Subjects or Unit Studies?

The question has been raised, “Should we teach by subjects or by unit studies?”

Schools have traditionally fragmented the subjects, each one stood alone, artificially isolated. But it has now become vogue to integrate (rather than isolate) the subjects into “unit studies”, at least in the elementary years. However, much of what is put together into “unit studies” many times is an artificial construction too. It seems many times the creators of unit studies are going through their scope and sequence, and thinking, “Hmm, we have to cover this, this and that; how can we fit this into that so we don’t leave any gaps?” The result is many times contrived and forced, not a natural flow.

Real Life is melded. It fits and works together – integrated, not fragmented into isolated bits. It’s integrated, but yet it flows naturally. (This could take us on a whole other rabbit trail against the isolation of the “sacred” and “secular”. But I won’t go there today.)

So back to education. Each discipline/subject has its own rudiments, origin and purpose/history, vocabulary and such. Yet, this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be melded together as they fit. They can and do flow together naturally.

There is a natural “tension” that recognizes the Individuality of each discipline, but also encourages the natural flow together of Unity with Diversity, as things fit. It is natural to study a piece of literature from the same historical period you are studying, and to both read and write on those things, to learn of the scientific discoveries from that time, to look at the governments of the time, and all of it through the lens of Scripture. It is real life – individual, yet in union.

By the way, in L.E.D. we call these Topical Studies.



Timelines are a great visual resource for seeing how HisStory fits together. We have utilized many different types over our years of educating at home. Different types work best for different things. Here I’ll mention just a few that we are currently using – and one of of main timelines that we are NOT currently using.

Ruth Beechick says a Timeline should be easy enough to memorize, that is, your basic points of reference should be. These points of reference help you place everything else within a context. We call our points of reference the PIPEline of HisStory™.

A simplified PIPEline you could use for younger children and their Notebook divisions is: Creation (God-Adam), Covenant (Abraham-Moses), Cross (Jesus), Reformation (Reformers), Founding (Pilgrims), Forging (Patriots), Restoring (Me).

Our Expanded PIPEline (for older children) is: In the Beginning God/Creation, Adam/the Garden, Noah/the Rainbow, the Patriarchs/the Covenant, Moses/the Law, Daniel/Restoration, Jesus – God with us/the Center of HisStory, Paul/the Early Church, the Reformers/the Reformation, the Pilgrims/the New Land, the Patriots/One Nation Under God, Go Ye/Expansion, Me/Restoration, God/His Kingdom Come.

Because America is significant as the first Christian Republic, we also have a PIPEline for our One Nation Under God: Reserved/the Discovery, Founded/the Pilgrims and Self-Government, Forged/the Patriots Fight for Independence, Established/the Constitution, Expressed/the Westward Expansion, Eroded/the Falling Away, Restoring/Remembering and Returning.

[Update: see the links we use now in our PIPEline of HisStory™.

Our primary wall timeline has been down since we moved here (We were suppose to remodel the library first, but now 5 years later are just now doing it.) I look forward to putting it back up – but will probably do it a bit different. So, here’s what else we currently do.
1) I have a “board” timeline (corrugated poster type) that has our links on it. It is easy to pull out and will sit on our whiteboard tray, yet is big enough for all to see, and show where things are happening according to the PIPEline (chain). We don’t add to this one – just use it to illustrate.

2) but from showing on this one – we make our “Topical Timeline” which is one JUST on the study we are currently working on – i.e. currently Astronomy. It has the links listed down the left side, and the topical things are added down the right side, where they fit in. They show how what we are studying fits into the PIPEline. These are kept in their Notebooks, in the proper divider section. (For those that have Noah Plan materials, these are somewhat like the ones in the NP Curriculum Guides.) See more about this below***.

3) Our youth (teens) also make a Book of Time [now called PIPEline Book of Remembrance] which is a Notebook Timeline which integrates ALL the things from all the topics. It is roughly color coded to match the links on the PIPEline. (I designed it before giving much thought to the links, but it is close.)

Our old wall one pretty much matched the “Book” – but mainly the younger kids to added to. It was a huge “snake” winding across the wall with dates marked on it. The children added figures or 3×5 cards cut in half that have the dates and person/event/whatever on them.

In redesigning our wall timeline before putting it back up (when the library is finished,) I am considering just putting the PIPEline across the top of the wall, and then putting the people/events under the proper “link”, perhaps on ribbons hanging down from each link. [UPDATE: I did design the PIPEline for the wall, and individual additions are placed under each link on the wall.]

Another way we have tried, that may work for you:
3×5 cards and box – Use dividers for the PIPEline (or centuries) and file 3×5 cards with the dates and information in order behind the proper divider. This can be a problem if you have little ones that tend to dump your cards a lot. I had the same problem with the Side-Tracked Home Executives home management program years ago. I spent more time re-ordering my cards that had been dumped again than working.

Many people use a “Book of Centuries” – A Binder with 2-page spreads for each century on which students record events, names, pictures, quotes, whatever. They can also add “papers” about things that happened then- narrations, titles of books read, etc.

