Trivium Pursuit

The Best Part of Homeschooling

May 22nd, 2016

Here is an excerpt from a seminar Harvey and I did many years ago. The best part of homeschooling — reading aloud to your children.




Analyze viewpoints, argue effectively, and test your beliefs and ideas

May 18th, 2016


Should Students be Taught to Argue Rationally?

by Annie Holmquist

“…Given the level of fallacious and emotional reasoning that takes place in discussions about elections or in everyday Facebook debates, it would seem that a lack of knowledge about reasoning skills is not limited to the current generation….Is it time we need to follow through and actually teach children what critical thinking entails?”

Read the rest of the article here.


Review of a near perfect history curriculum and some help for you

May 17th, 2016

A Review of The Mystery of History, Volumes I and II by Linda Hobar

Reviewed by Laurie Bluedorn

I wish The Mystery Of History had been written twenty years earlier so that my own family could have used it. It would have been perfect for our large, young family and would have relieved me of the job of putting together my own history curriculum. It is so much more thorough than anything we ever studied in our years of homeschooling.

I’m not going to describe how the texts are arranged or how they are supposed to be used — others have done that much better than I could. But I do want to list here my observations and respond to some comments which have been directed at the curriculum.


The cover of MOH Volume I tells us exactly what we’ll find inside the book. Within the title — The Mystery of History — the “T” is a cross dividing the word “History” into two sections, making the title seem to say “The Mystery of His Story” — meaning Christ’s story. Isn’t that what history is really all about? Under the title and in the center of the cover, taking up the largest portion of space is a picture of a stairway — an ancient, stone stairway — going up. Going up from a tomb and into the sunlight. Whose tomb would that be? Perhaps it is the tomb of Jesus, the Author of this “Story” we are about to begin. Jesus came up out of the tomb so that this “Story” would have a happy ending some day. But even more significant on this cover are two small pictures at the lower right corner, pictures which seem to be bowing to the larger stairway picture. One is a picture of Egyptian art and the other is of the Greek Parthenon. All history bows in submission to the Author of history.

I have listed here the comments which have been directed at MOH along with my responses.

****Doesn’t balance religious with secular; too heavy on religious.****

Some texts make a pretense of trying to balance the religious with secular, though the secular always seems to end up on the heavier side of the balance. “Secular” literally means “of the age, worldly.” We use the term to refer to indifference toward or exclusion from religion. All of time — past, present, and future — revolves around the Potter and how He deals with His vessels. All of history is religious. So if we want our history compartmentalized into separate secular and religious boxes, or if we like our religion thinly spread, then we really do not want history as it actually is, but only as secularists want it.

Here is one of my favorite quotes:

“… I concluded that one of the only reasons why we are here on earth is to know God and to make Him known. We are designed for relationship…. And I wanted this incredible story to be far more than the short-term accumulation of scattered dates and events. I wanted the living story of God and man to be one of our “long-term” core subjects……I believe history is the story of God revealing Himself to mankind and that He did it most perfectly through the person of Jesus Christ.” (from Volume II)


The author treats pagan gods and non-Christian topics respectfully and honestly, though always compared and contrasted with the truth. For example, separate lessons are dedicated to Buddha and Confucius. After discussing each — who they were and what they taught — we are shown how they differed from Christ — who He was and what He taught.

****Lessons too short; only 2-3 pages which includes the activity suggestions.****

Here are the statistics:

MOH I — 108 lessons of 600 words each
MOH II — 84 lessons of 700-1000 words each

Besides the lessons, the activities in both volumes vary in length, but there are about 2-3 paragraphs per activity with at least three activities per lesson, often more than three. Volume II has more activities per lesson than Volume I.

The shorter lessons allow flexibility for homeschoolers. When longer lessons fit the schedule, students can do two or three lessons at a time. On days when time seems scarce, the single lesson may be just the adjustment needed. Either way, each lesson is a thorough treatment of its subject.

****Lessons fluffy with little information; shallow.****

If this is true, then the Bluedorn family, including our grown children, must have fluffy, shallow minds, because even now, as adults, we have enjoyed reading through several of the lessons in both volumes. The lessons in both volumes are as thorough as you would find in any history curriculum on the market today. In my opinion, this curriculum would best fit children from ages 5 through 14, but could be adapted for older students.

I would consider The Mystery of History to be a narrative history, similar to the Helene Guerber histories, which were first published in the 19th century and recently republished by Nothing New Press. Next to historical fiction and biographies, narrative histories are the method of my choice for studying history. The first narrative history I ever read to my children was A Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens, and the history we learned from that book still sticks in our minds even though that was 20 years ago.

