Closure and Review of our Year

We have officially closed our 2011 academic year.

No more ‘formal’ school until January 2012.

Notebook pages are filed.

Books are sorted.

Wall charts are packed away.

Our crowded timeline pictures have been taken off.

We smile as we review the year’s work.

I love to have closure at the end of the year.

We are encouraged to see how much we covered.

I am amazed at the thick files full of my children’s unique notebook pages!  Every page is one-of-its-kind.  Each child wrote their own narrations and illustrated what they understood from the information studied.  The narration process is quite remarkable. I am truly pleased to see how each child matured during the year.

I smile at my children’s enjoyment as they review their own notes and lapbooks.  They are proud of their achievements.  This is such a good way to end the year.

I make my own (mental) notes.  What worked well?  What did we spend too little/ too much time on?  What methods (notebooks/ timelines/ minibooks/ hands-on projects/ lapbooks) were the most effective?

What did we miss?  Does it matter?  Do I go on?  Do I skip it?

But homeschooling is not about learning information.

Subject matter missed now does not matter.

My kids can catch up any time.

I purpose to train character.

Real education is ongoing …

This year I re-used my Sonlight curriculums.  It has been a good “fit” and this time round I stretched it out to fully enjoy everything.

Next year I plan to re-use my South African literature-based History curriculums.

My 9-year-old starts middle school with Footprints on our Land.  My 12-year-old starts Junior High using Footprints Into 21st Century and my eldest continues on to Grade 11 with Delta Education.

For the first time since my early years of homeschooling, each child will be on their own core/ curriculum.  And each child enters a new phase in schooling.

This will be stressful – especially for me.

Each child will need my help to settle in to a new approach.

We will all need grace.

Right now I am grateful for time to





How do you wind up your 2011?


World War II Notebook Pages, Maps, Timelines & Online Resources

An Observer Corps Spotter on a rooftop in London.

World War II

As with our WWI studies, I wanted to present a brief overview to World War II events, rather than to do a detailed study.  I felt that if any topic raised someone’s particular interest, we would delve into it a little deeper.

Most my children’s existing knowledge of World War II has come through movies.  As a family, we had watched a few WWII classic movies, such as the BBC’s  The Battle of Britain and The Great Escape and the modern release of Pearl Harbor.

I find that holocaust movies can be deeply disturbing.  We selectively guide our children’s viewing of these films.  We watched The Diary of Anne Frank  and The Boy with Striped Pyjamas.

For our History studies, I wanted to create a type of “skeleton” or framework on which they can attach all their existing and new knowledge.

Timeline activities and map work seemed the best method to use.

I spent several hours researching for online resources and there is a stack out there!

I use OneNote for all my web research and notebook preparation.  I simply copy and paste anything I find on the internet on One New Side Note.

What is wonderful about this Microsoft tool (part of the Office package) is that ~

1. it saves everything for you automatically automatically places the url hyperlink under the clip when you copy and paste a picture, quote, table or whatever.  I use these hyperlinks to go back to the original website or use these references to complete my lapbook organizer or bibliography with one click!

3. you can easily organize your notebooks, filing and creating sections, tabs and new notebooks as you go, or afterwards

Recommended Websites on World War Two:

For the best overviews:

History Animated

A brilliant website with animated maps, timelines and original audio recording, radio broadcasts and famous speeches.  Highly recommended!  Go here to view WWII in Europe and Africa with an outstanding animation of the Battle of Britian.  They also cover the entire WWII Pacific wars and include animated maps with audio of the Japanese Onslaught, America Fights Back and battles on various islands in the Pacific.

History on the Net

They have an excellent site with photos, timelines and free printable notes.  They also include some online word searches and quizzes.

Work online on the excellent interactive map of WWII with more notes on the side.  (Excellent visual presentation)

History Of War Online

Here are stacks of links to maps, photos, documents, stories and even recordings of the war.

