It’s summertime and the planning’s good

Okay am I the only one who is geeked about planning for next year? Oh my but I love everything about it! Every year is a fresh start, full of possibility. New school supplies and clothes (we get these things), fresh teacher planners and juicy new dry wipe markers are all signaling school’s about to start!

I know you may wonder why I am chatting about this now. It’s early July, you think. I have plenty of time, you think. I’ll do that later, you think. I wouldn’t if I were you…

Planning for the year is important. You know the saying, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” It happens every time I think I can “wing it.” I like to think I’m a free spirit but I really need more structure than I want to admit sometimes. For me, writing it all down helps keep me on track and [mostly] productive.

Here is my planner for this school year. I have linked below to all the wonderful blogs whose free printables I used in this planner. Isn’t the cover beautiful? I cobbled the contents together from several sites to fit my needs. I laminated the covers and comb bound it (I happen to have tools to do both). Super cheap and just what I needed!

Here is a tour of my planner on YouTube. To me its easier than a bunch of pictures.

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Here are the links to the printables I used.

Why teach from Biblical principles?

It’s the way Jesus taught.The Pharisees didn’t like his approach much. They wanted facts, rules. He got to the heart of the matter. He was able to sum up the 10 commandments in two principles. His approach frustrates the flesh but gives life to the spirit. There are more examples of His teaching methods than I can list here but I recommend the book Teaching Techniques of Jesus by Herman Horne.

It’s good to begin at the beginning. You must get to the foundation of a subject in order to master it. Beginning with principles is the first step toward subject mastery.

You can teach multiple levels because you are teaching the seeds of the subjects , so you can easily adjust it for different ages. More seed for older children, little bites of kernels for  younger ones.

There is proven success teaching from Biblical principles. America’s founding fathers were educated by principles and were able to reason from God’s word. Their excellent reasoning and ability to form our constitution were a result of their Biblical education.

The subjects are alive in His word and it makes each subject exciting and important when you see how it fits into His Story.

You learn how to learn by beginning with the foundation of a subject. The steps to discovering Biblical principles apply to any subject at any time and carry across the curriculum.

25 uses for index cards

I am in love with index cards. Have been for a long time. They are just so, well, handy. There are whole books devoted to using them in your homeschool, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Flash cards. That’s a no-brainer, right?
  • Matching games.
  • Making puzzles.
  • Making 3-D objects.
  • writing out lesson plans.
  • collecting ideas for a paper or a book. they can be shuffled in any order until you are happy
  • Phonics: putting parts of words on cards to match up together.
  • Mental math. Put answers on cards and scatter on the floor. Read problem aloud and when they solve it they pounce on the right answer.
  • Life size board game. Put directions on index cards and create a path through the house. Use big dice and the kids become the playing pieces, following the directions on the cards.
  • For preschoolers: pictures on the cards help them communicate their feelings. They can point to the face that matches how they feel.
  • Use them like soccer warnings. They get cards as discipline. Green, then yellow, then red. You can assign discipline as your family sees necessary.
  • Create a flip book.
  • Write chores to check off.
  • Cut a slit in the end and wind stray ribbon on it. The slit holds the end of the ribbon.
  • Keep a grocery list in your pocket.
  • Lay several out and draw a road on them. Now your boy has a portable road he can assemble anywhere he goes.
  • Make bookmarks for a friend.
  • Recipes. Put one on the quick bread you give to a friend.
  • punch holes and they become lace up cards.
  • Keep a card file organized by month. Use it for birthdays, seasonal chores and other monthly duties.
  • Use them as little canvases for mini fridge art.
  • Make a countdown calendar. Number and decorate the cards and put them in order. Fold one card to make an easel and lean the cards on it. Each day the kids can move the card to the back and see how many days are left.
  • Make a speech. Practice it and then give the speech in front of friends and family.
  • Write or draw your clothes on the cards–Bottoms, tops. Mix and match to create new fashions from your same old clothes.
  • Write your memory work on the cards so you can put them in your pocket for memory work on the fly.

The most powerful creative tool

The most powerful tools you can have in your homeschool arsenal is–are you ready for this–a schedule. Many creative types see that word and run the other way. Before you write the idea off hear me out.