But not only is MOH a narrative history, it is also a history curriculum. The author adds all kinds of hands-on activities and projects, photos, timeline and mapping assignments, memory work, supplemental resources, and exercises and tests.

****Language and writing style dumbed down; modern and gushy — neat, cool, gosh.****

Yes, the author does, on occasion in Volume I, use “hip” words such as “neat” or “cool.” And I guess if I must have any complaint with MOH, this would be the only one. The author avoids those types of words in Volume II.

But as far as the overall language and writing style is concerned, there is variety and complexity in the vocabulary, and the sentence structure is pleasing and flows easily — the reader doesn’t have to struggle to understand. It is an enjoyable text to read aloud and doesn’t fall into that mind-tiring simple baby-language of some narrative histories.

****Activities silly and lame.****

There are a large number and a wide variety of activities which I found to be fascinating. One of the reasons writing this review has taken me so long is that every time I sit down to write, I am drawn into the text and the activities, planning which ones I would like to do someday with my grandchildren. No one family could possibly do all the activities, and there are plenty to choose from.

****Resource list disappointing; items impossible to find at any U.S. library or bookstores; too many videos and toys recommended.****

Volume I lists 8 pages of resources; Volume II lists 19 pages of resources. Recommended resources listed in Volume I includes 64 videos, 117 books, 17 toys, and numerous passages from the Bible. I calculated our family had in our own library at least one quarter of the books. But I wanted to find out what other people thought about the resource list, so I asked this question of a group of mothers who use MOH. Here are some of the responses:

“We don’t use the videos … but of the recommended books for the younger grades in the first 27 lessons of Volume I, about 75% of them were available through our library system.” S.

“I just looked up all the resources for the first 20 lessons of Volume I. I found at my library at least one resource for each lesson, often more than one. The rest I found on Amazon. The only one I had problems with is Lesson 11 — World Wise Series on Egypt.” Heather

“We have used the resource list and have not had much trouble locating the books and videos at our library when we want to explore further.” Christina D.

“…what my local library hasn’t had available, I’ve been able to find through interlibrary loan.” Debbie

“…25 of the recommended books in Volume I are found at our local county library. I have not tried interlibrary loans, but I’m sure many more could be found that way.” Cheri

Here’s a quote from Volume II of MOH concerning the resource list: “Please bear in mind that these are merely suggested books, movies, and other resources that could enhance your study of the Early Church and the Middle Ages through spice and variety — but they are not necessary to complete this course.” The MOH texts are really a stand alone curriculum — no outside books are necessary, but the resource lists were compiled for those who choose to add to the texts.

The author never claimed to create a comprehensive resource list. Through contact with the author, I learned that her resource list was created from her own collection and research — it is not a compilation of other lists of supplemental reading compiled by others. I so much appreciate this. Publishers complain that plagiarism of lists is widespread in homeschool circles.

****Table of contents incomplete.****

The Table of Contents for both volumes are about as complete as anyone could ask — nine pages of TOC in Volume I and eight pages in Volume II.

****Leaves out a lot of world history. Concentrates only on people, rather than on people and events.****

MOH approaches the study of history from a chronological standpoint, looking at events happening around the world near the same time. This approach gives us a sense of how God has been at work in every corner of the globe throughout all of history — He was not just working with the Israelites in their little part of the world. Indeed, MOH shows how the events happening in all corners of the world impacted the lives of the Israelites.

All of history is shown to be a continuum, not just a series of isolated events and famous people. For example, Volume I, Lesson 66 points out the connection between the history of Cyrus the Great with the prophesy in Isaiah 44. This lesson also clears up the confusion between Darius the Mede and Cyrus. Lessons on the Biblical prophets are inserted in their proper places, showing the who, what, and where of their importance.

With 108 lessons in Volume I (472 pages) and 84 lessons in Volume II (704 pages), MOH is about as complete a treatment of Ancient and Mediaeval history as any homeschooling family would desire at this level. In Volume I the standard ancient history topics are covered along with chapters on China, India, and American Indians. Volume II covers all points of the globe — north, south, east, and west.

And, yes, since history consists of people doing things — inventing, conquering, writing, speaking, ruling — the lessons of MOH deal with people AND the events surrounding them. In Volume I, approximately 60% of the lesson titles are of specific people, while 40% are of specific events.

****Author takes too long to get the volumes finished.****

It takes time to do a good job in researching, writing, testing on an audience, rewriting, formatting, printing, and publishing — particularly with a history curriculum. All good things come to those who wait. I’d much rather wait and allow the author to write a thorough, well researched world history than read something thrown together in a hurry just to please an editor.

