Homeschool Plans for 2012-2013

I am really really really looking forward to this new year! So much change and so much to make me smile. I have been on sabbatical from home educating my children but God has brought things together for me to be able to joyfully teach my children again. I have missed it so much!

My two older daughter are starting junior high and high school this year at our church’s Christian school. The boys (8 and 4) will homeschool with me. So here are my basic plans for this new school year (third grade and preschool):

  • Bible: Judah Bible Curriculum
  • Math: Ray’s Arithmetic
  • History/geography and science: Noah Plan
  • Language arts: McGuffey readers and Harvey’s English grammar
  • Literature: on our own, not much structure, one basic book study per semester (lots of reading aloud)

My 4 year old wants to be just like his big brother so I have “school” things for him to do as well. Soon I’ll see if he’s ready to learn to read. I have had the privilege of giving each of my other children the Golden Ticket and I can’t wait to work with my last one.

This is just the skeleton. I am starting to put these bones together and then I’ll flesh them out with weekly plans and dress this guy up in some field trips and special projects.

I’m trying a new-to-me organizing system that I’ll share with you soon. I really like it so far! I’ll show you how I adapt it to fit my needs.

Plans for this school year 2011-2012

So we are counting down the days until we get back into the school swing. My two oldest attend our church’s private school and I am teaching the younger two at home. I have a preschooler and a 2nd grader. Here’s what the big picture looks like for this school year.

  • Bible/reading: NP 2nd grade lessons Bible as Reader
  • History: MWOG
  • Literature, geography, science: NP 2nd grade lessons
  • English: Rod and Staff
  • Art: NPCG Art, with supplemental materials
  • Math: Making Math Meaningful

Almost everything here is planned for me. Because I work full time and attend school myself, I can’t get into a lot of lesson planning from scratch. This is a very workable plan for us. It keeps us in the BPA but not overwhelmed with creating my own plans.In the near future I will go into a bit more detail about what we are going to do.

My boys and I can hardly wait for the new school year! I know God has good things in store for us.

Homeschooling: iPhone it in

I am an iPhone fanatic. I use it for everything I possibly can, so it makes sense that I’d find ways to utilize it for our home education. These are just a few of the many, many ways an iPhone can add to your home educating experience. I have linked to many apps that I like but I in no way formally endorse or recommend them. Do what you like, I’m just sharing. (For free. No money changed hands for this article.)


I love that I can sync to my iCal so I always have the latest calendar, complete with alarm reminders (which I use a LOT). I also can plan chores (especially easy if you like FlyLady), menu planning and other things too. There’s also a planner app that looks like a real planner and syncs with your Google calendar, if you prefer. I can schedule reminders for all sorts of home maintenance tasks so don’t forget to change the air filter. All this helps me focus less on tasks and more on learning.


I can take notes and pictures, edit and post them to a ton of places. I can write & publish a blog post with my WordPress app. I can save things to remember in Evernote and remind myself of the great time we had in my gratitude journal.


YouTube has tons of videos that are terrific for school. I love to pull up video of things like beavers making dens or a working printing press. I can read books from my Kindle app and from other literature apps. I have things like math flash cards, games and other tools to reinforce skills. (I’ll get into these in another post.) Anything I need to make note of is just a click away. When we are learning on the go, I can look up anything we are curious about, like identifying birds or wildflowers.


Drawing apps, cooking apps, just about anything to plan a field trip (with maps, phone numbers & forecasts) is right at my fingertips. Pandora and other sites have all the music we need. We can learn a foreign language or listen to an audio book or podcast, plan a garden or visit the Louvre.


When I need to, I can use PocketFlicks to add movies to my Netflix instant queue (or for delivery) for school, like documentaries and period movies. I can search for books at my library with a web browser and even print documents I need for lessons. I wish I could say I have found a great teacher planner app, but no such good fortune. That I still have to do on paper or in Homeschool Tracker Plus. But it does help me plan just about anything I need to do. And I can set goals with a little help from master planner Franklin Covey.

I know technology isn’t the answer to everything, even for home education. But technology, when it makes things easier, is a good thing. Thankfully, there’s no a app to replace me–yet.

What do you use your iPhone/iPad/iTouch for in your homeschool? What are your favorite apps?

Learning plans 2009-2010

Last year was challenging (but when is homeschooling not challenging really) because I have always struggled with doing things the “right” way using the Biblical Principle Approach. Actually the BPA is beautifully simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple. Adding a 5yo to my 6th and 3rd graders had me a bit stressed. I wrestled with the idea of individual subjects, of textbooks, of private school. Some health issues have added to my struggle and I wasn’t sure what I could do, much less if I could do what I wanted to do. Then in a conversation with my husband it all fell beautifully into place.

