In addition to using literature instead of textbooks and/or workbooks, I wanted a history program that could be taught to all 3 children at once. Math and language may have to be taught to each grade level, but history and science are much easier for combining grades. My kids' grades will span 4 years; for example, when Rebekah is in 5th grade, Reanna will be in 3rd and Ryan will be in 2nd (though the 2 little ones will be on the young end of their grades, having November birthdays). I had looked at Sonlight originally, since a friend of mine uses that and offered to show me her material - the very first look I had at any homeschool curriculum. It seemed nice, but the official "rules" seemed to say that they would work well for kids up to 3 years apart, but not 4, so I decided to pass on that one and put Sonlight in the back of my mind. More on that later.
Meanwhile, my next choice was to use History Odyssey, published by Pandia Press. These are guides with detailed lesson plans for each week, using a couple "spine" books plus lots of other stuff, including coloring books for the younger grades, activity books, lists of books for each topic, etc. In addition to lists of lots of interesting-sounding books, the hands-on aspect also seemed a good idea to me, since, at this age at least, my kids all seem to like making things (though not always - hard to tell now what their learning styles really are - Rebekah rebels at too much cutting and pasting and even coloring). History Odyssey uses the 4-year cycle so prevalent in home school history curriculum, cycling through ancient times, middle ages, early modern, and modern times, going through it all 3 times in the optimal situation of starting in 1st grade. The guides said that multiple grades could easily use them too, with level 1 being for 1st-4th grade for the first few years, then gradually moving upward in age. The guides themselves are fairly cheap (~$30/year), but then you'd want to buy at least the main books that get used in multiple weeks, the coloring and activity books, and maybe some of the other books so you wouldn't have to be searching the library all the time. And, importantly for me, they described the option of discussing prehistory at the very beginning, allowing for both young-earth and old-earth beliefs. The optional timeline material even provides a "millions of years ago" add-on for those who so desire. You can get a good chunk of each guide as a free sample too, at the Pandia website.
So I was all set to use those, for at least the first 7-8 years (they don't have level 3 of early modern and modern done yet, but that's when I would probably do government/economics anyway). But then I kept searching and researching, which I have found is a dangerous thing for me, since there is always so much more I find interesting and I spend way too much time doing it! Anyway, I won't go through all the other options which I studied and discarded for various reasons. Two other intermediate options did stand out, though, and I still may end up using them too: Intellego unit studies and TruthQuest history guides.
Intellego provides a whole bunch of highly-rated unit studies, covering history and science and several other topics (art, orchestra, baseball, etc.). I never thought I wanted to use unit-studies, mainly because they seemed like too much work for the parent. Also, I don't really like the concept of combining all subjects into one. I know it's possible, but it seems contrived to me, and I really like having more separation between subjects, where you can focus on one subject, and not one topic, teaching that subject in the way best suited for that subject.
But Intellego unit studies are narrower than many unit studies, and they seem to be very well laid out for the parent. I still don't think they'd be my favored way of presenting material, but some of the topics might be useful as an add-on to our regular curriculum. They only go up to 8th grade, anyway. They do have some ancient history units which are secular and do talk about millions of years ago, which I would like to introduce to my children. So I might add those on as a short-term study to whatever other history curriculum I choose. I think I may also use some of their studies on unusual topics, such as the Orchestra, Baroque Era, and maybe Folktales. They may be difficult to add in at the same time as our regular studies, since they are geared toward a more intense study, using them - and only them - for a short period of time. Perhaps in summers or between other topics, they would be useful. When I talk about my science choices in another post, I'll add some more notes about some of those Intellego studies.
TruthQuestThe other intermediate option is TruthQuest. These are guides which can be used with any history textbook or other books. In fact, a large portion of the guides are lists of books for each individual history topic or personality. But the other part of the guides is a commentary, describing how everything in history works together (from a Christian viewpoint). Since I have been thinking about using a secular history curriculum, I liked the idea of having a Christian commentary to add to that. With my poor knowledge of history, I think I might need that assistance more than I would in, say, science. I also like the idea of understanding history from a broader perspective, seeing how everything fits together, instead of just knowing the individual facts and not seeing how they are related (which is all my history knowledge consists of).
Anyway, I may or may not get some of these guides as we proceed, depending on how things are going on our own. They mostly seem focused on upper grades, so I wouldn't get them right away anyway. Oh, and they are multi-grade, with one group covering grades 1-5, and the other group covering grades 5-12 (within each single guide, with book suggestions for multiple ages). Many people use these as the basis of their history courses, going through them at their own rate, picking out the topics which interest them more for more in-depth studies. I, however, would probably just use them as an addendum, just for the commentary, since I want something with a more detailed lesson plan already done for me.
SonlightWhich brings me to my current top choice for history: Sonlight. Yes, I came full circle back to Sonlight. I've been reading all sorts of reviews and comments by people who use Sonlight, and have decided that it really would be quite simple to teach all 3 of my kids with one core, despite their ages being a little bit too spread out. The core guides might require a little bit of tweaking for either Rebekah (adding more material) or Ryan (less material), but they really do sound like they will work great for my kids' ages. They have very detailed lesson plans, requiring very little preparation on the teacher's part. And they are full of wonderful books! Many of the same books as in History Odyssey, actually, but with more of a Christian slant. And despite the Christian slant, they are not as stringent as other Christian curricula which shun old-earth viewpoints. Their guides indicate when anything old-earth might appear, to warn those with a young-earth belief, but they leave it to the parent to choose how to present the material. And their packages do contain books which talk about "millions of years ago." So it seems like a perfect fit to me!
They are expensive, but they come with everything, and if I consider all the books I might end up buying to go along with History Odyssey, it really comes out to be about the same. Plus, it includes Bible (which is an area I had been having trouble deciding what to do) and literature, and lots of writing in the later cores too. I don't think I will use anything else from Sonlight (like language arts or science). One thing I really like about Sonlight is their global perspective. They were originally developed for missionaries overseas, and so their material reflects a solid respect for other cultures. I really like that. I don't want my kids to be centered only on America. Patriotic, yes, but not disdainful of other cultures. I like the compassion toward others that seems to be emphasized in Sonlight's material.
So, I have debated using a combination of Sonlight and History Odyssey for different grades, but I think I am settling on using Sonlight almost all the way. I won't start next year, since I already have 1st grade planned for Rebekah. Since Sonlight is expensive, I don't want to use it for just 1 child, but want to wait until all 3 are old enough to appreciate it more. When Rebekah is in 2nd grade, Reanna will be just starting kindergarten, and Ryan will be in preK. That's when I plan to use Sonlight Core A, which is for K-2 technically, but Ryan should be able to listen in on most of it too. Core A is more of an overview course anyway, talking about cultures. World History starts in Core B, which I would use when the kids are in K, 1st, and 3rd. And then I'd continue from there, up until at least Core 100, and then maybe splitting the kids up a bit more for Rebekah's last few years.
Anyway, that's my long-term plan for history (and Bible and mostly literature too).