(I love audio recordings – great for auditory learners and learning with busy hands!)

BBC – History: World War II

With expandable index and excellent notes.



World Leaders & Famous Speeches:

Audio recordings of soldiers, civilians and survivors:

Main battles and events:

Pearl Harbor: An excellent animated map of the attack at Pearl Harbor with audio and full click details on the images on the map. Pop back to my New Pearl Harbor Lapbook post

Free WWII Notebook Pages:

(Click the title for your free download)

These come in 3 different layouts.  We combine our minibooks and notebook pages.

I created a concertina-folded timeline to paste into our Book of Centuries.  This way the war “unfolds” 🙂 for the child  and gives them a bird’s-eye view.  This 9 page download comes with detailed timeline notes that the child can use to write their own time line events.

Children colour in the different countries according to whether they are Axis, Allies, Neutral and Occupied Territories on a world map.  Coloured map of Europe during the war is also included.



World War I Minibooks and Notebook Pages

One-page minibooks are my favourite minibooks because you can tell a whole story on one page. With just 3 folds and a snip, and refolded, it becomes an 8 page booklet filled with info.

(Have you downloaded my one-page minibook templates yet?)

I created several minibooks and notebook pages for our study of

World War I

The first minibook covers the most important events of the war which I adapted from this excellent online animated book of WWI.

The second minibook is about WWI warfare, including trenches, guns, tanks, airships and airplanes.

I made a vocabulary and definitions minibook and created a crossword, word search and match words worksheets to reinforce the new vocabulary. I love the simple worksheet maker at PuzzleFast Instant Puzzle Maker.   You just types the words and their meanings, and you can select whichever game you want and it creates it for you in a jiffy!  Using the same imput you can select several puzzles at a click.

I made World War I notebook pages in 3 variations.  We combine our minibooks and notebook pages.

We concluded our study by writing in all the main events and dates on our Book of Centuries.

You can download your WWI pages here:



New – Pearl Harbor Lapbook!

We have started our final section of Sonlight American History.

I created a new free lapbook  download~

Pearl Harbor Lapbook

Update:  I’ve broken the above lapbook file into 3 smaller files for easier downloads:

Pearl Harbor Lapbook

The Pearl Harbor Lapbook includes:

  • 19 page download with …
  • lapbook organizer with hyperlinks for each section to original websites
  • Vocabulary and definitions with several activities such as a crossword puzzle, word search and match words with meanings
  • Detailed (even minute-by-minute!) timeline
  • Battleships, Cruisers & Destroyers minibooks
  • Map of harbor to identify ships
  • What happened? with 3 photos to examine, discuss and describe
  • Oral history and survivor reports from a nurse, a sailor and a lieutenant commander to read, discuss and summarize
  • Aftermath of Pearl Harbour with photo and info
  • History Notebook Pages in 3 variations

This lapbook is for upper middle schoolers (for 10 – 12 year olds) but can be adapted for younger middle schoolers or extended for junior high students.

I suggested several alternative activities and introduced some advanced skills like ~

  • summarizing reports
  • making inferences
  • coming to conclusions
  • consequences to events
  • characteristics of heroes
  • write newspaper report
  • create an interview
  • give a radio report

With this in mind, I’m sure my 12-year-old will combine minibooks on the notebook pages, rather than do a lapbook.

If you download and use this lapbook, please feel free to comment here and share your photos and stories!


Paper Toys Model for Busy Hands

You all know that I love to have my kids to draw,


colour in,

build with Lego,

create dioramas,

sew or embroider,

cut and fold minibooks,

make and build models while I read aloud!

I downloaded these free 3D paper models from Paper  for our American History:

These models are easy enough for little hands to cut and assemble and detailed enough to satisfy older children in the realistic phase.  Really quick and easy!

And, then, what to do with these 3D works?

When we completed this topic in our History, we simply cut our 3 dimensional structures open, remove sections and squash them flat and paste them on one of the relevant notebook pages and file them.