We know Mrs. Hobar has a young family which requires her primary attention. We don’t want the writing of this curriculum to interfere with raising her family. The quality of her work makes us willing to wait.

If you are a Christian family looking for a thorough history curriculum you can confidently use with your children up through age 14, and is downright fun, you’ll want to look at The Mystery of History.

Our family has been involved in homeschooling for over thirty years. I have seen lots of curriculum come and go, but it seems like the very best is produced by homeschooling families themselves. They see a need and proceed to fill it. Linda Hobar has done this with her creation of The Mystery of History.


For those of you needing to find good, but inexpensive homeschool curriculum, you might want to look at this

May 16th, 2016

The Build Your Bundle Homeschool Curriculum Sale starts today. There are 15 total bundles, but the Charlotte Mason Bundle is my favorite. Here are just some of the books included in the Charlotte Mason Bundle.

This sale is over.


History, Chronology and the Bible

May 16th, 2016

Do you suppose that when we get to heaven there will be thousands of video rooms where we can watch reruns of history. In one room there will be a recording of Noah and his sons building the ark and caring for the animals during that year on the water. In another room we can see David fighting Goliath, or who really was the pharaoh of the Exodus.

History, along with its companion subjects of chronology and geography, has always been my favorite. I think that might be because I learned next to nothing about history growing up — I wanted to, but school hindered me from it. They kept us too busy memorizing dates and names to leave any time for the best part of history — the STORY part.

Chronology is the science or study of locating events in time and arranging these events in order from earliest to latest. People usually write out chronologies on timelines.

I’d like to list for you here a few of the curriculum resources our family has found useful in our study of ancient history.

Beechick, Ruth. Adam and His Kin: The Lost History of Their Lives and Times
An important book giving children a biblically accurate overview of the book of Genesis, told in a narrative style. Read it to the children before beginning your study of ancient history.

Bloom, Jan. Who Should We Then Read: Authors of Good Books for Children and Young Adults
A 250-page reference guide containing titles of 140 biographies of authors of great books for children and young adults, and alphabetical lists of quality series such as Landmark, We Were There, Vision Biographies, and Childhood of Famous Americans.

Bluedorn, Harvey and Laurie. Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline
A reference book which guides the student on a selective timeline tour through ancient history, outlining the major events and personalities, and noting the primary literary sources from which these things are known. Time-wise, the book covers the period from creation to the fall of Rome in A.D. 476. Space-wise, it covers the civilizations of the near east and west. Each event or person in history is accompanied by suggested readings from various ancient sources.


Creation magazine — September/November 2005 issue
Small two-page color timeline which covers creation through 70 A.D and follows Ussher’s dates. This timeline is the best compact, all inclusive record of Biblical events. All important events and people are included so you can see at a glance who did what, when.

Dang, Katherine, ed. Universal History: Volume 1, Ancient History, Law Without Liberty
A large, beautiful volume which matches the other big, red books published by the Principle Approach people, and is a chronological compilation of excerpts from 18th, 19th, and early 20th century history textbooks. Included are numerous detailed timelines, maps, and genealogical charts. The text is the Principle Approach application to ancient history. Not primary sources, though.

Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: The world-famous reference that tells who did what when from 4500 B.C. to the present day ­ A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events
This book lists what happened in the world for every year since Creation. It covers politics, literature, theater, religion, philosophy, learning, visual arts, music, science, technology, growth, and daily life. You will find listed the titles of works by well known and lesser known scientists, historians, and fiction and nonfiction writers.

Guerber, H.A. The Story of the Romans
If you could judge a book by its cover, then this reprint of Guerber’s Story of the Romans would get an A+. But that’s not the only great thing about it ­– it’s the literary value that makes me love it. Mrs. Guerber has turned dry history textbook facts into a fascinating, yet accurate and pleasing story that children and adults of all ages will enjoy. I don’t believe in talking down to children, and that’s another reason why I like the Guerber books ­– the vocabulary and sentence structure are complex enough to grab older kids and adults, yet younger children will be perfectly capable of understanding them.

Guerber, H.A. The Story of the Greeks
Here’s another one of the great Guerber reprints. This one tells the history of the Greek culture in a way that everyone can understand. The black and white illustrations are lovely and can be used for copywork.

Hobar, Linda Lacour. The Mystery of History: Volume I ­Creation to the Resurrection
The Mystery of History combines a detailed historical narrative with lesson plans, tests, and projects. I love the Biblical emphasis, the thoroughness, the ease of use, and the lay-out of this curriculum. The narrative is both historically accurate (she doesn’t get into speculation or mythology) and entertaining. Recommended for grades 4-8, but I think K-3 could also use it.