Why do I say a schedule is a tool? Because it gives you control of your time. Because it helps you. It helps you keep on task and lessens frustration. That’s one handy tool.

Why do I say it is powerful? Because it controls time. Well, your time anyway. It’s an amazing little tool with slots for all your tasks, big and small. A schedule seems to magically create time out of thin air, giving you time to create guilt free–time to think and explore and experiment.  And it can transform your day from chaos to calm and that is powerful.

Why do I say it is the most powerful? Because everything else rests on this. You don’t get enough rest without it. You don’t have all your supplies ready without it. You don’t have a clean workspace without it. You don’t have school without it.

A schedule is the single most important gift you can give your family. Maybe you call it a routine. Maybe yours is written or maybe it’s just in your head. However you do it, if you will commit to using a schedule you will see that your creative time is used more wisely, that you are more productive and less distracted when doing a creative project. Your materials and supplies will be ready. Your workspace will be ready. Your mind will be ready.

There are a thousand ways to do a schedule. Find one that works for your family and try it out for 6 weeks and see if I’m not right. See if you aren’t more creative and less stressed.

25 creative notebooking ideas

Notebooking is one of the best ways to demonstrate your individuality in your lessons. But sticking some worksheets in a binder is not true notebooking. You must generate the material yourself and it is a reflection of you, not simply a regurgitation of someone else’s thoughts.

In case you find yourself in a rut, here is a list of creative expression. You can also download the 25 creative notebooking ideas here.

  • paper folding
  • portraits
  • write a story and illustrate it
  • collage
  • mosaic with construction paper or magazine pictures
  • drawings
  • cut outs
  • silhouettes
  • rubber stamping
  • stickers to add to a picture or draw around
  • photographs
  • coloring pages
  • printable fonts that can be colored
  • pockets to put things in
  • door or flaps to hide things
  • pop-ups
  • paintings
  • rubbings or impressions
  • CD recordings of kid’s voice, documents, music, video, etc.
  • fold out pages for long projects
  • sew paper
  • create an award
  • cut words and letters from newspapers or magazines
  • create a small book and place in a pocket on a page
  • paper weaving

If you want to add to the list with something that you have tried, please leave a comment so I can add it to this list.

Christian History study course starts next week

I am hosting a history study here on my blog beginning Monday, April 7. The resources you need are these two books here (click the pics to purchase), along with a Bible. I also recommend a notebook, lots of notebook paper, 8 dividers and a nice pen. Since we use the notebook method in BPA, you know we always need more notebooks!

I will post on the week’s lesson and then (hopefully) you will leave comments regarding the lesson, or link to your blog’s post on the topic. My hope is to generate positive, insightful conversation regarding America’s Christian history as we learnfrom these lessons.

There are 8 lessons, so we will take one each week and discuss it here and at our weekly Thursday night chats. I will add a new topic to my category list to make these lessons easy to find in the future, which is helpful if you can’t study with us right now. I hope you will prayerfully consider joining me for this exciting study.

The rewards of notebooks

Notebooks are not a new idea. Many of the founding fathers kept notebooks of their lessons and discoveries. What is so special about notebooks, as opposed to, say, workbooks? I say a lot.

Productivity. A notebook is not simply a container of a child’s work. It is a tool for learning and self-government. It requires the child to be a producer of education and not a consumer of information. The child is an active part of the learning process.

Developing character. Notebooks are also a tool for character development and an excellent education. These traits include stewardship, diligence, patience, perseverance, faithfulness and satisfaction.

Self-education. The child must learn how to learn, and a notebook will do that. These notebooks are filled with their own thoughts and reasoning. I encourage my children to take ownership of their ideas. When they are comforatable with that concept it will be easy for them to take on more of their own education

Scholarship. The child must write and produce their own work, as opposed to consuming a workbook. They are required to write down their own thoughts and ideas and to do it well. Neatness counts! Standards are a good thing. Children like to know what is expected of them, and notebook standards give them a goal and parameters, which also foster scholarship.

