How To Teach History to Kids | Great American Bathroom Book

how to teach history book pink rose-book-series-business-459514Kill two birds with one stone, I say. (Not literally, of course.)

If my children are reading great literature AND reading about history at the same time, two things happen.

  1. They are learning literature and history. 😉
  2. They are more likely to remember what they’ve learned about literature and history.

In this article, I’ll discuss why we should study history. I’ll explain how to teach history to kids with the use of a time line and the Great American Bathroom Book. I will also list the main topics in each of the three volumes according to their Table of Contents. Then I’ll help you acquire or create your own timeline of world history.

Why Teach History?

The reasons are numerous. Some people find the whole subject of history fascinating. Others like to focus on a particular era or region. And some don’t find history the least bit interesting. I’m afraid the latter group is the largest, and I propose that the format of history instruction common in schools is a major contributor to the lack of interest.

Homeschoolers typically follow the same format and produce the same lackadaisical results.

We can do it better, though, right?

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Understanding history is the key to understanding the present. According to Peter N. Stearns, in an article he wrote for the American Historical Association, there are several reasons to study this subject. He suggests that folks who study history:

  • aquire a grasp of how this world works
  • learn to research and analyze information
  • practice critical thinking
  • become informed citizens
  • understand cause and effect
  • gain a broad perspective that prospective employers seek in an employee
  • and many others.

I desire to instill a love of learning history into my kids. And I want to love it, too, so it’s more fun to teach. (Did I tell you I love to have fun!) I needed to find a better way than I was taught. Here it is.

The Great American Bathroom Book

Now I’m not a person who appreciates bathroom humor, so I call this 3-volume set by its original name, Compact Classics. Each volume contains over 600 pages, and their main endeavor is to present two-page summaries for over 150 works of literature (in each volume) pertaining to every stage of human history. The range is amazing!

Volume 1 has 9 Libraries:

  • Library #1 – Business and Leadership
  • Library #2 – Personal Effectiveness
  • Library #3 –  Quotes and Anecdotes
  • Library #4 – Biographies
  • Library #5 – Literary Classics – the longest library, containing 65 summaries
  • Library #6 – Modern Literature – 20 summaries
  • Library #7 – Health and Fitness
  • Library #8 – Word Power
  • Library #9 – Expanding Knowlege – includes how to play 5 major sports games, as well as trivia covering 11 categories (geography, history, science, literature, art and architecture, music, people, and more.)

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Volumes 2 has 8 Libraries:

  • Library #1 – Drama Through the Ages – 33 summaries
  • Library #2 – Literary Masterpieces – over 82 summaries in 12 categories, including a children’s section, an adolescent section, and an American Frontier section
  • Library #3 – Poets & Poetry
  • Library #4 – World Religions
  • Library #5 – Western Philosophy…An Overview – includes 13 categories of philosophy
  • Library #6 – Reaching & Understanding – with 5 categories including Leadership, On the Job, Defining Yourself, Relationships, Health Wealth and Happiness
  • Library #7 – More Quotes & Anecdotes
  • Library #8 – More Trivia To Learn By

Volume 3 has 7 Libraries:

  • Library #1 – Dreamscapes – includes 40 summaries of literature
  • Library #2 – Realityscapes –  includes 56 summaries of literature
  • Library #3 – People, Places, and Times the drama of history – 49 summaries
  • Library #4 – Issues and Insights – dilemmas, ethics, education, the environment
  • Library #5 – They Made a Difference shapers of our world – 33 summaries
  • Library #6 – Thought Collection – containing 12 pages of stories with a lesson
  • Library #7 – Fantastic Facts and Inquiries – over 40 categories spanning over 75 pages with Trivia To Learn By

how to teach history A free-standing scaffold in front of a big blue sky

Learning Needs Scaffolding

People learn information best when they learn how it fits within the context of a broader framework. Individual historical dates and facts may or may not be interesting, but without understanding them within the broader framework of the society in which a historical event occured, the student has no mechanism for holding it in his memory. He has no “scaffold” upon which to hang the newly-aquired information.

