BiblioPlan offers a unique approach for teaching history to children at all grade levels together. BiblioPlan courses teach from a biblical Christian (Protestant) worldview, although not all resources used within the program do so. It accomplishes this by presenting the same general topics to all students while using resources and activities suitable to various levels.
BiblioPlan identifies itself as a classical program, so it presents levels with reference to the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages. It also uses the history-study guidelines from The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise's book about classical education.
While the primary focus is history, students do significant work in geography as well as reading and writing (more as they shift to upper grade levels), enough so that they should also receive at least partial course credits for literature and geography, and possibly for composition.
The Bible is used heavily in the first BiblioPlan to teach both biblical history and knowledge of scripture itself. Church history receives significant attention in the second course. Subsequent courses feature biographies of significant Christians—“giants of the faith” —within each historical period and geographical area. So BiblioPlan will also provide either partial or full coverage of religion for each school year. A chart in the introductory pages of each Family or Teacher's Guide shows high school credits that might be assigned for each course.
There are four BiblioPlan courses:
Ancients, which covers Creation to the Fall of Rome
Medieval, which covers the Fall of Rome to the Renaissance (Note: while the focus is primarily on western civilization, this course does cover Asia, Africa, and the Americas prior to Columbus, as well as Islam.)
Early Modern, which covers both American and World history from 1600-1850
Modern, which covers both American and World history from 1850-2000 (Note: this course has a slightly conservative political slant.)
You should cycle through these four courses with your children, shifting them up to higher levels the next time (or even a third time) around. Selecting the activities and readings for a higher level each time keeps the material fresh and age appropriate. You can begin teaching a student in BiblioPlan at any level beginning with whichever of the four courses works best for you, although you should have the entire family working from the same BiblioPlan course each year.
BiblioPlan courses are written from a Christian worldview. However, their ecumenical approach make them usable by those from different denominations as well as by those holding young earth and old earth views. For example, Ancients begins with a discussion about the age of the earth, presenting different options with a respectful attitude. Noah’s flood, the Tower of Babel and other biblical events are treated as factual. Occasional mention is made of evolutionary viewpoints, but generally with a tilt toward creationism. For example, Ancients acknowledges that both evolutionists and creationists believe that there was an ice age, but it presents dating explanations from both perspectives differentiating based on belief in either uniformitarianism or catastrophic processes.
Modern also reflects this ecumenical approach with coverage of some Catholic missionaries along with Protestants. Most Catholics should find Modern an excellent choice since it includes discussion of critical events such as Mexico's repression of the Catholic Church. (This is probably the best modern history text I've yet seen that includes discussion of Christianity without leaning almost exclusively toward Protestantism or Catholicism.) While the Medieval course treats Catholicism with respect, it highlights Protestant heroes and events.
The core components of each BiblioPlan course are the BiblioPlan Family Guide and the BiblioPlan Companion. The BiblioPlan Companions each serve as your core book for history content (one for each course). Assignments for readings in the BiblioPlan Companion are laid out in the weekly plans in the corresponding BiblioPlan Family Guide. Within each BiblioPlan Family Guide is a set of one-page, weekly lesson plans for 34 weeks. Lesson plans chart out which pages of which resources are to be used on a three-day per week schedule. Students might do independent reading, research, and/or writing between sessions depending upon their level. The schedule has rows listing optional resources for different age levels, writing assignments for the various levels, as well as assignments from alternate spine books.
Each course integrates historical literature including some titles related to Bible and church history. BiblioPlan courses differ from similar programs since they recommend many literature selections for supplemental reading but do not require specific books. Each course recommends optional spine books that you might choose to read from along with readings from the Companion. (A spine book is a broad history resource covering many events in history.) The Story of the World, Mystery of History, Streams of Civilization, History of US, and Trial and Triumph are examples of some of the suggested spine books. Recommendations of fiction for each unit are included in the Family Guide. Fiction lists are arranged by levels as well as for family read alouds. Lists include descriptions of the books, suggested age ranges, and the number of pages for each book. These descriptions are very helpful since you need to choose from among a number of options.
The Family Guides also list a composition assignment for each week, with assignments for three different levels: young writer, grammar, and logic levels. Assignments for the rhetoric level are in the Advanced Cool History books.
The BiblioPlan Companions surprised me with their breadth and depth of content. Written from a Christian worldview (Protestant), the Companions are somewhat like textbooks with readings and background information, biographical sketches, timelines, bullet-point summaries, charts, maps, and "Fascinating Facts." Sections printed in black-and-white cover the basic narrative and timeline. Sections with colored backgrounds cover biographies and other special topics. Division of the content into the various sections breaks up the reading into more manageable chunks, and not all of the chunks are essential. This is important since the BiblioPlan Companions are lengthy books; the Ancients Companion has 354 pages, the Medieval Companion has 747 pages, the Early Modern Companion has 864 pages, and the Modern Companion has 588 pages!
While older students can read the BiblioPlan Companions on their own, parents need to read the appropriate sections aloud to younger students. The Cool History books for Littles...identify which sections in each Companion should be read. The Companions occasionally have “In Brief” sections that summarize information that is repeated in greater detail. Young students or others that are overwhelmed can get the key points from these sections without having to read everything. On the other hand, older students can skip the In Brief sections since they will be reading the expanded presentation instead. The Companions are also heavily illustrated with pictures and maps that support the text information.
