Encouragement, Guidance and Real Education Solutions for Real Families
Author: Paola Ciskanik
Founder of Emmanuel Books, a family business serving the needs of home educators grounded in my desire to pass on the joy, experience, and love of homeschooling that I have received from my last 24 years of homeschooling my own children and running this business. Creators of the History Worth Remembering Timeline Figures, Reclaiming the Saints Activity Kits and Emmanuel Books Lesson Plans. Teacher for all my seven children, directing their curriculum to establish a love of learning and sense of wonder. Tailoring the curriculum towards their individual talents and working to strengthen their skills in a college bound program. Successfully graduated four children from K-12th grade, three of which have successfully graduated from college and are presently employed in a variety of fields. One is currently a college junior studying abroad. Continuing to teach the three youngest children incorporating new technology and participating in local Classical school music program. Formerly a Chemical Engineer with DuPont.
You will see an evident and deliberate lack of textbooks for the early years of science. We encourage you to explore your very own backyard and neighborhood before you endeavor to study science in any formal way. This way, we respect the dignity of the child by engaging him in age appropriate activities that draw them towards awe and wonder of the created world. Each day can easily present new and wonderful opportunities, such as sketching in their own blank books a rainbow in the sky after a rainstorm. On a brilliant, crisp, fall day, do leaf rubbings together after collecting as many different kinds of leaves as you can find. The children can identify the caterpillar they gingerly carry home, that happened to crawl into their laps as they played in the garden. Our home is filled with books on plants, birds, butterflies, insects, pond life, the seashore, the stars, and so much more of God’s glorious world. This is how we teach our own children. Take time to explore, discuss and delight in these formative years and you will be laying the groundwork for higher level questioning and analyzing, by having had a rich and intimate experience with the natural world around them.
Here are a few of the must haves, rich in ideas we have used with our own children, just click on any title to see the full desriptions:
Before we begin discussing what lap books are, we need to begin by explaining what foldables are.
In the early 1980s, Dinah Zike came out with a book called Big Book of Books. This wonderful classic, which is still in print and selling for about the same price it did 20 years ago, describes in clear language, and with hundreds of examples and photographs, how to instill a sense of questioning, investigating , exploring and discovering and in your homeschool. All this can be accomplished so very simply and cleverly with 8.5 x 11 plain sheets of paper that are either folded or cut into interesting shapes. These folds and cuts are called foldables.
The absolute beauty of this concept and methodology is that it so naturally and easily makes concrete in a child’s mind, a newly learned concept. This is accomplished by helping them to organize the thoughts and creates their very own teaching materials to retain this newly acquired skill. Dinah Zike is the inventor of these foldables, giving them fun names and creating an illustrated guide that teaches you how to teach these folds to your children.
For example, she has a very simple fold called the large matchbook fold. Here is a video showing you how to make one:
Begin with a sheet of paper folded in half but such that one side is 1 inch longer than the other then take that extra flap and fold it over so that it looks just like a regular set of matches. You can cut this into smaller pieces or use as it is. You can put on the outside of your matchbox a question, flip it open and the child can write in their answer. You can use the outside and glue on a shape of a state. Open up the inside and the child can place information of that state they have found.
Another example is the layered look book. With this book, you’re going to stack a couple sheets of paper, placing them in such a way that they overlap. All this is easily explained in her books for each subject with tons of photographs. Next you or your child then pick a concept such as the solar system. Then you give each flap a title with the name of each of planets. You then fill out each flap with information that you researched or read using your existing curriculum materials.
What is so exciting about using this process is that you will very quickly find that your children begin to think in terms of keeping the information they’re learning into little mini books or foldables. We have been using this methodology for the past 20 years. It has revolutionized our homeschool.
