Recently I shared the reasons why a) after fourteen years of homeschooling, I decided to begin using a core curriculum that I had never used before, and b) I chose to make the switch in the middle of a school year. If you’d like to know more about my reasons, you can read them here.
Today, I’d like to share an in-depth review of this new curriculum we are using: Biblioplan.
I will be sharing exactly what Biblioplan is, how it works, how our family is using it, and our impressions of it.
What is BiblioPlan?
At its core, Biblioplan is a curriculum designed to be used with students from Kindergarten through 12th grade, which integrates Bible, History, and Literature. Depending on how you use it, it can integrate Geography and Writing as well. Most components can be purchased in either a digital or printed form.
Biblioplan runs in a four-year cycle:
- Early Modern
Our family is currently studying Ancient History, so this review will specifically relate to that year.
The curriculum has many components that are optional, but the essence of the curriculum is found in two pieces:
- The Family Guide: a teacher’s guide which includes unit by unit book recommendations and other resources (movies, etc,) and weekly grid-style instructions that explain what to do each day.
- The Companion: a textbook that can be used with all ages, but is written at a high school level.
Actually, while the Companion is considered to be a core part of the program, even this is optional. You see, part of the genius of Biblioplan lies in its versatility. Biblioplan is all about weaving a variety of resources and subjects together, and it allows for so much flexibility! In addition to the Companion, the Family Guide gives other, optional “spines” that may be used in addition to, or in place of, the Companion. Some of those optional spines include:
- Mystery of History
- Story of the World
- Victor Journey through the Bible
- Streams of Civilization
- Usborne Encyclopedia of World History
There are others as well.
So, if you are a particular fan of one of these books, or if you have children of particular ages that would do better with one of those alternatives, you have options!
A few examples from the Family Guide:
(only a grade 5-8 list is shown here, but recommendations are given for all grades, K-12)
In addition to the core components, Biblioplan also offers many other pieces that are optional. You can select them based upon your preferences, the ages of your children, how much you want to integrate it into the rest of your homeschool, your goals, your family’s homeschool “style,” and so forth. These other components include:
- Family Discussion Guide:Questions to promote conversation.
- Cool Histories: Assignment sheets for four different age/grade levels, containing age appropriate questions, essay topics, etc.
- Coloring Book: Pictures for the little ones to color
- Crafts Book: Ideas to supplement and enrich with hands-on activities
- Hands-On Maps: Mapping activities written for two different age/grade levels
- Hands-On Notebooking: Notebooking projects that cover countries (or in other years, presidents and states)
I think that pretty well covers what Biblioplan is and how it works. But with so much versatility, the next question is:
How Does Our Family Use BiblioPlan?
To be honest, I just about panicked the first week. Everything looked SO GOOD, and I felt that I would somehow be neglecting my children if I didn’t do it all. But, my attempts to do it all resulted in failure, panic, and guilt. So, I spent a weekend praying for direction and evaluating my family. I considered my goals, my teaching style, and my children’s learning styles. Based upon those answers, I came up with a plan on how I would make Biblioplan work for me.
I highly recommend spending some time searching for those answers, by the way, because remember:
Curriculum is a tool to help you, not a master to rule over you.
If you have been visiting this blog for a few years, you’ve probably heard me say it before, but it bears repeating. Any curriculum should be a blessing to assist you in teaching your kids. If the curriculum feels burdensome, then you can change it to suit your family, or you can switch to something that is a better fit.
In my weekend analysis, I reminded myself that we are a “reading and discussion” type of family. Even if we do nothing else, I know that reading good books and discussing those books will serve my children well. Reading and discussion is the primary means that we have successfully developed a love of the bible, history, and literature. It is also the means through which our older kids have effectively learned critical thinking.
Based upon this, I came up with the following plan for using Biblioplan:
First, I should note that I bought the printed materials rather than the digital. I would do it again, because I don’t do well with digital curriculum. I need a book in my hand and paper I can flip through, and in the case of Biblioplan, I also need to be able write on it and highlight it.
That said, these are the materials that I have chosen to use.
The Family Guide: This provide history reading assignments, Bible reading assignments, supplemental literature, and family read alouds.
The Companion: This is our primary textbook for my students grades 7 through 12. The younger kids do not use it.