***Our PIPE Journal (Notebook) makes this unnecessary. And we believe the PIPEline is a better method than “centuries”. It sorts every thing by the “big picture” context, rather than just dates. It is important to know not just what was happening at the same time, but to see the big picture of the time period.

Our PIPE Journal (HisStory Notebook) is not just a timeline notebook, but it does put what we study into the context of the PIPEline. We have dividers according to the PIPEline (along with a few others, which I’ll explain in an “Our Notebooks” posts someday). In the beginning of the Notebook is our overall PIPEline, behind each divider is an overview of that link, then there are the “Topical Timelines” and individual Notebook pages that relate. It is not just information/facts, but also understanding (reasoning with ideas), and wisdom (the Biblical “big picture”).


Mechanics of Biblical Principles Teaching

Here is a very sketchy outline for learning to teach everything through a Biblical view. I’m not including much how to do each of these things. I’ve written other articles on such – or will. 🙂 This is just to give a very simpliefied “form”.
1. Develop a Biblical view of education – renew your mind.
This is the key. You must start here. It is the foundation for all you do. You must change not only what you think, but how you think. This is a process and will take time, but that is no reason not to start, nor to give up when it doesn’t come as quickly as you’d like. I’ve written plenty elsewhere on this.

2. Wisdom is the principle thing.
To plan and teach your studies, start here. Find the Biblical foundation for all your studies. Utilize vocab of subject through Webster’s 1828 dictionary if needed in addition to your concordance and Bible.
From this Biblical research, gain understanding – determine the underlying principles that form the core of the study. These are the seeds you will plant at every age and stage, from which all knowledge will spring forth. The seed contains the whole – just as wisdom is not just an aspect of learning, but contains the whole. This “whole” is the “big picture”, God’s perspective on the topic. This is the foundation on which all their learning will rest. It must be solid on the Rock.

3. From the Biblical roots trace the history of your topic of study.
Every created thing has a history. and a purpose. How did God use this to advance the Gospel and liberty, or how did the advancement of the Gospel and liberty advance this thing. What individuals did God use? How did He prepare them? and so on.

4. Teach the truths, details, facts in relation to the principles.
Our “seeds” are sprouting and taking root. As they grow, knowledge (these “facts”) are the leaves on the tree. This aspect is usually the beginning and the end for most other types of education. Though it is not unimportant, it is not the principal (most important) thing. Most important is giving them the seed that contains the whole.

5. Utilize the Mashal to teach.
In teaching principles -> knowledge, teach through the mashal – the story, analogies. This is real life education with meaning that touches the heart, not just the mind.

6. Utilize other natural methods for study.
This is as opposed to un-natural methods such as true-false, multiple choice, fill in the blank type workbooks. Basically, our natural methods are discussion for reasoning and Notebooking. Some of the primary means we use in Notebooking are: Copywork, narrations, key sheets, essays. There are many more, but the key is for the students to reason Biblically for themselves. To internalize and “own” their study so they are capable of teaching it to another.

Well, how’s that for a simplified, in a nutshell, “how do you do this?” intro?

Real Life Learning – Family-style

This article is from August 2002, but I don’t see where I posted it when the blog moved here, so here it is…(again?)…

Sometimes you may be tempted to think that homeschool and family life just don’t mix, especially if you have several little ones in your home. Let me encourage you, God knew all about your little ones and their needs before He even called you to educate your older ones at home. He wanted you to learn that home education is a Lifestyle for all of you, newborns to adults. And for you to all learn together.

Real Life Education – family-style – doesn’t happen in a pristine, secluded environment. Nursing newborns, 2 year old tornadoes, and inquisitive 4’s and 5’s are all a part of Real Life Home Education. The last thing we want to do in a godly home is give any of our kids – the older OR younger – the idea that children are an inconvenient pain and a hindrance to accomplishing anything worthwhile in life. We must convey to all of our children that children are a Blessing from the Lord and they should be received as such. This isn’t always easy when they are ACTING like an inconvenient interruption to what we are trying to do. But whether we’re working on educational activities or other projects of life, our children will be there needing loving attention, AND acting like the foolish children they are, until we train them otherwise and let them know what is expected of them. Giving them boundaries that they are capable of keeping within, while also giving them of ourselves.

There are many ideas for you to explore, to see which works best in your home. My guess is that you will use all of them at various times. But all should be in keeping Real Life Living the focus, not education as an isolated fragment of life. In other words, it is unrealistic to expect to set up 45-60 minute class periods at several individual levels, and teach each of these subjects everyday to every child. You will burn-out VERY quickly, especially when you have other little ones that just don’t – SHOULDN’T – fit into a classroom model. Although we want our children to grow into being independent learners, there is something far more valuable for them to learn, and that is Relationship, the interdependence of Real Life. Education happens through the Real Life interdependence of Relationships, not independent isolationism.

