The Ultimate Guide to Using Story of the World in Your Homeschool

I was never much of a fan of history back in my own school days. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure ANY world history was taught to me in my whole kindergarten through twelfth-grade experience! Some Canadian history (yawn!) was covered of course, but the Roman Empire? The War of the Roses? The French Revolution? World War I & II? I can’t say with any certainty that any of that was covered in class. It should come as no surprise then that in all the subjects I’ve taught my own children homeschooling, I’ve learnt the most teaching history.

For the last four years, I’ve been teaching history in my homeschool using Well Trained Mind Press’ The Story of the World series, and we love it!

The Ultimate Guide to Using Story of the World in Your Homeschool - lapbooks, notebooking pages, colouring pages, book lists and more!

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I’ve been talking a lot lately with friends who use Story of the World in their homeschool about how we use it in our homeschool and what other resources are available to complement it. We’re nearing the end of the program, and I love sharing with those who are just starting out!

There are a LOT of options — everything from simply reading the book and talking about it with your children to doing numerous activities and unit studies for each chapter. There’s supplemental reading, timelines, lapbooks, notebooking, videos, audiobooks, crafts … the possibilities are endless.

The core of the curriculum is, of course, the Story of the World books themselves. Well Trained Mind Press also offers audio CDs, Activity Guides, Student Pages, and tests to accompany each of the four volumes. We’ve never done the tests, and I’ve always just used the student pages included in the Activity Guides but you can certainly make your life easier by buying them pre-printed or printing from the pdf download. I HIGHLY recommend the audio versions by Jim Weiss!

No matter how you chose to use The Story of the World in your homeschool, you’ll probably find something in this post that will help you enjoy this wonderful history curriculum in your own homeschool.

Supplemental Reading for Story of the World

The Additional History Reading and Corresponding Literature Suggestions provided in the activity books are a great resource for supplemental reading. If you’re working with a variety of ages and not necessarily the target ages of each of the volumes though, you might have a little bit of digging to do to find appropriate materials for your children. Here are some excellent booklists to get you started:

Book Lists for Volume 1:

Book Lists for Volume 2:

Book Lists for Volumes 3 & 4:

I’ve grouped these together as many book lists don’t distinguish between Early Modern and Modern History.

Story of the World Lapbooks

The Volume 1 Lapbook listed below was hosted on a blog that is no longer available, but the dropbox file is still there and can be accessed. Another blogger, Carrot Top x 3 has created lapbooks for the last three volumes. Perfect for kids who love to cut & paste!

Story of the World Notebooking Pages

We started our history notebooks 4 years ago using simple, lined paper. Lined paper does work, but using pre-made notebooking pages makes notebooks look so much better! offers a huge selection of History Notebooking Pages (and timelines) that you can purchase in individual bundles, and a membership to their site gets you lifetime access to ALL their notebooking pages.

I’ve also created my own notebooking pages specifically for use with Story of the World, complete with the particular chapter titles and sub-headings.

Story of the World Volume 3 Notebooking Pages. Free, downloadable notebooking pages for SOTW 3: Early Modern TimesFree, printable, Story of the World Volume 4 Notebooking Pages.









Timelines are a great way to help your students see how events in history overlap and relate to one another. Sometimes our children can compartmentalize historical events, and the visual representation that a timeline provides can help them to understand that history is unfolding simultaneously all over the world. What was going on in Africa during the American Revolution?

There are several types of timelines and you can use any of them with Story of the World; chose the one that best meets your needs and preferences:

Wall timeline

A timeline that you attach to the wall is a great visual way of displaying history if you have the space (or the inclination for this type of home decor).

Book of Centuries

Another great option is to create a timeline in a notebook or binder.


Foldable/Accordion Timeline

This is the best of both worlds in my view –you get the flow of a wall chart with the compactness of a notebook. Pages are attached so you get the whole flow of history but fold into a book to save space. Any of the Book of Century options listed above will work, and this link to Notebooking Pages also has a video of how to assemble one.

Pre-made Timeline

You don’t have to make your own timeline, there are a lot of timelines available for purchase. There wall timelines, book of centuries, and notebooks available. We have the Adams Synchronological Chart or Map of History which folds out of a (very large!) book and it is pretty.

Timeline Figures/Cards

Once upon a time, a blogger actually created all the timeline figures needed for Story of the World and made them available for free on her blog. Unfortunately,  those files are no longer available. I did find timeline cards for Volume 1, but you’re going to need an alternative plan for the other three volumes. The good news is that it’s easy enough to make your own timeline figures. If you want to do-it-yourself  — have your children draw their own, or search online for images of the main players in each chapter. There are also some pre-made options available though they aren’t organized especially for SOTW. Here’s a few to get you started:

Colouring Pages

Something we have really enjoyed with our Story of the World lessons has been using complementary colouring pages. Colouring is a great way to keep busy kids quiet while you read aloud from The Story of the World books or from your supplemental reading choices.

While the activity guides do contain some colouring pages, we have also purchased some history-themed colouring books. Bellerophon and Dover have lovely history-themed colouring books at great prices!

Using Story of the World in Your Homeschool - Colouring pages

I also recently made the discovery that Well Trained Mind Press has also produced some supplemental downloadable colouring pages to go along with SOTW Volume 4 featuring a colouring page for each chapter. My kids were super excited about this as the activity guide for volume 4 contains significantly less colouring pages than previous volumes.

