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Hands-On Notebooking Review by Debra Brinkman

Julia and Rob Nalle
BiblioPlan for Families

BiblioPlan is known for its multi-grade history program. This program includes some elements that can be used with any history curriculum you would like. Their Hands-On Notebooking series is created to work with their history program, but it can easily be used independently.

The series consists of six separate project books:

  • Hands-On Asia covers 49 countries in Asia, and is intended to be used with Ancient History.
  • Hands-On Europe covers 43 countries in Europe, and is intended to be used with Medieval History.
  • Hands-On Americas and Oceania covers 49 countries in North America, South America and Oceania. This is intended to be used with Early Modern History.
  • Hands-On Africa covers 54 countries in Africa, and is intended to be used with Modern History.
  • Hands-On States covers the 50 US states. BiblioPlan spreads this over Early Modern and Modern History.
  • Hands-On Presidents covers the presidents of the USA. BiblioPlan spreads this over Early Modern and Modern History.

Each of these project books is intended for grades 2-12, except that Hands-On States can be used for K-12. They cost $11.95 for each of the four continent books, and $15.95 each for the two US-based titles.

The geography-based titles all cover the flags, symbols, capitals, geography, and basic historical facts. Hands-On Presidents covers the presidents, their wives and children, and information about their presidency.

These are only available as pdf documents, which means you can easily use it with everyone in the family, and you can easily adapt it so that you are only giving the most basic pages to your younger children, and expecting more from the high schoolers.

The continent titles are all very similar, so I will describe only Hands-On Europe, which we have been using. Each of the countries of Europe has three notebooking pages.

  1. The first includes a map of Europe, where the country is shaded, giving you a perspective on size, shape, and just where in Europe it is. There are blanks for you to fill in basic facts about the country, including the capital and system of government, who leads the country, population, official language(s), what countries border it, and so on. There is also a box for you to draw (or glue in) the outline of the country.
  2. The second page covers national symbols including the flag, coat of arms, national bird, national flower, and space for you to draw or paste national symbols of your choice. This is specific to the country, so if a country doesn’t have a national bird, you won’t be asked to name it.
  3. The third page is mostly written works, asking for a description of major geographical features, and information about the history of the country. This page is suggested for older students.

The introductory materials in the guide tell you how the various countries line up with BiblioPlan Year 2, but they also list the countries by region (Balkan, Northern Europe and Baltic States, Central Europe, Western Europe, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe) so you can create your own plan to work through the continent.

The best thing is that there is an answer key at the end, so if your student has a tough time figuring out that the Klarälven River is the longest river in Sweden, you at least can figure that out and either give them an answer or steer them in the right direction. There are also some tests at the end, which cover flags, capitals, or location.

Hands-On States is very similar, except it has four pages per state.

  1. A large map shows the state in red on a US map and shows the state quarter. You fill in a handful of facts, such as the name of the current governor, total area, largest city, and time zone.
  2. Page two shows an outline of the state and the flag, and you fill in things like the capital, state motto, state song, bordering states, and state resources. This is the page that is suggested for the K-2 ages.
  3. Page three asks for a picture of the state capitol, the state bird, and asks about notable citizens and major geographic features.
  4. The final page is where you can write about the history of the state.

Hands-On Presidents is obviously a little different from the others as it is about people and not places. This one is where you really notice that it is customized, and you see that right from the start. George Washington’s first page asks you to list his stepchildren and doesn’t ask which political party he belonged to. John Tyler has two “First Lady” pages, one for Letitia Christian Tyler, the other for Julia Gardiner Tyler.

For most presidents, there are three pages:

  1. A page for the president, which includes a picture, where you list out some basic facts.
  2. A page for the first lady, which includes a picture, where you list out some basic information about her. There is also space for information about their home.
  3. The final page, which is encouraged for older kids, is mostly writing space to cover key events of his presidency. You can print out multiple copies of this page.

Overall, this is very easy to use and I love that I can customize it to use with the entire family. The end result is wonderful, with a notebook containing some basic information for each country or person, plus the highlights that appeal to that specific child. Going through the states, I have one child who focuses on history facts, one who is drawn to wildlife of each state, one who talks about people. These project books are easy to incorporate into our homeschool day.

-Product review by Debra Brinkman, Crew Administrator, The Schoolhouse Review Crew, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, March, 2016