The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

BiblioPlan, Year Two: Medieval History (Medieval and Church History from the Fall of Rome through the Renaissance) Review by Kate Kessler

Julia and Rob Nalle
BiblioPlan for Families

I was privileged to review BiblioPlan, Year One, last year. This year, we have been using BiblioPlan, Year Two: Medieval History. This covers the period of time from the Fall of Rome through the Renaissance (400-1600 AD). It follows in the same format and is just as comprehensive and interesting as Year One! If you are looking for a Christian-focused history curricula that blends both the secular and the sacred, you will find it here. By comprehensive, this is what I mean. Year Two covers the following subjects: Medieval History, Church History, Geography, Biography, Literature, Art History—and more—all with the focus of glorifying God.

BiblioPlan Family Guide

The BiblioPlan Family Guide for Medieval History is the framework to the whole the program and is an invaluable resource. It begins with a weekly schedule and builds from there so your history study doesn’t lack any aspect you might want to give it. This is the book that has detailed reading lists, directions, explanations for use, schedules, mapwork suggestions, other history resource books (with page numbers), writing ideas, and hands-on activity suggestions. This is a highly valuable book and is truly the key to the whole of the program. The reading lists are one of the best aspects of this book. Broken down into age/grade range, the literature selections are detailed and complete. You will find reading lists for grades K-2, 3-5, 5-8, 7-8+, high school, family read-alouds, movie suggestions, hands-on activity books, audio resources, general books on the time period, literature study guide options, and other online resources. It also includes a listing of free downloads like audio books available online. (Page 62 is especially exciting if your family enjoys audio books!) For each recommendation, they give a good description of the resource. If there are any possible concerns with a title, they are kindly noted. If you are stumped by the many choices out there for good medieval-focused literature and other resources available, this book will help you determine which ones are the best choices for your family. A hardcopy is $42.95, and the e-book version is $32.95. It is entirely usable as an ebook. This book is worth its weight in gold and is a tremendous resource for studying the medieval period.

BiblioPlan Companion

While the BiblioPlan Family Guide gives detailed page suggestions for each weekly topic from other homeschool-friendly history books, the program is best utilized when paired with The BiblioPlan Companion, Year Two: A Text for Medieval History. This is an amazing two-volume resource with a total page count of 766! This is more than double the pages in the Ancient History Companion! It is a softcover resource that contains the widest variety of subjects you’d expect to find during medieval times! The main three focus areas found in the Companion are: Medieval History, Church History, and Geography. Within those three areas, you will find both church and secular biographies, landforms, bodies of water, fascinating facts, stories of lore and battle, dates, events, people and how they lived, as well as the details behind all sorts of intriguing happenings!

So, for example, in Chapter 6 of the Companion, you will find all these things discusses and explained:

Geography:Locate France, identify the bodies of water around it, locate the three mountain ranges important to France, and identify the four major rivers. If you are using the map supplement discussed below, this is all done in one good lesson. You will also study the Rhine River, the castles found on the river, and the massive rock outcropping known as The Lorelei.

Medieval History Focus: Roman Gaul (France) – history and timeline, study the Île de la Cité (“Island of the City”) in Paris, Vercingetorix and the Battle of Alesia, history of the Franks, Alemanni, Bergundians, the story of “The Ring of the Nibelung,” the Huns, Attila the Hun, the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, “Fascinating Franks: Merovius and the Merovingian Dynasty, King Clovis I and how he won the kingdom, his battles, and conversion story. Then you study the conflict between Roman Christianity and Arian Christianity, and the Salic Laws.

Church History Focus: Giants of the Faith: St. Martin of Tours, St. Genevieve, the “Flying Bells” of France’s churches, and Notre Dame Cathedral.

This is all covered in one chapter. So you can see, there are some really fascinating subjects! It is expected that you will cover one chapter per week. With the many resources noted in the Family Guide, you can flesh it out or stick mainly with the Companion and the map work. It is entirely up to you.

The physical copy for both volumes of the Companion is $109.95, and the e-book version is $39.95. This book has many full color photos and maps that might be less usable/readable on an e-reader. Much is going to depend on your reader as to whether or not you spend the extra $70 for a physical copy of the book. I recommend the physical as it is much easier to use with a family.

BiblioPlan Discussion Guide

The third highly valuable component is BiblioPlan’s Discussion Guide. It is an excellent way to facilitate family discussion and to determine whether or not your children are learning the material you wish them to learn.  There are detailed questions and discussion topics like:

  • Discuss some similarities between “The Ring of the Nibelung” and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  • Discuss the tactics that the Huns used to strike terror into their enemies’ hearts.
  • Discuss the tribute payments that the Huns demanded, and how they added to the general terror of a Hun invasion.
  • Retell the story of how Clovis convinced Chlodoric the Parricide to murder his own father.
  • Describe Clovis’ vision at the Battle of Tolbiac. Discuss how the Conversion of Clovis brought Roman-style of Christianity to France, driving out the old Arian-style Christianity that the Goths had learned.
  • Discuss how the Salic Laws divided Frankish kingdoms when Frankish kings died.
  • Debate the wisdom of the Salic Laws.
  • Retell the story of St. Martin and the Beggar.

