I found a history lifesaver this year: Biblioplan. But let me back up and see if you have the same problem that I did. Using a history spine is a marvelous idea. For more on that, see my post on using history as a hub for the rest of your curriculum. The only trouble is, someone has to put flesh and muscle on that spine. Either you pay big bucks for the whole package or you do lots of footwork yourself.
I used to spend weeks putting together a history syllabus for our co-op. It was truly a labor of love. It synthesized all the best from the reading lists of each homeschool curriculum producer and supplier that I respected: Memoria Press, Veritas Press, Sonlight, and Classical Conversations.
Then I would add weekly memory work. Starting with Classical Conversations memory work CDs, I would delete things I found less important and add things I thought a priority. I took memory work from a number of sources and chose scripture and poems from my own research. Plus, I worked from four year chronological history cycles, and Classical Conversations cycles back around every three years. That took some refiguring. I found poetry read for free on Libravox. I bought music and put together CDs or mp3 playlists so all of our students could memorize in the car or on the go.
Then I divided the textbook reading, first from The Story of the World, 4 Volume Set and later from The Mytery of History Series, into weeks with due dates. Then, if I was not exhausted, I added supplemental reading, projects, and movies.
The process was a LOT of work. After two cycles, I was just plain tired of doing it. I had tried so hard, for 9 years, to take all the work upon myself and save my co-op friends a lot of money. But with a new baby waking me every two hours, spending 50 hours or more on this project was no longer an option. Plus, my fellow co-op moms had a special request. They wanted to cover a year of concentrated American history.
We prefer to teach using “Living Books”. We coordinate primary sources, classic literature, and colorful narratives, with good textbooks to fill in any gaps. But someone has to put that together. And this time, that someone could not be me.
I knew what I needed, but I was not sure it existed. So I looked at every possible history curriculum, spine textbook, and curriculum package on-line. I read Cathy Duffy’s reviews. Then I read the reviews in Rainbow Resources catalog. I read every article in Memoria Press’s magalog. I went to the FPEA Homeschool Convention and combed every booth and every seminar for a solution.
Exhausted and near tears at the the convention, I ran across Julia Nalle’s booth. And so Biblioplan gave me hundreds of hours of my life back. I am including all of the weekly lesson prep time as well. Her textbook is thorough, tests and review sheets are available, there are printable map books, activity books, timelines, and supplements galore to meet your needs. She has two reading levels of textbooks, so all ages can study the same subject at the same time. But the real genius lies in Biblioplan’s Family Guide. Whatever else you purchase from Biblioplan, you simply must have this guide.
The Biblioplan Family Guide for history integrates everything you need to make history interesting and fun, even as a classical, Charlotte Mason, or eclectic homeschooler. Mrs. Nalle did an outstanding job pulling together book lists, reading plans, memory work, activities, art, crafts, writing ideas, mapwork, timelines, audio books and stories, family read alouds, free on-line resources, Bible readings, and poetry for all ages, all accessible in a clear and easy to read format for the multi-level teacher.
Then Mrs. Nalle blows my mind! She puts together readings from all those great history texts that you have already invested in, for applicable chapters: Mystery of History, Story of the World, History of US, Usborne History, A Child’s First Book of History, Streams of Civilization, and Kingfisher Encyclopedia.
What this means to you is that your supplemental books are already organized into suggested chapters for you. Entire co-ops can find just the books they need to meet the worldviews, abilities, learning styles, and reading levels of all of their students and all be reading about he same person, country or event in history! And in case you are not sold – the Family Guide divides the readings in the Biblioplan history textbooks up into: Geography, World history, U.S. history (in applicable years), and Church history. So if you are focused on a certain part of history (like we did with U.S. history last year), or are short on time and need to skip something, the readings are categorized for you.
Biblioplan will also give co-ops a discount code for bulk buying. Every bit helps when you are a large or one income family!
I took my highlighters, one color for each students and highlighted the weekly readings and supplemental activities or books on the weekly grid. I had nothing to write down or keep track of. My middle and high schoolers could consult the Family Guide and know exactly what we required of them for history throughout the week. They knew to write a paragraph in their timeline notebook about an event or person from that week’s readings. And they knew to have their memory work ready. That was the extent of my planning.
This year, as I had many small books that I had already purchased, several years ago for the Ancient History Cycle, I penciled in a few readings and activities on the pages. I have a shelf for each history cycle on my four shelf IKEA bookcase. Whenever I find something great to buy, I just stick it on the proper shelf and it is readily available for that year’s planning. Failing to put it in the planner is a sure way to never getting around to using it, though. The extras may prove too much, since Biblioplan is already chock full of great history stuff. But the supplements are planned and coordinated if we need them.
I know it is hard to believe, but Biblioplan is not paying me for this enthusiasm. They don’t even know about this review, as far as I know. I did include affiliate links up there for a few things, but, just ask my fellow co-op moms, I have rigorous history standards and Biblioplan has combined excellence and convenience. And they are quite affordable.
The only negatives I can honestly think of may be these: one of our Catholic moms found some chapters of the textbooks to be unbalanced toward Protestants. This is always a tough subject because, historically, there was a long and shameful period of constant fighting and persecution between these denominations of God’s holy church. Our co-op has been a beautiful blend Reformed, Baptist, Catholic, and non-denominational attending families through the years. The convenience of the Family Guide ultimately gives us confidence that we can personalize and supplement where it might be important to us as families.
Personally, I would like to see even bigger book lists, but I am crazy like that. One family can hardly hope to read everything that is already listed there now.
Thanks, Bibloplan, for making co-op history fun again.
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