With its engaging narrative style, rigorous learning, fun multisensory activities and a unique global perspective, Curiosity Chronicles is an interesting elementary-level history curriculum that can provide students with a broader perspective on the past.
What We Like
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What is Curiosity Chronicles?
Curiosity Chronicles is a secular homeschool history curriculum for elementary school students that aims to teach history from a more global perspective.
To do so, the curriculum combines colorful and richly illustrated texts, an engaging dialogue-based teaching format, book lists, notebooking/lapbook exercises and a wide assortment of multisensory activities that can help kids get interested and engaged in history.
The program’s texts are available in print, digital and audiobook formats.
What Ages Or Grades Is Curiosity Chronicles Intended For?
Curiosity Chronicles is intended for students in grades 1-6, with each course in its selection aimed at a slightly different suggested age range, albeit with some notable overlap.
|Curiosity Chronicles Text
|Intended Age Range
|Snapshots of Ancient History
|Snapshots of Medieval History
|Snapshots of Early Modern History
While the courses are intended to cover history up until about grade 6, due to the depth and flexibility of the program, its rich illustrations and the wide variety of possible hands-on activities and exercises available in it, it can be (and is) used by homeschool students to about grade 8 or so.
That said, when it comes to the younger grades, we feel that it is important to keep in mind that Curiosity Chronicles is something of an advanced history curriculum.
While its ancient and medieval courses can ostensibly be used to teach interested students in grades 1 and 2, the texts do explore topic in a fair amount of depth, use higher-level vocabulary at times and introduce sometimes complex ideas, such as slavery, that may be difficult for some younger students to fully appreciate or understand.
This is something that parents of early elementary students should keep in mind, although it does make the program particularly useful for gifted students and precocious history learners.
What’s Required To Teach Curiosity Chronicles?
Curiosity Chronicles makes use of a few components in order to teach history, some of which are offered directly by the company itself and some of which (like reference guides and books) parents will have to pick up themselves.
As a result, while Curiosity Chronicles certainly offers an activity and resource rich study of history, it’s not exactly a compact curriculum and there can be a few things for parents to buy, store, organize and keep track of.
Notably, the courses make use of the following materials:
- A Snapshots of… textbook
- An Instructor’s Guide
- A Student Guide
In addition to these, although perhaps not strictly necessary to teach history, parents may also wish to pick up notebooks (for notebooking/lapbooking activities), various household goods for the program’s hands-on activities and a reference guide plus various chapter-related literature from the program’s book list.
Snapshots Of… are the main texts of each course and contain the relevant explorations of historical times, places and peoples across the world that make up the Curiosity Chronicles approach.
Divided into a number of chapters, the books follow a chronological timeline of human history and provide an overview (or snapshot) of key civilizations and individuals from around the world, from Sumar, Pharaonic Egypt, Hapshepsut, Zhou and more in Ancient History all the way to the modern day.
The books themselves are full color and richly illustrated, offering a good mix of hand drawn art and beautiful photographs of historical artwork and artifacts, which can be a step up visually from many other learning resources out there such as the black and white Who Was/What Was book series.
As we will discuss in further detail in the section below, the books are written in a back-and-forth dialogue format between two cartoon kids, Ted and Mona, which is intended to make the study of history a little more approachable and understandable for kids compared to a regular textbook.
In this way, the texts share some similarity to those used in some other homeschool history programs, such as Story of the World, or History Quest, that use a narrative or story-like approach to make learning a bit more palatable.
Interestingly, in addition to being offered in print and PDF format, Curiosity Chronicles also offers its text as an MP3 audiobook, making it more accessible for students with reading difficulties and those who just like to listen to their learning.
As can be seen in the sample above, the audiobooks are professionally recorded and have different actors providing the voices of Ted and Mona, which can make them a lot more interesting and easy to listen to compared to some other audiobook curricula out there.
Although we didn’t, some parents find the recordings to go a bit quickly, however, which can make them a little trickier for younger students to follow.
Curiosity Chronicle’s Instructor’s Guides provide the essential structure for teaching the program, offering guidance, scheduling ideas and an overall outline of lessons to carry parents through teaching history using the program’s materials.
The guides are all-text, black and white soft cover texts (when printed) that contain full lesson plans with things like big idea questions to frame the learning, an overview of key ideas and facts, focused questions on each chapter of the main text (and their answers), discussion questions, instructions for map and timeline work, suggested readings (which we discuss later), answers to vocabulary practice and guidelines for the various hands-on activities and projects included in the course.