We believe education IS a Life. It is growing through exercising all areas of our Life. We exercise our bodies to grow in strength and capabilities. We exercise our minds to grow in intellectual capabilities. We exercise our spirits to grow spiritually. This is not something that can be put into a box of certain hours, or certain rooms or environments, but is something that is of Life, all the time, everywhere, and amongst those we live with. This means we are all learning all the time and together, not just the 6-18 year olds, from 8:30 – 3:30, Monday through Friday.

This will translate into: “short lessons“, as Charlotte Mason proposed; working together, each contributing and learning at their own capabilities; and allowing for flexibility of Real Life. Charlotte Mason utilized short lessons of 10-15 minutes to both hold and pique children’s interest. In the Real Life home this adds the benefit of Mom not being tied up to one thing for long periods of time. When children need individual instruction, she breaks the teaching down into short understandable sections. As we all study the “things of Life” together, we will each learn at the level we are capable of as well as contribute according to our capabilities. We will not all learn the same details and to the same level of understanding, but we – including grown-ups, as well as toddlers, and all those in-between – will learn SOMETHING of the topic as well as learning of Relationships. All will also learn “on their own”, the younger through their work and play, the older through their work and study (as well as play). The older youth need to have independent study time when they can study for longer periods of time while mom cares for the needs of the little ones and the household.

Come Along Side of Us – This is the method we use most, and the most conducive to true “family-style” education as a Lifestyle. When we write, our little ones have paper and pencil and “write” along with us. When we work, they “work” along side of us. When we do hands-on projects or explore nature, they are by our sides. When we read, they sit and listen (or at least keep quiet).

Are there interruptions? Yes. We use these as opportunities to train them. Does it try our patience? Sometimes, but we can’t allow our underdeveloped patience to interfere with these opportunities to train them in attentiveness and obedience (as well as cause us to grow in patience). Can our older ones actually LEARN anything when their lessons are interrupted? Certainly!!, most importantly they should learn that children are valued, need love and training, and that Relationships matter more than anything else. I truly believe that God will honor our keeping first things first and cause all other things to be added to us. In other words, when we keep relationships first yet not neglect the “studies”, He will cause our studies to be fruitful.

Sometimes we just plain aren’t able to read aloud as long as we’d like, due to the little ones needs. Other times we utilize naptime (or for us, before they get up in the morning) to have a longer time period for read-alouds. But we don’t leave the little ones completely out of it, otherwise how will they ever learn to sit quietly and enjoy these times with us?

The Education Toy (TOOL) Box – Many families utilize the “education toy box”, special toys ONLY brought out during “school time”. The problem with this theory in general is that there is a supposed time for “school”, a TIME for education, and other times that are NOT for education. Now, in practical application this CAN work as a part of “Come Along Side of Us”, by giving the little ones their OWN tools of learning. Long before “homeschool” days my mother gave me and my siblings, then later I gave my own little ones, their own measuring cups, bowls, and spoons to play with while she/ I cooked. We had brooms, spray bottles and rags for cleaning alongside. And of course, there was always the ever-present paper and writing utensils of all sorts, coloring books and colors, and puzzles for quiet times. As we brought ALL of education home we added rubber crepe alphabet-letters, “counting” bears and rods, as well as play money and tangrams and attribute shapes. The little ones can “learn independently” and we teach the older “lessons”. they can do this quietly in the same room with you, or in a near by room for a little more quiet.

The Sibling Mentor – Undeniably, there are times when we need to spend concentrated, uninterrupted time with one or several children, and this isn’t always for “school” things. During these times it is helpful to have one of the older children play with the younger ones. How this works out is different for every family, for every family has a different age mix. For those of you with many little ones and no very big ones yet, I remind you that your older doesn’t need much individual “teaching time” yet. He doesn’t need formal academics, and his lessons in Life should be kept short. You may need to utilize naptime. But, even a 4 year old can play with a 2 year old while your newborn is napping or nursing and you are instructing your 8 year old. Your older children don’t just need to WATCH the little ones. They can play with and even TEACH them. This is one of the most overlooked helpful methods for moms of many, multiplying your teaching efforts by utilizing your older ones to help teach the younger. The lesson can be anything from your 5 year old teaching your 2 year old colors and shapes, to your teen teaching his younger siblings to read or math facts. This is of great benefit not only to you and the younger child, but also, very much so, to your older child. He who can teach a thing, knows it well. This method may be needed while you’re teaching a math lesson, – or a disciplinary lesson, or you may utilize it even when you don’t NEED your older one to do it, just plain for his benefit. If you have several older children that need some individual instruction at various levels in math or other skills areas, they can take turns mentoring and playing with the younger ones while you teach the other older ones.

The Electronic Babysitter – This is the least favorable, yet by many, most utilized method. I highly caution you against using it at all! Your little ones will realize that if Mom keeps busy enough, they can watch more TV/videos or play more electronic/ computer games. You will be dulling their minds and training them in habits of “vegetating”. Later, when you want them to focus on learning, you will regret having trained them in unproductive laziness. Your older children will also resent it. “How come they get to watch TV all the time?” And they will wish they could watch TV instead of working at learning. Better to train your little ones to play constructively and quietly, or utilize their nap times, than to foster an addiction to electronic media.

