Organizing Our Mystery of History Notebook

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Mystery of History Notebooks

This year will be my third cycle through the Mystery of History volume 1. For the first time my children will be able to use some of the extra material I have created.

When homeschooling parents stop by the Bright Ideas Press booth at conventions I often tell them the Mystery of History book is all you need to teach history…the extra supplements are for different learning styles. Being a momma of boys…coloring pages never really get a lot of excitement at my house, this would be an easy purchase to skip. The audio cds don’t work for my visual learners but my one audio learner loves them. If you need hands-on with little writing go with the folder books.

Linda Hobar explains in the introduction how to do notecards, set up time lines, and how to organize a notebook. I have taken these guidelines and tweaked them to work at my house.

Since I have highly visual learners we skip the notecards and use the notebooking pages.

Organizing the lessons by geography location confuses my brain; I keep the lesson work in chronological order.

I have my older students circle the answers to the pretests at the beginning of each lesson, for my younger students I do the questions orally. The reproducible cd makes printing these pages easier since I don’t have to stand at the copier and do them one at a time.

I color code each quarter which a sticky tab this allows me to label the weeks for my visual kids. One of them gets overwhelmed if a task looks huge. Handing a 3 inch ring binder filled with pages to complete can cause a great amount of anxiety. Having the beginning of each week identified also gives a visual clue on when to stop work, thus avoiding accidentally working ahead.

Mystery of HistoryMystery of History Notebook

Only my high school kids do a timeline and all the map work. I struggle with timelines; I have yet to actually complete one. Currently my older 2 kids have been able to complete their timelines for school. Bonus: they share them with the younger kids.

For my middle kids I pick and choose with maps I want them to complete from the lessons. I write the page number and which section I want them to complete on a sticky note and place it on the map.

Mystery of History Notebook

It takes me one whole day to assemble our Mystery of History of notebooks.

  1. First I print the coloring pages, the notebook pages, the pretests and end of the week activities.
  2. Then I read through the map work and print the maps I want my kids to complete placing sticky notes on each map with directions.
  3. Next I assemble the piles in the order I want them in the notebook.

The order of the pages for the notebook:

  • Pretest for the week
  • Color page for the week
  • Notebook pages for the 3 lessons
  • Outline map
  • End of the week activity or test

Mystery of History Notebooks

Any extra activities they complete during the school year gets added at the end of  each week.

I begin systematically adding the pages into the notebooks, remembering to tab the pretest of each week.

I created a notebook cover page for easier identifying.  Ancient-History-Cover-Page

Mystery of History Cover Page

As for the other supplements for the Mystery of History:

  • I keep the audio cds in the car for our trips to town.
  • The challenge cards are printed on cardstock and whole punched and added to a ring. Since there are about 3 to 4 cards per lesson, I have the cards broken down by quarters. I had the challenge cards printed at Staples and cut down to size. The cost was around $14 and the time saved was priceless. Mystery of History Challenge Cards
  • Since I use Illuminations, my literature books and movie selections are already planned and scheduled.
  • Don’t forget an atlas if you are doing the map work with MOH. It will save you time on internet searching.
  • Supplies for each lessons activities I do on my weekly planning sessions. I have learned over the years that my schedule doesn’t allow for completing every activity. I like to do Friday wrap-ups of the Mystery of History activities.
This post may contain AFFILIATE LINKS. Clicking through these links help to support the costs involved in running this blog and sometimes can help with other expenses. You can find my full disclosure under the DISCLOSURE TAB. Thanks!


  1. Stacey, Christa Wilson directed me to this post and I love it! I photocopy our notebooks for the whole year, too, or else it just wouldn’t happen. I’m also happy to see how you integrate Illuminations; once the wedding is done, I’m turning my focus to the new school year and will be using Illuminations 3 for the first time. I’ll take any other tips you can throw my way!

    • Stacey says:

      Well I will just have to write a post on Illuminations just for you 🙂 I am currently working on that now that MOH is done.

  2. I”m working on ours right now. Actually calling BIP today, I need a little help with my download.

    • Stacey says:

      Rebecca, I hope the office staff was kind and helpful 🙂 If not I can let the boss know and heads will roll, JK

  3. Heather says:

    Which atlas do you use? I am starting volume 2 and I can’t wait to get it all organized:) we struggled with map work last year. I just used the Internet and we couldn’t find some things. Thanks so much for these ideas!!