(If your child cannot bear to do this, just take a photo of the model, print it out and paste this on the notebook page. And then you need to try find a safe place to store the paper model!)

Remember all young children learn best ~

  • 3D before 2D (make things then draw or write about it)
  • large before small (create life-size before scaling to fit a page)
  • kinesthetic before static (move and actively learn before sitting writing)

Also, variety adds spice to learning!  Keeping it fun!


Bugles, Fifes, Drums and Sounds of the Civil War!

Union Army drummer

The internet really brings History to life!

We are covering the Civil War.   I mentioned recently that I try to find new ways for my children to learn, discover and enjoy history.  Well, today we listened to bugle and drum calls, watched videos of musical instruments and discovered how to signal with flags of the Civil War! 

Here are some great Civil War links ~


  1. Bugle calls ~ Short, clear description of the different calls with MP3 sound clips.  We loved this!  I asked my youngest child to march and respond to the calls.They recognised several calls from movies!
  2. “WANTED – Young men who like to get up early, make noise all day, love exercise and excitement. If interested, please see the nearest Union Army Recruiter. If that sounds like you, then you may have what it took to be a Civil War drummer. But first, let’s make sure you qualify.”   Read here for the rest of this lovely child’s view of becoming a drummer and a Civil War hero.
  3. ethemes  Civil War: Drummer Boys has a list of other links.
  4. Photos of Civil War instruments at National Music Museum
  5. Very detailed and interesting information and moving historical photos of Civil War Buglers
  6. Bugles, fife and drums soundtrack on video with historical military images and a video of the famous “When Jonny Comes Marching Home” with images of Southern States.
  7. The Taps Project  ~ tribute to moving sounds of the Last Call.


  1. Wonderful description of drummers, their duties and lifestyle.
  2. YouTube video of Troopers playing Civil War drums.
  3. Craft Activity ~ Make your own Civil War drums.

Signal flags

  1. Wonderful lesson plan pdf with fun hands-on activities ~sew and make flags, make your own cypher discs and send messages just like the Signal Corps!
  2. Lovely clear explanations of the Wig Wag signal system using 2 flags.  Codes and pictures excellent for children.
  3. Flag training lesson with Flash images ~ fantastic page – let the kids see how to wave the flags for letters and words they select!
  4. Images of Signal kits
  5. Step-by-step description of how to assemble your signal flags kits
  6. Index to signal flags manual
  7. Wikipedia image of Signal Corps Kits
  8. Info on the Signal Corps 
  9. A peek at how signalman waved his flags on this short video at Gettysburg National Military Park

I created a 7 page Civil War notebook page package including ~

  • basic half-lined and blank notebook page
  • minibooks on the North and South war issues and Slavery
  • map of states separated on slavery issue
  • The Emancipation Declaration and minibook to cover this
  • Selection of some of Abraham Lincoln’s famous speeches for recitation and copywork
  • Graphic organizers of the Civil War timelines
  • Signal flag images and alphabet codes for messages

Download your free copy here ~ War Between the States

I downloaded some free lapbook elements from Homeschoolshare and Dynamic 2 Moms to supplement our studies not covered on the notebook pages and for the internet studies above.

Bookmark these links for your Civil War studies!  Trust you enjoy your History as it come to life!


American History Notebook Pages ~ From Independence till Early 1800s

"The First Cotton Gin" conjectural i...

Image via Wikipedia

I love homeschooling when we find our groove!

You know ~ when the kids know what to do, happily go about it and write or narrate, and the work is completed without moaning or complaining?  (If only every day was like this?)

Our History Notebook pages have become a wonderful method for our daily narrations for our History CoreA Child’s Story of America.

We use basic lined pages with boxes in  different layouts.  All I do is prepare some pictures or artwork, maps, portraits, or clipart and some headings for each theme and we have the most versatile notebook pages.