Mystery of History: We are choosing this optional resource as our primary textbook for the Kindergarten through 6th graders, and as a supplement for the 7th through 12th graders. I read this aloud, so this is one part of the curriculum that we can do together as a family.
The Egermeier Story Bible: I read this aloud to my Kindergarten through 6th grade children.
ESV Bible: My older kids read independently from the ESV because it is our favorite modern translation.
The Timeline: We do one timeline together as a family.
The Discussion Guide: We strive to use this once a week during family dinners, so that my husband can join in the discussions.
Cool Histories: Only my 7th through 12th graders do the cool history books.
What we are not using:
- Cool Histories for the younger kids
- The Map Books
- The Craft Books
- The Coloring Books
- The Hands-On Notebooking
And yes, I felt guilt as I typed in each one of those. Sigh… I am a work in progress.
How Do I Plan?
About a week before a new unit begins, I open up my laptop and go to my library’s website. I go through the list of recommended supplemental literature and order everything the library carries. I highlight the books in my Family Guide as I go, so I can keep track of what we will have available.
I then go through the weekly grid-style plans, and I make sure that I have at least one supplemental book for each age/grade level, for each week. If not, I go to Amazon and buy books to fill in those gaps.
I order all the recommended family read alouds either from my library or from Amazon.
Then, I go through the weekly grid and highlight everything that I plan to use:
- The Companion chapter
- The Bible assignments
- The Timeline Figures
- The Mystery of History chapters
- The literature readings for each grade level
- The Family Read Aloud
- Any Supplemental Resources I plan to use
Honestly, I was a reluctant highlighter. I’m typically a “don’t write in the book; we might sell it some day; we are going to use it again…” kind of person, and it was a difficult hurdle to overcome. But with Biblioplan, highlighting is critical to me. Due to the versatility and optional resources that I don’t use, I must highlight so that my attention is directed to the right places, and I don’t miss anything.
What Does a Typical BiblioPlan Session Look Like?
If it is Monday, I begin by giving the kids their weekly assignments:
- The older kids are told which chapter to read in The Companion
- The older kids are given their Bible assignments
- All kids are given their supplemental Literature assignments.
Everyone has a weekly schedule attached to a clipboard where they write their assignments..
If it is Tuesday, we begin by cutting out the timeline pieces and gluing them onto the timeline book.
Then (on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday), I read aloud from Mystery of History to everyone from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Usually the preschoolers join us as well.
After Mystery of History, I dismiss the 7th through 12th graders to go work on their assignments (readings, Bible, Cool Histories, etc.)
Then, I read aloud from the Egermeier Story Bible to the younger kids. Again, the preschoolers usually join us. Sometimes I save this for Family Bible Time, which we do pretty much every night with my husband before the little kids go to bed.
Later in the afternoon, when most of the kids have finished their school, I read aloud from the family read aloud recommended by Biblioplan.
We keep the Discussion Guide in the dining room, and we strive to do it together at dinner once a week. A moment of transparency: we forget sometimes.
On Thursday and Friday, we don’t do Biblioplan together, because it is only scheduled for three days! Some families choose to stretch it out a little more and do it all five days, and others add more pieces to the program to make it work five days. We choose to keep it at three days, for a few reasons.
- It allows me to focus more on Science with my younger kids on Thursdays and Fridays.
- My older kids have more time for their independent work on Thursdays and Fridays.
That leaves just one question:
How Do We Like Using BiblioPlan?
To be honest, I miss some aspects of My Father’s World and History Revealed. But, many of the literature selections that we used with those other programs can be used with Biblioplan as well. History Revealed is also a supplemental history book that Biblioplan suggests, as the articles are very well written! So, it has been a nice transition.
We are really enjoying it. The older kids like The Companion. We all love being able to use Mystery of History. The literature selections have been great. Aside from our initial period of getting to know how the program works and how to make it work for us, the planning has been pretty simple, the routine fits us well, and the flow of our days is fairly smooth.
I do appreciate the versatility with how we can use Biblioplan. One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that I sometimes grow tired of going through the same books the second time around. I like the idea that, four years from now, I can choose to use different spines and different literature with my family! This isn’t essential as far as how the kids learn, but it’s nice for me as the teacher to be able to use new materials as well.
I can’t say much more except that this is a great fit for my family. If the idea of a Christian, literature based, multi-level, versatile curriculum appeals to you, it may be a good fit for you as well.