The timeline is the Scaffold. The literary work “hangs on” the Scaffold. Within the literary work, the dates, characters, and events are “hung” in the readers mind. To stay.

Give Your Student a Learning Scaffold

History progresses in a linear fashion. Use a timeline to depict this. Onto this visual timeline, on the appropriate point in time, you and your student can write or draw or otherwise depicts something that represents an event or person that occured then.

For example, on page 107 of the third volume of Compact Classics is the summary of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s historical fiction titled “The Last Days of Pompeii”. The summary tells us that the setting of this story is Pompeii, how to teach history A smoking volcano is backlit by the dawn skyItaly, at the height of the Roman empire – 79 A.D. After reading this summary, the student writes or draws something on the timeline at 79 A.D. to remind him of the story – an erupting volcano perhaps.

On page 317 of Volume 2 is the summary of the intriguing, historical novel by Lew Wallace – “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ”. Its setting is in Judea and in Rome during the time of Jesus Christ’s ministry, 26-27 A.D. At that point on the timeline, place a drawing of Ben-Hur in his chariot.

Choose a period of time to study; read the summaries of literary works for that time period. Remember, Compact Classics also has biographies, poetry, dramas, and historical events, so there’s a wide variety of educational material within these pages. When your student finds a particular summary appealing, dive into the full literary work with him or her and branch out from there into academic subjects as they relate to that literature. Make a whole unit study from that piece of literature or that time period.

Where Do You Get Your Timeline?

Here is a great timeline that will last through your child’s whole homeschool journey. (I also recommend this 40-minute DVD that teaches you to incorporates hands-on learning as students create their own durable history notebooks to further solidify learning.) If you prefer to make your own time line, place 100 sheets of blank paper into a three-ring binder. Designate a page near the middle of the pile as “1 BC/1 AD through 25 AD”, then label the next page to the right as “26 AD through 50 AD”. The next page is “51 AD through 75 AD”, and so on. Soon you’ll have forty-one pages with periods of time written on their front and back, ending with “2001 AD through 2025 AD”. For dates before 1 BC/1 AD, work backwards from the middle of the pile. The loose-leaf binder allows easy addition of extra pages, if needed. Consider buying sturdy, high-quality printer paper for these pages so they are not easily torn.

how to teach history - picture from above of binder paper coffee facebook notebook computer

Regularly review each timeline entry, and those events and dates will be placed into long-term memory. Hooray!



I’ve touched on why we should teach history. I’ve explained how to teach history to kids with a world history timeline and the Great American Bathroom Book. I hope the overview of the Table of Contents helps you see the value of having this resource at your fingertips when teaching your chlidren. I hope you’ll grab a copy for yourself here.

This strategy brings history and literature together in a meaningful educational experience.

Consumed in this way, your students will find history and literature fun, and they’ll remember so

much more! I bet you will find it fun, too!

Let me know if you have any questions; I’m here to help. Or if you’d like to leave me a comment, that would be awesome, too! If you’ve enjoyed this post, you may also like Easy Grammar Homeschool Curriculum – English Grammar Exercises for Adults, Too?

How to teach history silhouette of sitting boy reading book orange sunset StockSnap_XVQYWY15O0

Happy homeschooling,







  1. Thank you for this, I LOVE history. Question: does this “bathroom book” really work in the bathroom? Is it something someone would pick up and read in there? Would it get ruined with steam or be big and awkward to handle? I’m an avid bathroom reader so am wondering…

    • That’s a great question, Jerilyn! I think it does great in the bathroom. It’s thick, but not as tall or wide as most books, so it fits nicely on someone’s lap. I suppose any book could be damaged by steam, but the GABB isn’t any less durable than any other book. I hope you’ll give it a try!

  2. Hey Laura

    This is so true!
    People nowadays tend to forget about the importance of being knowledgeable in history to understand the present we live in and how it has been shaped through the past and its historic events.
    I do agree with you: learning needs a serious scaffolding!
    All the best,

    • Hey Jose

      Right you are! Since understanding scaffolding, I’ve learned so much more in every subject I teach. That make teaching much more fun!

      My kids and I have spent hours exploring The Great American Bathroom Books. I think you’ll enjoy them, too.


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