What to Study

What things are really imoprtant to study? What do our children really need to learn well? What facts do they need to remember?

In deciding what to study these are questions I look at:

Why am I studying this (do I need to remember this):
– to know God and His Word
– to understand His Plan
– to understand His Creation
– to advance His Kingdom

All facts we need to remember should fit within one of these categories.


Stepping into Freedom & Simplicity

Freedom & Simplicity™ is truly that. It isn’t hard. But it is intentional! Below are “7 simple steps” – OK I wouldn’t call them that, because L.E.D. is not a check off list, but for those of you who need a list, there it is. Again, it isn’t hard. It is freeing. But you do have to do it. These points below correspond to our 7 Pillars of Excellence in education.

1. Renew your own mind. This is the first and most important aspect in Biblical education (discipleship) in the home. A student will never be more than their teacher. If you want lifelong learners who love to learn, you must become a lifelong learner who loves to learn. If you want a biblical foundation, you must lay one in your own life. If you want biblical thinkers, you must become a biblical thinker. As R.C. Sproul, Jr. says (paraphrased, because I’m out of town right now), “If you can’t teach physics, you can’t teach physics. But if you can’t teach the Bible, learn the Bible!”

2. Bring children along side you in living a life pleasing to God – in worship, praise in song, prayer, planning and preparing nutritious meals, providing modest clothing, changing the car oil, building a shed, studying to show yourself approved unto God, everything! “You follow me, as I follow Christ.” We are not just academically teaching our children. We are training them to live a life glorifying to God. And building relationships with them.

3. Read great books to them. The Bible, stories from long ago and yesterday. Read books with heroes of character! Read true stories, biographies, could-be-true stories, documents, great expressions – to read, listen to and look at – poetry, music, art. Fill your child’s heart with stories that touch their heart, in ways that will inspire them to greatness.  Yes, continue to read to them long after they can read to themselves. Hearing a great story doesn’t end when you can read it yourself. You are sharing more than the story. You are sharing yourself. Our Resources and Recommendations pages are full of great books – it starts here.

4. Copy greatness – literally, both physcially do what they did, and the words out of books. Young children naturally act out the stories they hear. That is great! Encourage it – the little boy who pretends to be Daniel slaying Goliath, or Daniel Boone living in the wilderness, trusting in God; the little girl pretending to be Ruth, gleaning in the fields, or Abigail Adams raising her family on the Word and journaling; the whole family acting out the story of the Sower and the Seed (as mine did last year, and had a blast!) Children will act out, not only in their play, but also in real life, after the heroes they have. See #3 again.

But go beyond just the physical acting out, and actually Copy the words of those great books and documents. Never underesteminate the power of Copywork. It is true learning and has much more value than many give it credit for. It should be a lifelong daily habit.

5. Retell greatness. Become a story teller. Tell the stories you’ve learned in your own way – orally, in pictures, act it out, write it out. Again, you may think this is a simple exercise, of little value. Do not underestimate the power of Narration. The Story (Mashal) touches the heart whether read in a book or told from the heart.

6. Put it in a book – make your own books of your Copywork and Stories and notes and whatever else you produce. Notebooking again is not a difficult thing – and need not be made difficult by worrying about if you are “doing it right” or “putting the right things in it”. Notebooking (Journaling) is a natural thing that all learners do. Journaling,  includes not just your Copywork, or Retellings, or Research findings. It also goes beyond these to include your own thoughts, reasoned from what you’ve learned.

7. Live and tell your own story. Your Journals become your Books, as you share them with others. Your studies and life lessons bring out your own Life Story, who God designed you to be. You Life Story may not be written as a written biography, but the message God has designed you to bring to the world may be written and published in a book – or it may just be lived out in front of your neighbors, whether next door, in a vocation, or around the world. Share the message God has given you to share.

Did you really thing education (discipleship) was harder than that? L.E.D. brings Freedom & Simplicity™ in Spirit LED home education!

If you’d like a simple introduction to breaking out of the school-at-home box, download our “dirt cheap” intro guide,
Finding Freedom & Simplicity™.

“Too Hard” Books

Have you ever run across the “perfect resource”, perhaps a primary source document, but knew it was just “too hard” for the ages/reading levels of your children? You search and search for something “on their level”, but you just can’t find anything that conveys the ideas like “this” resource. What’s a mom to do?

