the world to learn what was happening at this same time in China, Persia, India as well. Ages 10-18
The Children’s Plutarch: Tales of the Romans by F. J. Gould: Collection of stories of ancient Romans adapted from Plutarch’s Lives, and the characters of the historical figures chosen. Excellent as an introduction to the biographies of Plutarch. Includes three black and white illustrations as well. Ages 8 – 10
Romans is a wonderful reference book that takes a reader through maps, pictures, and diagrams to explore life in Roman times.
Caesar’s Gallic War by Olivia Coolidge: This powerful living text records the Gallic War from 58 to 51 B.C., and is narrated by a fictitious soldier in Caesar’s army. This is based on the important historical record left by the Romans, Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War.
Galen and the Gateway to Medicine by Jeanne Bendick: Readers meet Galen, medical researcher born in 129 A.D., whose work and writings would be revered by Christian and Muslim worlds alike. for the next 1300 years. The foundation of Galen’s work, a respect for the unity of the human person in body and spirit is center to his work. Excellent writing makes this historical account readable with lively text and illustrations. Ages 7 – 14.
The Forgotten Daughter by Caroline Dale Snedeker: A 1934 Newbery Honor book, this is the story of a slave whose father is a Roman citizen. A wonderful comparison of Greek and Roman culture, this is a heartwarming tale of loss and forgiveness.
Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago by Julia Darrow Cowles: The story of Marcus as he grows in the Roman Republic. The reader discovers much about life and customs in ancient Rome. Lessons in school, the Senate, farming, and the Romany army are all subjects. Ages 8-10
Our Little Carthaginian Cousin of Long Ago by Clara Vostrovsky Winlow: Through the story of Hanno, a boy of Carthage, we gain insight into the Carthaginians, a nation of sea-farers and traders, who accumulated wealth and power as Rome’s arch enemy. Ages 8-10
Twice Freed by Patricia St. John: Story of a Roman slave, Onesimus, who longs for freedom as well as being in love with Eirene, his master’s daughter. He wants nothing to do with Jesus Christ, who His master, Philemon, follows. This book will captivate children and themes of forgiveness and perseverance make it a great read-aloud. Ages 7 – 11.
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth Speare: A Newbery Award winner, set in Galilee in the time of Jesus, this is the dramatic story of a young Jewish rebel boy who is gradually won over by the gentle teachings of Jesus. Beautifully written and captivating, this story of redemption will strengthen your faith as well as your knowledge of the Roman oppression on Israel. Ages 10 and up.
The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers is the best account I’ve read personally about Biblical Roman times. Watch out, because this trilogy cannot be put down until you are through. While fictional, it encounters Paul and John, however it should be read with caution as many realities are expounded upon: the depravity of sex, the horrors of pagan worship, temple prostitution, disease, gladiators, slavery, mysticism and much more; this is all written upon in a loving, non-explicit way by Rivers amazing prose, but it is realistic. The story of Hadassah, a Hebrew slave, will not be forgotten in your heart, as she encounters cruelty and injustice — along the way, Scripture is referenced throughout. After reading this, I finally feel as if I know some of what persecuted Christians faced in the early years of the church. Unbelievable. You will be changed after finishing this well-written series; I cannot recommend it more highly.
Week 6: Ancient Greeks (Homer, Pythagoras, Socrates, Archimedes)
The Trojan Horse by Emily Little: A lovely step into reading book that your child can read to you. A lively account, yet shortened sentences and vocabulary makes it accessible to a younger reader.
The Spartan Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins: A simple, wholesome story, with wonderful writing, of twin siblings that live in ancient Greece. Greek mythology is referenced. Ages 9 and under.
The Trojan War by Olivia E. Coolidge: An exciting and readable version of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, a thrilling saga of heroism and magical adventure.
The Children’s Homer by Padraic Colum: This classic Homer rendition of The Iliad and The Odyssey is appropriate for 10 and up, or with discretion, for younger children. Does have some nudity, but is a lovely narrative of the classic stories.
Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick: This biography of Archimedes in Ancient Greece, shows his work in physics, astronomy, and mathematics. This book shows how exciting Archimedes found truth and ideas, and in exploring those ideas, allows the reader to experience some of the excitement for himself. Also includes information on daily life in Greece and anecdotal stories about Archimedes. A fun and interesting book.
The Children’s Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks by F. J. Gould: Twenty-one stories of the ancient Greeks adapted for the younger reader from the biographies of Plutarch. Great introduction to the characters that figured prominently in the history of ancient Greece. Includes black and white illustrations by Walter Crane. Ages 9 and up.
Our Little Spartan Cousin of Long Ago by Julia Darrow Cowles: Engaging account of the life of children in ancient Sparta — where young boys train to be Spartan soldiers through rigorous physical and mental exercises. In addition to wrestling, running, and throwing the discus, we watch them foraging for their food, gathering reeds for their bedding, singing patriotic songs, and eating at mess with their elders. Emphasis is on the true nobility and rugged simplicity of the Spartan character. Ages 8 – 10.
Our Little Athenian Cousin of Long Ago by Julia Darrow Cowles: Portrayal of the civic and home life of children in Athens, when the art and architecture of ancient Greece were at their height. Through the eyes of Duris, son of the architect Phorion, and Hiero, son of the sculptor Hermippos, we experience the Greek culture of the times as we accompany them on their journey from home to market-place, wonder at the Acropolis, visit schools and studios, observe festivals, and participate in the Olympic games. Ages 8 – 10.
Week 7: Hinduism (1500 BC) and Buddhism (6th century BC) in India
Gandhi by Demi: Demi is able to poignantly tell the story of the peace-minded leader of the Indian people. Choosing non-violence and peaceful dissent, Gandhi led the Indian people into the cause for independence from Britain.
Mother Teresa by Demi: Another gem from the amazing Demi, this time telling the story of the gentle young girl turned saint who devoted her life to helping the smallest among us, the most downtrodden, the untouchables.
The Wheel of King Asoka by Ashok Davar: Telling the story of the emperor whose wheel is on today’s flag of India. Once a conquering king, he was touched by the negative effects of violence and ruled his empire in peace the latter part of his life. We found this one at our library!!
Buddha by Demi: The author is Buddhist herself, so it is written factually, though you may like to read with caution. It gives and accurate portrayal of what Buddhists believe using glorious illustrations and simple prose.
Dalai Lama by Demi: This beautifully illustrated biography has a forward by the Dalai Lama himself and explores Tibet and its struggle for freedom through peace and Tibetan Buddhism.
Daughter of the Mountains by Louise S. Rankin: Momo, a young Tibetan girl, chases the man who stole her Lhasa terrier–from high in the Himalayas to the Bengal plains and the city of Calcutta. Stunning introduction to landscapes, peoples and customs of which most of us are wholly unaware. Exciting and thought-provoking!
The rest of the weeks history books will be added in the next week or so! Many are almost ready! Thanks for visiting, and above all, I hope you read amazing literature to your children this year!