So here are our plans for this year.

Bible: Judah Bible Curriculum (my favorite) and trying to work in some study of the Days of Awe. We are in grade 4.10 of the rotation.

Integrated studies for history, literature, English and geography. I am using a history backbone and we are learning through literature. Lots of great books. I am using Genevieve Foster’s book Abraham Lincoln’s World as a basis for our history and it’s working out great. The time period this year is mainly the 1800′s and we will finish the year with a study of our state’s history. Our overarching Principle for this year is America’s Heritage of Christian Character.

Math: Ray’s and other resources I have to add variety, along with studying a few mathematicians.

Science: tons of experiments from Janice VanCleave’s books. Earth science, oceanography, astronomy, and cytology.

Music: it’s always happening here. Two children take lessons at a local music school and my husband is a musician. We do some extra music games and then we try to have family praise & worship.

Foreign language: the girls want to learn Spanish so we are using The Easy Spanish. It really is easy (gentle lessons).

What will make what we do Biblical Principle Approach? Ask Renae.

Here’s what our weekly schedule looks like:

  • daily: Bible, math and integrated study
  • science, Spanish and art 3 days a week
  • oldest daughter is starting homemaker lessons that she is working on independently
  • I also work with my 5yo on phonics and a few simple things separately

Not complicated, not too much. Mainly reading great literature and learning from books (which is what literature means). I am finally getting to see my dream fulfilled and I am so thankful. (If you note the date on that post you will see how long this process has taken me!) I will try to post more often about how our year is progressing, like I did in my journal’s early years here (feel free to peruse the archives).

If you have written about your home educating plans, please feel free to leave a comment & link to it.

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.

My newest school planning helpers

I just love going to my local used home school store. The woman that runs it is a walking home school catalog. Her knowledge of all the different curricula is staggering. And there is where I happen upon most of my home school loves.

My newest favorite resources are a set of giant, yet unassuming books. They may not sound like a big deal, but they are–at least they should be.

I am in love with all the Teacher’s Book of Lists books (available at Amazon and other online bookstores). They are worth their weight in gold. Yes you can probably find all the information on the Internet, if you took months, and even then you may not find it all. Why put yourself through that? It’s organized and at your fingertips right in this book. For example, some things included in the comprehensive science book are:

  • plant terminology and classification
  • dyeing procedures (from plant sources)
  • animal classification, reproductive and life cycles
  • major terms of the 10 human body systems
  • determining to mole of a compound
  • balancing chemical equations
  • isotopes of chemical equations
  • classification of energy
  • calculating the specific gravity of a mineral
  • codes for weather symbols
  • classification of stars by color and temperature
  • base two
  • checklists for graphing conventions
  • metric conversions
  • professional publications
  • science fair project information and checklists

And that’s just a few of other over 290 lists. In the literature book you can find 247 lists like vocabulary lists for all sorts of writing; lists by theme, genre and author; lists of award winners and books that have been made into movies. You can search by literary period, find a nice list comparing gods and goddesses and even lists of famous characters.

I think you get the point. You will be so glad you have these books on your lesson plan bookshelf. It is saving me so much time looking up things that I need to grab and move on. These book keep me from getting lost in the details, so I can focus on the principles I want to teach. These lists are great for illustrating principles, gleaning ideas for reading lists and essay questions and for just plain fact-gathering and they cover k-12, so there are no other books to buy (always a winner to me!).

If you prefer integrated studies, these are still valuable. You can use them as project starters, essay fodder and just general resource. Because they are broken down by subject you are able to hone in on just the info you need. You can also see who the subjects intertwine. And you can use them to make mini offices for your kids on any subject. If you aren’t convinced by now, you are a hopeless case. Or you  have another easy source for all this information available at the tum of a page. If you’d like to share a favorite resource, please leave a comment. I’m always curious to know what other moms are using in the homeschooling.

A few new resources

Just want to spread the word about a few things.

  • Ms. Dang has audio and handouts from her regular Wednesday night salon. They are a must-listen.
  • Mrs. Smith with Pilgrim Institute has a free 45 minute video on Repairing the Breach for you or your church.
  • Mrs. Smith also is working on some online classes. Details coming.
  • Her latest (#4) history book will be out later this year.
  • FACE has some dinged books at a discount.
  • 23rd Pilgrim Institute conference will be in Elkhart , IN March 19-20. Theme is “Educating for Liberty”

In case you didn’t know, you can take a Rudiments of America’s Christian History & Government by correspondence course. More details here.