Well, what we don’t have to do is give up and use an inferior resource. We especially don’t have to resort to “twaddle”, just to get “on their level”. We have at least 2 options. Which one to use depends on how “too hard” the book is and our children’s own learning levels.

The first and best option is to Read it to the children. It is easier to understand difficult writings when they are read to us by someone who does understand them, and can read them more fluently and coherantly. If you aren’t able to do this with your resource, can you find it in an audio format that you can all listen to together? The other advantage to this option is you can explain the vocabulary to the children as you go along, if it is still not understood in context. And it will help increase your children’s abilities to understand “hard” books.

The second option that can be helpful, if even reading it to the children is still way over their heads, is to Narrate it to the children. Read the resource yourself and then tell the story of it to your children. It may not be the same “quality” of literature as the original, but it will help you develop your storytelling skills, and will ensure that your children are getting the great ideas that you chose that resource for.


Ideas or Information?

Which is the basis of your education? What do your goals generally look like? Are they to learn the names and dates of Presidents and Kings or are they to understand the ways men govern and how man’s character affects his governing? Are they to memorize the parts of speech and list of prepositions or are they to communicate clearly God’s message they have to share? Rather than going on with examples I’ll just ask, do you think the goal of education is to memorize reams of information? Do you think little children can’t learn ideas such as these?

Surely you’ve heard the old adage, “Great people talk about ideas. Small people talk about other people.” (I’ve seen it attributed to Tobias Gibson.) Think about what people talk about in society – the weather and other trivial facts, other people, themselves (the smallest of people surely fit here), and ideas. Can you not see that the adage is true?

Yes, religion and politics can bring disagreement in discussion, but they are the seedbed of ideas. All of life goes back to the core questions all of man has, whether he seeks their answers or seeks to avoid them, “Who is God?” and “Who is man?” and “What has God done?” and “How then is man to live?” You cannot escape religion and government in discussing ideas, because these are core to life itself. It is in the discussion of ideas that the mind grows – that society grows. And in discussing ideas, a child and a child’s mind grows.

There are educational philosophies that believe in teaching the great ideas, but — only in the later years of education. They spend the early years filling the child with facts to memorize. They believe the child will have something to think on and understand later, if he is full of facts first.

I respectfully disagree. A young child truly can reason and understand. Granted, not at the level of an adult, we grow in wisdom and understanding. But a child wants ideas; he longs for ideas; he continually asks “Why?” We’ve given a child a false misconception of value by granting our exuberant praise for rattling off a list he has memorized, rather than for his question of “Why?” Do we not see that a child who asks “Why?” has a hunger for learning. He desires growth. A child trained to rattle off information for praise has a hunger for self-acclamation. Knowledge truly puffs up. Surely we desire our children to hunger for growth in life and character more than self-acclaim and pride.

Does our basis of ideas mean we do not teach facts? Of course not! That would be impossible. As a Christian growth (not education) seminar I attended years ago taught, “Knowledge does not lead to wisdom. Wisdom always leads to knowledge.” It fits perfectly in our style of education. Information does not of itself lead to anything but parroting of knowledge. Ideas always apply to information. They are studied out in their very applications.

Learning ideas is our goal. We teach information within the context of ideas to give the information meaning. Learning is not just “knowledge.” It is wisdom, understanding, and knowledge – the proper understanding of knowledge and application of truth. As God’s Word teaches, “knowledge puffs up.” Men are “ever increasing in knowledge but never coming to the truth.” Yet, the “Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” “Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge….” In my words, teach information within the context of ideas, with the understanding and application of the ideas being the goal of the lesson. That is, above all teach Biblical ideas (principles) as the foundation of all of education and life.


Timeline Figures

It’s been over a year since I’ve written anything about timelines, but I get asked alot about where to find timeline figures to go with my PIPEline of HisStory.

There are several options:

1) You can draw and write your own. A 3×5 index card cut in half works great. You can either just write the name and date or you can draw (and color) a picture of the person or event. You may want to draw a symbol of their contribution on the card, such as making a picture frame around artists, a treble clef with composers, a crown for government leaders, a cross for Christian leaders, etc. You can also cut them out in shapes if you’d like, either a basic “person” shape or a representative shape such as a crown for government leaders etc. If you choose to do shapes, you can reproduce the shape several times on a sheet of cardstock and copy/print to to have ready to write or draw on and cut out.

