Practical application of timelines

This is a guest post by JoAnne Bennett, a dear friend and mentor. She was kind enough to provide the following post and I’m so glad she did.

We will use the time line for the facts which must be memorized for that unit.  As we do an overview to introduce the unit, I emphasize that these are the most important events.  We will add other significant events as they are discovered and discuss their relation to the major events.

We usually draw separate time lines for political events and for spiritual developments during that period of history.  For literature, we will do one for the author’s life time and another for the setting of the story or the main character’s life.

photo courtesy Jon aslund

photo courtesy Jon aslund

The applications for time lines are numerous.  Perhaps the most indispensable is to show relationships between events.  One method is to use parallel time lines on the same page to  show cause and effect.  You can then draw  arrows from one line to the other to dramatize the relationship.  For example, make a line for a Washington’s life and one for the historical events of that time.  Note how the events around the man affected his attitudes and

accomplishments.  If he responded positively, the events could cause him to rise to greatness.  Point out that in every crisis God raises up a man to meet the needs of His people.

Another way to use parallel time lines is to color code specific periods or events.  When we studied the Middle Ages, we designated historic events on the basic time line.  Then we entered the periods of art and architecture as colored parallel lines: Byzantine was blue, Romanesque was red, and Gothic was yellow.  It was easy to see the political turmoil of the fifth and sixth centuries in Europe had a relationship to the simplicity of art and the elaborate adornment of the Gothic developed as prosperity came to the nobility through the feudal system.

Time lines give order and perspective to the events we study.  When we look at the “coon skin cap” and the “whale” stuck to our time line, it would be simple for even small children to reason that the time span is too wide for Jonah together.  Notice also how the important events get closer and closer together until, by the end, labels and pictures will overlap.  God is certainly moving faster as we near the end of  “the days of man.”

Another use of time lines is for periodic review.  No matter what time period we are studying, I will occasionally call for a “pop test” of  U.S. history.  This is based on a time line we did which includes crucial developments such as Columbus in 1492, Pilgrims in 1620, Revolution in 1776, Civil War in 1860′s, World War I & II, etc.  When we hear some news story which compares an event to the Great Depression, I want my children to be able to tie that to something concrete in their minds. Having them draw a time line to recall those facts has been the most efficient use of our time.  It is much faster than writing an essay question or having mother devise a fill-in-the-blanks test — and it is quicker to grade.

Take the ideas I have presented and personalize them.  Improvise!  Improve!  See how many varieties you can use!  I believe you will agree it is one of the handiest tools in your “teacher’s bag.”

JoAnne Bennett is a seasoned Biblical Principle Approach mom. She has two grown children and three grandchildren, with one more due to arrive in June 2009. Since raising her own children, she teaches and mentors other home educators. Her internalization of Biblical Principles and application of a BPA philosophy makes her an important resource for home educating moms. You can find out more about her at her Web site, Academic Advantages.

25 creative notebooking ideas

Notebooking is one of the best ways to demonstrate your individuality in your lessons. But sticking some worksheets in a binder is not true notebooking. You must generate the material yourself and it is a reflection of you, not simply a regurgitation of someone else’s thoughts.
In case you find yourself in a rut, here is a list of creative expression. You can also download the 25 creative notebooking ideas here.

  1. paper folding
  2. portraits
  3. write a story and illustrate it
  4. collage
  5. mosaic with construction paper or magazine pictures
  6. drawings
  7. cut outs
  8. silhouettes
  9. rubber stamping
  10. stickers to add to a picture or draw around
  11. photographs
  12. coloring pages
  13. printable fonts that can be colored
  14. pockets to put things in
  15. door or flaps to hide things
  16. pop-ups
  17. paintings
  18. rubbings or impressions
  19. CD recordings of kid’s voice, documents, music, video, etc.
  20. fold out pages for long projects
  21. sew paper
  22. create an award
  23. cut words and letters from newspapers or magazines
  24. create a small book and place in a pocket on a page
  25. paper weaving

If you want to add to the list please leave a comment.

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.

Production. 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.

the 4th R

I had a light bulb moment that I can’t believe I’m admitting here. I have created a prayer journal. This is a spare notebook with dividers and notebook papers to put all thoughts of my family and friends and other things to pray over. I am so excited. And as a prayer leader and avid notebooker (the 4th R), why am I not doing this already? ummmmm……

Sometimes the simplest things can elude you. I have been trying to pray from memory, writing thoughts on little pieces of paper, sticky notes and old receipts. What a way to record people’s most important needs! I should show these requests more respect than that. And how on earth would I ever be able to note the answer, given that I can even remember to pray before I lose it.

Well, now all those issues are resolved. I have little dividers to keep things organized, and a home for all those precious requests, with room to record the answers. So from now on, if you ask me to pray, take comfort that you will be added to my little notebook. And I will ask you about it later, so we can rejoice in God’s answer.

5 reasons to keep a prayer journal

  • place to track your prayers and answers (insights, scriptures, etc)
  • it is scriptural to write things down
  • it will help you in your prayer time
  • following up builds relationships
  • to have a record of God’s faithfulness

What’s in my teacher notebook

All Principle Approach teachers must create a notebook of their own. This is what we teach from, along with reference materials and original documents. I thought I’d share about mine in hopes that others will do the same.

My oldest is 7 1/2 and we are in our third year of home educating.
Here is what my notebook contains (in order):

At the front: my home educating constitution
my week-at-a-glance calendar listing all the subjects on one page
dividers for all subjects
In each divider I have my lesson plan pages (done a week on one page), 4-R work, notes and printouts, maps and other resources from my studies.

I keep all this in one 2.5 in. binder.

