Living books for ancient history: Creation and beginnings
History is probably the most important subject you will teach as you homeschool your children. Maths is pretty important, and you can’t teach history without English, but history is where you will learn about the human race, and learn how to learn from mistakes. That covers a lot, and using living books, in my view, is the way to get a really thorough grip on real events. A textbook is okay for a summary and biased view, but reading source material, biographies and historical fiction is far more interesting!
So here we start our series of articles on living book recommendations for homeschool history studies. Most of them we have used ourselves and some come highly recommended. We will add to these lists as we come across more history fodder!
If you are studying the origins of history from a Judeo-Christian perspective, the Bible is your most important living history book. It’s the most comprehensive source material available. Get yourself a chronological guide to go along with it. Our Language Lessons from Antiquity does this for you from Creation to the establishment of the kingdom of Saul and includes English and history lessons for homeschool. Another good choice that also follows the Bible history in chronological order is Truthquest History.
As you come across other civilisations in your Bible history, you might want to check out our other lists on books for ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Books on creation and evolution
This or another similar reference book will help you understand the customs and ways of life in Bible times, both Old Testament and New. Choose a heavily illustrated version so your younger ones can get the most out of it.
The Kregel guide is what we used, but it is out of print – you will probably find it on abebooks.com.
Josephus was a first-century Jewish historian whose writings are incredibly valuable in understanding Jewish thought, background and history up to and around the time of Christ.
Second only to the Bible, his work enriches Biblical history. You don’t need to read it from cover to cover, but it is great to have for more historical and cultural background to Biblical events.
This book records evidence of the advanced knowledge of ancient man.
Examples of advanced technology, travel, art, music and architecture abound. Above ground sites of Native American mounds in the US, pyramids of Nubia and ancient underwater sites show that the ancient world was more complex than we think.
This book is written from a distinctly Christian viewpoint.
The first book in a hands-on, multilevel elementary science series that introduces scientific concepts using history as its guide. The beginning of history is given in the Bible’s creation account, and this book uses the days of creation as a way of introducing a wide range of scientific concepts.
A perfect companion to study science while you study creation history.
An excellent book that gives detailed information about the ancient cultures and nations near Israel regarding their languages, homes, food and clothes as well as their work and their many interesting stories. It provides hands-on activities and crafts to enrich learning.
by Bernarda Bryson
There are not many books on other ancient cultures besides Egypt, Greece and Rome, but this is an important one. It was first written down in Sumerian cuneiform 3,000 years before Christ. Gilgamesh was a warrior hero-king, part god and part man, and this is the story of the Genesis Flood from a non-Judeo culture. Read this alongside the Biblical account.
This version has wonderful full colour illustrations and is suitable for middle to upper primary aged children. Be prepared to discuss the gods and religious beliefs of this ancient culture.
by Ludmila Zeman
If you have young children, this may be a more appropriate book depicting the epic poem of Gilgamesh. It is a storybook with full-colour illustrations.
Other titles in this series are: The Revenge of Ishtar and The Last Quest of Gilgamesh
By J G Fyson
Set in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur, (the birthplace of Abraham), this is the fictional story of three sons of a wealthy merchant. The author uses Biblical stories from the book of Genesis and ancient religious history to weave the background. This is a great living book full of vivid depictions of everyday life, education, trade and religion in this ancient culture, and is a real page-turner.
This is the first of two books, the second being The Journey of the Eldest Son, which you will want to read as the end of The Three Brothers of Ur will leave you unsatisfied – something that disappointed me at the time I first read it, not knowing there was a sequel. Though they are out of print, you should be able to get both from abebooks.com.
Each genre of history should have at least one high-interest reference book to give you a summary of the culture. This book introduces children to the people, land, culture, religion and legacy of ancient Mesopotamia, which is now known as Iraq.
Mesopotamia is important in Biblical history and it is interesting to learn about other cultures post-Flood. A good companion to historical fiction set in Mesopotamia to help set the scene.