  4. Kellye says:

    We are using volume 2 this year. We love Linda Hobar’s Mystery of History! It is refreshing to see the ideas. I prepared a notebook in nearly the same fashion for volume 1. It proved so helpful to me and my child, that I have prepared one for volume 2. It seems like a lot of work to organize it. It is, however, worth the work to have all the material at your fingertips. Thanks for the posting these ideas. Keep up the great work!! 🙂

  5. Missy says:

    Thank you for the tips. We will be using MOH 1 again this year…hopefully to finish it! I think I have tried to follow all the suggestions to a tee, only to burn out mid-year. I especially like that you just put them in chronological order and not all those dividers. Thanks!

  6. Denise says:

    Did you make the challenge cards or is that something we can buy from Bright Ideas? We just do the memory cards, but struggle what to write, to memorize. I love the cards!!

    • Stacey says:

      Yes, on the Bright Ideas site they are called Challenge Cards. It’s a digital down load.

  7. So…how much of a help is that print out pack you linked to? I am always curious about whether or not they really help and save me time.

    What ages would you say they are appropriate for?

    And lastly, do you have the order in another post somewhere? I am not a geography person either; we would have to do it chronologically as well. Or will this be self explanatory once I have my hands on it?


    • Stacey says:

      Hmm when you say “print out pack” do you mean the Reproducible CD or the notebooking pages? I love the Reproducible CD so I can print from my printer and not copy from the book, but that is a preference and not a need. Since I created the notebook pages, I love how they give my kids a visual place to document their note taking.

      I followed the order of the lessons in MOH. The maps were the ones suggested at the end of each week. Do you have the MOH book?

  8. Tarah Shumate says:

    Thanks for the ideas on setting up a notebook. We are using illuminations year 2 since we had used MOH 1 last year but I felt so unorganized with it. My son is 14 with high functioning autism but struggles alot with writing not even kindergarten level really. So, with the pdf’s on the reproducible cd and the super supplemental download I put the sheets onto his iPad to use notability app and I put the typing boxes in the correct spot for the questions he can then just use dictation to complete on his own. Then he can print it and put it in the notebook that I set up.

    • Stacey says:

      That is awesome Tarah! I love how things can be adapted to work. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your tried and true experience, Stacey! I love how you’ve organized their notebooks, something that I truly struggled with last year. In your section on “tabbing” the notebook pages, are you saying that you color-code tab your MOH textbook, as well as your children’s printed notebook pages (ie: pretests, notebooking sheets, maps, etc…)? Also, do you integrate your Illuminations work as well, or is that a separate notebook? We used Illuminations 1 with MOH 1 last year, but I felt a bit overwhelmed with all of the printing necessary. I know that eBooks are the wave of the current right now, but I still do love having a physical book in my hands to share with my children. However, I will say that after reading a recent post on Bright Ideas’ blog, I may rethink my reservations on Illuminations! If you are okay with it, here is the link to share with others who are also considering Illuminations:

    • Stacey says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I color code the notebook, not my MOH book. The tab lets my kids know when to stop work for the week. Since not every week has a map activity or ends with a quiz, I wanted to know when to stop.

      Yes Illuminations can be a lot of printing. Did you read my post on what I print from ILM? My one son gets a little antsy with e-books, he loves to hold a book. But he gets through the few of them that are provided. The only down side is he won’t re-read them ebook form, like he re-reads his other literature books.


      • Hey Stacey! Thanks for the tip on the notebooks. Is your post on ILM here on your blog? I searched but didn’t find it. It would be great to see what you do print, because I don’t even know where to start!

        • Nevermind Stacey, I just found it. Thanks!

          • Stacey says:

            I was just going to get you a link 🙂 Let me know if you have any other questions.


  10. Jenna says:

    Hi! I am trying to decide what to order for next year. The Volume I Supplemental pack from Bright Ideas looks great! Does it include the quizzes and maps, or are those in the book? I was thinking about only getting the audio, and not the book. However, if there are things we will be missing by doing that, then I need to re-think.

    • Stacey says:

      If you buy just the audio, you will not have the activities that go with each lesson. The reproducible CD only includes pages the student would write on.


      • Jenna says:

        Ok, thank you for the clarification!

        • Stacey says:

          No problem! If you have any other questions…let me know 🙂

  11. jennifer says:

    I am trying to assemble my notebooks for next year. I LOVE your ideas and am using them–so helpful!!