2) You can find free or cheap pictures to use. Some people buy old sets of encyclopedias to cut up. But now we have the internet! You could do your own searches, but that takes way too much time for me. I prefer to use  picture groups already put together from websites like Homeschooling with Notebooking. I’ve also found a few nice ones at Christian Hearts Homeschooling.

3) You can purchase sets of figures. We used to sell a timeline with pictures you color yourself. I just found it available online now – Drawing from the Past. Homeschool in the Woods produces the History through the Ages timeline figures you can color, but I’ve never used these.

Start by ordering the PIPEline of HisStory and get started creating your own unique timeline by any of the methods listed here.


What’s in a Notebook?

We Journal our studies in Books of Remembrance. I’ve already shared about using Lapbooking to Journal. In this post I’m sharing about our regular Journals. Some people call this Notebooking. Journaling is collecting in a binder all the things you learn from your study. It can be simple or elaborate, down to earth scholarly or glitzy and artistic.

Journaling is not storing your worksheets in a binder, nor is it printed off encyclopedia or other articles, nor is it just reports. It is your own personally written text living book of the topic you studied. It should express your own ideas about the topic.

You can use color and design to ‘brighten’ up your Notebooks, not just the covers, but also the pages. Depending on your personality that may be just using colored paper and/or adding a picture, or maybe it will be using unique layout on the pages and a variety of ‘scrapbooking’ fancies. Another possibility is to use templates, a preprinted page with a heading and perhaps picture, and space to add your own info.

What do we put in our Notebooks? Here’s a few ideas.

Copywork or dictation of quotes, Scripture, a poem, a song, a play, a recipe,
Notes, narrations, summaries, reviews, outlines, graphic organizers/mind maps
T-charts, other charts and graphs, illustrations/drawings, colorings
Map work, geographic reports
Timelines, pictures, a photojournal
Word studies, definitions, glossary
Biographical or Character sketch
Essays, reports, speeches, correspondence
Brochures, postcards, flyers

It doesn’t even have to be just ‘paper’ items. You can also add 3-dimentional projects that are small enough to fit in. Or you may want to include a CD of music, a performance, a multi-media presentation or a website/pages you’ve designed on your topic, or maybe even a DVD of a movie/play you produced/performed. The sky binder thickness is the limit!

We save each item in our Books of Remembrance in page protectors. If it is worth Journaling, it is worth protecting. And don’t forget to make a nicely designed cover for your Book of Remembrance too.

Have a blast writing your own living books of the topics you study through making Books of Remembrance.

And learn more about Journaling and the other methods used in Lifestyle Education through Discipleship™ in our L.E.D. ‘How to’ book, Freedom & Simplicity on R Road to Biblical Wisdom.


Books of Remembrance IV

Hmmm, I said I would write a Part 4 to conclude this series on “MyMini Books of Remembrance”, but I didn’t write down what I planned to conclude with right away, and I now have no idea what it was. Let me think a minute, and review. In Part 1 we covered what a “MyMini Book of Remembrance” is and why to make them. In Part 2 we covered general questions about making MyMini BOR’s. In Part 3 we covered the supplies needed. So that must leave the nitty gritty details for this Part 4 – How to actually MAKE the MyMini Book of Remembrance.

But before I get into that, I did remember one supply I left out of Part 3, pictures. You may want to find or draw images to enliven your MyMini Book of Remembrance. You can draw your own pictures, cut or copy them out of books or magazines, or find online clip art to print out. Add them to the your mini-books and the BOR folder itself. These will all help enhance your BOR.

Now on to making mini-books and your MyMini Book of Remembrance:

A mini-book will be made anytime you have a piece of info to add to your MyMini Book of Remembrance. If you are teaching one point per day, and/or one theme per week, it won’t be hard to determine the basic “what” you will put in your mini-book. How you want to state it and what form of mini-book you will put it in is where your/your child’s creativity comes in.

