Learning History in the Right Order

History should be taught in order. You start in the ancient past and work your way up to the present day. There are reasons for this.

  • It puts events in context.  The student understands what civilizations, events and people were happening at the same time and what events caused further events.
  • It makes sense.  It is logical to have some order to every subject and since history is the story of the world, why would you jump around randomly.

The Four Eras of History

Lots of homeschoolers like learning history using the four year rotation.  They focus on four different eras – ancient, medieval, colonial, and modern.  Each era is taught for an entire year-long course of history.

  1. The ancient era begins at the beginning of civilization and goes up until the fall of Rome in 476 A.D.; teach it the first year.
  2. Teach Medieval history the second year; it spans the time from the Fall of Rome until the Renaissance.
  3. The Renaissance and Age of Exploration signaled the beginning of the Colonial Period; you’ll teach it in the third year.
  4. Finally, the study of modern history starts in about 1750 A.D., right around the time of the founding of America.  Include that, along with a study of government, in your fourth year.

When you’ve gone through the entire history of the world, you begin again, this time in more depth than before.  The Layers of Learning curriculum follows this four year plan for history.  We begin at the beginning and treat history as a story.

Why I Believe in Learning History in the Right Order

How did I get through sixteen years of formal schooling without knowing history?

How on earth did I get through sixteen years of formal schooling and know almost nothing of the history of our world?

I graduated from high school a year early and at the top of my class, but even when I graduated from college I felt distinctly aware of the giant gaps in my education.  My writing, reading, and math were solid, but when it came to history, geography, the sciences, and the arts, I knew I was lacking.

Starting at the Beginning

Then I got my hands on the Usborne History of the World.  It was like the clouds parted and I could see the light for the first time!  I poured over it.  For the first time ever, I was learning history in its actual context; I was learning it in order.

Why don’t they teach it this way in school?

And why did I learn about Thomas Jefferson right after the unit on ancient Egypt?!!

There were other people on the planet at the same time as the Greeks?  Really?

I’ve never even heard of the Hittites.  Oh, so that’s how the Bible fits into all this!

So only PART of the Roman Empire fell in 476?


I was hooked.  Teaching history in the right order just made sense.

I learned history with my kids

I thank my lucky stars for my first encounter with the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History.  We use it in our homeschool right along with the Layers of Learning program.  We almost always read the section that goes with our unit, read several other books from the library list, and then choose the explorations we will do.

When you learn history in order it not only makes more sense, but it teaches a great deal about cause and effect, which, after all, is one of the main reasons for studying history in the first place – so we can imitate the things that have worked and avoid the mistakes that have been made.

History Reading

We base most of our history lessons off of great books that we find.  Each Layers of Learning unit comes with a Library List, and that’s a great place to start.  We read historical fiction, biographies, and non-fiction books about the time period we’re studying.  As a family we do a lot of read-alouds and discussions so everyone can participate, no matter their age.

Maps & Timelines

To help solidify what we learn in history, we really like using historical maps and timelines.  They are a great way to visualize the events and help them relate to each other.  You’ll find maps and timelines in almost all of the history sections of Layers of Learning, because we are big fans.

Keep them on a wall:

Or in a notebook:

We also keep a family Book of Years that we all contribute to.  At the end of a history unit we record the interesting things we’ve learned and add events to the timeline portion of the Book of Years.

History Explorations

Ancient Egyptian Jewelry craft from Unit 1-2

Finally, we choose some explorations from the history section of Layers of Learning.  We make cool projects based on what we’ve been learning.  It helps us remember and connect with the historical peoples and times.  We like to present our projects to each other at the end of each unit, usually on the same day we work on our Book of Years entries.  You can try out some exploration-style learning by visiting our History page.

Learning History

And that’s how we teach and learn history!  We approach it like a story that has unfolded about our world, full of interesting people who have made choices, good and bad, that we can learn from.  It’s fun to cheer on our heroes and boo at our villains.  And we think about how we would’ve acted.  We talk about freedom, government, wars, protests, justice, injustice, and rights.  Visit our catalog to see all the units we offer as you are learning history.  Or read our Curriculum Guide to learn more about Layers of Learning.

You can visit our catalog to see all of the units we offer. Each one has a section on history that’s full of engaging projects for kids.

More From Layers of Learning

We also have an entire page devoted to cool ways to learn about history, all organized by time period to make it easier for you.  Check out these links for more ideas about learning history in your homeschool.


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