By and large the Instructor’s Guides contain everything a parent needs to teach a Curiosity Chronicles course and they are all nicely laid out and well-organized, making them very easy to use.
It is important to note, however, that they aren’t totally scripted.
All the different activities are clearly presented and offer an idea of what to say when giving instruction, but as a whole and unlike some other history curricula out there the guides don’t offer a precise dialogue or word-for-word script that parents can follow when segueing between activities.
This can provide parents with more flexibility when it comes to teaching, allowing them to add their own spin on a lesson and allowing them to interact more naturally with their children, but it also means that those new to homeschooling may have to put a little more thought into how they want to move through a lesson.
The Student Guides are where students will spend a good deal of their time after each reading.
When in print form, they are black and white, consumable softcover books that contain the various activities and exercises that students are expected to complete over the course of their studies, such as vocabulary exercises, lesson questions, timeline and mapwork instructions, coloring pages, review activities and more.
The guides are intended to go hand-in-hand with the Instructor’s Guides and generally follow their structure and format pretty closely.
Although not the most interesting to look at, the Student Guides are pretty straightforward workbooks on the whole, providing clear instructions and guidelines for their included exercises that should allow most fluent readers to do most of the work on their own.
This can free up parents from having to closely supervise student work and allow more time to complete the many other tasks running a homeschool requires, which we always appreciate.
One thing to note is that, although the Student Guide’s guidelines are clear and while they do follow the lesson format of the Instructor’s Guides closely, we feel that parents will still need to pick up an Instructor’s Guide, as it contains a good deal of important activity instruction and detailed answers to many of the program’s questions and exercises.
How Does Curiosity Chronicles Teach History?
Curiosity Chronicles is a completely secular homeschool history program.
While it may make reference to God, the Bible and Christianity, it does so academically and in the context of the societies and cultures of a given time period, such as medieval Europe.
In addition, the program also makes a strong effort to examine other religions and beliefs (Islam, Buddhism, and more) and treats them as no less important or valid as Christianity, which is in keeping with the program’s overall perspective discussed below.
As a result, Curiosity Chronicles can be a good option for secular homeschools looking for a history curriculum, although it may not be the most appropriate for those looking to focus more on a Western/European viewpoint or particular religious outlook.
In addition to being secular, Curiosity Chronicles bills itself as “globally-minded history for the elementary child.”
And as a whole, we feel the program lives up to this promise.
Whether they are studying ancient, medieval or modern history, Curiosity Chronicles introduces students to a far broader view of the peoples and cultures that have influenced the world as we know it.
Each Snapshots text covers a variety of cultures from around the world, examining their important figures, events, writings and achievements, rather than mainly focusing on those that influenced Western culture.
A clear example of this can be seen in the program’s medieval history course.
When looking at medieval history, most curricula can be a little eurocentric, focusing on the impact of the fall of the Roman empire, the Crusades, the Norman invasion, the Black Plague and so on.
While Curiosity Chronicle certainly touches on these topics, it also explores contemporary events, achievements and the notable individuals that shaped China, Ghana, Ethiopia, Japan, the Khmer Empire and the Islamic world, to name a few.
Rather refreshingly, it also treats these societies and their development as no less important or interesting than Western countries.
On the downside, however, as it does touch on such a wide number of cultures and peoples, some parents may feel that the program doesn’t quite dig as deeply into any one of them as they would like.
As we’ve mentioned, rather than teaching using a typical textbook style, Curiosity Chronicle uses an interesting dialogue format.
The Snapshot texts are “hosted” by two main characters, Ted and Mona, who explore history together and discuss various history facts and events using a constant back-and-forth question and answer style.
Typically, Ted serves to introduce a fact or idea by either making a simple statement or asking a question, while Mona either answers or expands upon what he said in greater complexity and with more detail.
Ted will then often summarize the learning in a short, precise statement or quip.
As a result, Curiosity Chronicle can act as a more casual and approachable look at history that students can identify and engage with more than a typical elementary school textbook curriculum.
Interestingly, the roles of the two characters can also serve to differentiate the learning a bit, with Ted’s dialogue offering simplified summaries of historical events and explaining key ideas in an easy to understand, kid-friendly way.
While this dialogue-based approach can make recounting history to students a lot easier and more interesting, it is important to note that it is not always ideal for every student.
Some students, particularly those weaker in reading and reading comprehension, may find the constant back and forth a bit hard to follow and extract information from.
Similarly, some students simply prefer to be given their historical facts in a direct manner and may feel frustrated by the somewhat circuitous path taken by the dialogue.