Utilizing primarily Come Along Side of Us, along with The Education Tool Box, and The Sibling Mentor will yield benefits to your family’s education at home. It will foster unity in the family and a great start in learning for your little ones. They will catch on to so much of what you are doing. They will also grow-up knowing that learning is for all and something that all ages do together. The older will learn responsibility for the younger and the younger respect for the older. You all will learn that education is Real Life for all.

If there be any Virtue

I have much on my heart to write to you about Literature – so much more than I have time to get down on paper. The topic of Reading has been one of my dearest for my whole life. To actually WRITE about READING from a Literature perspective, rather than a learning to read perspective has been on my heart for several months. Ideas have been stirring, how to get my heart on paper – well in type on screen anyhow – is the hard part. God has put several more resources before me, and I have re-read and re-listened to several others. I’m really trying to get the “Lifestyle Curriculum – Excellence without Textbooks” book done, but it has a ways to go before it’s copyready. Baby, Husband, Children, and Teaching comprise most of my time right now – and these short articles when I can slip them in.

“If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8Virtue is a word rarely heard anymore, nor even seen for that matter. In our society of situational relativism, few are trained in it and few personally aspire to it. True Virtue seems to have pretty much gone the way of the horse and buggy. It’s an interesting relic from the past, but of little value today, only possessed by those that are a little out of step with the world. A recent movie illustrated just this point. All the ladies were intrigued over Leopold’s chivalry, but in the end, “come on Leopold get with it, that just doesn’t work out in real life”.

Truly! “Who can find a virtuous woman?” and are there any virtuous men out there? What is Virtue? The lexical aids in my Bible state that Virtue is the “force or energy of the Holy Spirit”, which easily explains why it’s not found in Godless society. Virtue is strength of moral excellence. It is “in a moral sense, what gives man his worth.”‘ In our society where everyone is looking to find their worth in selfish vain glory, we need only to return to strong moral excellence to find our worth waiting.

God sees Virtue as so important that He tells us to “give all diligence” to add to our Faith, Virtue. It won’t come naturally. It is only developed by diligence. Christian home educator’s seem to be on the forefront in giving diligence to returning to the training of Virtue in their children’s and their own lives. It seems to be one of the most sought after resource areas after the main academics, and in many families even more important than the academics, in following 2 Peter 1:5, to begin with Faith, then add Virtue, and then Knowledge. But regardless of all the programs to teach Virtue available, it only comes by the power of the Holy Spirit at work to transform us as we diligently renew our minds. To renew our minds we must think on such things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, that are virtuous and praiseworthy, as Philippians 4:8 instructs us, because “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:7. For us to be affected by transforming power, the renewing of the mind must touch more than just our mental thoughts, it must reach our hearts. The mind is renewed when the heart is touched. The God-centered Judeo-Christian philosophy of education demonstrates this in it’s focus on relationships. Where a humanistic Greek philosophy of education focuses on knowledge – the teaching the material to instruct the mind, a Biblical philosophy focuses on teaching the student and to instruct his heart through relationship.

The Hebrew term Mashal encompasses the core method of this philosophy, used much throughout God’s instruction to us in His Word. Mashal carries the original sense of “superiority in mental action,” coming from the primary root, meaning “to rule,” indicating the superiority of teaching by this method. It conveys teaching by likeness, through the use of maxims, comparative and figurative language-metaphors, parables, allegories, proverbs, and through poetry and song. Mashal doesn’t compare only within itself, but forces us to compare ourselves to the story, “compelling the hearer or reader to form a judgement on himself, his situation, or his conduct” (A.S. Herbert), as excellent Storytelling does.

When this comparison is made to the usual fare of worldly stories (in books, movies, or television) that most people read (and watch) today, the tendency is to judge ourselves as “not too bad,” as we (particularly if we’re Christians) “don’t do those things.” We can read and watch these stories and never be moved from our comfort zone–nor be changed into the image of Christ, as we compare ourselves to the lowest depravity of man present in these depictions of “life” and pride ourselves on being “better than that.” It is only when we fill our minds with the excellence of Philippians 4:8, in the form of the Mashal, that our hearts are reached and changed.

Mark Hamby, of Lamplighter Publishing, has a term for these kinds of stories–Life Transforming Literature, stories that touch our hearts with Philippians 4:8 values and transform our lives to the image of Christ. As you probably already know, there is not an abundance of this type of literature being written today. Much on the shelves, even in the realm of “Christian books” by “Christian” authors is written to amuse the flesh and “tickle the ear,” not to challenge the soul. Also much of what is written to challenge the soul, is not written as Mashal, but in the more Greek method of reasoning with the mind.

But there are Christian authors and publishers committed to providing training in Virtue, based on Mashallic literature. Lamplighter Publishing has a series of books called Rare Collector’s featuring over 40 captivating stories of Virtue, republished from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. We doubt that anyone can read them without being touched. Contemplate this segment from A Basket of Flowers.