This is also a great resource to use if you are using BiblioPlan in a co-op setting. These are great questions for the group as a whole. The hardcopy is $11.95, and the ebook is $8.95. This is worth it!

Cool Histories

BiblioPlan’s Cool History resources are available in ebook or physical format for each developmental level: Littles (grades K-2), Middles (grades 2-6), Upper Middles (grades 6-8), and Advanced (grades 7-12). The Cool Histories are an excellent tool to help your child write down what he is learning to facilitate better discussion and retention of the awesome history they are reading through the Companion. The Cool Histories have fill-in-the-blank questions, essay questions, research options, and other activities for each level noted above.

Examples of questions and activities include:

Cool History for Littles: Medieval

What does the word Rhine mean in Celtic?
What is the English name for the old stone bridge that connects Paris’s Île de la Cité to the banks of the River Seine?
How did the Huns sometimes feel when they dismounted from their horses? Why?
Who was the Huns’ most fearsome leader?

ACTIVITY: Have an Easter roll contest. Roll one raw egg per child down a gentle slope and see which one survives. In France, the surviving egg is called the “victory egg,” and it symbolizes the stone that was rolled away from Christ’s tomb.

There is also a coloring page noted (an extra supplement discussed below) and Globe Fun. Globe Fun questions can be utilized with any map resource. These are examples of Globe Fun questions for this age level:

Review the seven continents and the five oceans.
Locate the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea.
Point out several rivers on the globe, including the rivers from Year 1 (Nile, Tigris, Euphrates) and the Rhine River. Rivers contain fresh water and carry their water into another river, a lake, a sea or an ocean.
Locate France and identify the bodies of water that surround it.

Cool History for Middles: Medieval

What made Clovis decide to abandon his pagan gods and follow Christ?
When Clovis was baptized, a dove carried something down from heaven in its beak. What was it?
Name the special laws that Clovis put into place for the Franks.
What did St. Martin do when he saw a beggar freezing beside the road?
What special thing do French churches do every year on Good Friday?

Geography work is found in their map supplement and is not included in the Cool History for this level. More on the Hands-On Maps below.

Cool History for Upper Middles: Medieval

What might the tribal name “Franks” mean? What might the tribal name “Alemanni” mean?
What made Attila the Hun shift the focus of his attacks from the Eastern Roman Empire to the Western Roman Empire?
What two military commanders fought the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains? Who won?
What promise from Clovis made Chlodoric the Parricide murder his father, Sigobert the Lame?
Under the Salic Laws, what happened to a king’s territory when he died?
How did St. Martin of Tours help the beggar whom he saw freezing beside the road?
How did the pagans of Gaul test God’s power and Martin of Tours’ faith?
What did Genevieve encourage the people of Paris to do when Attila was threatening their city?

Geography work is found in their map supplement and is not included in the Cool History for this level. More on the Hands-On Maps below.

Cool History for Advanced: Medieval

This Cool History is my favorite and the one I use with multiple age levels. It begins with normal fill in the blanks and then moves on to short essay questions and then longer essay/research questions. Here are some samples of those:

Short Essays:

1. In 450 AD, Attila the Hun received a message that made him shift the focus of his attacks from the Eastern Roman Empire to the Western Roman Empire. Who sent him that letter? What did it say? Based on that letter, what did Attila demand from the Western Roman Empire?

2. What promise from Clovis made Chlodoric the Parricide murder his father, Sigobert the Lame? How did Clovis betray his promise to Chlodoric?

3. In 1337, King Edward III of England tried to claim the throne of France. On what grounds did he base his claim? On what grounds did the Franks deny his claim?

Research Essay:

In Wagner’s Das Rheingold, what power does the Rhine gold give to the one who takes it? What must the one who takes it give up before he can use this power? Who takes the Rhine gold?

They also have a Cool History Classic that is a simplified version of the other Cool Histories that can be used as a family guide for grades 1-6.  Pricing varies for these resources depending on the level. Ebooks will need to be printed and each child will need one. Consider whether or not you will want to use these with subsequent children of the same age and buy accordingly. The Cool History copyright is perfect for families:

Families who purchase these materials may make as many copies of the Cool History assignments, Maps, Timelines or Coloring Books as they need for use WITHIN THEIR FAMILY ONLY.

I really like the Cool Histories and think they are well worth the price. I’d check over the level of questions for the year of BiblioPlan you are considering and buy one to be used for the closest age range. I tend to teach to my oldest and modify for my younger children. This has served me well for a long time and I recommend it here. It is easier to simplify (and cross off more difficult questions) than it is to “spruce it up” for an older child.