I have many notebooks already–two for literature, two for history and one for each of the others. I pull from those to put in my Teacher’s Notebook so I can have all the material I need quickly accessible. As we continue our studies I will eventually have lots of notebooks for each subject because I will have many years of study on each subject. As my body of knowledge grows, so will my notes (and my “wall of notebooks!”).

Eventually we will have a whole library of references, notes and materials we can draw from as we study together. I know kids who came home from college to get their notebooks on certain subjects because they were so thorough. I think that’s amazing and I look forward to that kind of work together as a family.

Because we don’t just fill notebooks, we fill our hearts and minds. The notebooks simply manifest all the work done on the inside.

I try to make my notebook as neat and complete as possible, as an example to my DD. I don’t compare my work to hers but I just let her see it and look through it, noting the clean pages, neat handwriting and the even margins. She can see the standard without being corrected and it helps her see what’s expected in a practical way.

I would love to hear how you organize your teaching materials. I know I still have a lot to learn.

Spirit of excellence in notebooks

(my apologies in advance for this long post. It was impossible to shorten it.)

At our Bible principles group we had a question about notebooks and excellence and what exactly should be required. I liked the response so much I asked permission to post it.

I have a question about notebooking… how much do we insist that this be their
very best work? I am almost certain one would not find messy notebooks from our
founding fathers! Do you require first drafts?

I’m going to preface this by saying I am probably the least qualified to answer a specific question about notebooking as I am just at the very beginning of this journey myself and have never notebooked in my life. Your question raised some more general thoughts about educating children in general, however, that I think are relevant.

First off, I believe you do well to look to yourself first and examine whether your expectations are fair and appropriate. The one question in this study guide that gave me pause was, “can you set aside perfectionism for excellence?” My husband has a standard of perfection with the children, and I see what that does to them…what he sees as laziness, I interpret as a reaction to an expectation they know they cannot reach anyway. I would suggest asking yourself more questions along this line. Do you enjoy what you are doing? Are you enthusiastic about notebooking (or do you grumble in your spirit about what your child may or may not be able to accomplish)?

Second, a thought that may only be tangential, but I have been contemplating since reading this first lesson : )

What is a standard? Essentially, it is a military term, and even when not used as such, I believe that is the basic sense behind the word. Our dear 1828 dictionary defines it such (first entry only):

1. An ensign of war; a staff with a flag or colors. The troops repair to
their standard. The royal standard of Great Britain is a flag, in which the
imperial ensigns of England, Scotland and Ireland are quartered with the
armorial bearings of Hanover. His armies, in the following day, On those fair
plains their standards proud display. Fairfax

The image I have is the standard-bearer holding his colors high so that all on the battlefield can see it, despite the smoke, dust and general confusion of war. It comforts the troops, lets them know the battle is not lost and tells them which way to go. The standard-bearer has a most important task, for if his standard falls, the troops will disperse. He also has a most dangerous task, for he has marked himself and made himself a visible and desirable target for the enemy (all kinds of thoughts I could draw from that, but I will attempt to stay focused).

When we desire to raise the standards for our children, we must first be sure of what that standard is, or it will not be clear through the confusion. Of course, that standard is Christ, but we must be sure we are communicating that effectively and that we too are remaining focused and not inadvertantly changing standards in the middle of the battle. We must remain motivated in order to have a motivating influence on our children.

Then we can look at some of the specific challenges. A child who is interested and engaged in learning typically puts forth their best work without prompting. They see the work as interesting, relevant and applicable to life. This motivation comes either extrinsically from rewards, punishments or just the infectious enthusiasm of a good teacher, or intrinsically when the child connects privately with the information.

Perhaps it would do you well to think honestly about what positive and negative attention your child gets for different tasks associated with learning (and remember that even negative attention can serve as a reinforcer of certain behaviors in a child if they desire to keep you engaged with them). She may need more praise for what she is doing correctly, and more general encouragement. You may need to look at her individual interests and see if you can incorporate that into some of her work. My daughter fights reading tooth and nail, but she is quite the little performer. So we bought her a tape deck and she will read and listen to herself read all day and now that we are making a tape for grandma, she will even practice beforehand without a single complaint. That is why it is important to keep your focus on your end goal and determine what will work best to get you there. If your focus drops to the handwriting in a single assignment, the standard(flag) drops as well, and no one really knows where the real battle is anymore, or even who is winning. (posted by Dana)

Good job, Dana. Sounds like a veteran, even if you’re not. I tell my Princess G to “do to the best of your ability.” Of course, the principle of individuality says this will result in a variety of expressions. But you have to learn what your student is capable of and require that in a way that you both are happy with. And you may have to modify your idea of a notebook. Children with unique needs require thinking in a unique way. They can demonstrate excellence in a variety of ways. And the point is the “spirit”, not the” letter”. I know I struggled with this much of last year.

I felt compelled to create voluminous notebooks for my 7dd. We did not have much fun. School was a trying time and not an environment conducive to learning at all, I must say. So I had to make some decisions. We homeschool and I must do what I think is best as her teacher. So we did some things on the computer that she could print out. We drew more pictures. We did more things orally and things got a lot better. My goal was to make sure she was actually learning something and I wasn’t just filling a notebook to satisfy a need I had. I can inspire her with my own notebooks and those of her peers. She can develop into a student who loves to learn, whether or not her notebook is museum-worthy.

So this year we will continue to work on excellence in our notebooks but I’ve come to see that as a process and an individual result. We will do more artistic things because that is her gift and passion. God is helping me on my notebooking journey and together we are teaching Princess G an excellent spirit. And as she learns I believe her notebook will demonstrate that.