Sunday, April 12, 2015

Integrating Literature and World History in High School

I am often asked how I design classes for our high school young adults. 

Actually, I don't design all their classes, only ones where there is a special interest, an intrinsically motivated independent study, a travel experience which sparks a study, or in a case where we can't find a traditional curriculum fitting our learning goals.

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests, and the future plans of the young adult. 

Our oldest son had a great interest and gift for learning history. This was, by my understanding, his favorite subject in school. He read constantly, checking out books at the library and spending saved monies at museum and historical landmark book shoppes. He outsourced his dad, a public school history teacher very early. By the time he reached high school, there really wasn't a curriculum available to challenge him. I had to research accelerated reading lists, college course syllabi, and talk with historians to find resources for him. It was a challenge, but a privilege to help him grow yet further in his learning.

With his interest in history, we divided American History into Early American (to 1850) and Modern (from 1850 to present), and World History into Ancient (to the Reformation) and Modern (from the Reformation to present) so we could allow time for him to dig deeper into his interest. I developed literature selection lists for each course, providing him reading suggestions to get him started. His desire to learn history prompted him to seek out additional titles. My motto became, "you read it, I will find a place to give you credit".

For readers interested in the detail of what we constituted Ancient World History/Survey of Ancient Literature, our reading list (remember it was a springboard from which he could jump in for more) is below. Please keep in mind as you read through the list, he was a self-motivated reader with an interest in the subject. Not all young adults will share this interest or learning preference. In addition to his independent reading, we used a textbook as a spine of topics. Though he started the year reading some of the text, by the end of the year he was reading more primary source documents, living history selections, and biographical pieces than text. He also had the amazing opportunity to travel to Rome, including tours of several sites inside the ancient city wall. Though I could be discouraged that my other children may not have the same opportunity, I await the provision He has for each of them as they walk through their lives.

The path above worked for us and that young adult. Don't use what is written here as a comparison for what your student should or shouldn't be doing. Comparing ourselves or our children to others leads to discouragement and discontent, neither of which are valuable.

Our examples are only intended as encouragement, to give an idea of what worked for us, and what you might be able to create for your high schooler. Our young adult was (and still is) a reader, but your young adult may have an opportunity to intern with a local businessman or a museum curator. Use what God provides for you and pray about how he is preparing your young adult for the future plans He has, not for the ones we best intention.

Our Ancient History/Literature list:

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
  • Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles
  • Antigone, Sophocles
  • Mysteries of Ancient China, Rawson
  • Mythology, Hamilton
  • The Roman Way, Hamilton
  • The Greek Way, Hamilton
  • The Death of Socrates, Plato
  • Ben Hur, Lew Wallace
  • For the Temple, Henty
  • The Young Cathaginan, Henty
  • The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone, Giblin
  • In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, Wood
  • The Republic, Plato
  • The Histories by Herodotus
  • The Eagle of the Ninth, Sutcliff
  • Anna of Byzantium, Barrett
  • The City of God, Augustine
  • I, Claudius, Graves
  • Claudius the God, Graves
  • Don Quixote, Cervantes
  • Julius Caesar, Shakespeare
This post is edited and updated from the original posted September 1, 2009 at

*The information in this blog post is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are responsible to oversee their child's home education. 

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