BiblioPlan is in the process of creating Remember the Days books for each course which will serve in place of BiblioPlan Companions for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. If you are teaching only younger children, Remember the Days are simpler to use. If you have both older and younger children you can use only the BiblioPlan Companion, or you can use both books if you want to have students doing independent reading from one or both books. Remember the Days volumes are available for Medieval and Early Modern right now with Modern due in January of 2018 and Ancients due in Fall of 2019.
Within the BiblioPlan Companions, geography is integrated at points where it connects with the history throughout each course, so students learn geography in context, an approach that I think works better than teaching geography on its own. The geography is supported by map work activities in the supplemental Hands-On Maps book for each course. World geography is stressed in the first two volumes and U.S. geography in the second two.
In addition to the Family Guide and the BiblioPlan Companion for each course, families will need the Family Discussion Guide plus the appropriate Cool History activity book for each student. (These are described below.)
Weekly assignment charts in the Family Guides also include lists of the possible literature selections for four levels plus optional movies/DVDs or audio CDs. Another section of the assignment charts lists optional hands-on activities. There you'll find mention of other BiblioPlan products such as the Hands-on Maps, Family Discussion Guide, timeline figures, coloring pages, and crafts as well as mention of specific cards from Veritas Press' and Classical Conversation's history card sets if you want to use either of them.
Most BiblioPlan supplements are specific to each of the four BiblioPlan courses. Some are essential and a few are optional. Permission is given to reproduce pages of the following supplements for use within your family.
Cool History: These four essential books have assignments specific to each level. You need to purchase only the level(s) needed for your children. Choose from four levels: Littles (K-2), Middles (grades 2-6), Upper Middles (grades 6-8), and Advanced (grades 9-12). A fifth option is also available for those who want to use Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World; Cool History Classics draw questions from both the Companion and Story of the World. A single Cool History Classics for each volume of BiblioPlan targets grades one through six. You would choose this in place of another Cool History if you know that you want to incorporate Story of the World as a spine.
In each Cool History, there is approximately one worksheet per week plus occasional supporting activity pages. Cool History books for Littles include the specific reading assignments in the Companion. With Middles level students, parents will need to use their own judgment as to which sections to read, probably reading most of the colored sections rather than the black-and-white sections. (Upper Middles and Advanced students should be reading almost everything.) While all levels have questions on the readings from the Companion, other activities vary depending upon the level. For example, younger students have coloring activities. The two lowest levels have hands-on activities. The second and third levels start children into research activities, while the fourth level requires students to do significant research and essay writing. Examinations are included in the two upper levels. Answer keys are included at the end of each book.
Hands-on Maps: These are four different sets of worksheets with map work and geography activities that correlate directly with each BiblioPlan course. There are one or two pages per week to be completed. Work is primarily labeling and coloring, but sometimes students are asked to draw in boundary lines. Reviews and exams are included. They are available for two levels: Middles (grades 2-7) and Advanced (grades 7-12). Students at the younger levels should be given only selected assignments from the Middles book, and they will require parental assistance. By fifth grade, students should be able to complete map work independently.
Family Discussion Guide: Family Discussion Guides provide key points to review and discuss with children as well as a range of questions. Some questions are designed to develop a Christian worldview. Parents should pick and choose questions most appropriate for their children. Parents need to be familiar with material in the Companion since questions are based on its content, and they are also sometimes directed to retell stories or events from the Companion.
Timeline: A Timeline for each BiblioPlan includes pictures of people, places, and events that are printed in full color. These are a mixture of reproductions of artwork (especially portraits), drawings, photographs, drawn figures, and flags. The timeline itself consists of pages that can be mounted on a wall or put into a notebook. Timeline pages show where figures are to be mounted and include descriptive text. Unless you have a high-quality color printer, you might want to purchase the print edition of this book rather than print it out yourself. The timeline is best for kindergarten through eighth grade.
Coloring Book: A Coloring Book for each BiblioPlan has pages with drawings of key figures or events for young students to color.
Craft Books: Craft Books for each BiblioPlan course have a number of activities for each unit. For example, when students are studying the Roman Empire, they might make a banner, hold a mock chariot race, dress up like roman citizens (and have a Roman feast), or make Roman warrior’s equipment. For some projects, you’ll need craft materials like a hot glue gun, paint, felt, pipe cleaners, and poster board as well as some unusual items like a ceramic flower pot. Craft books have activities to suit all ages.
Co-ops or Christian School Classes: BiblioPlan has created a special Teacher’s Guide for those teaching co-op classes or in Christian schools. The Teacher’s Guide for each BiblioPlan course provides very detailed instructions for teaching same-age or multi-age groups. Group class teachers would use this guide rather than the Family Guide. Teachers would also not need the Family Discussion Guide.
All of these resources work together to make it easy for both parents and teachers to present history in a far more interesting fashion than traditional textbooks.
BiblioPlan resources are available as ebooks or in printed hard copies, with substantial savings on ebook versions. Sample pages from the various resources as well as all of the options for purchasing bundles, print, or ebooks are available on the publisher's website. You can also download free, three-week samples of all four courses at the publisher's website so you can check it out before buying.