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How To Teach Catholic Kids About The Middle Ages

At some point in your children’s education they’re going to learn about the Reformation. Maybe you have some idea of what your ideal Catholic Middle Ages homeschool curriculum should look like. If you have a nice Catholic homeschooling family like mine, you try to make do with the Protestant history book you have while skipping a few sentences during your read aloud…before your husband walks into the school room and hears you mention Martin Luther and next thing you know your elementary students are bombarded with an “enthusiastic” lecture on the effects of the Reformation across Europe and the lasting ramifications to Western Civilization. …which is not how I expected that unit to go. Can you relate or is that just us?

Anywho, the Middle Ages is my favorite historic period to study (Charlemagne! knights! castles! St. Hildegarde! Dante! daVinci!) but it’s difficult to find a¬†textbook¬†for elementary and middle school aged students that fairly portrays the Catholic church. Many Catholic homeschool curriculum providers do not cover the Middle Ages with younger students, and when it is introduced, it is through dry school textbooks focused on introducing an overview of world history.


We study the Middle Ages in the second year of our four-year cycle. I’ll be reading about all my favorites next year for the third go round, but thankfully, I will not have to make do with what I’ve used in the past, and instead can take advantage of the second book in Tan’s The Story of Civilization (TSOC) series. How excited am I you ask? Pretty darned excited.


1. I’ve been using Story of the World (SOTW) as my spine since I started homeschooling, but because it leaves out so much awesome Catholic history, and includes questionable content, I always heavily omit and supplement with other books. In general, I think history is more enjoyable when you add picture books and literature, but it’s nice to have a well written textbook to lay the framework and set the stage for all the stories your kids will be reading. And that was the strength of the SOTW series; it was engaging. My kids enjoyed reading or listening to the stories, and in the early years, the hands on activities. Through the years I purchased many other books to fill in the chapters I was skipping and to add in stories of the saints.

However, TSOC is just as well written and produced as SOTW, as are all the related materials, which you can view samples of online or in person at the IHM National Homeschool Convention, June 23-24 Fredericksburg, VA. (Arx Publishing may have TSOC¬†Vol. 2 to preview at IHM’s Michigan and New York Conferences.) The second volume of SOTW includes the medieval history of ¬†China, Russia, Australia, India, and Africa. If you would like to include this in your homeschool, great! however, if you’d like to focus on European or “Western” Civilization, you’ll appreciate the focus and depth of TSOC’s 33 chapters. It’s chapters contain what you’d expect when creating the ideal Catholic Middle Ages curriculum.

2. There is also a test book, teacher’s manual, activity book, timeline, audio book and streaming video lectures. (Currently only the textbook, test book and timeline are available for purchase. The rest are available for preorder.) The teacher’s manual contains narration exercises, review questions, map activities, art and science projects. Maps, coloring and activity pages are contained in the student activity book. While some of the narration, review and map exercises could be used with older students most of the activities are aimed at first to fourth graders. The test booklet is geared towards fifth to eighth graders. My only complaint is that there is no supplementary book list included in the teacher’s manual for TSOC, something that SOTW includes. Obviously, if you’re dealing with a great spine you don’t need to supplement, however, for my family, incorporating good books into our history lessons is non-negotiable.


3. I do want to mention two other Catholic history programs that cover the middle ages. One is RC History’s Connecting With History and the other is History Links, which is a unit study program. Connecting With History has daily lesson plans, with work for all grades levels outlined in one manual, and uses mostly ‘good books’, with some other Catholic textbooks recommended for each level (Beginner, Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric).¬†I think if you prefer living books, don’t care about the spine, and want/ need daily lesson plans, you might prefer Connecting With History.

4. ¬†If you prefer unit studies and tons of activities and basically living like it’s 800 A.D. for a bit, History Links might be for you, although their medieval unit only covers from the fall of Rome until the Norman invasion. Their second medieval history unit is still not available and has been “in production” for a while now.

5. If you just want a solid Catholic history curriculum for your elementary or middle schoolers that you can open the box and get started with, and don’t care about adding in supplemental books, TSOC would be a great choice. Especially if you’re going through a particularly hectic phase in your life. Have the kids read the chapter, or put on the video or audio book, throw an activity book or test book at them (to complete of course!) and you’re done with little work on your part.