Ultimately, a good deal really depends on the student and we feel it is very worthwhile for parents and students to explore some of the free lesson samples the company has available in order to see if it is a good fit.
In addition to the readings, Curiosity Chronicles also makes use of a wide variety of activities and exercises in its lessons to help reinforce a chapter’s learning.
Lapbooking and notebook, for example, feature prominently in each course, with students filling in, cutting out and pasting key ideas and takeaways into a notebook as they go along.
Beyond this, lessons can also include crosswords, coloring activities, timelines and maps and a selection of optional hands-on projects and craftwork that parents and students can choose from that connect to historical topics and themes.
There is even a Minecraft integration, which we found quite interesting.
In these, students are challenged to build their own historical reconstructions using the very popular Minecraft game, which can have them building temples, boats, pyramids and even irrigation systems using Minecraft blocks and tools.
Aside from being a fairly novel approach to teaching history, the use of Minecraft can be a very fun and engaging way to draw reluctant students into studying history using something they really enjoy.
Overall, the use of so many different activities and exercises can make Curiosity Chronicle lessons very multisensory, which can have the effect of improving information retention and learning while also making lessons more meaningful for those with different learning preferences.
Parents should, however, keep in mind that these activities can take time and can make lessons a little longer than a traditional, lecture-style approach, and they may need to budget more time for history as a consequence.
Finally, Curiosity Chronicles includes an optional literary-based component.
Each chapter contains a book list with a variety of related reading suggestions that parents can choose from based on their student’s interests and abilities.
There are, for example, illustrated biographies, picture books, chapter books, historical works (such as poems and plays) and even a selection of living books on different topics, which should be appealing to those following a Charlotte Mason-inspired approach to homeschooling and can serve as an interesting integration of language arts learning.
Each chapter also contains references to relevant sections in certain reference books, such as the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia or the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, which can add more depth and a variety of interesting diagrams, pictures and illustrations, to a given lesson.
On the downside, as with any literature-based approach to learning, parents will have to find and perhaps buy the titles listed in each lesson plan, which can increase the overall cost of the program both in terms of time and money.
How It Works
Each course in Curiosity Chronicles is designed to take about 36 weeks to complete with parents following a 1-2 chapter a week schedule.
Each chapter in the program is fairly short, and should take about 30-60 minutes to get through.
With quite a few activities and readings to get through each week, it can be a bit tough to set an appropriate pace.
Helpfully, the Instructor’s Guide offers parents a few ideas they can try out, depending on their preferences and student need/ability, such as having one long lesson a week or breaking it into 2, 4 or even 5 shorter lessons.
A typical chapter in Curiosity Chronicle begins with students (either alone or with their parents) reading or listening to a chapter in the Snapshot text.
As they go along, parents can make note of key people, places and events using their Instructor’s Guide, as well as point out the richly illustrated artifacts and artwork that dot each chapter.
After completing a chapter, parents and students can make use of relevant passages in their reference books, such as those from the Usborne or Kingfisher history selection, which can add a little more depth to the learning (as well as allow students to enjoy their usual assortment of high quality illustrations, photos and explanations).
Following the readings, students are then ready to turn to their Student Guide to work on some activities and exercises.
Lessons often begin with vocabulary matching exercises, which allows students to practice their understanding of new terms or concepts they may have picked up from the text.
They often are then tasked with answering so-called Comprehensive Questions, which are questions related to the key points of the chapter.
Most are short answers, although quite a few are more open-ended and complex, which can be more suitable as a revision for older students.
There are also “What Do You Think” questions, which are an opportunity for students to weigh in on what they’ve just read, getting them thinking a bit more critically and deeply about what they are being taught.
Lessons typically also offer students the opportunity to do timeline and map work, where they label and identify key areas and events in history either on a map or in a special timeline kit.
Following this, Curiosity Chronicle lessons offer students quite a few activities and exercises that they can try out.
Depending on the lesson, there can be crossword puzzles, word searches, jumbles or coloring pages and more, which can be kind of fun.
Lessons also typically include a couple ideas for hands-on activities that parents can select from, and there is a wide variety included throughout each course.
Students can, for example, be asked to try their hand at various history-related arts and crafts projects, do their own little archaeology digs, grow plants, cook and bake historical snacks and meals and even do some building in Minecraft.
Finally, every few weeks parents and students may be given a dedicated review, which are usually done with games and activities rather than tests.
Students can, for example, review a few lessons’ materials using fortune telling games, timeline reviews or even try out a strategy game from the Philippines called Tapatan.
