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BiblioPlan for Families

By Susan Finck-Lockhart M.Div, Kristin Walker R.N. BSN, and Elizabeth Elder

"Biblical history is an essential part of our home school and these ladies have integrated it seamlessly into their overall plan." -- The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Finally! A classical education plan for history that is understandable, easy, and fun! These amazing ladies have taken the divisions in history suggested by Susan Wise Bauer in The Well Trained Mind and developed a great plan for implementing those suggestions in a homeschool setting of ANY size.

Integrating Biblical history and characters using a standard 36-week timeframe and a fantastic book list, the wonderful world of classical education is accessible to all. Let's take a closer look at the layout and ideas in these books.

The two volumes I reviewed were The Ancients and Medieval, Renaissance and Reformation (A.D. 400-1600). I noticed right away that I was not going to be limited to a specific choice of texts or readers that the authors had picked out. These ladies have created a plan implementing all of the base, or spine, texts recommended in TWTM. They have also included Susan Wise Bauer's new Story of the World series in their schedule. An interesting and appreciated addition too, is the integration of Biblical history with readings from the Bible, as well as the Greenleaf's Famous Men series. So, depending on your choice of books and the ages of kids in your home, the bases are all covered.

The most amazing thing about this plan is the amount of work that has been done in gathering an incredible book list. Color-coded pages (blue is for the annotated lists) make sitting down and gathering books a piece of cake. The books suggested for reading are divided up according to the TWTM age divisions: Kindergarten through second grade, third grade and up, and fifth grade and up. I really like the fact that the book lists are separate from the main lesson plan pages and there is lots of space for penciling in alternative choices or choosing a different book than the one suggested.

Working with a spreadsheet format, the schedule provides for three class periods per week. Each session is divided into blocks. Class time comes first, and here you will find page recommendations for each of many possible "spines."

As well as the books mentioned above, breakdowns are given for both new and old printings of the Usborne Book of World History (the newer one is Internet linked), and both The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia (1999) and The Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World (1993). Having all this available is not at all confusing; rather it is freeing. You can use whichever book you have or can access through library or loan. Families include all ages together in the Class time readings and then break up to do independent reading according to their own levels. The list of suggested books is HUGE. If you don't have access to the initial recommendation, then it is so easy to just flip through the book list and substitute another of your choosing.

After Class time and individual reading time, there is a block for family read aloud. Our family reads these books at bedtime but you could do it at any time. Again, the choices are wonderful and varied and the authors keep a very up to date list on their website of out of print books and what would make good substitutions.

Next comes a map and timeline block. Here the authors have listed important historical figures that could be put on a timeline. They also make suggestions as to maps to trace and/or color in keeping with the timeframe being studied. These maps and timeline figures could be hand made or traced from one of your spines or printed off the Internet. This would be a great place to insert hands-on activities or work on projects in progress. BiblioPlan is a reading plan for history and they don't make a space for hands-on activities - I prefer it this way. There are many sources available to choose activities from if your kids, or you, are so inclined.

Susan Wise Bauer has wonderful activity books that coincide with her Story of the World books if you are using them. I like having access to a planned, organized schedule that allows me to fit all my kids' ages and stages, yet still spend time together as a group. In our family, we only do the hands-on projects once every two weeks or so - my kids are not inclined otherwise.

Next comes a block with writing ideas for the week. One activity is generally given each week for grammar stage children and one for logic stage. These are applicable to the content being studied that week and are really interesting and creative.

There is a section at the bottom of the page for additional reading and resources. These ladies are homeschool moms and they know that many families have at least one voracious reader. This section is the provision for those kids! This is also the area where you will find the church history reading suggestions and other Biblical references. I love classical education, but it would be nothing without including the greatest truths of all. Biblical history is an essential part of our home school and these ladies have integrated it seamlessly into their overall plan.

I love the fact that dates, seasons, or months do not bind this plan. If something comes up in our family and we have to put bookwork on hold for any time at all, we simply pick up where we left off. There is a lot of space on the plan pages for making your own notes or references and the book lists are exceptional. There are annotations for every one so you can get an idea of content and make any changes you think necessary. One week's plan fits on one page so you can easily make copies for your older kids to have in their notebooks.

I give this program all the stars possible. It is versatile, flexible, and very user-friendly. I had myself trying out the plan within hours of its arrival in my home. If you, like me, love the classical model of education and long to follow The Well Trained Mind, but lack the time or resources or energy to put it all together, relax!

The authors of BiblioPlan have done us all an amazing favor and I am eager to see further volumes. Aside from Ancient History and the Middle Ages/Renaissance unit, there is also a third volume entitled America and the World 1600-1850. A fourth volume, BiblioPlan For Families: America and the World 1850-2000 is due to be released in May of 2003 and a brand new high school supplement is in the works.

I highly encourage you to take a peek at the website, as there are also recommendations for science curriculum and all the ordering information, as well as the e-mail address for any questions you may have.

--Product Review by: Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

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