Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bright Ideas Press: Mystery of History & All American History

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, our family was chosen to review curriculum published by Bright Ideas PressI was thrilled, because I'd been longing to try their history products.  Our family was allowed to review two items:

These are both in-depth history curriculums, and this is a LONG review.  If you are primarily interested in All American History, scroll down to the photo of the textbook cover.  I'll begin with The Mystery of History.

Click image to view curriculum.

I have heard so much about The Mystery of History by Linda Lacour Hobar, and was eager to have a chance to try it.  I received The Mystery of History hardcover student reader for volume 3, as well as the CD-ROM version of the Companion Guide: Curriculum and Student Activities.  The student reader is a gorgeous, high-quality textbook with color illustrations.  Volume 3 of The Mystery of History covers the Renaissance, Reformation, and the discovery of the new world (1455 - 1707).


  • Speaks directly to the student in a natural voice

  • Focuses on God's plan in history

  • Companion Guide includes suggestions for additional reading material

  • Kids loved the student reader and the hands-on activities

  • Elementary - High School students = whole family learning together

  • Focuses on history largely  through the lens of biographies

  • Brings history to life

  • Weekly pre-tests, activities, maps, and review tests included in companion guide

  • Re-usable and non-consumable

  • Self-contained, no other materials necessary

  • Quality, colorful student reader

  • Can print/photocopy as many worksheets from the companion guide as your family needs

  • Students cycle through history in 4 years (or longer if you slow it down), but when they return to this time period, the activities and supplemental reading are at a higher level.

  • Helpful Yahoo Group email list of other families using the curriculum


  • My younger students glaze over after awhile with the reading, so needed to slow down

  • Need to follow suggestions in Companion Guide to make it high-school level

  • Need to print activities, maps, and pre-tests each week

  • Companion Guide CD-Rom was slow and clumsy to locate items at times

The hardcover student reader is 441 pages long, and retails for $59.95.  The family license version of the CD-Rom Companion Guide retails for $29.95.  The black and white printed version of the Companion Guide is available for $39.95, and it contains over 600 pages you can photocopy for your family's use.  You can view a sample of Mystery of History, volume 3 HERE, and two samples from the Companion Guide, week 1 and week 2

We really liked The Mystery of History, volume 3.  We liked the simplicity of its use, and that it includes everything you'd need.  Additional books are supplemental and not necessary, unlike our current history curriculum.  We would consider switching to The Mystery of History, but we're ahead of the author in history right now.  She is still writing the last book, and my children do not want to go backwards.  They want to complete the 20th and 21st centuries rather than return to the 18th century.  However, when we are ready to return to ancient times in a year, we will definitely be using The Mystery of History volume 1 -- at least as a history spine, if not our sole curriculum.

The other issue that we'll have to consider before switching completely  is that our current curriculum includes literature, and The Mystery of History does not.  Bright Ideas Press is currently designing Illuminations which does tie The Mystery of History in with other subjects, creating a guide for a complete course of study for all ages of students.  Some of the TOS Homeschool Crew did receive Illuminations to review, but those reviews will be coming a bit later.

We definitely recommend The Mystery of History, and give it 5 -- one from my 3rd grader, 5th grader, 7th grader, 9th grader, and myself!

Click image to view curriculum

I had not heard of All American History, by Celeste W. Rakes, until we began this review.  But I love history, and really wanted to see volume 2, which covers the Civil War through the 21st century.  Since our history studies are currently in the 20th century, I knew this would be a helpful resource that would allow my 9th grader to test the curriculum without changing time periods.

All American History is written for 6th - 12th grade students, but it can be adapted for younger students. (Vol. 1 is written for 5th - 8th grades, but can be adapted for younger and older students.)  I really like how each of the 32 weekly lessons contains three sections:  the atmosphere surrounding the event, the event itself, and the impact of that event on America's future.  The author included the social and cultural history of each time period, so students could have a fuller understanding of American history.

In addition to the weekly chapter in the student reader, there are also maps, forms, review questions and questions for further study in the Student Activity book.   The Teacher's Guide includes project and activity ideas, book lists for additional reading, and the answer keys to the Student Activity book.   You can view samples of the Student Reader, the Student Activity Book, and the Teacher's Guide at the Bright Ideas Press website. 


  • Speaks directly to the student in a natural voice

  • Focuses on the background of each event and its impact

  • Teacher's Guide includes suggestions for additional reading material

  • Teacher's Guide includes information on activities and projects

  • Teacher's Guide includes ideas to adapt for younger students

  • 9th grade daughter enjoyed the reader

  • Builds an understanding of history, not just the facts

  • Self-contained, no other materials necessary

  • Hardcover Student Reader is well-made

  • Student Activity Book includes maps, worksheets, review questions

  • Re-usable, non-consumable reader and teacher's guide

  • Nothing to photocopy or print, since Student Activity Book contains it all

  • Self-taught for older students

  • Helpful Yahoo Group email list of other families using the curriculum


  • Not as easily adapted for all ages as Mystery of History

  • Student Reader is long and dry for elementary age students

  • Student Reader contains black and white photos only

  • Student Activity Guide is consumable, not reusable

  • Need a Student Activity Guide for each student

The hardcover Student Reader (557 pgs), the softcover Teacher's Guide/Answer Key (336 pgs), and the  softcover Student Activity Book (306 pgs) are  sold as a set for $68.00.   Additional student activity books cost $16.95.

I would not try to use All American History for the whole family, but it does make an excellent American history course for older students.  If I were to try to use it with my elementary age students, I wouldn't read the textbook to them, but I would use the suggested reading materials in the Teacher's Guide instead. 

All American History gives a very thorough understanding of events in American history!   This is an excellent history text for the older student.  My 9th grade daughter and I each give it a !

These items were provided to me free, as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew.  They were provided as review materials, and no other compensation was given.  This review states our opinion only. 

Click the TOS Homeschool Crew banner at the top to read more reviews on this product by other Homeschool Crew members.

Trusting in Him,

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