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Western Cultural History Notebook – Updated for 2023-2024 { FREE DIGITAL RESOURCE }

My original version of the Western Cultural History Notebook came about in 2021 as I was gearing up to direct my oldest son’s Challenge II class. There were a number of versions being shared on the Challenge II Director group, but I knew my child would need more white space, and more detailed direction than what was then included.

I set out to make some simple revisions and got quite carried away with the project, barely completing it before school began. The next year, I made substantial revisions — even though I was technically en route to directing Challenge III. Now updated for 2023-2024, we have what I hope will be the final major update — but no promises 😉.

A Note about Copyrights

This resource would be nowhere without the talented directors who posted previous versions I could use as a springboard. I do not hold or claim copyright to the content created by others. I’ve tried to credit the folks who shared older versions, but I don’t have specific sources for individual components. (If you are one of the creators and would like to be acknowledged, please reach out and let me know.) A copyright notice is included in this document to discourage others from trying to profit off a resource that was created and shared for free, or to use it apart from its proper context: within a licensed Classical Conversations® community.

The initial design and ongoing edits of the Western Cultural History Notebook do represent a substantial investment of time. If this resource has blessed you and you want to express appreciation, you can do so by making a purchase from the shop. I appreciate your support!

What’s New in the 2023-2024 Edition?

In addition to current dates, you’ll find the following updates in the revised edition:

Survey of Western Worldviews

After a year of directing Challenge III, in which second-semester Philosophy was one of our most fruitful and interesting strands, I felt the need to beef up what was in previous editions called “Era and Worldview Review” with a revised Survey of Western Worldviews (pages 140-145). While condensing any one philosopher’s lifetime of ideas into a short paragraph, and tidily compartmentalizing him into one school, are at-best very imperfect aims, I hope these blurbs will help families connect the development of Western art and music to the ideas by which they were — and continue to be — shaped.

NOTE: Although neither Challenge II nor Challenge III delve into postmodernism, cultural marxism, critical theory, or intersectionality per se, these concepts have become ingrained in American culture in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. As such, I have included them in an attempt to provide concise-yet-coherent definitions — in hopes of fostering good conversations as the occasion may arise.

Diagram of Raphael’s The School of Athens

The School of Athens (the WCH Notebook’s cover image) is loaded with meaning for upper Challenge students. In this edition, the inside cover contains a few details about the original painting, plus a diagram of the painting revealing the likely identities of some of the famous philosophers, mathematicians, and artists featured in the work. (NOTE: To give your students an extra challenge, use the unlabeled diagram found on page 37 of the Master Pages file instead.) There is much more to be uncovered from studying this painting, so dive in sometime!

Simplified How Should We Then Live? Notes

The Master Pages file also contains extra options for taking notes of the How Shall We Then Live? videos. Pages 14-15 contain a blank version, while pages 17-36 contain a simplified version with headings but without in-line notes. Use whichever works best for your students.

Files in this download include:


WCH Notebook 2023-2024 (15mb)

If you want to use the updated notebook in its entirety, without any fuss, this is the file you’ll need.


WCH Notebook 2023-2024 WITHOUT Page Numbers (15mb)

If you’d like to edit the content to suit your class, use this file. Since it has no pages numbers, you can re-order pages, delete some, add others, whatever you like.


Master Pages for WCH Notebook 2023-2024 (2mb)

Think of this file as the DIY option. A set of master pages gives you unlimited options for customizing the notebook. If you want to delete the pages of artwork so students must sketch the masterpieces for themselves, or add extra artists or composers, or use a different format for How Should We Then Live? notes, you’ll find some basic master pages ready to customize with your own text. A list of the fonts used in the notebook is on page 1, for your reference.

(Please note that I’m not able to help design or format any of these customizations, but if you’d like to make a suggestion for future updates, feel free to leave a comment below.)


Personal Use License and Permission to Print

This is your authorization to print copies of the WCH Notebook for use at home or in community. Please note that you are limited to 14 printed copies. I ask that you DO NOT post the file to other websites or pages, since not all of this content is my work.

Western Cultural History Notebook

Printing Recommendations

I printed these at our usual big-box office supply store, using the following specs:

  • 28 lb. paper
  • Two-sided printing
  • Black-and-White ink for all pages EXCEPT
  • OPTIONAL Color printing for the pages of your choice (see table below)

Printing the color pages at ODP became more expensive and more complicated this year, as the online system no longer seems to allow printing color on one side of a page with black-and-white on the other. In other words, you have to pay for certain pages “in color” that don’t actually have color on them — just to match up with the reverse side. Good times.

On ODP with discounted pricing, the lowest base price I found (not including tax or shipping) for printing the entire 146-page document was $4.96 per copy (20 lb. paper, two-sided printing, BLACK ONLY, unbound). Adding in all the color pages (plus their reverse sides) came to a total of $19.20 per copy (on 24 lb. paper). Since prices vary by area and other factors, I did not price each variation this year. I encourage you to do your own research before you order printed copies. (See my hints for cutting printing costs below.)

I have my own spiral binding machine, so I bind these at home with a clear PVC cover and a black back. I bound these with 5-10 pages of sketch paper in the Museum Field Trip Section, so students already have a “sketch book” handy. Standard 8.5″ x 11″ sketch paper is sometimes hard to find, so try this one.

Types of PagesColor Page Numbers*REVERSE SIDE Page Numbers*
Artwork pages only1, 9, 19, 25, 35, 57, 67, 77, 83, 89, 99, 1052, 10, 20, 26, 36, 58, 68, 78, 84, 90, 100, 106
Listening Guide pages only16, 32, 42, 43, 64, 74, 96, 112, 116, 12015, 31, 41, 44, 63, 73, 95, 111, 115, 119
Composer Portrait pages only15, 31, 41, 6316, 32, 42, 64
Musical Period pages only18, 34, 66, 11417, 33, 65, 113
Instrument Family pages only76, 9875, 97
ALL color pages1, 9, 15, 16, 18, 19, 25, 31, 32, 34, 35, 41, 42, 43, 57, 63, 64, 66, 67, 74, 76, 77, 83, 89, 96, 98, 99, 105, 112, 116, 1202, 10, 17, 18, 20, 26, 33, 36, 44, 58, 65, 66, 68, 73, 75, 78, 84, 90, 95, 97, 100, 106, 111, 113, 114, 115, 119
* The pages numbers should match the original PDF file when uploaded for printing. They will not match the numbers as printed on each page. Please check carefully before printing.

Saving Money on Printing

If you’re trying to save money on printing, consider using the file without page numbers and removing any pages you don’t think you’ll need, using color only on the essential pages, or skipping printing the artworks all together (the Master Pages file has substitute pages that can be used for sketching the artwork instead).

If your supply budget won’t accommodate printing these for your whole class, feel free to recommend them to parents as a helpful resource they may wish to provide for their own student.

Share your own ideas for adapting the notebook for your class in the comments below! We’d love to hear how you are using it.

Wishing you a fantastic school year,


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