One beautiful morning which succeeded a two days’ rain, Mary and her father went into the garden, and found the first lilies in bloom. They were in an ecstasy of admiration. The flowers were beautiful, but as the garden had long been neglected, Mary’s relentless care had not been able to subdue the weeds. Her beautiful lilies were indeed lilies among thorns. “And so is His church”, said James; “those who have been washed clean, have put on His righteousness; and rising upward like the straight stem of the lily, must grow through the crooked and twisted mass around them. Notice, my child, the reflection of the sun on this petal. So are we to reflect the Sun of Righteousness. The bright lily has no kindred among thorns. It is evidently a plant of a different kind; and one day God will transplant His lily to bloom in the garden where thorns are unknown.”

These stories with the language of times gone by and deep meaning imbedded in the words, that many would say “will go over the heads of children, so won’t hold their interest” are captivating the hearts of our children. They perhaps don’t know every meaning of every word, nor perhaps understand the deeper hidden meanings, but their hearts are enthralled and being changed as they beg for just one more chapter.

As home educator’s, we, with our own humanistic Greek education background, find it difficult to believe that we can teach our children by “just reading or telling them stories,” yet this is the primary way that God has chosen to instruct us. The proof is in the outcome. Lives are changed by Relationships of the heart whether through people directly or through books. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, the great Christian speaker and proponent for great Christian literature, in particular biographies of the Heroes of the Faith, is known for saying, “You’ll be the same today as you were five years ago except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

In one of my latest favorite parenting books, Romancing Your Child’s Heart, Monte Swan, home educator from CO, gets to the heart of this issue and captures your own heart as you read, (although you may not agree with every specific application–we don’t, you’ll find it hard to disagree with his philosophy and conclusions). I’ll begin here as Monte quotes from theologian Vigen Guroian, “‘Our children are in jeopardy and so is the future of virtue and human goodness as well.’ (Monte continues,) The solution to this crisis is not more religious education, with the goal of indoctrinating a child by hammering home yet more dry tenets of orthodox thinking. Nor is the solution to offer more courses, and at a younger age, in “values clarification.” Children do not need a shopping list of character qualities or values from which to pick and choose. They need adult guidance in knowing how to live well.

…. We must keep in mind that children learn almost nothing from abstractions and almost everything from stories. Abstractions are impersonal and detached. Stories are practical and personal. Children learn through stories because they internalize them. …. When the characters live happily ever after, the child is connected, if only for an instant, with the larger Story ….– the Story that promises eternal happiness for those who come to God by faith. ….Stories are our primary method for romancing our child’s heart, first to ourselves, and then to God.

…. Children who grow up hearing and seeing stories are far better prepared to step into our culture. …. However–and this is crucial–we as parents need to select carefully the stories to which our children are exposed. The challenge is to find stories through which the larger Story runs like a thread. …. For children raised this way, their whole childhood and adolescence has been a rehearsal for living as adults in our culture. They are practiced in the art of living in story. ….They do not need to search for meaning–they have found it already. They become preoccupied, enthralled, fascinated, captivated by the larger Story, like deer panting after the water brooks–people after God’s own heart.

…. This desire and ability to live in the larger Story is described in the Proverbs as “the way wisdom.” …. The ability and passion to live in the way of wisdom are best taught to children through stories. Stories bring biblical knowledge, doctrine, character, and virtue to life–they are the process of applying these to life according to God’s will. ….The way of wisdom is not a stuffy, boring religious concept. It is the literal and spiritual path that almighty God has designed for each of us to walk through this life.

…. Everyone has a story. We all live in a story in one way or another. And all our stories are part of the larger Story ….–and all are connected at the heart. The only thing we can do wrong is not try.”


On Writing Topical Studies

I just replied on another list to a question about writing Unit Studies. As most of you probably know, we don’t write “Unit Studies” per se, but we do base our planning on Topical Studies. My answer includes some of the differences (as I see them) – mostly having to do with the amount of structure and mom burn-out, and includes how we believe Topical Studies can be written within the context of the Freedom and Simplicity of education LED by the Spirit, through Lifestyle Education through Discipleship. It obviously is not as thorough as our publications on this, but it gives a simple overview. I feel the post is appropriate to send to this list, and hope you can glean more about L.E.D. through it. God is ever impressing me to mentor other moms/parents in MORE than just the philosophy of L.E.D. and pass on, in a practical way, what I have learned.

Dear —–,

Writing a unit study is a trade-off like anything else. Which do you have more of – free time or money? Is your only motivation to save money, or do you have other philosophical reasons for writing your own study? How structured do you want your family’s education to be? How old are your children and how many do you have? How in-depth do you want to go? Are you looking at writing a complete – several years, covers everything – curriculum or one unit on a topic of interest?

Trying to write a completely integrated (all subjects), full curriculum (one year or several, to cover everything, for all children) is a LOT of work and probably not worth it, if you don’t have philosophical reasons and it’s not a love and burning desire for you to do it. Burn out is a common result for mom’s who try to do this. IOW, $70 is a small price to pay for such a thing.

