The Four Year History Cycle: Slightly Revised

You may have heard me say before that we follow a four-year cycle of chronological history in our homeschool. 

Well, we used to. 

My littlest man will be in 3rd grade this coming school year, and we’re just now getting into ancient history – year 1 in a four-year cycle. I still plan to follow a four (or five-year cycle). But…he’ll only go through it twice before he graduates – several years from now. That’s one less time through the cycle than most classical models.

In order to deeply soak in all of history, I'm opting for a more relaxed study of world history - while still using tried and true curriculum.

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Why only twice through the history cycle?

For starters, my big kids didn’t really need the third cycle by the time they got into high school. We had studied world history thoroughly twice before, and they had a really good grasp. However, because it was “the plan,” we did indeed complete all three cycles. However, I felt like the big kids and I sometimes rushed through great literature or missed some key events trying to fit a particular era into a year’s worth of study.

What did the cycles look like with the big kids? I used Story of the World through the first cycle, along with some unit studies. The second cycle was strictly completed with project-based unit studies and lots of literature. During the third cycle, we took on all kinds of text curriculum, project-based research, video curriculum, and literature.

Our four-year history cycle will be slightly revised.

The little man and I will take our time and walk through chronological history in a much more relaxed (yet still rigorous) way. We’ll begin with Creation and work our way through the 21st century on our own timeline, then start the process again for good measure and more depth. This decision feels really good.

You might wonder what in the world we’ve been doing for history if we aren’t beginning our chronological cycles until 3rd grade. Well, we spent 1st grade focused on cultures around the world (with a focus on missionaries) and 2nd grade taking a tour of the good ol’ USA (with lots of literature). Second grade gave us a great introduction to American history.

Now that Eli is entering 3rd grade and is a good reader, we’re finally ready to hit history harder.

The Story of the World will be slightly revised.

I love Story of the World, and that’s the curriculum I plan to use during our first four (or five) year cycle. When I did Story of the World with my big kids, we did EVERYTHING—all the projects, all the worksheets, and all the literature. I spent HOURS reserving books online and traveling to and from the library. This time around, we’ll do the curriculum on much more relaxed terms.

We’ll hit the text, narrate with the comprehension question, complete the maps, and work on our timeline. We’ll probably only complete the occasional hands-on project (because that isn’t his thing) and I’ll only choose the best of the best living lit books to go along.

It’s nice to reach a point in your homeschooling journey when you realize relaxed learning is just fine.

These books will be on our informational shelf.

I’m still deciding on the final “best of the best” elementary living literature list to take us through our upcoming ancient history year. However, I’ve already gathered a pile of informational books that will follow us through the entire first 4 (or 5) year cycle. We’ll sometimes use these to “see” the history and dig a little deeper.

The Usborne Book of World History (Guided Discovery Program)How People LivedWhen on Earth?: History as You've Never Seen It Before! (DK Where on Earth? Atlases)A City Through TimeA Street Through TimeThe Kingfisher History Encyclopedia (Kingfisher Encyclopedias)


I love that each of these chronological resources will help build Eli’s understanding of change over time and relate particular things/events/people with their eras. Since each book is colorful and kid-friendly, they will be on his pleasure reading shelf so he can dig in whenever he gets the urge.

Note: Many of these books have at least a mention of evolution-based beginnings. Some of them will also discuss gods and goddesses (which is part of ancient history.) I always read through these types of books once with Eli (if just quickly) to discuss any potential issues before putting them on his read-alone shelf.

What about the 2nd cycle in middle and high school?

That’s a good question. We’ll have to see what floats our fancy when Eli reaches middle and high school. I’m sure I’ll keep you posted. 

As we enter the first ancient history cycle, I’ll be sure to share our journeys with you! Until then, I’ll consider which timeline we’ll use this year and gather must-do lessons from my ancient history Pinterest board. I’ll also consider which of my “top 10” ancient history living books Eli might be ready to read in 3rd grade.

Oh, I do so enjoy lazy summer days of curriculum planning!

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  1. We also study history chronologically, though in two 6 year cycles. I did two full cycles from 6th -12th grade with our older dd after pulling her out of public school. It was rushed! I love being able to spend the added time with our younger kiddos. This fall, I’ll finish the first 6 year rotation with our rising 5th and 6th graders, studying the Civil War to Modern Times. History is our favorite subject!….and I think it’s because we use a living book approach. I’m willing to bet you’ll like the added time 🙂


  2. Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed the added time, Melissa!

  3. We love to take history a little slower too Cindy, your plans look great!

  4. This is great to hear from a veteran homeschooler, Cindy – we will be first timers this upcoming school year with our first grader, and although the plan is to use SOTW, I feel a bit overwhelmed by it and like the relaxed approach you plan to take. I think that is probably the route we will use as well. I’m interested to hear what timeline you decide to use. That is one of the last decisions I need to make this month before placing my big curriculum order 🙂

  5. Courtney, I think you’ll love a relaxed approach with your 1st grader. There are just so many important phonics and math skills to cement before going all out on history studies at that age anyway. I’m so excited about our slower approach! As far as the timeline, I’m leaning pretty heavily toward a three-ring binder “Book of Centuries” style with Eli. Enjoy your first homeschooling year! 🙂

  6. I have been following your blog for awhile. Even though my son is 25 years old and went to public school. I find some really great reading lists for myself and nieces and nephew.

  7. What a blessing to hear, Angela!

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