Reasoning. It requires thinking, and sometimes a lot of it, to produce and to learn. I know my kids sometimes act like their brain froze up when they are required to use their “reasoning muscles.” But I also have noticed that my 4th grader has come a long way and doesn’t shut down like she used to. She wrestles hard sometimes to reason out an answer. That is encouraging and wouldn’t happen if I were not using a notebook.

Reference. Hopefully your notebook will be filled with things, especially as they get into the upper grades, that will help them in other subjects and other areas of interest. I know one young lady who came home for a break from college and went to find her French notebook. She said it was to help her in her college class because some of the material was already there, giving her an edge. Another young lady I know has made notebooking such a lifestyle that even though she is out of high school she still makes notebooks for her interests. When she went on a missions trip she created a notebook her whole team could use as a reference, with maps, history and more on the country they were visiting.

Mastery. We are not slaves to the notebook, but masters. It is our tool to use as best fits us. It will help strengthen our weaknesses and highlight our strengths. And also a notebook helps us to master a particular subject.

Individuality. Of course notebooks are an expression of our unique thoughts and are our own intellectual property. My children love to peruse their notebooks from time to time and appreciate all the hard work they have done. They enjoy reflecting on projects and lessons they enjoyed, and also to remind me of things they weren’t crazy about. Some families keep electronic notebooks, some keep more like a scrapbook. There are lots of ways to express your individuality and education. Notebooks don’t simply have to be filled with written papers. You can include CD’s of audio, DVD’s of movies you make, printouts, foldouts and pockets, photos, art of all kinds, the list is really endless. Celebrate your family’e education, don’t just endure it.

My philosophy of education

My philosophy of education is a formal statement that all home educating parents should have written down. It’s important to know what you are doing and why you are doing it.
On p. 117 in A Guide to American Christian Education, Mr. Rose discusses the importance of a formal philosophy.

“A precisely stated Christian philosophy of home schooling should be written out for at least three reasons: 1) it will be memorial to remind you why you are teaching and what your goals are. 2) It could help other parents to understand the ‘reason for the hope that lies within you.’ (1 Pet. 3:15) 3) And if necessary it could help define and defend your convictions legally should your home school be challenged deliberately or ignorantly by local school or civil authorities.”

He gives three important components: your view of history (His Story), your philosophy of government and your idea of education.
Here is mine.

Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.  Ps. 144:12  

My educational goal is to instill my children with a love for God’s Word and an ability to independently and confidently reason from it. My children will use this reasoning to develop the character required for Christian self-government. I foster a love of life-long learning by customizing each each child’s experience to their personality and God-given abilities. I am the facilitator; the Holy Spirit is our Teacher. Together we train the children in the ways of God and His government. History, or His Story, is highlighted at every opportunity. I develop an appreciation of His Story’s cause and effect–the illustration of the powerful goodness of God and His Providence throughout time, and its intimate relevance to our lives. God’s Providence is demonstrated in His preparation of me to teach my children. The seeds He planted in my high school days has taken root and grown into a tree, and its fruit now nourishes my children. God is the Supreme Authority, and we place ourselves in subjection to Him. Our Heavenly Father directs, regulates, controls and restrains us. This relationship guides our lives and lessons. As we increase our submission to Christ and His internal government, we will grow in self-government, love for one another and the fruit of the Spirit. This will radiate from within to all spheres of influence–home, church and state. We look to God’s word as the root from which all subjects spring and the foundation upon which our lives are built. We expand upon the principles year by year according to our abilities, allowing the Scriptures to instruct, discipline, correct and fit every subject for our use. Using these Biblical Principles we are able to master the subjects at hand to the glory of God!

Do you have a formalized philosophy of education? Would you like to share it? Add a note with a link or paste it in the message. I’d love to see it!

What’s in my teacher notebook

All Principle Approach teachers must create a notebook of their own. This is what we teach from, along with reference materials and original documents. I thought I’d share about mine in hopes that others will do the same.

My oldest is 7 1/2 and we are in our third year of home educating.

Here is what my notebook contains (in order):

  • At the front: my home educating constitution
  • my week-at-a-glance calendar listing all the subjects on one page
  • dividers for all subjects
  • In each divider I have my lesson plan pages (done a week on one page), 4-R work, notes and printouts, maps and other resources from my studies.