Creating unit studies using the Biblical Principle Approach

Unit studies (which I prefer to call integrated studies) are wonderful. Teaching all the kids all together, planning one stream of lessons for the whole bunch is smart and interesting, and you actually retain more information as you see how it is all connected. However, the thing that always has concerned me is the tendency to focus on facts. It is easy to get caught up in the activities and the topic and lose sight of the beautiful principles that hold it all together. How do you create a unit study that keeps the focus on the principles? Some things to remember:

The overarching principle is the focus of the unit. This is the umbrella for all your lessons.

The leading ideas point to the Principles. They guide your lessons.

Lesson plans come from the leading ideas, which come from the principles.

The facts of the lesson illustrate the principle, much like an illustrated sermon.

So this is it in a nutshell: principle—->leading idea—->lesson

For example, your study on WWII may discuss the Holocaust. Your study may have the overarching principle “God’s Principle of Individuality.” Your lessons could include the leading ideas like, “All men are created in God’s image,” “We are all responsible for our own relationship with God” and “Man has intrinsic value.” Your lessons would be guided from these leading ideas that reinforce the Principle. So your lesson might include studying a concentration camp story, reading up on the third Reich and their ideas that are contrary to the principle or calculating how many people lost their lives.

You could show that even as the prisoners lost their freedom they went to great lengths to maintain their individuality–sharing stories of their heritage, smuggling out personal items,writing stories during and after the horrific events. (It is interesting that the Third Reich went to so much trouble to document the Jews as individuals, taking photos, issuing numbers, keeping meticulous records.) Also there are many inspiring stories like Corrie TenBoom’s biography that are inspiring stories of individuals making a difference in the lives of other individuals during the war. And you can do scripture documentation, key sheets and word studies to complete your study. This is just scratching the surface of course, but I hope it gives you an idea of how an integrated study can work well using Biblical principles.

Do you see how the lessons come alive as you discuss the material in light of Biblical principles? Writing, reading, history, literature and sometimes math and science can be intertwined into a cohesive study that makes sense to all of your students. Have them study some things on their own and then share what they learn with one another. (They learn even more and you didn’t have to teach it yourself!) You will be amazed at what the Holy Spirit can prompt in your children.

It is almost like planning a traditional BPA lesson plan, only you have several subjects together instead of separate. Providential HisStory flows naturally between the subjects because everything has happened at some point in history.

I think the label “integrated studies” makes more sense for BPA families because the subjects are integrated under a principle and not a topic. If you think of them as integrated subjects that can keep you out of the “facts only” unit study ditch.

While this isn’t the only way to create an integrated BPA study, it’s the way that makes sense to me and I hope I’ve done a good job of explaining myself. Thoughts? Ideas? Please leave a comment.

10 reasons to buy the curriculum guides even if you don’t use the Noah Plan

The Noah Plan curriculum guides from the Foundation for American Christian Education are hefty tomes full of almost anything you need to know to teach a subject using the Biblical Principle approach. But those who use a different approach can still gain a lot from FACE’s work.

  1. Time lines. While not comprehensive, their time lines are well done and informative, and highlight the use of the subject for the advancement of the Gospel. They are helpful for planning the history of any subject, and cross-referencing to see what was going on in other spheres at a particular point in history.
  2. Resource lists. Especially in history and literature. They are a gold mine. In the history guide they are arranged historically. And their lists incorporate as many original sources and classics as possible for a book this size.
  3. Charts, forms and graphs. Especially in English and the line maps in History and Geography. And they have sample notebook grading charts and other teacher tools.
  4. The focus on Providential History. No matter what your approach, a Providential approach to history affects all subjects and shapes your Christian worldview. Each subject guide addresses that subject’s history
  5. Research. In the literature guide, the information on Shakespeare is almost worth the price of the book. In each guide they offer original documents and a view of a subject that is hard to find in other homeschool resources.
  6. Notebook examples. Even if you are not into traditional notebooking outlines and such, there are many examples of well thought out pages. They can inspire and challenge, or even help solve a problem.
  7. The passion. The authors of each guide are master teachers, and reading their guides can spark an interest, rekindle an excitement or reinforce an idea. Anyone can get on board with doing things well, even if you aren’t keen on the specific methods.
  8. The projects. Each guide offers ideas for projects that you can adapt to any unit study or textbook you may be using.
  9. Tools. Things like word studies and the elements of notebooking are things that any teacher can use. Word studies will serve you well in elementary school through graduate school. It is an invaluable skill. And tools like sample notebook grading sheets can give you a place to start when creating your own materials.
  10. Easy on the pocketbook. There is only one book to buy for each subject. It takes you from kindergarten through high school. All this goodness is wrapped up in one volume for each subject. The investment is only made once.

See samples of the guides here.

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.