While I read, the children cut out the minibooks and paste them on the lined notebook page.  This keeps their hands busy while they listen and these visual clues reinforces the topics that I am reading.

I have become strict about not re-reading passages or giving clues and tips.  Following Miss Mason’s suggestion, I try not “get in the way” and encourage the children to make their own connections with the book.

I recently chatted to a good homeschooling friend, a veteran homeschool mom of 5, and she and I find this approach very difficult.  We both love to explain, find more books and references.  We both love to teach. So, to read aloud, then facilitate the narrations without adding our own questions, suggestions and extra info is a real discipline!

How do you approach your History cores?

Anyway, back to today’s post – I have uploaded our latest files for you on my Free History Pages.

Here are the main topics:

  • Francis Marion,  General Nathanael Greene
  • The Grand Republic covering the Constitution, Congress, The Great Seal,  and the 3 Branches of Government
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • The First American – President George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson with a timeline
  • The New Spiritual Revival and the Haystack Prayer Meeting
  • Inventions covering Fulton’s Folly and The Cotton Gin
  • The War of 1812
  • The Lone Star Republic
  • The Mexican War

You are welcome to pop over and download these for your personal use.


American Revolution Lapbook

Cover of "Johnny Tremain"

Cover of Johnny Tremain

We have spent about a week on the American Revolution Lapbook that I downloaded free from Just Us.

Based on the book Johnny Tremain, the lapbook covers all the major events of the revolution such as ~

The Boston Massacre, The Boston Tea Party, Tyranny vs. Liberty, the Declaration of Independence, the Battles of Lexington and Concord and Saratoga,  Minute Men, Guns, Valley Forge, Forts, the Treaty of Paris, Government, Sons of Liberty, pride, fear,  plus plenty of vocabulary building activities, timelines, maps, definitions, and several scriptures on the topic.

As I shared before in a post on Time-Saving Tips for Doing Lapbooks , we paste in all the minibooks on our lapbook folders before we write in them.

I hate it when the minibooks are crowded and confused on the table and inevitable minibooks get ‘lost’.  So, I handed each child their ziplock bag of minibooks (which I had cut out quietly one evening) and some notebook pages and they arranged them and pasted them on the pages as they wished.  My youngest chose coloured blank paper instead of the History Notebook pages.

This was a large lapbook download and the girls used 7 to 8 pages each for all the minibooks.

Notebook pages with silver paper file clip on the left

We punched the pages and clipped these in a simple cardboard file folder instead of a lapbook folder.   I trimmed the tops and bottoms of the file folders so that they are slightly larger than the notebook pages, but small enough to fit in our files.

File folder trimmed, with duct tape punched to file

Because we would work with the folder for a week, I used my favourite item, duct tape, and taped the side edge to punch and insert in the children’s files. 

What is lovely about this system is that we simply take the folder out, grab the coloured pens and we are ready to read, research, discuss, and write.  It takes a few minutes to find the minibook, but there is no gluing and faffing about.

The lapbook was a great retrospective activity and an excellent way to consolidate the work we had covered in our History core.

We are still busy reading Johnny Tremain every night.  I remembered this book was long the first time I used Sonlight, but it seems to have grown even longer the second time round! 🙂 None the less, the girls enjoy this book even though it is a “boys” book, and it has transported us into the lives and times of the American Revolution era.

If you plan to study American History I suggest you pop over to Just Us an download this lapbook and keep it in a file.

Here’s a planning tip:

Draw up a basic vertical timeline of your History period you wish to study and mark the dates for all the most important events.  Then spend some time looking for free downloads, lapbooks, pictures, hands-on activities and jot it on your timeline.  This timeline will give you a birds’ eye view of your core, your activities and downloads and the time you need for each theme.

Print out the table of contents with every download and keep this with the lapbook instructions.


American History Notebook Pages leading up to Independence

George Washington during the French and Indian...