OTOH, pulling together topical studies for the whole family (even for their ENTIRE curriculum), in a family that has a “relaxed” approach needn’t be a big deal. It all depends on whether MOM is up to doing a whole lot of studying and writing and planning herself (the previous paragraph’s way) or if she’s going to facilitate the children doing the learning, yet provide some direction (this paragraph’s way).

For philosophical reasons, I write our own Topical Studies. Because I have teens, I base our whole family’s studies on them, and utilize a cycle approach to make sure that everything (that *I* deem necessary for high school) is covered within that cycle. Our younger children’s approach to this is much more relaxed, and I probably wouldn’t have even the stucture that I do in it if I had ONLY little ones. Since this list is about Hi-School, I’ll try to keep things geared toward it (and try not to veer from [list name’s book] principles :- ), but the principles apply for the whole family – using [list name’s book] or not. I think, [list name’s book] is a good way to pull it all together for documentation, credits, etc. [note to l.e.d. list = I DO NOT feel this book is NECESSARY for this in a L.E.D. education.]

What I have learned over the years in writing Topical Studies, to prevent stress and burn out is:

1) I don’t try to force every subject to integrate into each study. If they fit in naturally, they are included. If it’d cause me to have to spend much time and stress trying to figure out how to get a certain subject to “fit in”, I don’t force it. I believe many published unit studies REALLY STRETCH to try to create a relationship between things, just because they “have to” cover all the subjects, and all areas of each subject, throughout the curriculum, and they want it to all be integrated. LIFE is integrated and not fragmented into “subjects”, but it is also RELATIONAL not forced.

EXAMPLE: Learning about a certain composer and his music during the time period he lived is relational. Learning how to cook the meals that our family eats can be learned quickly on its own without “integrating” it into a History or whatever unit, although if a child WANTS to cook some time-period/ethnic food that relates to the study, they are free to do it.

2) I don’t stress out trying to rack my brain for a list of endless activities for my children to do related to the study. IF there is something that comes to me as important and relative that I want them to do, I include it. If not, they think of their own activities, if any. They are usually required to do certain TYPES of projects within the study, but not certain ACTIVITIES themselves – especially, to use a C. Mason term, “twaddly” ones. Again, most published unit studies have long overwhelming lists of activities, but many are irrelevant to learning the material and time wasters. IOW, an activity must produce something worthwhile (not a project to be trashed when done, because it has no future relavence) OR it must be something that the child just WANTS to do, because it is relevant to him from this study.

EXAMPLE: They are not required to “write a fictional journal of a girl that came to America on the Mayflower”. They ARE to write various narrations, summaries, essays, etc. and to keep a Book of Time (timeline) …. They ARE required to demonstrate certain science principles, but not to do SPECIFIC experiments. Communication skills (language arts/English) is NATURALLY integrated into EVERY Topical Study, through Notebooking, and other natural methods.

3) I don’t spend weeks/months? covering a topic with the above activities and rehashing things over and over and reading EVERYTHING we can find on the topic, when it can be done in a short amount of time through a few EXCELLENT books, resources and projects. NEVER drag anything out. IF our children are interested in learning more and deeper things about the topic we continue as long as interest AND new, deeper learning is taking place – but we don’t continue just because I planned for it to last a certain amount of time. IF interest has waned and we’ve used some EXCELLENT resources to learn the important things, we move on. Our children don’t have to know EVERYTHING about EVERY topic.

4) I don’t think that EVERYTHING that our highschoolers “need” or want to know can be learned through “integrated unit studies” – at least through ones that all the subjects aren’t forced into irrelevant places. They will undoubtable have outside (the topical studies) interests (and perhaps even “needs”) that they pursue.

5 – ?) I’m sure I haven’t remembered everything.

Here’s one way to plan a complete curriculum based on Topical Studies:
Working from the “Big Picture” perspective – i.e. you have a list (loose or detailed) of what you want your child to “cover” in high school and the credits you want them to earn. You begin with the “Big Picture” and work your way down to the details, in your planning.

BIG PICTURE PLANNING (based on Pro. 24:3-4):
1) Determine what courses you require and how many credits in each for their total high school requirements. (Other, teen chosen, courses can be electives.) EXAMPLE: History/Social Studies – 1 credit US, 1 credit World, 1/2 credit Government/Civics.

2) Break each course down into Topics (usually 3-7 main areas or so). EXAMPLE: Divide World History into 5-7 time period Topics. Divide Life Science/Biology into Plant and Animal and Human Topics.

1) Write a “Learning Map” (outline) for each Topic of what points you think are important for high-school “coverage”. Some teens can do this for themselves and can just be given a list of “topics” and your “required” book/resource list. Others want more structure and like having this guide. Some could even be just given a list of required courses and could design their own Topical Studies and Learning Maps and Resource Lists, BUT in our home we believe it is OUR job to teach and train our children and have some guidelines and requirements, even through high school. This is guided preparation for their own future self-directed studies and home educating their own children.

