Great for multiple elementary grade levels
Product: Story of the World, vol. 1, 2, & 3 and optional activity books, test booklets
Dates Used: 2008-2011
Likes: I love Story of the World for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is because you can use it for multiple grade levels at the same time. I can read it aloud (or have one of the older children read it aloud) to the group, then have them do different activities from the activity book (younger ages work on the coloring pages, while older kids draw or fill in maps, work on timelines, answer the questions, etc).
I believe this series could easily be used for grades K-6th. (I should disclose I only have one child, but I use these books when I teach co-op classes. I teach children grades 1-4. If you teach or consider using these books for your co-op make sure you have each child buy their own student pages, they do not need to purchase the whole activity book since the activity books is half teacher's guide with one set of student pages. If you are using this in a homeschool setting the author allows for you to make copies of the student pages on your own if you need more than the one set that come with the activity book or you can just order extra sets of student pages if you don't want to make the copies yourself).
I also like it because it is written like a story, so the children look forward to the next section. For this reason the text is not bogged down with lots of dates and heavily detailed events. There is a timeline in the back of each volume, so for the older children you can discuss the dates. The activity books also have book lists so you have the option of exploring certain topics, events, and people in greater depth.
It is a four year cycle (there are four volumes) so it is a great seamless world history program for four years. I love this because it means I'm not on the hunt for a new text each year.
This is truly a world history series, not just a western history series. So as you are learning Western history, you are also learning about what is going on in Africa, Japan, India, etc. Though the series is pro-Christian, this means you are also learning about other religions. I like this since this gives me and opportunity to discuss our faith within the lessons (or afterwards).
I love that these books are offered in different formats: audio cd, paperback, hardback, and pdf download. I'm a big fan of audio books because we can listen to it in the kitchen while I'm making lunch. The text book stands alone, you don't have to buy the activity book, though I have found it to be very useful, so I recommend it. There is also a test booklet you can purchase for each volume. I purchased this my first year, since then I have made my own tests. The tests in the booklet are good tests though and the booklet is worth buying if you don't have the time or inclination to write your own.
Dislikes: Volume 2, which covers the Middle Ages, is definitely pro-Protestant/Martin Luther. This is just one chapter in the book, and it is easy to edit if you are reading it aloud, or discuss further depending on your preference (this is a tactic some others take with the other religions mentioned in the book as well). I would like to see this chapter present both sides of this issue versus more one than the other. I found the lack of dates within the text itself slightly distracting (though the kids didn't). I went through the chapters and wrote the century in pencil on the top of the page for my own information. I found the older kids preferred this as well.