6. In case you’re curious, my kids will read TSOC next year for history. My sixth and eighth grader will each read a couple additional literature books on the historical topics being covered. We may also compare the history presented in TSOC with history presented in certain chapters of SOTW and other books on medieval history. The middle grades are a great time to start discussing the hard parts of Catholic history. (For parents interested in brushing up on history, I highly recommend ‘Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know’ by¬†Diane Moczar.But you’ll probably also enjoying reading TSOC yourself.) The audio version would be a great resource for Fulton and Teddy, plus some picture books. Ideally, I will hang a timeline somewhere prominent to inspire us all in some way. ¬†TSOC’s ¬†timeline is nice, but too crowded for my liking. We have the wall space to create a large timeline and that’s what I prefer to do, however, if it’s three weeks into the first trimester and we still have no handmade timeline, at least I have a backup plan.

7. I created a booklist years ago with all the titles I found or bought to supplement our study of the Middle Ages. You can view it here. It has not been updated with chapters from TSOC, yet! Probably in August I will overhaul the booklist to reflect lessons based on chapters in TSOC rather than SOTW. You’ll find books included for all grades on my list. Also, here’s my timeline of historic events.

When do your children start studying the Middle Ages? Any favorite history resources to share? What does your ideal Catholic Middle Ages homeschool curriculum look like? Write it down then link it up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

Disclaimer: I was given The Story of Civilization for free in exchange for my honest review, which I gave, WITH GIFS, so I feel like I upheld my end of the bargain two-fold. All thoughts are my own, obviously. 


  1. I’m a fan of “Otto and the Silver Hand” (Howard Pyle), “Catherine Called Birdy” (Karen Cushman), and selected Cantebury Tales (specifically “Chanticleer”). If you want to use some interesting period music, Anonymous 4 has a few selections.

  2. Perfection! Made all the better by the awesome gifs. << I know where they're all from, too! LOL )

    T Hank you Kelly.

    And thank you for hosting!


  3. After many years with STory of the World, which is pretty great, we discovered STory of Civilization and listen to the Audio! It’s AWESOME ! And I am as excited as one of those GIFs too!

    1. My high schooler is enrolled in Queen of Heaven Academy and they use the Warren Carroll series for history. Plus, Addie’s English class often ties it’s literature selections into the time periods being covered in her history class. By high school, she’s ready to read Dante, Shakespeare, Plutarch, early writings of the Church fathers, etc rather than the abridged or children’s versions of the same stories we’d used up to this point. Also, it’s our goal to have the kids translating some texts from their original Latin by the end of high school. (I know Addie will be doing this next year in her Latin class.)

  4. For High Schoolers who like lectures, The Great Courses series on the Middle Ages (three courses) by Professor Philip Daileader are engaging. He’s very balanced in his presentation of facts and causes. Serious nerds might enjoy Reason and Faith: Philosophy in the Middle Ages by Professor Thomas Williams. It’s intellectually challenging, but my 10th grade daughter and I loved it. These aren’t new courses, so you might be able to find them on ebay.

  5. I subscribe to both Kindle Unlimited and Great Courses Plus. KU will have The Story of Civilization II available on June 20. Great Courses Plus has two courses by Daileader available right now (High and Early Middle Ages). I also highly recommend any course from the Great Courses by J. Rufus Fears. My freshman son has listened to all of the Famous Greeks course and is well into the Famous Romans (which we had to get from the library- not every single course is available on Plus, but a ton are). There’s a few mature parts, but he is never salacious or overly descriptive. The Greeks course went along very well with reading Herodotus and Thucydides.

    Thanks for the recommendation about the Middles Ages courses, because, as this post discusses, it gets old sifting and correcting through sources and materials. Yes, doing so is a very good exercise and we can all learn a lot by doing it together, but it’s nice to not have to fight and correct all the time.

  6. Thank you for posting this! We do a 4-year classical approach to history. We use Classically Catholic Memory as our “spine,” and we did the Alpha year this year paired with The Story of the Word vol. 1. I really loved it, BUT I had heard about the Protestant perspective of SOTW vol. 2. You have given me what I was searching for! I love the read aloud history narrative approach, but I want the richness of Catholicism’s role in history to be included. Thank you so much! This was just in time for planning next year.

  7. I am so happy i found you! You answered all my questions and said exactly what I needed to know with regards to curriculum and being Catholic based –AND also wanting live books etc. Oh my goodness. No one has ever answered all my thoughts in one place before. I am most grateful.

  8. Hello! This post is a few years old, but I plan to use TSOC Vol. 2 for history next year. I am trying to find a living book list that is matched to the chapters in the volume. You mentioned in this post that you wanted to eventually put that together. I’m just wondering if you ever got around to that (because I’d rather not do it myself if it’s already been done!).

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