Hulcy, Jessica, Sarah Rose, and Carole Thaxton. KONOS History of the World: Year One, The Ancient World
KONOS is the earliest model of the unit study curriculum from which all other unit study curricula have been patterned. History of the World Year Iconsists of Bible study, timeline events, lists of noted people, map study, related vocabulary lists, and activities all taught chronologically beginning with Creation and ending with early Rome. Research, dialog, reading classical literature, and writing are combined with creative and challenging activities to make the study of history light years away from the tedious way we studied history in our public school days. Geared to students in grades 9-12, but I’m sure some seventh and eighth graders could benefit from it as well.

Hull, Edward. The Wall Chart of World History
Large fold-out timeline. Follows the chronology of Archbishop James Ussher. My favorite timeline.

Miller, Christine. All Through the Ages: A Guide to Experiencing History Through Literature
Extensive compilation of books arranged chronologically and geographically. For all ages.

Miller, Michelle. TruthQuest History
­ Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece
­ Ancient Rome
These study guides, which can be used by students of all ages, contain short, concise historical commentary along with exhaustive book recommendations (both in-print and out-of-print) for every key person and event covered. Also included are writing exercises placed throughout the commentary. I love the cautions that Michelle gives us. At numerous points she suggests that we be careful in our study of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilization, and she shows us which books would not be appropriate for young children or even some older students. There is just enough commentary throughout the books to guide us and keep us on the correct path so that we won’t leave out any important historical events or people. A family is free to spend as long or as little time at each stop on the timeline as they wish.


Reese, Edward. The Reese Chronological Bible
Another tool I believe to be indispensable if you are studying ancient history. The Bible was not compiled in strict chronological order — either by the Jews, or by the Gentiles. Even some portions of the historical books seem to be out of chronological order. There are numerous chronological issues which seem to be unresolveable on the basis of Biblical data, so they require presuppositions and speculations just to come up with theories. If you use a chronologically arranged Bible, such as The Reese Chronological Bible, you will be following Dr. Reese’s theories which are not adequately, if at all, explained, and you often won’t be able to separate the sound chronology from the speculative chronology. That’s okay, as long as you understand this before you begin. I would supplement this Bible with a couple of books on chronology so you can at least appreciate the complexity of the issues and different attempts at resolving them.


Shukin, Barbara. Ancient History Portfolio and Timeline
A sturdy spiral-bound book of blank maps and spaces for drawings, narrations or reports. Also contains a uniquely designed timeline for students to add dates and drawings. Can be used to supplement any history curriculum.

Somerville, Marcia. Tapestry of Grace
A comprehensive unit study curriculum combining the subjects of history (studied chronologically), literature, geography, writing, vocabulary, government, fine arts, and church history. Each week the student will read history and literature, discuss what he reads, and communicate what he has learned through writing projects, displays, activities, and oral presentations. The curriculum is thorough and detailed, and is an excellent application of the trivium approach, with the student activities divided into four levels: lower grammar, upper grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric.

Stanton, Mary and Albert Hyma. Streams of Civilization: Volume One
Good all-round history text from a Christian perspective.

Ussher, James. The Annals of the World
In 1654 Archbishop James Ussher finished researching and writing The Annals of the World, a comprehensive history of the world covering every major event from creation up to AD 70. In writing his history, Ussher read everything about ancient history that existed in the 17th century (many of these works have been lost to time or are no longer available for study), and his work is extensively footnoted with thousands of references to ancient writers. This work is actually a summary of what the ancients wrote. The book was written first in Latin, and then in 1658 translated into English. Today, Larry and Marion Pierce have revised, updated, and translated The Annals into modern English. All the footnotes have been updated to reference works in the Loeb Classical Library, and all Ussher’s original citations have been checked against the latest textual scholarship. This book will prove to be the most valuable source of all time for the study of ancient history and chronology.

Walton, John H. Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament
Dozens of charts which help us understand the history, literature, archaeology, theology, and chronology of the Old Testament.

“It is safe to say that, if Genesis 5 were not in the Bible, and if a tablet were exhumed, say in Assyria or Egypt, bearing the same concise statistical statements, it would be hailed as the most wonderful and valuable relic of antiquity. And not only so, but many who attach little or no importance to the statements as found in the Bible, would give full credence to the very same statements, if recorded by some unknown Egyptian or Babylonian sinner.” –The Wonders of Bible Chronology by Philip Mauro


Unsure of what to expect?

