How We Study Ancient History

Dear Reader,

As promised, I wanted to address how we are approaching our study of ancient history (see my previous post in why we studied American history first here).

We had used Truthquest as our guide when studying American history. I loved it for that. But when I looked at their guides on ancient history, I was disappointed. They focus on Egypt, Greece and Rome and do not have guides for other ancient civilizations like Mesopotamia and China. I wanted to study all of these.

Other curricula out there include more civilizations. Story of the World, of course, seems very popular. Sometimes I think everyone I know uses it. But I don’t like its approach. Story of the World and many other curricula take a strictly chronological approach. That is, they will address Egypt’s Old Kingdom, then Mesopotamia, then maybe China and then back for Egypt’s Middle kingdom and so on. I wanted to study each culture more or less independently. In early times particularly, these cultures do not necessarily interact much with each other so it makes sense to me to study them one at a time. Of course there is some overlap especially as history progresses so no culture is going to be studied completely in isolation. But I also thought it would be less confusing to just focus on one at a time rather than skipping back and forth.

The only comprehensive resource I have found that I am happy with is All Through the Ages. This is a bibliography, however, and not a study or teaching guide (even more so than the Truthquest series which is a bibliography but arranges the material in a study-able order). I decided to study as many ancient civilizations as possible including: Egypt, Mesopotamia including the Hittites, Sumer, Assyria and Babylon, Canaan/Israel, China, India, Greece, Persia, and Rome. In the ancient near east (the area we today call the middle east) there is a progression of civilizations. That is, Assyria is conquered by Babylon who is in turn conquered by Persia, then Greece, then Rome. So I think there is a natural progression here that helps determine what order to study them in. Now of course Greece, for instance, existed before and after Alexander the Great. But my guiding principle is to study them in the order in which they had their political hey-days. So the order I came up with is: Egypt, the Hittites, Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, Canaan/Israel, neo-Babylonian empire, Persia, Greece, and Rome. China and India we will study on their own after finishing the others as they have little or no interaction with the other civilizations at this time. We also elected not to study Africa (apart from Egypt) or the Americas at this time as their times of prominence come considerably later.

An argument could be made for studying the  earliest Mesopotamian civilizations, the Hittites and Sumer, before Egypt. They are roughly simultaneous. But I like keeping the Mesopotamian civilizations together as they share a common culture.

I have posted previously on the Canaanite city-state of Ugarit (see part 1 here). I would like in another post to go back in time and talk about the Hittites a little. I found very little for children on them which was quite disappointing so I would like to share what I did find and what I taught my children about them.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you so much for your time and efforts!! I have been trying to decide how I wanted to lay out our studies on ancient civilizations and couldn’t really put my finger on why I wanted to go one way or the other FOR SURE!! You explained your approach so well that I really started to understand why I’ve been struggling! i wish I had found you site along time ago, it was a huge help!!


  2. […] have posted in the past on why we began with American history and how we have approached our study of ancient history, but I would like to talk a little now about why we study ancient cultures at all.There are two […]


  3. […] have posted before about out studies in ancient history (see here, here, and here). Overall, I have not been happy with the curricula we have found. I wanted something […]


  4. […] all the cultures, going back and forth between Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and others. That is not how I wanted to approach ancient history. I preferred to study one civilization at a time which I think was helpful for that period of […]


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