The Best Way to Learn History – The History Odyssey Method

I believe in the complexity of the human story, and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say, ‘this is it.’ Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing . . . this is the way I think the world’s stories should be told: from many different perspectives.  –“Chinua Achebe: The Art of Fiction CXXXVIV,” interviewed by Jerome Brooks in The Paris Review, Issue #133 (Winter 1994-5)

Looking for the best way to learn history? 

The History Odyssey Method may just be it. 

The History Odyssey method of instruction is probably not the way you learned history. The common method of teaching history is through a single textbook. This presents history as if it is linear, exact, and one-sided. But history is not simple; it is complex, subjective, and multi-faceted. In an attempt to portray objectivity, history textbooks inadvertently reveal the issue of subjectivity in history. Compartmentalizing history into a simple recanting of events, actually highlights the subjectivity by presenting only one point of view where there are almost certainly many. The common way of teaching history leads to many missed opportunities in education. History Odyssey embraces the subjectivity and complexity of history, offering a unique method of learning that produces students who can think critically and express themselves effectively.

The History Odyssey Method was developed to mitigate the inherent bias and celebrate the subjectivity of History. History Odyssey is purposefully comprehensive, holistic, and anti-textbook.

There’s no getting around the fact that history education is point of view driven. Every history lesson is subjected to the presenter’s interpretation of what happened, how it happened, and why it is important that students learn it. Often the biases are well-hidden and even unintentional. For example, it might be hard to understand that a list of historic facts contains bias. But which facts were included? Which facts were not included? Why? And what do we know of the motivation and background of the person(s) who created the list?

Whether intentional or inadvertent, subjectivity is always present in History. 

We ought to be as careful in our choice of our historians as we are in the selection of our physicians. . . I state these few facts deliberately that you may know the personal bias of the man who wrote this history and may understand his point-of-view.  –Hendrik Willem Van Loon, The Story of Mankind

In a textbook approach to history, students are mostly presented one point of view, and often that point of view is manipulative. Professional textbook writers (often not even historians) write to please the political atmosphere of the boards of education that purchase textbooks. For example, in 2015 the Texas Board of Education voted to soften and minimize slavery’s role in U.S. history.*  A publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, created the textbooks that rewrote history for the state of Texas.

Is there a better way to teach history?

How can the subjective nature of history be advantageous rather than an inconvenience to be avoided or ignored?

How can history be used to encourage holistic thinking and the development of critical thinking skills rather than linear thinking and the political and social manipulation of students?

These are the questions we seek to answer with the History Odyssey Method.

History Odyssey courses are not textbooks, they are study guides that organize multiple resources. They guide students on an in-depth journey through history with carefully selected resources that are organized into a plan that promotes critical thinking and a more holistic education. 

*  “How Textbooks Can Teach Different Versions of History”  NPR- All Things Considered, July 13, 2015.

The History Odyssey Method

Five learning techniques are woven throughout all History Odyssey courses at age-appropriate levels: Students examine multiple resources, read historically significant literature, develop and strengthen critical thinking skills, practice and refine written and verbal expression, and study world geography and geographical significances throughout the history of humankind.

Multiple Resources

  • Primary
  • Secondary/Historian
  • Hands-on


  • Historic Fiction
  • Biographies
  • Classic Literature

Written & Verbal Expression

  • Written reports and summaries
  • Oral reporting
  • Interviewing
  • Rhetoric

Critical Thinking

  • Inquiry
  • Analysis
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Evaluation


  • The effect of geographical location on World and U.S. History
  • Labeling and coloring regional maps

The History Odyssey Method – Course Application

Each History Odyssey guide utilizes carefully chosen resources that present history through the mediums that are most effective for the age-group and from multiple points of view. Students learn how to think historically by gathering information, weighing its importance, understanding its origins, and ultimately developing and expressing their own viewpoint.

History Odyssey is divided into three levels with assignments promoting age-appropriate critical thinking skills. The courses progress as your student progresses. Each course within a level becomes more challenging as a student moves from one time period in history to the next.

Select a course below to learn specifically how the History Odyssey Method is applied to that course.

History Odyssey Level 1 – Level 1 courses are intended for elementary-age, encourage exploration and learning with history told as a narrative, hands-on activities, basic map work, and historic fiction stories.

Ancients Level 1: Target 1st grade

Middle Ages Level 1: Target 2nd grade

Early Modern Level 1: Target 3rd grade

Modern Times Level 1: Target 4th grade  Note: Modern Times 1 is a bridge course between Level 1 and Level 2. The assignments in MT1 are more focused on writing and critical thinking, preparing students for Level 2 courses. 


History Odyssey Level 2 – In Level 2, History Odyssey courses students learn how to think historically. They sharpen critical thinking through evaluation of resources, written expression, detailed map work, and the reading of historic fiction.

Ancients Level 2: Target 5th grade  

Middle Ages Level 2: Target 6th grade

Early Modern Level 2: Target 7th grade

Modern Times Level 2: Target 8th grade  Note: Modern Times 2 is appropriate for upper middle to high school


History Odyssey Level 3 – By the time a student reaches Level 3 History Odyssey, they are ready to delve into classic literature, proficiently analyze sources and historic documents, and synthesize vast amounts of information to engage in effective written and verbal self-expression.

Ancients Level 3: Target 9th-12th grades

Middle Ages Level 3: Target 9th-12th grade

American History Odyssey Level 3: Target 8th-12th grade

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