Our Thoughts on Curiosity Chronicles
Curiosity Chronicles is a very interesting homeschool history program.
As a program, it fills an important niche in homeschooling – a completely secular homeschool program that avoids the eurocentrism that many other history programs fall prey to by exploring a wider range of cultures and peoples of history and doing so in a more even-handed and open manner than most.
Its richly-illustrated readings are fun to look at and relatively short, and the dialogue-style, although not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, does make material more engaging and less intimidating, even when exploring complex or challenging topics in history.
Yet, despite being very approachable, the learning itself is fairly rigorous.
Curiosity Chronicles never shies away from teaching students complex concepts and ensures they learn all the proper vocabulary and terminology through its dedicated exercises.
We liked how the program’s lessons don’t just rely on readings and mapwork, but include a rather extensive list of multisensory activities and exercises, including a number of highly interesting hands-on activities (such as baking or Minecraft) that can bring history learning to life in a way that kids will understand and, perhaps more importantly, actually enjoy.
Finally, we also liked how accessible and flexible the program is.
Available in both written and audiobook formats, it can accommodate just about any student, even those with visual or reading difficulties.
Furthermore, during lessons parents are given a couple options for activities, rather than just one, which allows them to tailor the learning a little bit more around their students interests and abilities.
On the downside, there can be quite a few components to the program outside of the core guides and texts, including timeline kits, reference books, various books and readings and any household materials needed for the hands-on activities.
While parents can obviously pick and choose what they’d like to include in each lesson, making full use of the program can involve buying, storing and organizing a number of items.
It’s also worth noting that the dialogue style can be a bit confusing to some students.
While our tester didn’t have any issue with it, it is something to keep in mind.
How Easy Is The Curriculum To Teach?
Curiosity Chronicles is, in our opinion, a fairly easy to teach, open and go history program.
Its Instructor’s Guides do a good job at laying lesson activities, information and exercise instructions out in a clear, organized and logical manner.
Additionally, where external reference guides are used, the specific page numbers relevant to the lesson are clearly marked.
As a result there is very little prep work involved on the part of parents with this program.
Further, we found that the Student Guides offer sufficiently detailed and clear instruction for their activity that most students (who are comfortable reading) should be able to do a good deal of the work on their own, which reduces the demand on parents quite a bit and can make the program particularly suitable for busier homeschools.
The only real issue that parents may have is that, due to its hands-on activities and literature-based component, they may have to spend some time creating a list of supplies and books to source at the beginning of each year.
Pros and Cons
Multicultural and global secular history program
Unlike many other homeschool history programs, which tend to have something of a eurocentric bias, Curiosity Chronicles provides a good amount of detail on the history of a variety of cultures from around the world.
In this way, students can get a broader understanding of history and the impact other peoples and cultures have had on our world.
Illustrated, full color texts
The texts used in Curiosity Chronicles, the Snapshots of… series, are all full-color and filled with interesting drawings, illustrations and photos of important cultural and historical artifacts and sites, all of which can draw students into the learning far more than the simple black and white texts used in some other curricula.
Interesting and engaging dialogue-based teaching
Rather than relying on simple textbook-style lectures, Curiosity Chronicles uses an engaging and sometimes amusing dialogue between two fictional kids to explore different topics and places throughout history.
In this way, the program can seem more approachable/less intimidating to students and can be more enjoyable for them to read, as well.
Rigorous introduction to history
Although written in an approachable manner, Curiosity Chronicles is also a rigorous and somewhat advanced curriculum for elementary school students.
By and large, it routinely encourages students to use their critical thinking skills, to develop their history vocabulary, to explore and research topics further with its book lists and never shies away from examining complex or challenging topics in history.
Multisensory and activity rich lessons
Curiosity Chronicle lessons are filled with a variety of different activities, from coloring and crosswords to baking, painting and building.
As a result, students are not only able to be more active learners but can engage more of their senses, which can improve their learning and retention of information.
Curiosity Chronicles has made its Snapshots texts available as professionally produced audiobooks.
Not only can this make things more enjoyable for fans of audio learning, but it can also make the program more accessible for students with reading or visual difficulties.
Easy to teach, open and go program
Curiosity Chronicles has done a good job at laying out its instructional materials carefully and in a very organized manner.
As a result, there is very little prep time involved in teaching the program, which means that parents and students can essentially pick it up and start learning.
Cool Minecraft integration
In addition to its hands-on activities, Curiosity Chronicles has integrated a number of Minecraft-specific challenges that get kids building their very own historical structures using digital blocks.