May 11th, 2016

The Top Thing Parents Can Do to Turn Kids into Successful Adults
And only one in four parents are doing it, according to a recent report.

by Annie Holmquist

Last week, Business Insider ran an interesting article listing 13 things parents can do to turn their child into a well-adjusted, successful adult. The first thing on the list? … Read the rest of the article here.






2016 Build Your Bundle Sale Coming Soon

May 9th, 2016

Trivium Pursuit is a contributor to the 2016 Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale (May 16-23) again this year.

We can’t tell you what are in the 15 bundles until May 16, but from now until then, you can

1) enter to win a giveaway and get reminded when the sale goes live — winners will be announced May 16, and

2) obtain a coupon code to use during the sale.

This sale is over.


Propaganda: Are Americans Being Taken In By It? They are without the ability or tools to think through and analyze media messages

May 9th, 2016

by Annie Holmquist

After taking a hiatus from watching news programs for a while, a friend of mine recently turned on MSNBC. Following this experience, he said something along the following lines:

“I’m done. I just can’t take it. The news cycle is continual repetition over and over again.”

His statement recalled something I read while paging through The Fallacy Detective, a simple and fun logic book for children written by Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn. In their section on propaganda, the authors define repetition as “repeating a message loudly and very often in the hope that we will believe it.”

They go on to say that:

“Repetition is also being used when we are bombarded constantly with someone’s viewpoint. The person thinks that if he tells his viewpoint often, then people will believe it.”

Read the rest of the article here.


Looking Back Forty Years — My Favorite Homeschool Purchases

May 9th, 2016

Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home by Raymond and Dorothy Moore — This book gave me the word for how I wanted to educate my kids — it was called “homeschooling.” I loved that word.

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay — Another foundational book which helped me bond with my children and fall in love with homeschooling.

McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers — 7 Volumes (Christian School Edition) — In 1979 we bought a set of McGuffey’s Readers. It was my very first homeschool curriculum purchase. I still have that set, and now my grown kids borrow it for their own children. For all ages.


Art prints from art museum gift shops or wherever you can get them — I keep several of these prints (along with title and artist) taped to the living room walls, rotating them regularly.

Artes Latinae — The Latin curriculum I used and recommend — it is self-teaching, inexpensive, and thorough, which is perfect for the homeschooling family. For ages 11 through adult.

Building Thinking Skills — This series is the perfect introduction to logic. I always started Building Thinking Skills Book 2 with my a ten-year-olds and progressed to BTS Book 3 Figural and then BTS Book 3 Verbal.


Critical Thinking in United States History — Another Critical Thinking Company product which I found to be valuable for teaching logic. For ages 12 and up.

Critical Thinking Books One and Two — Another Critical Thinking Company product which I found to be valuable for teaching logic. For ages 12 and up.

Bob Jones English Handbook for Christian Schools — A comprehensive English handbook with all the grammar, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and sentence diagramming rules in one place. Very useful.

The Art-Literature Readers (3 Volumes) by Eulalie Osgood Grover, Great Pictures and Their Stories: Interpreting Masterpieces to Children (several volumes) by Katherine Morris Lester, and Masterpieces on Art by William C. Casey — There are other kinds of art-literature readers, but these are some I used.

The Elementary Spellingbook by Noah Webster — See our article How to Use Webster’s Speller to Teach Spelling, Handwriting, Grammar, and Vocabulary.

A Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens — Best little history book ever, written long ago by Charles Dickens.

cover (1)

Nature/Science Readers — These are reprints of 19th and early 20th century science/nature readers. Christian Liberty Press has recently reprinted a series.

Microscope — Long ago, I purchased a used university microscope with all the bells and whistles, and it has been worth every penny spent on it. Once you have a microscope you can order things like this or this.

The Wall Chart of World History: From Earliest Times to the Present by Sebastian C. Adams and Edward Hull — One of my most valuable possessions. Over 15-feet long, it is an illustrated timeline and includes Biblical and world historical events. Follows Ussher’s timeline.

Wall Chart 4

The Reese Chronological Bible — A true chronological Bible. I would prefer it wasn’t the KJV, but it doesn’t come in any other version.


Trivium Pursuit’s List of National Contests and Exams Open to Homeschoolers — List of contests which I started compiling back in the 80’s. Check out our article Contests in Your Curriculum.

Your Family God’s Way: Developing and Sustaining Relationships in the Home by Wayne A. Mack — The best family counseling book EVER.


Hand That Rocks the Cradle by Nathaniel Bluedorn — My list of classic read-alouds, compiled from 1981-2001.

HTRTC - 2008 - Cover - 29.indd

Audio Books — A life-saver for Mother.


Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think And What We Can Do About It by Jane M. Healy — Read this before you start homeschooling.

endangered minds