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BiblioPlan, Year Four: Modern American and World History (U.S. and World History from 1850-2000) Review by Kate Kessler

Rob and Julia Nalle
BiblioPlan for Families

I have had the exciting honor of reviewing Year 1 and Year 2 of BiblioPlan. I have used both with my family, and have been immensely blessed by each year. The wealth of subjects we have studied has been broad and thorough. BiblioPlan, Year Four: Modern American and World History begins with The British Empire, U.S. Slavery and the Underground Railroad, and concludes its 34 chapters with the modern wars in the Middle East, and President Barack Obama. There is also a missionary focus throughout the main Companion book that will focus on individuals who lived for Christ and endeavored to share the gospel. This is an unabashedly Christian program, and you can see the love that Rob and Julia Nalle have for their Lord throughout each resource in the complete set.

BiblioPlan Family Guide for Modern History

The BiblioPlan Family Guide for Modern History is, like the others in the series, the framework to the whole the program and is an invaluable resource. It begins with an introduction and a “How to Use BiblioPlan” section that defines and explains the whole program, and each individual part. I aim to do something similar below to help you understand how BiblioPlan works. 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 music of the time period. For each recommendation, they give a good description of the resource. If there are any possible concerns with a title, they are kindly noted. This is an astonishing resource that includes daily schedules and book lists like you have never seen. As someone who really loves to focus her study on history (with historical fiction read-alouds and audio resources, etc.) this is an invaluable treasure-house of book lists to help you choose the right ones! A hardcopy is $42.95, and the e-book version is $34.95. It is entirely usable as an e-book as its primary function is as a teacher resource. This book is worth its weight in gold.

The BiblioPlan Companion, Year Four: Modern American and World History

While the BiblioPlan Family Guide gives detailed page suggestions for each weekly topic from other homeschool-friendly history books, this program is best utilized when paired with The BiblioPlan Companion, Year Four. I have used a lot of history resources over the span of my 16 years of homeschooling, and the Companion is the most thorough and well-written spine available in the homeschool market. This book is 568 pages long and covers 1850-2000 in a single volume. It is a softcover book that follows a similar pattern of what is covered in each chapter. The World History Focus with specific dates and “Fascinating Facts” sections that flesh out subjects or individuals being studied. There is a “Missionary Focus” section that concentrates on specific individuals and brings to life the areas of the world, and areas of attention these individuals lived for. There is also an “American History Focus” section that, obviously, concentrates on what was happening in the U.S. at the same time. Sometimes there is an “Amazing Americans” section too. Then there is a “Geography Focus” that may be in the U.S. or somewhere else in the world. Also included is a “Presidential Focus” with a concentration on the man in office during the years that chapter covers.

So, for example, in Chapter 9 of the Companion, you will find all these things discusses and explained:

American History Focus concentrates on Immigrating to America, the Naturalization Act of 1790, European Immigration during 1820-1920 that discusses the reasons various nationalities migrated to America, the Contract Labor Law, and the Immigration Acts of 1917-1965. The Fascinating Facts for this part of the chapter are: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Ellis Island. World History Focus for this chapter is Japan. This includes: “What Has Gone Before” – or a brief overview of Japan’s history, Sakoku, Commodore Matthew Perry’s Japan Expedition, the Meiji Restoration, the Boshin War, Catching Up with the West, and German Influence on Japan. Fascinating Facts for this section include: the Four Classes of Japanese Feudalism, the Satsuma Rebellion, and Noh Masks. The Amazing American for this chapter is Jane Addams and Hull House. The Missionary Focus discusses Kirishitans and Fumie. (This section is not about a specific individual as some chapters are, but about specific Christian movements and persecution in Japan at this time.) The Geography Focus is on the state of Michigan.

So as you can see, each chapter covers a lot of ground! The physical copy for the Companion is $89.95, and the e-book version is $42.95. This is a full-color book filled with maps, photographs, drawings, flags, and various graphics. If you have a large-screen reader, the e-book would be a great solution. If you don’t, definitely invest in the physical book. I recommend the physical as it is much easier to use with a family.

BiblioPlan Family Guide for Year Four

The third highly valuable component to this history program is BiblioPlan’s Family Guide. It is an excellent way to facilitate discussion within your homeschool, and an easy way to determine whether or not your children are learning the material you wish them to learn. There are detailed questions and discussion topics like:

  • List some of the waves of immigrants that arrived in the U.S. over the years from 1820-1920, and explain the different reasons for each wave.
  • Describe the racial quotas system that appeared in the 1921 Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924. Explain the mathematics behind these laws, as outlined in the Companion.
  • Explain Japan’s unique belief about its emperors. Ask your students: how would a belief like that affect a nation’s loyalty to its rulers?
  • Describe the tactic that the shoguns used against the Kirishitans. Ask your students to put themselves in the Kirishitans’ places.
  • Review Grover Cleveland’s life and presidency. (. . .) in modern times, would it still be possible for charities and churches to care for all of the poor’s needs?

This is also a great resource to use if you are using BiblioPlan in a co-op setting. This book is filled with great questions to share and discuss with a group of children. The hardcopy is $12.95, and the e-book is $8.95. For a few extra dollars, I think the physical book is certainly worth having.

BiblioPlan’s Cool Histories

BiblioPlan’s Cool History resources are available in e-book or physical format for each developmental level: Littles (grades K-2), Middles (grades 2-6), Upper Middles (grades 6-8), and Advanced (grades 8-12). 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.