You may state your main point of the lesson as a “title” for your mini-book, then include some of the details you learned about it. You may be state things you learned as questions and answers. In teaching by Biblical principles, many times our main point is followed up by examples/applications. We also many times are looking at the internal cause or meaning and the external action or effect. The choice is totally yours as to how to present what you have learned. Again, as I stated in Part 3, do not get hung up on some supposed right way of doing this and mimicing someone else’s BOR. This is for what YOU learned.

Some mini-books have general limitations which will help you choose which mini-book to make. A single Match Book presents 2 pieces of information. A Tri-fold Book presents 3. And an Envelope Book presents 4. Flap Books and Layered Books can be varied greatly in number of ideas you can present in one. I made a proto-type folder of all the types of mini-books. My children are able to look at it to determine which type of mini-book best suits the material they want to add to their BOR.

Generally, throughout the lesson/week the children are encouraged to take notes – preferably in graphic outline (mindmapping) form. for example, our weekly (or longer) theme may be the Parables of Jesus. Each day we study a different parable, looking at the meaning. The children are noting what the parable was about, its Bible reference (Book, chapter and verses) and its meaning. At the end of the week/theme, they make their mini-book. A Layered Book or a Flap Book would both be good for presenting this theme with so many different details. On the outside they may write “Parables of Jesus” – perhaps here or on the first page giving the definition of a parable. Then on each flap or bottom of the layer giving the reference and/or the “name” of the parable. Inside they can tell (briefly) what it was and what it meant.

Or how about a biography you are reading. As you read, take notes on the person’s history, influences, character, and contributions. If it is a part of another study, you may just want one mini-book on this person. Perhaps make a Quad Shutter Book (that closes) for this. Put the person’s name, birth and death dates and their picture on the outside. On the 4 shutters inside list the 4 aspects of their life (above) or a quality from them in the person’s life, then under each shutter write examples and details.

Perhaps you are doing a whole BOR on this one person. You can use one section of the BOR for each of the 4 aspects of their life, with 1-3 mini-books each. For example, in the History section you may want to do a Timeline Book of their life, perhaps another mini-book on their childhood and one on their adult life, or one on where they lived, or what their world was like then. On the Influences section you would put mini-books on their education and other key influences in their lives. I think of Helen Keller; you’d want a whole mini-book on Anne Sullivan. In the Character section perhaps you can identify 2-3 character traits that were prominent in this person’s life and do a mini-book for each, giving examples from their life that show that character trait. In the Contributions section, you will put mini-books that demonstrate their achievements in life. For example, for George Washington perhaps you’d want a mini-book on his military contributions and one on his Presidential contributions.

These are all just very small tips of endless icebergs for creating mini-books themselves. Now, what do we do with them? We keep our mini-books in zip lock baggies until we are finished with our topic and ready to make our “MyMini”. As you make your mini-books, be thinking ahead as to how you want to lay them out. As suggested above you may want them organized into sections or a certain order. OTOH, perhaps they can be placed anywhere in the folder. Let your eye be your guide.

When you are ready to put your MyMini BOR together, fold your file folder into a shutter fold and start laying out your mini-books. Experiment until you like the lay-out, then glue them in. Make some sort of “cover” design for the outside of your BOR. You may not want it to be a folded mini-book, but perhaps a picture and title. You can glue on these aspects or just draw/write them on.

Too many mini-books to fit in your folder? Make extensions. You may need just one extra panel, or maybe you need a whole extra folder or more. No problem, MyMini Books of Remembrance are expandable.

In this series of articles I have only given you a taste of what can be done with MyMini Books of Remembrance. I plan to devote a whole session or two to this in our Freedom & Simplicity™ of Lifestyle Education through Discipleship™ seminar, late this spring in North Platte, NE. I hope you can join us.

But above all remember, we are children of the Creator Himself, made in His image. He has placed within each one of us creativity. How can you use yours to document your learning in Books of Remembrance?


Books of Remembrance III

Greetings form Me and My House,

This is part 3 of this series. Part 1 here. Part 2 here. In this part we will cover what all is needed to make a MyMini Book of Remembrance.

Some people get really hung up on this. It really is not hard at all. And you certainly don’t need a kit or someone else’s plans to direct you through this. Like its big sister Book of Remembrance Journaling (Notebooking) it is the record of what you have learned/internalized from your studies. No one else can lay that out for you. PLEASE do not use this to try to copy someone else’s learning.

