Young People's Story of Our Heritage

V. M. Hillyer was the first headmaster of Calvert School, but he is probably best known in the homeschooling community for his authorship of the following volumes:

A Child's History of the World

A Child's Geography of the World

A Child's History of Art (co-authored with E. G. Huey)

Of these three, the art volume is hardest to find, especially in early editions. Because of its scarcity, it often sells for $50-80 or more.

In 1966, Hillyer's "trilogy" was reproduced as a revised and enlarged edition of fourteen volumes, with new material incorporated by E. G. Huey and with the addition of an Educator's Handbook.  These revised volumes were printed on high quality paper with sewn bindings and entitled Young People's Story of Our Heritage.  They were published by Meredith Press, with reprints done by Children's Press.

The text of the revised art volumes is nearly identical to the first editions.  The minor wording changes are slight improvements, in my opinion, but with the inclusion of numerous, clear, colorful art reproductions, I prefer the revised art volumes about ten to one against the first edition Child's History of Art with its fuzzy black-and-white photos. 

What of the differences in the history and geography volumes?  Hillyer's material was updated to include historical developments and geographical changes through 1966, many vivid illustrations and photographs were added, and the books were rewritten at a more mature level.

While the older Hillyer history and geography books were written in a chatty, conversational, almost sing-song style, the revisions are written in a lively but more sophisticated prose.

My mail from families who have used both the original Hillyer's and the Young People's Story of Our Heritage has run about 4:1 in favor of the latter, but those who like the originals best are passionate about their preference!

I have also heard from several other families who, like us, enjoy and use both the originals and the Young People's updates for history and geography.  The two versions are so much different that I cannot always see a clear relationship between them.

The Young People's Story of Our Heritage consists of the following volumes:

Fine Art, 15,000 B. C.--1800 A. D.

Fine Art, the Last Two Hundred Years


Architecture, 3000 B. C.--Gothic

Architecture, Gothic--Modern

The Americas, the United States and its Possessions

The Americas, Canada, Mexico, and South America


The Orient, Australia, and the South Sea Islands

Africa and Asia

The Ancient World, Prehistory--500 B. C.

The Ancient World, 500 B. C.--500 A. D.

The Medieval World

The Modern World

Educator's Handbook (written by Rita Goldman)

The Young People's Story of Our Heritage was reviewed by Robert H. Ratcliffe then Assistant Professor of Education, University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus. He said, in part--

"There are excellent textbooks already available, but textbooks are limited in their ability to provide the 'whats' of history, and even more significantly in their ability to provide for the 'hows' of history. Even the best textbook, limited as it is by space, provides little more than consensus interpretation of history, and is incapable of providing for the student much in the way of source material. Because of this, textbooks are being supplemented with, or replaced by, books of readings, collections of sources, and packages of materials. The availability of these types of materials enables the student to do what the textbook writer does--read original material and look at printed reproductions of such things as documents, maps, pictures, and paintings, and form his own conclusions. After having formed his own conclusions, based on study of the sources of knowledge, the student may refer to a textbook to see if his findings agree or disagree with the consensus.

"It is a truism that interest is not merely something children have, but something that can be built with proper materials and effective teaching. At the junior-high-school and elementary-school levels, the gap has been the lack of relevant appropriate materials. This series has been created to help fill that void.

"The Young People's Story of Our Heritage might well be a trailblazer in the struggle to make available to the elementary school classroom materials compatible with [these] modes of inquiry.... Based on the famous Hillyer series on art, history, and geography, "Heritage" allows the young student to carry on a dialogue with the makers of history. The verve and life of the narrative, and the prominence given to the cultural by-products of our society, capture the imagination of the reader from the start....

"Over 1500 paintings, drawings, and photographs from sources around the world have been carefully selected to tempt the reluctant reader as well as the enthusiastic reader, to arouse interest and curiosity as well as to provide information. The pageantry of the books encourages the student to acquaint himself with many concepts and many disciplines which together logically constitute our heritage...."

I do not typically use or appreciateteacher's manuals, but the Educator's Handbook has proven exceptional in several respects! The recommended discussion questions are natural, useful, and thought-provoking, well-suited for discussion and useful as a framework for narration. The suggested projects are realistic, inexpensive, educationally valuable, and suited for a variety of teaching and learning styles. (The Educator's Handbook is a 304 page hardback.)

Of the Handbook, its author writes--

"The purpose of this to help the student gain insights--to pull seemingly unrelated facts together in order to show design, purpose, and meaning. While lesson plans may supply orderly arrangement of materials, the main function should be the development of ideas. Understanding can be reached only when a student engages in inquiry about social phenomena in such a way that his imagination, his capacity to observe, and his ability to think are challenged.

"It is hoped that through study such as this the child will see how a specific painting, a period of history, a strange and exotic people, relate to his world. Another aim is to sharpen his appetite for study in the future and to bring him to the realization that learning does not stop in the classroom. Hopefully, he will acquire the tools he needs to explore on his own and will retain for the rest of his life the curiosity necessary to motivate his further explorations. It is hoped that he will see the importance of pulling together many disciplines to gain a multifaceted appreciation of each segment of our heritage...."

Unfortunately, the Educator's Handbook is very seldom found.

I use and highly recommend this fine set. Of all the children's history sets I use, my favorite is Picturesque Tales of Progress. If I had to choose only one set, it would be that one, but Young People's Story of Our Heritage is also a fine addition to any homeschool library. I would certainly not like to part with mine!

(The works of V. M. Hillyer and Hendrik Willem van Loon are sometimes compared.  To my mind, the contrast between the two authors is great.  Hillyer wrote simply for children; Van Loon wrote at a much higher level, with more complicated prose.  Hillyer's work is largely compatible with a Christian world view; Van Loon routinely attacked Christianity while seldom providing an intelligent basis for his slams.  With the exception of his very pretty folk music book, I haven't found his works useful.)

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