I keep all this in one 2.5 in. binder.

I have many notebooks already–two for literature, two for history and one for each of the others. I pull from those to put in my Teacher’s Notebook so I can have all the material I need quickly accessible. As we continue our studies I will eventually have lots of notebooks for each subject because I will have many years of study on each subject. As my body of knowledge grows, so will my notes (and my “wall of notebooks!”).

Eventually we will have a whole library of references, notes and materials we can draw from as we study together. I know kids who came home from college to get their notebooks on certain subjects because they were so thorough. I think that’s amazing and I look forward to that kind of work together as a family.

Because we don’t just fill notebooks, we fill our hearts and minds. The notebooks simply manifest all the work done on the inside.

I try to make my notebook as neat and complete as possible, as an example to my DD. I don’t compare my work to hers but I just let her see it and look through it, noting the clean pages, neat handwriting and the even margins. She can see the standard without being corrected and it helps her see what’s expected in a practical way.

I would love to hear how you organize your teacher’s notebook. I know I still have a lot to learn.

Rudiments lesson 1 part 1

I thought I’d update on the Rudiments course I’m taking from Pilgrim Institute. It’s a correspondence course, which can be even better than a seminar because you have time to really digest what’s being said and formulate your thoughts to submit for feedback. Of course I’m not nearly to the point of answering questions for even lesson one yet–and there are lots of them…The first section consists of 4 lessons and comes with a binder, notes/handouts and 4 cassettes. It outlines the course and gives details like how to send in your lessons. When you complete the course (11 lessons) they send you a certificate of completion and an album to put the cassettes in.

  • Lesson 1:–the American Christian vocabulary (lots of definitions!)–Why a course in Rudiments of America’s Christian History and Government is needed–The importance of the Word of God in all areas of life (Along with the 12 or so definitions she gives in the lecture, there is a list of 44 words to define, among other reading and question answering)
  • Lesson 2:–Providential approach to history
  • Lesson 3:–the pilgrim story
  • Lesson 4:–How to use the two basic volumes of America’s Christian history and gov’t

I’m listening to each tape twice because she gives so much information I can’t get it all in one dose. I began with the list of definitions and got halfway through the 44 words from Webster’s 1828 dictionary. I arranged my notebook with dividers for each of the 7 principles and other topics she will be covering.

When I was listening last night I got half of the tape done because I had to stop it so many times. She says so many great things I wanted to get them down verbatim. That was so good. Some things she said that I want to highlight follow here.

  • Why America’s Christian History? Because all people, not just Christians, benefit.
  • Is America better than other nations? NO! Can other nations have a Christian history too? YES! “America took principles from the Word of God and reasoned from them in their lives and it brought forth a nation in its form of government; in the acknowledgement of individual liberties that has been done by no other nation.” Any other nation can put their name there–France’s Christian History, Kenya’s Christian History–if they will simply reason from the Word of God and relate its principles to their nation.
  • We must think in two spheres: internal and external. Everything works from internal to external, from cause to effect. History must be viewed in this light. We must look to men’s tcharacter and how that affected their actions.
  • Government begins internally. When we hear the word “government,” we should think about internal, not civil, government. The founding fathers understood that distinction and we must renew our minds to that idea also. What is important is being internally governed/self-governed (by God’s Word), not externally governed.
  • History is God’s autobiography. It tells His story through the actions of men (cause and effect).
    Webster’s definition of education doesn’t list anything about school or academics. It deals with the internal–instruction, formation, discipline, enlighten correct. These internal things are vital. Of course studies are important but they must be “fit for usefulness in their proper stations.” In his example at the end of the definition he makes his thoughts known concerning education: religious education is paramount.
  • Why has Christian ministry increased and quality of society decreased? Is it because we have forgotten something? That is a question to ponder and 4-R.

She said so many other things that I could write on all day but I want to give you some insight into the course and the kinds of things she addresses. If you want to order the course or want to ask questions, contact Pilgrim Institute (scroll to bottom of page).