Elementary Humanities Program

The Program:

Volume One: The Ancient World, From the Stone Age to 33 A.D.

Volume Two: The Growth of the Christian World, 33 A.D. to 1300

Volume Three: The Winds of Change -- 1300 to 1776 [very rough list]

Volume Four: Modern Times -- 1776 to the Present Day [very rough list]


The Elementary Humanities Program is designed as a four volume outline of Western Civilization with an emphasis on cultural literacy through story telling. Each volume will consist of roughly one hundred 1-2 page illustrated stories about events, famous people, myths and stories that people have told through the ages.

Our goal is to write the stories at a level which would be appropriate to read aloud to children around age six, or for children with a third grade reading level to read themselves. Since our treatment of each subject is by necessity fairly brief, we will try to provide a list of other age appropriate resources for each story. Please feel free to suggest more in the comments on each piece.

The program uses what may seem to some an unusual division of historical periods. Most ancient history books go up through the "Fall of Rome", while we have chosen to end our first volume around the time of Christ. Part of the reason for this is practical: there are so many stories to tell from the nearly four thousand years of recorded history before Christ that it seemed a shame to leave even more of them out by cramming in a another four hundred years.

However, our other reason for dividing the program this way is the belief that those people living during the 'dark ages' and medieval period generally would have divided history in exactly the same way. The "Fall of Rome" only came to be seen as a clear dividing line in history in the fifteen through nineteenth centuries. Most of the people who lived between 476 and 1300 A.D. either saw the Roman Empire as continuing in the person of various contemporary rulers (Charlemagne, Otto the Great, etc.) or else expected the rule of an emperor to return soon. (Dante, writing in the early 1300s, repeatedly expresses hopes that peace will return to Italy as soon as a single ruler once more rules the Roman Empire.) It was only in the through the Renaissance and Reformation that people increasingly came to see the middle ages as completely separate from (and inferior to) what came before them. And, of course, in the East, the Roman Empire never did completely fall, until Constantinople was sacked by the Turks in 1453.

In order to best understand how the people of different times thought about themselves, we've decided to deal with the period from 33 A.D. to 1300 A.D. as a unit: The Growth of the Christian World, dealing with the encounter first between Christianity and the ancient world, and then between the Christianized Roman Empire and the various nations of "barbarians" who migrated into Europe in the fifth and sixth centuries, and formed what would eventually become the nations of modern Europe.

Also see:

How the elementary program deals with religion