This can make history learning a lot more attractive to fans of the series, of which there are many.
Not the cheapest homeschool history program out there
At around $70-180 for a full year’s program, not including any hands-on project materials or reference guides/extra readings, Curiosity Chronicles isn’t necessarily the most affordable way to study history compared to some other options out there.
Dialogue-based format not for everyone
Although we enjoyed it, not every student will be a fan of the Snapshots back-and-forth dialogue style and some may find it confusing or hard to read through.
Who Is Curiosity Curriculum Ideal For
Those looking for a secular homeschool history program
Curiosity Chronicles is a completely secular homeschool program and while it may make mention of God, Christianity or the bible, it does so in the context of historical study and makes sure to treat other religions, cultures and beliefs it explores as equally valid.
Those seeking to avoid a eurocentric view of history
Curiosity Chronicles stands out from many other homeschool history curricula due to its extensive exploration of the cultures, peoples and events of cultures around the world.
While students certainly learn about European history, they will also learn about contemporary events in places like China, Ghana, Japan, Cambodia and more, as well as the ways in which these cultures’ development have influenced the world we live in.
Those looking for a fun, activity-rich homeschool history curriculum
Curiosity Chronicles lessons are filled with a variety of written and hands-on activities that can make them a lot more interesting and attractive to homeschooling families looking for something a little more engaging than a standard history lecture.
Those looking for an approachably written, yet comprehensive, look at history
Curiosity Chronicles is written in an approachable, dialogue-driven style and its lessons are “hosted” by two cute cartoon kids that students can immediately identify with.
At the same time, the learning is comprehensive and rigorous, exploring different cultures and challenging topics in history and often getting students to explore and think more deeply about what they are learning.
Who Is It Not Ideal For?
Those looking for a faith-based homeschool history curriculum
As we’ve mentioned, Curiosity Chronicles is a secular curriculum that treats all the faiths it encounters as equally valid and discusses them academically and in the context of history, rather than as truth or a way of life.
As a result, the program may not be ideal for some homeschools looking for a history curriculum that emphasizes the values of a particular faith.
Those looking for an exploration of Western history
While it does cover all the major events of the Western world that elementary students might be expected to know, Curiosity Chronicles also spends considerable time exploring contemporary societies and historical events from around the world and goes to great lengths to emphasize and validate their contributions to our world.
Students who prefer a straightforward, textbook-style lecture in history
The dialogue style that Curiosity Chronicles uses may not be for every student.
Some, for example, may prefer a clear and simple recitation of facts that they can write down and remember, and they may find the Snapshot texts to be a bit too circuitous for their liking.
Note: Prices correct as of writing, all prices in USD.
Each course in Curiosity Chronicles has a few items that parents need to buy.
In particular, parents and students will need a copy of the Snapshots text for that course (available as hard or softcover), Instructor’s Guide and Student Guide, as well as an optional printable timeline kit.
The Snapshots texts are also available in digital and audiobook formats, which can be a little less expensive.
When purchasing Curiosity Curriculum, the company offers parents a couple options.
They can purchase a complete kit containing all the required materials, in print, digital and/or audiobook formats, or they can configure the program to their needs and budget by purchasing individual items.
|Early Modern Vol 1
|Early Modern Vol 2
|Early Modern Complete
Lapbook/Notebook Kit – $10
Timeline Kit – $0.99
Audiobooks only – $28-35
Student Guide only – $19.99
Instructor’s Guide only – $16.99
As always, parents should check for the latest prices of Curiosity Chronicles, as well as for any discounts or offers that may be available.
Is Curiosity Chronicles Worth The Price?
Overall, we feel that Curiosity Chronicles can provide a lot of value to the right homeschooling families.
A secular curriculum, it offers a comprehensive and rigorous (yet approachably written) examination of history that also explores the achievements and events of cultures, peoples and civilizations that are often ignored by other homeschool history programs.
The Snapshots series of texts are richly illustrated, offering an eye-catching full color view of ancient art and artifacts that kids are sure to find intriguing, and their back-and-forth dialogue-style of instruction offers students a more engaging and fun way of learning about history.
Finally, each curriculum in the series is filled with a wide variety of multisensory activities, from cooking and coloring to interesting Minecraft projects, that make lessons far more memorable and interesting for all involved.
Finding a high quality, secular history curriculum can often be challenging.
With its engaging narrative style, rigorous learning, fun multisensory activities and a unique global perspective, Curiosity Chronicles is an interesting elementary-level history curriculum that can provide students with a broader perspective on the past.
About the Author
Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.