Hands-On Maps

BibloPlan offers Hands-On Maps for Middles (gr. 2-8) and Advanced (gr. 8-12). They do not have one for the Littles. These are done by the authors and include black and white maps with instructions on how to use them. They correspond to the lesson and will help your child understand the geography of the area they are studying. For Week 6 of Middles, they provide a map of Europe with the bodies of water around it. The student is then asked to label these:

• Label the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and English Channel. Lightly color the waters blue.
• North of the Alps, the blue line represents the Rhine River; south of the Alps, it represents the Rhone River. Label the Rhine River and draw a castle or two along its banks.
• The dotted lines indicate the extent of Clovis’ Empire. Write Franks, Burgundians and Alemanni inside the dotted lines.
• Find the red dot on the map and label it Paris. This is where Clovis built his capital.
• Cross out the word Gaul and replace it with France.

Challenge: Can you label SPAIN, ENGLAND, GREECE and ITALY on the map?

Samples for Advanced include:

• Label the bodies of water. Don’t forget to label the Bay of Biscay. North of the Alps, the blue line represents the Rhine River; south of the Alps, the blue line represents the Rhone River. Label both rivers.
• Label Scotland, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Finland, England, Spain and Gaul (France).
• The dotted lines indicate the extent of Clovis’ Empire. Write inside the dotted lines Franks, Burgundians and Alemanni.
• Label the red dot on the map Paris.
• Label France’s three major mountain ranges: the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Massif Central.

Challenge: Using the map in the Companion, draw in the modern-day borders for Switzerland, Belgium and Germany.

These are solid resources that work well and in conjunction with the whole program. I have tried using other maps and they don’t work as well as these do. I definitely recommend them. I get a little giddy when the kids are cracking open our geography books and maps and trying to locate what they need to find. I think that is because I really value geography and love how this resource makes the kids think. They need to do the work and this helps them remember what the find. The focus on geography along with history is one I love as it blends something that is very naturally blended. Hands-on Maps for Middles runs $13.95 for the ebook and $21.95 for the physical copy. Advanced will run $16.95 for the ebook and $24.95 for the physical book. I use the Advanced for any middle-high school child in the family and this works well. I recommend the ebook so you can print what you need within your family.

BiblioPlan Timeline and Timeline Figures (400-1600 AD)

BiblioPlan also created medieval Timeline and Timeline Figures for use with their program. These are an inexpensive way to buy and create a timeline with your family. For only $13.95 in ebook or $21.95 for the hardcopy, you can make a complete timeline for the medieval time period. I received the ebook and each page has two parallel purple lines that go across the page. The top one says Church History and the bottom one says Medieval History with the dates noted. Underneath each purple timeline you will find events and people written out in the correct place. You affix the appropriate photo, graphic, or drawing created for that person or event right where it is supposed to be. There is no guesswork with this product and that is my favorite part of the timeline! You are not going to glue something down in the wrong spot and regret using glue (the very thing I have done with other products!) There is a wide variety of graphics, photos, and drawings and all are great choices. Someone spent a lot of time finding these figures for our use and this is a real treasure if you want to do a timeline with your children while using BiblioPlan. If I was going to use this with more than one child, I would definitely buy the ebook version so that I could print out the timeline as we studied it and print as many as I wished for my children. You can also print this out and create a wall timeline for the whole family to see and use. This is a valuable resource for a whole timeline.

Craft Book for Medieval History and Coloring Book for Medieval History

The Craft Book and the Coloring Book are extra resources to help you flesh out each week with hands-on fun. These are available for purchase separately. The Craft Book is $5.95 for the ebook and $11.95 for the physical book. The Coloring Book is also $5.95 for the ebook and $8.95 for the physical book. I’d definitely recommend the ebook format for both—especially the Craft Book. This is color-coded with a different color per craft. It comes with a list of supplies for each craft and written directions with a photo of the finished product. This is a good beginning craft book. I’d love to see it revised with step by step instructions for the “less-than-crafty” among us. The crafts are varied and interesting and your children are likely to enjoy them. My children have enjoyed the ones we have done. The coloring book has simple drawings that accompany the lesson. They are not going to “wow” you, but if you need something easy to print off that coordinates with the lesson for your little one, this is a good choice.


BiblioPlan is an excellent thorough program for any homeschool family! It is well done, easy to use, complete in all aspects, and totally usable for any family. This is a program your whole family will find interesting and will be drawn into the time period. The authors have done their homework, and used a wide variety of resources, to create these fantastic history programs for us. This was clearly a labor of love for the homeschool community and that absolutely shows in the finished product. Download the sample for BiblioPlan, Year Two: Medieval History, and look at it up close. You may find this is just what you have been looking for!

Product review by Kate Kessler, Product Reviews Director, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2015