Let me start by saying that I am not a distributor for Usborne Books. I just love and use their history books so much that I wanted to do a roundup of great titles. Many of their older ones are now out of print, but you can still find them used. And, they always introduce new titles that are fabulous. No matter what curriculum you use, there are many Usborne history books you need in your homeschool.
Note: Usborne books are secular. They will not follow a young-earth or creationist history. For our family, this is not a big deal because we already intentionally teach our children from a biblical worldview for every school subject, but they are also very aware that mainstream books and media are secular and evolutionist.
Usborne produces such quality picture books for history that we use them with our Christian homeschool curriculum. There are lots of picture books out there, but over my 20+ years of homeschooling, I have not found any that rival these beautiful history books targeted at multiple age levels.
Current Titles I Recommend (2020)
The Usborne Beginners History books are like easy readers for young readers. They are full of pictures and have plenty of info. World Wars is an excellent, excellent book for middle-and-high school students (and even parents who need a refresher!). All of their current and previous history encyclopedias are worth a space on your bookshelf.
Out-of-Print Titles You Should Find
All of these are great for elementary to middle school. I love the Usborne Book of World History for my youngest children. When we study a particular time in history, I flip to that page and let the student read about it in here. It has lots of illustrations and very short chunks of text. The Great History Search is perfect for kids who don’t read (or read very much), because it’s kind of like a “where’s Waldo” of history.
Search for these everywhere you get used books: yard sales, thrift stores, library sales, Thrift Books, Abe Books, Amazon used, and Instagram sellers. Some of these are old/new editions, so flip through the pages if possible so you don’t make duplicate purchases.
Obviously, there are a gazillion books available on Ancient Egypt. They are all fun! Don’t feel that you need to get them all. Get a couple that are geared to the ages of your children. (I buy them up whenever I see them, and get whatever I find, because my kids are pretty spread out in age.)
Ancient Greece and Rome
Ahhh, here’s a topic that doesn’t get addressed as much in children’s books, yet it’s so fascinating! (See my Study Guide on Beric the Briton by G. A. Henty.)
The Middle Ages/Medieval Times
How I use these books for history
Since I have a wide age range of children, I use multiple Usborne books at the same time. For instance, if we’re in the middle of an Ancient Egypt study, I’ll assign the few pages from the Usborne Book of World History to my elementary aged kids, as well as one of the books on the Pyramids, and also have them do the Great History Search pages on the Pyramids. The middle-school ages will read several pages on Ancient Egypt in the Encyclopedia of World History, plus the Time Traveler’s book or a title on mummies or pyramids. The high schooler will read the more detailed Egypt sections in Encyclopedia of the Ancient World.
I find that most Usborne books are great up through middle school age, but with exceptions. High schoolers who are visual, or not great readers, or who need a “crash course” in history they have forgotten or missed — all will benefit from the Usborne history encyclopedias.
No matter what curriculum we’re using, I add Usborne books to the reading list. They serve as interesting visual reviews of the major time periods and civilizations.
Read more of my homeschool history posts here: