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.

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.

Making the most of public speaking

One thing all kids need is confident public speaking. The ability to persuade, inform and entertain is a priceless ability, and homeschooled kids have many terrific opportunities to hone their skills–and tools to help them do it better.

TED talks are very popular, and with good reason. If you aren’t aware of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) then visit their archives for public speakers and topics that run the gamut. They are interesting to watch, especially when looking with a speaker’s eye. Older kids and high schoolers can glean a lot from a TED talk. Things to watch for: the choice and use of visuals, the length, the manner of speaking. YouTube is another place for tons of terrific videos of speakers on any subject you can think of.

To gain public experience, there are opportunities everywhere. Home, church, clubs, nursing homes, teams–there are lots of places to get in some speaking times. Maybe you could head over to the local retirement home or homeless shelter. Or create a video on a topic you enjoy and teach someone something. Create a need and fill it with a speech.

What do you want to talk about? Maybe a poetry reading, an original story or reciting memory work. Almost anything you can think of would make a good topic. Sermons and great speeches from the past are great practice for unsure speakers.

Even speaking at home can be helpful for shy speakers. An audience that is familiar, loving and supportive can go a long way to boosting the confidence of a kid who is apprehensive about public speaking. If it would help, practice with an audience of stuffed animals.

I hope you’ll give your kids many opportunities to speak publicly. It’s a necessary skill that will take them far in life.

Commonplace books

In my studies recently I happened upon a type of “notebooking” that was fascinating. It combines two of my favorite things–notebooks and traditional books (which I happen to be passionate about making!). I am such a book geek that I had to learn more.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it as:

Commonplace-book, a book in which are registered such facts, opinions or observations as are deemed worthy of notice or remembrance, so disposed that any one may be easily found. Hence common-place as used as an epithet to denote what is common or often repeated, or trite; as a commonplace observation.   

It’s taking a topic, such as sewing, literature, a branch of science or cooking and creating your own special book about it. It may include tables or charts, definitions, clippings, quotes, measurements or your observations. Some well known commonplacers included Thomas Jefferson, John Locke and Ben Franklin.  Jonathan Edwards also kept a commonplace book. 

Read more here and here.

Some modern uses for commonplacing may be for remodeling your home, landscaping or gardening, scrapbooking, reading an important literary work, fiction writing or Bible study. They can be invaluable resources for a life full of learning. And they can become treasures that your kids can fight over after your funeral!

 And of course, I will endeavor to make some commonplace books that are uncommon. If you are interested in a unique commonplace book customized to your special topic, please contact me for details and I’ll make a one of a kind commonplace book you will treasure for years to come. anna at bluebonnetbindery dot com

Crafty fun in every subject

In our house we LOVE all things artsy and craftsy, so I thought I would share some links to help you add more printables, arts and crafts to your daily lessons. If you would like to add a link to this list, please share it in the comments section.



Making Friends

Teacher Help

First School


History for Kids

Suite 101 printable crafts


Kids Create

Science Crafts

More Science Crafts


Math Cat’s Math Crafts math crafts

Danielle’s Place math crafts and games




Enchanted Learning

Family Fun

Literature and English

Suite 101

Preschool: fairy tales

Language arts crafts


Enchanted Learning



American Sign Language

Signing Time

ASL 4 Kids

ASL coloring pages

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.

Individuality of subjects

The first Biblical principle we study, and the overarching principle as well, is “God’s Principle of Individuality.” This principle can be seen everywhere, and we focus on seeing it in the subjects.

If God cares about individuality, then if we study the subjects individually we are enjoying the distinctiveness of each subject. There is a rich history, diverse vocabulary and important principles that each subject contains. A goal of learning with the Biblical Principle Approach is not fact mastery but subject mastery (through principles).

We are not discussing facts but principles, so multiple grades are able to learn together. There is no need for complicated lesson plans for each child. A little modification and all your children can learn at the same time.

How can we understand the unique vocabulary and rudiments of a subject if they are all lumped together? Each subject has its own language and foundation. It is important for children to learn these in order to master the subject.

When you understand the rudiments of a subject, along with its vocabulary, you are able to see how the subjects naturally overlap and fit together. There are common principles that bring the subjects in harmony and bring a richer appreciation of all the subjects.

For more reading on the subject, these two PDF handouts are available for download.

Selected Quotes Concerning the Individuality of Subjects

My personal notes concerning unit studies vs. individuality of subjects

I have nothing against unit studies per se, I just prefer a distinct subject methodology with natural subject integration. What I mean is I do not rally around a topic but around the principle of a subject. I may pick a certain topic that several subjects will naturally fit into but I do not try to contrive lessons to fit a topic.

Once or twice a year I will do a study on a subject and the subjects will naturally integrate, such as a study on Bach (which we are starting this week). HisStory, geography, literature, English and music are all naturally covered as we read through the book, adding to our enjoyment and understanding of the life and times (and character) of Bach. The subjects add to our understanding of cause and effect, of the things that made Bach who he was. They are not disjointed facts but parts of the whole under the principle of individuality. We see how, where, with whom and when he lived contributed to his character. Along with this study we continue our math, Bible and science separately.

The subjects are beautiful and unique. I don’t want my children to miss out on the treasures that each subject contains. 

I hope this post will spark some conversation regarding the topic.  I will begin over the next several weeks to go over each of the individual subjects, beginning with history. Our Thursday chat will also correspond to the weekly subject.

My favorite soil softeners

A few years ago I purged all the “twaddle” on our bookshelves. I have been diligent since that time to fill our shelves with literature that would qualify as soil softeners.

Ms. Rosalie Slater referred to certain literature as “soil softeners,” or material that softens the soil of the heart for instruction in righteousness and planting seeds of Biblical principles. Here are just a few of the many soil softeners we enjoy in our home.

Garden Planting

Mary Jones and Her Bible is a beautiful story of a girl who worked and saved for years and walked 20 miles to buy it. It is such an inspiring story. The story teaches character such as diligence and parental respect and a love for God’s Word.

My Kingdom by L. M. Alcott is a 4-stanza poem about self-government that children can memorize. It softens the heart and opens the door to discussion about Christian self-government. By the way, she wrote it when she was 13 years old.

Little Pillows and Morning Bells by F.R. Havergal are one of my all-time favorites. I adore her and these simple children’s books are precious and full of ideas about God that children can understand. They are to be read before bed and upon waking. Plant the seeds of placing God first and last in your day.

One Morning in Maine by Robert McClosky is a lovely story about God’s creation and the power of nature. It will encourage stories of childhood summers and weather. You can see the majesty of God’s creation, His creativity and the power of childhood memories.

Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder shows the character of the pioneers and the strength of a godly family. It will insipre boys and girls alike to obey their parents, appreciate nature and enjoy the blessings they have.

The Autobiography of George Mueller is wonderfully inspiring. His character and conduct is something we should all aspire to.

Music by Isaac Watts. His Divine and Moral Songs for Children will teach your children about godly character in  a way kids love, set to music.

All things in moderation

So you have to know the way I do things. I am very much an “all or nothing” person. When I decide to do a thing I just run to the extreme, which usually ends in frustration and exhaustion. The Lord is teaching me “moderation in all things”–which is not easy, let me tell you.

In my exuberance to create unique lesson plans for everyone for every subject I have stressed myself out. I can tell when I need to back off and take a breath. I was telling my darling husband that I feel I am always in planning mode and when that work never gets done I get stressed. He suggested something to make it a little easier.

 So as I have been planning my own lessons for three years now, this year I feel I am to take a little different direction. I have ordered the 3rd grade lessons from FACE. In the past I have been hesitant to use them because I like to do what I want to do, following my own routine. The problem is, that is a TON of work that I don’t have time to do. Also, I had lots of great plans but they didn’t always get carried out because I was worn out from all the planning. So my DH suggested I get the NP Lessons so that I can focus on the impartation and not simply on creating lessons. I am excited that now I can do what I really enjoy–talking with my kids and instructing them in the ways of the Lord.

I also didn’t realize I was gradually adding way too much to my 5dd plate. She doesn’t need formal science, literature, history and geography at this point. So I have cut back on her lessons. She will spend this year improving her reading skills, learning to write, counting and performing simple math problems, and mostly learning about Jesus and cuddling up with me for a good book.

I am excited about this change. I will let you know when they come what I think about them. God is good to guide us as we submit to Him. And yes, I understand their are people who know how to make their own lesson plans work for them, but in this season of my life this will work just fine.

Rooted in love

Last week in botany we talked about roots. We discussed two reasons for roots–nutrition and support. To see what God has to say about roots, we went to Ephesians 3:17-19 “...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be also able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–“

God says we are to be rooted in love. Princess G reasoned what it means to be rooted in love–that you will feel secure, peaceful, loving, etc. She also reasoned that these amount to the Fruit of the Spirit. We eat of the fruit of the Spirit when we are rooted in God’s love. As we take it in we are nourished by this Heavenly fruit.
Then, as she was a tree with her branches out wide and her leaf fingers wriggling in the wind, she also reasoned that as she takes in the Fruit of the Spirit through her roots, her branches will also produce that same fruit. She will then be able to offer to others that same fruit, changing her world with peace, love, joy, etc (and, of course, self-control!). What a wonderful picture! She drew it for her notebook, with herself as a tree, rooted in a heart with branches that offer the nine fruits of the Spirit. (see Psalm 1, revelation 22:2.)
It is these moments that remind me why I do this. I am teaching her to reason from the Word of God and to apply it to her life. God, help me to be rooted in Your love. Help me to feast on the Love that only You can give, and help me to be so full of that love that it changes everyone I meet.