One of the most influential books on my curriculum choices has been The Well-Trained Mind by Bauer and Wise. I have loved every product they have come out with and I have found that their style works well with our family. When deciding on a history program to use for first grade, I had no doubt that I would choose The Story of the World (SOTW) books. However, the more research I conducted, the more I kept seeing The Mystery of History (MOH) as an alternative. I became unsure of my decision. I had already purchased SOTW, but wanted to review MOH as well. Well, I was lucky enough to win MOH Volume 1 in a giveaway, so I now have the opportunity to review both programs and decide which is better for us. My opinions are below:
*The opinion expressed below is my own. I received NO compensation from either company, and was not asked by either company to write this review. I completed this comparison on my own initiative in order to implement the best curriculum for my family (although I hope this will help others make a decision).
Although both programs share some similarities (both can fit into Classical models or Charlotte Mason models), there are several points worth mentioning.
Time frame: The time frame for each book differs drastically in the beginning. SOTW begins around 7000 BC, whereas MOH begins around 4004 BC. Bauer (SOTW) does not give any background for her dates, so I am not sure what source she uses. Hobar (MOH) explains that she believes in a “young earth” and uses the Bible and dates from ancient history to form her timeline. The dates of major events/people are generally listed as the same in both books.
Writing style: It is my personal opinion that SOTW is a bit more challenging to read. I prefer challenging, and I like the way SOTW is written. MOH is more conversational. This style is not bad, but I enjoy the more academic presentation in SOTW. SOTW also has more world history as a whole. MOH focuses on Biblical history.
Activities: SOTW requires more map work than MOH. Both have the option of coloring pages and both do include maps for map work (although I use MapTrek). One characteristic of MOH that I like is that three levels of activities are presented, one each for elementary, middle, and high school students. In my opinion, SOTW can easily be used for grades 1-8 by assigning more work to the middle student.
Testing: MOH offers pretesting and review (included in the core book). SOTW has an optional testing booklet that can be purchased for a fair price.
Cost: MOH costs about $130 for Coloring pages, Folderbooks, Notebooking pages, challenge cards, Reproducibles, and Volume 1 book. All but the book come either in CD or downloadable format, so making copies for your family is easy. SOTW costs $56 dollars for Volume 1 book, PDF activity book (includes coloring pages, review cards, maps, and other activities), and PDF tests (both also available in hardcopy form). I chose the PDF forms so I can easily make copies for my children.
World View: MOH is hands-down more Christian-oriented. Although biblical events are mentioned in SOTW, MOH covers them in much more depth and makes them the center of the history study. Depending on personal preference, this may or may not be a bad thing.
My decision: I have decided to stick with SOTW for grades 1-8, although I may borrow some of the activities from MOH to supplement. The activity book for SOTW provides more than enough activities, and the book could easily be repeated without doing the same activity each time. I also think SOTW is a bit more challenging, and I like giving my students a challenge. The price is better for us, as well, as it is half the price of MOH. I also like the tests for SOTW for grades 4-8. I appreciate the world view of MOH, but we cover a lot of what is presented in MOH in our Bible studies, and I do not want to feel like we are repeating the same items for different subjects. I do not think that SOTW is necessarily better than MOH, but it works better for us and our learning style.