All you need is the basics – the supplies, and instructions for making the mini-booklets – and of course something you have learned and want to document.

Your supplies begin with paper to make the mini-booklets out of.
You could use plain ol’ white copy paper, but that would be very boring. Go to the office supply store (or Walmart, if yours has it) and get an array of various colored papers, brights, neons, primaries, pastels, whatever you desire – just standard 20-24 weight.

You will also need scissors and glue – glue sticks work great. If you like nice straight cuts you may want a paper trimmer, a small one such as used for scrapbooking works great.

You will also need some kind of writing utensil. Again, something not quite so boring as a plain pencil or blue ink pen. Various colored fine tip markers are great – preferably ones that don’t bleed through the page.

The last supply you need is file folders. Again, please bypass the boring tan manila ones and get the pretty colors. 3 cut or 5 doesn’t matter.

I’ve already told you in part 1 where to get your instructions for the mini-books, Dinah Zike’s The Big Book of Books and Activities – unless you have a friend that will show you. (Yes just that one book is all you need.)

In part 4 I will conclude this series.


Books of Remembrance II

Greetings from Me and My House,

Continuing discussion on MyMini Books of Remembrance. Read Part 1 here.

Several questions are usually asked about MyMini Books of Remembrance, otherwise known as “lapbooks”, “shutterbooks”, or my shortened term for ours MyMini BOR. Who does them? When do they do them? What do they cover? Here’s some answers.

“Do we make one MyMini BOR as a family or does each child make their own?” Yes. Do both. At times your children will want to each make their own MyMini BOR on a study they do. At other times one book can be made together. You can assign, or each child can choose, one or more aspects that they will do a mini-book on and then you can arrange them all together into one MyMini BOR.

“Do we make one BOR per day or per week or per month?” Yes. Well, it might be a little rare to make one per day, but you could make one mini-book per day or 2 to add to your BOR. For the actual BOR, weekly or monthly, depending on the topic, are both normal. A couple examples from our home:
1) 3 of our children took a 3 day art class with Barry Stebbing. After the class they made a MyMini BOR together.
2) Our children have also done MyMini BORs on their own over a 6 week topic.

Mini-books can be made daily or weekly, then all compiled into the BOR at the end of the unit. Or you can wait until the end of the study, and take a day or a few to make the mini-books and the MyMini BOR.

“Do we include all subjects in one BOR or make a different BOR for each subject?” Yes. Some of our MyMini BORs are on specific subjects, some are on everything we’ve learned during a certain time period, most are on whatever we covered during a topical study that integrated several subjects.

Continued in Part 3 and Part 4.


Mini Books of Remembrance

You’ve probably heard of MyMini Books of Remembrance by another name – lapbooks. Or perhaps shutterbooks. They are made up of little booklets, sometimes called minit-books, mini-books, or book folds. We began making them many years ago. But like many good things they sometimes got brushed aside, and we needed “reawakened” to them and their joys.

In Exodus 17:14 God tells Moses to write a book of remembrance and to tell it to another; “Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua.” Journaling is a big part of Lifestyle Education through Discipleship™. We teach our children to journal their learning, not only for their own benefit but also as a “text” that they can teach others from, patterning off of this Scripture. This too is how we learn to teach.

But sometimes plain old Journaling in our Notebooks can become kind of mundane. We begin to lose our joy in it. We forget the creativity God has placed in us. Sometimes we lose sight of the Wisdom seen in the “Big Picture”. That’s the time to remember to pull out our colored papers and colored folders, some scissors and glue, and make those Books of Remembrance” something to really remember, by making MyMini Books of Remembrance.

MyMini Books of Remembrance are perhaps the best, primary method of Journaling for our younger children. Our youth still enjoy it and can use it as much as they’d like also. These truly are books that help them remember what they have learned.

Just what is a MyMini Book of Remembrance (or lapbook)? It is several small uniquely cut and folded booklets, made from colored paper, containing the things we’ve learned – one thing per mini-book, attached to a shutterfolded file folder (preferably colored 🙂 ) Dinah Zike has written the definitive book for making the little books. It’s called The Big Book of Books.

Well, with that introduction, I close for tonight. I have much more to share with you on this topic. But it will have to be on another day. I hope I’ve at least inspired you to check this out further.

Continue to Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this topic.