2) Search out EXCELLENT Living Literature/Real Resources (books, places, people, and experiences) that present the Topic in an interesting, godly (Biblical WorldView) way. (Every resource may not have a Biblical Worldview, but the foundation for the topic must be presented through it in a Christian education. i.e. a field trip may not be to a place with a “Christian Worldview” but it is not the foundational source of their study.) We usually have some *required* resources, some *optional* resources, and of course, they are free to add other resources (within our guidelines – such as not ungodly, not “twaddly”/dumbed down).

3) Find enough of these resources to cover the topic as thoroughly as you think it needs to be covered, (or require them to find other resources.)

4) As the Topic is covered, you will branch out across “subject” lines. Document each part of the Topical Study under the proper “Course”. Don’t get too stressed out about this; they can be moved around later, if need be.

5) As Topics naturally integrate you may find that you don’t have to “do” a certain Topic because you have already covered it through its natural relationships with other Topics. That how “credits” add up in [list name’s book] [AND L.E.D.].

Having said all that, I do believe that there are good published unit studies – complete curriculum – for even high school. I have only used one of them (several years ago), but I’ve seen others that look good. All that I’ve seen have had some of the drawbacks I’ve mentioned, but IF you are looking for a complete, stuctured integrated curriculum [rather than creating a Lifestyle Education through Discipleship]- and you are not a HIGHLY CREATIVE WRITER with a BURNING DESIRE, and MUCH TIME to do this, I think they are worth the money.

If you are comfortable with the relaxed approach [of L.E.D.] and want more info on writing your own – from MY perspective anyhow – (I’m sure I haven’t covered this thoroughly) I invite you to check out our website: [website updated] and ed blog here or join our elist [elist changed and blog sites added]. You are invited to ask questions.


Developing a Biblical Worldview

The teaching of “thinking skills” has become big in education in the past few years. Although we believe God wants our children (and US!) to learn to think correctly, in fact Romans 12:1-2 tells us that our way of thinking HAS to be CHANGED, as usual I think “school” (the mentality, whether in a government or Christian institution, or at home) has gone about this all wrong. There is a place for Formal Logic and Reasoning to be learned by some – mature teens and adults, but generally, I don’t believe children need to be taught “thinking skills” as a separate class subject.

It’s not that we don’t think it’s important, but rather we believe learning to reason properly is a part of LEARNING in ALL subjects, actually all aspects of Life. It is through the application of gaining Wisdom, in ALL of Life. It isn’t a separate, fragmented class to take, just as “Christian Education” isn’t tacking a Bible class onto your academic curriculum list. It is impermeating, and basing ALL that you learn, with and ON God’s Word. “Wisdom is the principal thing,” for wisdom is thinking God’s thoughts, and there is no higher Logic.

We really don’t focus on “thinking skills” as such, but rather developing a Biblical Worldview, which is just another way of saying “thinking God’s thoughts”. It’s having the same view of an aspect of Life that God Himself has of it. We think this is the most important thing we teach, and our goal in training and teaching our children – beyond loving and knowing Jesus personally, of which this is a part.

I think we’re doing a great job in “giving” our children a Biblical World, through reading that imparts the Scriptural view of things, and our own modeling of “Biblical thinking”. It truly is something WE must develop in our own lives first. Most of us have been thoroughly indoctrinated by our own education and just living in society with a humanist, even Marxist, and definitely unbiblical way of thinking. Many, perhaps MOST, of today’s Christians – even Evangelical Christians – have not renewed their minds and been transformed out of this mindset. We allow this mindset to not only remain in us, but it’s ever increasingly anti-scriptural view to set our children’s way of thinking, too.

That’s why, in several of the last few posts, in talking about “where do we begin?”, I’ve stressed that the parent’s reeducation must be the foundation. Although these articles have focused on transforming our view of EDUCATION, our renewing can’t stop there. Our way of thinking must be transformed in ALL areas – not just education. God has a view and His Word has the answer for EVERY area of life. As Marshall Foster, of the Mayflower Institute says, our goal is not to just raise kids who aren’t pregnant and on drugs by age 18. It’s to raise World Changers, for the glory of God. To do this we must have a transformed, Biblical Worldview AND impart that into our children.

4 simple steps taken from Marshall Foster give us the guidelines to this:

1. Teach the mighty deeds of God – that is History as His Story, the workings of God throughout the ages. Read Psalm 78. Verses 4-7 say: “We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. … which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; …”

2. Read original biographies. These are the true original stories of people’s lives and how God worked in them, including the futility of those without faith in God; not a dumbed-down, politically correct, revisionists view of someone’s life. Read Hebrews 11. 1 Cor. 10:11 says: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

3. “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Cor. 15:33 According to the Word, your children will turn out like who they spend much time with, and other’s bad morals will rub off much faster than your child’s good morals will rub off on them. This includes real people of course, but also TV, computer or video games, and even reading books that have a non-biblical view. Pro. 13:20 “He who walks with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” I could go on and on here, but would undoubtedly get off on a rabbit trail that I will cover more thoroughly in another post. Hint: It has to do with Wisdom and Fearing God, the whole basis of a Biblical Worldview.