Cool History for Littles: Modern History includes notebooking pages that you can use in a variety of ways. There are maps, places for your student to fill in names, dates, places, and events, areas for drawing or pasting photos of important persons (presidents, missionaries, etc.) Some of the discussion questions for this age range are:

1. How many visitors attended Britain’s Great Exhibition in 1851?

  1. What happened to the Crystal Palace in 1936?
  2. On the British flag, the large red cross edged in white represents what patron saint?
  3. The diagonal white cross represents what patron saint?

    Cool History for Middles: Modern History also includes the same notebooking pages found in the Littles book. Some of the discussion questions for this age range include:

    1. How many different names for the Civil War are listed in the Companion?
  4. What did abolitionist John Brown think would happen when he started his slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia?
  5. Seven states decided they would no longer belong to the United States. They formed their own country called ______________.
  6. Which Southern fort refused to surrender to the Confederate States of America?

    Cool History for Upper Middles: Modern History includes a higher level of questions that are more than fill-in-the-blank types, and will include essay questions. Some examples include:

    1. What was the Pax Britannica, and what was its impact?
  7. Why did Britain and France join forces against Russia in the Crimean War?
  8. Why was Sevastopol such an important port?
  9. What is the meaning of these lines from Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade: “Theirs not to make reply/Theirs not to reason why/Theirs but to do or die"?
  10. List some “firsts” from the Crimean War.

    There are also "Bonus Questions/Activities". An example of one of these would be: Why did President Millard Fillmore turn down an Honorary Degree from Oxford University?

    Cool History for Advanced: Modern History has all sorts of good detailed questions for your student that include short answer, fill-in-the-blank, long essay answer, and also offer research questions too. Some of these types of questions include:

    Fill in the Blank:
    1. Queen Victoria reigned over the British Empire for nearly ___________ years, from ___________to ___________ . She became queen when she had just turned _________ years old.

    Short Answer:
    1. List and explain some of the railroading terms the Underground Railroad used.
    2. In what state was Harriet Tubman a slave? In what city did she live after her escape?

    Short Essay:
    1. List and describe the three compromises that held the pro-slavery South and the anti-slavery North together from 1787 - 1861.
    2. How did the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act make the Underground Railroad’s job more difficult?

    Research Essay:
    Do some research on Sati, the rite in which Hindu widows burned themselves to death on their dead husbands’ funeral pyres in order to display their grief. See if you can discover any other Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Jainist religious practices that the British might have considered barbaric. Did the British have good reason to want to “Christianize” India? Did they go about it in a good way? Why or why not?

    I really like the Cool Histories. These are thorough and detailed and are an excellent addition to the Companion. They round-out the whole study and give you, as the teacher, a way to evaluate how much your children are learning. They are well done and you will not be disappointed if you choose to use them. I’d check over the level of questions for the year of BiblioPlan you are considering and buy one to use 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.

    Also available is a Cool History Classic: Modern History that is a simplified version of the other Cool Histories that can be used as a family guide for grades 1-6. The questions are just like those found in the Cool Histories, and are geared towards multiple age/grade levels. Pricing varies for these resources depending on the level. E-books 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.

Hands-On Maps

BibloPlan offers Hands-On Maps for Middles (grades 2-8) and Advanced (grades 8-12). They do not have one for the Littles, and I can understand why. Small hands have a hard time writing words like “Mediterranean,” let alone spell it! All the maps are created by the authors and are black and white 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 example, Week 3b of Middles, your student will use a map of Africa. They will then do the following:

1. Label and color the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and Red Sea.
2. Using the map in the Companion, draw the Congo River and Nile River on your map.
3. Robert Moffett, a missionary from Africa, influenced David Livingstone to go to Africa. Circle Kuruman in orange. This is where Moffett lived.
4. Draw a footprint over the Kalahari Desert. Livingstone was the first white man to cross this desert.
5. Draw a lion at Mabotsa. This is where Livingstone encountered the lion.
6. Circle Victoria Falls in blue. Livingstone named Victoria Falls for Britain's Queen Victoria.

The Advanced Maps have the same map, but ask the students to do more with the map. I really like the Advanced Maps for middle and high schoolers. I use geography books and the Companion, and some large floor maps and have the kids find these things on their own. It is a great activity that really cements the information. These are solid resources and worth the cost. They range from $14.95 - $22.95, depending on e-book or physical format, and which one(s) you need.

BiblioPlan Timeline and Timeline Figures (1850-2000)

BiblioPlan also created a 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 $16.95 in e-book or $22.95 for the hardcopy, you can make a complete timeline for the modern time period. I received the e-book and each page has a timeline that spans the page. Different countries are highlighted in different colors so you can create the timeline and follow that country’s history. Included are full-color printable timeline figures that your student will affix in the appropriate spot. These can be graphics of events, people, photos, or drawings. 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!) 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 e-book 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.

Craft Book for Modern History and Coloring Book for Modern 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 $6.95 for the e-book and $11.95 for the physical book. The Coloring Book is also $5.95 for the e-book and $8.95 for the physical book. I’d definitely recommend the e-book 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 photographic 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, Year 4: Modern American and World History is just as excellent and thorough a program as the previous two I have been happy to use and review. It is thorough, easy to use, offers everything a homeschool family could possibly want and more! This is a program your whole family will find interesting and will be drawn into the time period. Rob and Julia Nalle have done their homework, covered so very many people, places, and things, in order 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 Four, 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, 2016