There are also many historically themed  colouring pages available for free online that are worth looking into:

History Videos

Audio Books & Dramas

The audio versions of all four Story of the World volumes have been wonderfully narrated by the talented Jim Weiss and are available on CD or mp3 download. But did you know that Jim Weiss has also narrated numerous other audiobooks and dramas that make great additions to your history studies? Jim Weiss’ audiobooks are available from Well Trained Mind Press, Amazon, and probably even your public library.

The Story of the World Activity Guides also provides extensive lists of both history and literature book lists to complement each chapter. It is definitely worth checking to see if you can access the audio versions of some of these books! I’ve found many of them available on Audible.

History-Themed Art Lessons

A fun idea to supplement your Story of the World experience is to incorporate history-themed art lessons into your history studies. A great way to spruce up your history notebooks!

Ancient History Inspired Art Lessons

Ancient History Video Art LessonsMedieval/Middle Ages Inspired Art Lessons

Medieval Video Art Course

Early Modern/Modern History Inspired Art Lessons

American History Video Art Lessons

What are your favourite resources for using with The Story of the World? Did I miss any?
The Massive Guide to Homeschooling History - Ultimate Guide to Using Story of the World in Your Homeschool
See more of my Ultimate Guides Here:

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschool PodcastsThe Ultimate Guide to Homeschool Podcasts

The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Busy Kids Quiet (& Engaged!) During Read Alouds


  1. annette @ A net in Time August 23, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    we simply read through the chapters, found them fascinating. 🙂

    1. Learning Mama August 23, 2017 at 8:22 pm

      They are fascinating for sure! I’ve learned more history in the last 4 years reading these books, than in the whole rest of my life combined!

  2. Nicky Venter August 24, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Would this be appropriate for 8yr old going on 9?

    1. Learning Mama August 24, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      Yes, definitely! I’m currently doing SOTW 4 with my almost 10 & almost 7-year olds.
      SOTW 1 is targeted for grades 1-4
      SOTW 2 is targeted for grades 2-5
      SOTW 3 is targeted for grades 3-6
      SOTW 4 is targeted for grades 4-7

    2. Gale September 23, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      I’m not the blogger…but Nicky, yes, this would absolutely be appropriate for an 8 yr old, going on 9. I started with my son at 6 at a VERY slow pace (doing a lot to break up the material to make it a little easier for his short attention span, and adding visuals when I could). He’s 9 now and he LOVES this. I still add visuals and such but don’t have to break up the material into smaller parts (we do one section of a chapter each day…there are usually 1-3 sections in each chapter). So starting at 8 I think would be perfect!

  3. Gale September 23, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    This is excellent! Thanks for putting together all this info!

    1. Learning Mama September 23, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      Thank you, and you’re welcome!

  4. Keri Hamberg February 7, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    This is amazing! Thank you! Do people ever share their OneNote SOTW lesson plans?

    1. Learning Mama February 7, 2018 at 4:27 pm

      Hi Keri,
      I don’t know anything about OneNote, but I have seen lesson plans shared online in Facebook groups.
      You might wish to try:
      Well Trained Mind Facebook Group
      The Well Trained Mind for the Grammar Stage Facebook Group
      Story of the World History Group
      Story of the World Volume 1 Facebook Group
      Story of the World Volume 2 Facebook Group
      Story of the World Volume 3 Facebook Group (this one seems pretty much inactive though)

  5. Emily May 11, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    We are going to start Story of the World in the fall with my first grader. Can I say THANK YOU!! This truly is the Ultimate Guide! I googled whether or not the student pages and tests were really necessary and ended up finding this gem of an article! So thankful!

  6. Karie Bair May 14, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    This is really a terrific group of resources all in one place! The one thing I’m trying to figure out as I look at this curriculum is what do I actually do in a day? We are currently doing history daily with small readings (2 pages average), a weekly activity and a timeline with pictures to color and put up. When I look at a “chapter”, is that intended to be a week? Is there a break down of daily schedule somewhere? I don’t plan to use the tests, just the text and activity book. Thank you for any guidance you can provide.

    1. Learning Mama May 14, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      Hi Karie,

      There are probably as many ways to use SOTW as there are families who use it 🙂

      This is what we do:

      We do History twice a week, typically covering one chapter. Most chapters are broken into two sub-headings, and we do one for each lesson. I read from the book while my kids colour. Sometimes I ask the comprehension questions, sometimes not. Then, my second grader narrates to me while I write it down for her. My fifth grader writes her own narration. Then we do the map work. I put all the supplemental reading books on hold at the library a few weeks in advance and I put them into our history basket for free reading. I like to grab read alouds from these selections sometimes too.

      Sometimes we watch videos that go along with each chapter.

      We rarely do activities.

      Every couple of weeks or so, my fifth grader works on her timeline (we’re using the figures from the activity guide).

      I hope this helps!

  7. Chauncee May 31, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    I will be homeschooling my daughter who will be going into 3rd grade this coming school year. She’s never been introduced to Story of the World, or any real history lessons. Would it be best to start her with book 1?

    1. Learning Mama May 31, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      I’m a fan of studying history chronologically, so I would definitely say start with Volume 1: Ancient Times. Not that it would be terrible to start with whatever historical period you are most interested in though. Enjoy!

  8. Chauncee May 31, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    Thank you! I’d prefer to start with book 1, rather than 3 😉

  9. Theresa June 12, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Love this series! Comprehensive and interesting! Made it so easy to cover history with multi grade children at the same time.
    Has anyone complied a list of historical events that we should cover from the end of vol 4 to present?Was going to work on that today since I just finished the 4th book but wanted to see if there was a list available.

    1. Learning Mama June 14, 2018 at 10:53 am

      I’m not aware of any, but it sounds like a good project!

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