    One question, I bought the notebooking and the reproducibles but can’t find the activities to print and put in their books. All I have are the detailed instructions in appendix, but not the daily activities that are listed at teh end of each reading section. When you mentioned activities, was it just the special activities (like 4A, the lyre in Volume 2)? Trying to finish printing and assembling and I can’t figure this out!

    Thank you!!!!

  12. jennifer says:

    My goodness–nevermind. For some reason my first several prints only printed pre and post tests, not activities. I’m not sure what happened, but I found them in my reproducibles!

    And seriously, I have tried using this curriculum twice before with moderate success, but your ideas about how to organize it all is inspiring me to really be eager to start. All the piece meal printing and copying or pulling out of plastic sleeves each day, etc was my biggest annoyance with using the curriculum.

    Thank you !!! Off to print and assemble!

  13. jennifer says:

    Wow, sorry!
    Okay, still confused…I found the exercises–not the activities. I also do not have the “Review 1: Lessons 1-3 that is listed in the Table of Contents.

    W 1/ Pretest (I DO have this)
    Lesson 1: Pentecost
    Activities (I do not have this on the reproducibles)
    L2: Saul
    Activities (I do not have this)
    L3 Paul’s Journeys
    Activities (I do not have this)
    Review 1: Lessons 1-3 (I do not have this)
    Week 1: Exercise ( I DO have this)

    Should I have the activities and Reviews listed in table of contents in my reproducible file? Seems like at least all the reviews should be there?

    I realize that this is a Bright Ideas Question, but am bumming that their office is prob closed for the weekend. 🙁

    • Stacey Lane says:

      What I mean is the end of the week activity or quiz. These alternate every other week, one week quiz, next week activity wrap up. The reproducible cd only contains the pages that students write on. If one is wanting to print all pages but the actual lessons…then the Companion guide has the activities for each lesson.

      • Stacey Lane says:

        I don’t print the activities for each lesson because I don’t do an activity for each lesson. I let my boys pick and also like to add wiggle room for busy weeks. Some weeks we do a more involved activity from a lesson and sometime we run out of time.

    • jennifer says:

      Thank you so very much!! I thought I was missing a part of the lessons! 🙂

  14. Nicole says:

    Do each of your children have their own atlas? I am planning on using this with my 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 7th grader and I am thinking one atlas just wont cut it… especially if they have to flip around in it… “MOOOOOMMMM, I am done, but Michael isn’t and he won’t let me turn the page!” (insert worn out mom-sigh). Also what atlas worked best for Volume 1?

    • Stacey Lane says:

      I like the Student Bible Atlas and the Historical Atlas, both can be found on the Bright Ideas Press website. Yes sometimes I work on sharing books and sometimes I buy 2 copies. Maybe you could have map work done on different days of the weeks to help with having only one book.

  15. Thank you. This post was incredibly helpful to me. I am using volume 1 this year with my 5th, 7th, and 8th grade children.

  16. Keri says:

    I will be starting MOH 1 next yr with my 2nd grader. First time through, I have another son who will be 2 a tad before we start and another one who will be born the month we start school. My question is if I want to do a rotation of MOH in a chronological order and American History how do you manage to teach history since none of my kids will be on the same page. I want them to cycle through at least 2 times each before highschool, but think it’s not realistic to teach 3 different lessons during one day or 2 since my one son should be able to do it on his own at some point.

    • Stacey Lane says:


      I agree it is not easy to teach 3 different lessons! At my house when you reached kindergarten age you started in MOH with whichever volume we were on for that year. Yes that means not starting Vol 1 first…but my children still have cycled through 2 or 3 times. So at times I had high school down to elementary in the same volume. It saved my brain covering the grade difference because at least we were all on the same topic.

  17. Jane says:

    We don’t have the ability to copy, only print so we got wondermaps to print the maps. For most activities, my son, who is delayed and doesnt write well, makes a scrapbook page on word and we print it out. We do our notebook chronologically. Instead of timeline, he picks out one lesson from the week to make a scrapbook page. He includes title and date, 3 pics, 5 facts, one person, and a circle to represent a globe where he tells something else in the world that is happening at the same time. He is very motivated to go back through the notebook to see what he made. I didn’t realize there was a reproducible CD though. You have some great ideas.

  18. Stacey says:

    So glad I could help! Enjoy your homeschool year with MOH.


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