Image via Wikipedia

We are studying the famous events, people and times in America leading up to Independence.

As I shared before, I created some basic lined notebook pages which I have printed and ready for any lesson (see the notebook page with 3 boxes.)  Then I created a specific minibook and with some extra clip art or illustrations for each chapter of our History core.

My children cut and paste the title box, minibook and illustrations on to their notebook page while I read and then they write their narrations.

I am really happy to report that my youngest (nearly 9 years old) is writing more and more of her own narrations.  She sometimes asks me how to spell some words, and I often write a few key words on her white board, but I don’t worry about her spelling or grammar ~ I just want her to capture her thoughts on paper!  It is wonderful to wean her gently from dictating her narration while I write them for her!

For these notebook pages I made a lined page with one box in 3 different layouts. The rectangle box is larger than the little squares on the other notebook page for a bigger minibook.  Although I made a three-fold minibook template, I let the children chose how to fold and use it.  They can even cut off the one side and make a simple fold minibook.  I am quite amazed how different each child’s notebook page looks once they have arranged the pictures and minibooks!

Of course, you could download all these minibook pages and create your own lapbook!

Title box, minibook and picture frame

You are welcome to download these pages  ~Just click the title! 🙂

Hope that you and your children enjoy these pages as much as we did!  Pop over to my other history notebook pages for more free downloads!  Enjoy!


More History Notebook Pages

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth"...

Image via Wikipedia

Before I give you some new free downloads [big smile!], I would like to share a bit of my current History homeschooling journey with you:

I am re-using my Sonlight American History curriculum for my younger children, and so much has changed  since I last used the curriculum over  6 years ago …

  • The bought schedule is now my guideline rather than my task master.  I no longer stress about ticking all the boxes and keeping up with all the reading schedules.  I follow the themes rather than the schedule.
  • My attitude about teaching has matured since my early first years of homeschooling.  I do NOT focus on teaching information.  I now focus more on character training and skills development.  It does NOT matter if I don’t cover everything.  It will NOT matter if I leave things out.  My children can ALWAYS learn this information and any other time and this is not a once-off study on these themes.
  • I want them to gain an overview.  I hope that they will link classic literature and films and famous people to periods and times during American history.  Just as American families study World or Eastern Hemisphere history, we, in South Africa, need to cover American history for our world perspective.
  • In the previous year I created my own eclectic curriculum and it has given me confidence to linger where there is a spark of interest and move on when the topic does not ignite our minds or thoughts.
  • I use methods my children love – notebook pages and minibooks as well as occasional hands-on activities.
  • I have changed my core books.  My original Sonlight core book,  The Landmark History of the American People by Boorstin, was just too long and wordy and unsuitable for my children’s’ maturity and interest.  I also laid aside the textbook-type series The Story of the USA by Franklin Escher Jr.  I now use A Child’s Story of America by Christian Liberty Press.  It has a warm and conversational tone and, although rather subjective, presents most of the history and information as an overview.

So, based on our new core book, A Child’s Story of America, I have made these notebook pages:

  • a basic blank 3-block and lined page notebooking page

  • a page with 3 blank minibooks that fit inside the blocks of the notebook page

  • clip art or illustrations and headings for each theme

It is an easy for me to prepare specific notebook pages for each chapter.  The children cut out the clip art and illustrations and cut and paste these on the minibooks or the notebook page while I read the chapter aloud.  The pictures give clues and the cutting and pasting keeps their hands busy while I read.

It takes just a few minutes for my youngest to dictate her narrations while I write them for her, or about 20 minutes for her and her older sister to write their narrations.

Quick, simple and really pleasing results!

Here are the downloads ~

  • Old Times in the Colonies  – with a spinning wheel minibook and steps how to spin flax, and pictures of life on the frontier and the First Thanksgiving.

Pop over to my other history notebook pages for more free downloads!  Enjoy!