4. Make life and home a joyful revolution. Home is the center for God’s dynasty and the basic tool for God’s kingdom to be built. You are the center focus of this. Make your home the center of YOUR and YOUR FAMILY’S LIFE. Make it a joyful place to be. Model Biblical “gender” roles. Develop an atmosphere – provide a good library, historically 60% theology, 40% history. Build culture yourself – paraphrasing Dr. Spurgeon, “Set yourself on fire and your kids will come to watch you burn.” As I said, MODEL IT! God has a purpose and plan, not just for YOUR life, but for your DYNASTY – those you disciple. Deut. 6:3-7 says: “YOU fear the Lord your God, keep all His statutes and His commandments… be careful to observe it,…these words shall be in YOUR HEART. You shall teach them diligently to your children ….” Pro. 22:6 says: “train up a child” – this is a word picture of passing on YOUR tastes and culture to your children. Make sure they are GOD’S! – the way they SHOULD go. There is far more said to our husbands than us moms on this, but Pro. 14:1 says: “The wise woman builds her house…” And Pro. 31:26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, …”

As I said, by modeling this and giving our children great reading based on a Biblical Worldview, they will *HAVE* a Biblical Worldview. But will they be able to REASON from this worldview? I believe THAT training takes a little more than just reading and having modeled to him. Hebrews 5:14 says: “Solid food belongs to those who are mature, that is those who by reason of use (practice) have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” To do this, we must (and must teach our children to) not just read, but also study and “exercise their senses”. Their reasoning skills aren’t developed just by hearing, but also by practicing. This is accomplished through the 6 Processes of Learning:

1. Receive – taking in information.

2. Record/ Recite – record that information through quoting and through their own words, “parroting back” through Copywork, Recitation, Oral or Written Narration.

3. Ruminate – “to chew on”, think about the new info, relate it to what we already know.

4. Reason/ Relate – to actually process the information and make judgement on it. We MUST have the foundation of Wisdom through God’s Word in order to do this. The 4R method used in the Principle Approach, through Researching what the Word has to say on a topic, “exercises our senses to discern,” causing Wisdom to be gained. God “has given to us ALL things that pertaining to Life and godliness…” 2 Peter 1:3

5. Respond – this is the step of deciding what to do with the information. Toss it totally if it doesn’t line up with Biblical Truth. Keep the “baby” but throw out the “bathwater”, if there is some Truth buried in man’s faulty understanding. Embrace it and make it our own – if it totally lines up with Biblical Truth.

6. Release – communicate the results of the above process, sharing what we’re learned – through discussion, essays, teaching others, etc.

We must TRAIN our children how to walk through this Process of Learning, but it is done through whatever learning they are doing, not through separate “classes” on it.

So, while there is a place for learning Formal Logic and Reasoning “techniques”, I am far more concerned with my children developing a strong Biblical Worldview through ALL that they learn, to not only live their own lives by, but to also be able to present, through God-given Wisdom, from His Word and His Grace (supernatural empowering), His Truth to all who may “ask for a reason for the hope that is in them.”

Proverbs 4:7: “Wisdom is the PRINCIPAL thing, therefore get Wisdom and with all your getting get understanding.” Proverbs 9:10: “The FEAR OF THE LORD is the beginning of Wisdom..” And Wisdom is having a Biblical Worldview. Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” That is probably the key to what we all want for our children (and our own lives), that they/we would be prosperous and successful in God’s eyes, and that comes from developing a Biblical Worldview, by knowing God’s thoughts and thinking like Him.



In “natural education methods” circles, you hear a lot about Copywork. But there still appears to be many skeptics. What good could just copying something be?

Let me tell you, TREMENDOUS GOOD!!!! So much is learned from the VERY SIMPLE act of copying EXCELLENT writing. This is the method used for millenia past – with excellent results. Benjamin Franklin, the great Founding Father and Statesman of our country got his education primarily by doing copywork.

What exactly is Copywork? Finding an excellent passage of writing and copying it – EXACTLY. Spelling, punctuation, grammar – mechanics of good writing are learned as well as STYLE! There is so much more you can do – advancing in Copywork, but this one SIMPLE tool can make a world of difference in our children’s (and our) education.

How do you start? Find some good literature – the Bible is the BEST, great classics, timeless truths – stuff that is WELL WRITTEN. Pick a passage of content you want to emphasize – appropriate length for the student. Children 9-12** year olds could do a sentence – a paragraph. Youth could do at least a paragraph – a page. Have them READ the passage – INTENTLY. Have them COPY the passage – CAREFULLY, in their best handwriting. Have them COMPARE theirs to the original, correcting any mistakes.

If you aren’t using Copywork, or aren’t utilizing it regularly. I urge you to begin today and make it a routine part of your education. You’ll be glad you did.

**Younger Children begin Copywork with Letters/ Phonograms, then progress to Words, and work up to short sentences only, at a time.