Now we come to the concept of lap books. Simply stated, a lap book is file folder, folded like a window shutter. This shutter is the place to contain and organize your child’s collection of foldables. The inventor of lap books, Tami Duby, had been using Dinah Zike’s foldables in her homeschool and had accumulated a bunch of them without finding a way of keeping them. She then came up with the idea of putting them together in one single file folder in a creative way. This new way not only fosters a love of learning in your children but also encourages clarity of thought. It is also a visual reminder of all the things they have learned, not to mention a wonderful keepsake of their learning. The important concept about making lapbooks is that genuine sustained learning is a processnot a fill in the blanks type of learning. This methodology is a fabulous and successful process by which one learns and retains information.
By having your child create these foldables and then go through the thinking involved to sort them and categorize them into a lap book your child has a real sense of ownership. We have seen this time and time again with our own children. Concepts learned and made into foldables have stayed with them.
This methodology meshes so perfectly with the classical method of real learning. It respects the natural stages of development which gives dignity to the child. As your child grows the skills build up bit by bit just as outlined in the classical model of learning.. For example, in a classical education process, if your child is young and has not yet learned to write stories we began by having our child retell a Bible story we have just read to them. The little retellings can be copied by you into a foldable and then illustrated by your child. Once you have collected a number of these you can staple or glue them together so that you now have a wonderful keepsake of your little child’s Bible stories.
As your children mature and move through more advanced writing techniques you can still employ this methodology of making foldables. For example, our ninth-grade daughter needed to write a paper on some aspect of Westward expansion. She came up with a thesis statement, and several questions she wanted answered. Each question became a foldable. It contained all the information she researched using several source texts. Once she had collected all the information she took these foldables, organized them into a lap book and was able to use this as her outline and source material for her research paper. She placed a copy of her finished product in a pocket outside her lap book, a job well done.
This process of learning can be used across the curriculum in every subject. We have made foldables and lap books for math, history, science, religion, and grammar. This technique of learning is not meant as a craft project to do on top of regular schoolwork but is the process by which we accomplish real learning and retention of knowledge.
Now the next question you may have is, what do I need to get started? The answer is use what you already have. Use the curriculum and texts you already are using. Use plain sheets of paper, file folders, and adhesive. And oh yes, the only two books you really need to help you get started are Dinah Zike’s Big Book of Books and Tammy Duby’s The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook. Spend a week teaching your kids a bunch of the folds as examples and keep them in a zip-lock bag, one for each child. Then just think of it akin to learning how to cook. You take out your ingredients, in this case foldable examples and your curriculum books. Then try one of the “recipes” in the Ultimate Lap Book Handbook. As you and your children follow these recipes you will all get more confidence in your skills. You will undoubtedly find your children creating their own wonderful recipes.
Here is a listing of just some of the skills learned using this process:
When my days are not going as planned, we make certain that this is the one subject taking priority. Now, it may be occurring in our history lesson, in that we are discussing the Catholic perspective of the Reformation or the Spanish Inquisition, or the heroic deeds of our country’s forefathers. But most often, it is in our daily religion lessons, such as in, our discussions on the lives of the Saints, our sacrament preparation, our daily review and discussions on catechism, or our Scripture study. We often use Bible readings as a time to ask the children to read aloud, a skill worth developing. Even for your proficient readers, reading aloud develops and strengthens their language development by seeing more sophisticated language patterns. For our little guys, the early Bibles are great first readers. We can also use the stories as narrations lessons, developing their ability to remember events in sequence. By retelling some of the most beautiful Bible stories they begin the process of exposing them to the Divine, His Word of love and mercy. For the middle grade kids, the language of the Bible can be challenging, so we take time to pause and define difficult words. We reflect on particularly beautiful passages, or reflect on very, familiar passages but perhaps see them in a new light by reading and discussing them together.
The following items are our must-haves for the “Parent as Teacher.” These items can help your religion discussions or sacrament preparation. They are solid, reliable resources in which to seek out answers. By doing so for yourself, you are modeling for your child a way to gather, and choose appropriate “tools of learning”.
“The one who has hope lives differently.” -Pope Benedict XVI
We love this quote from our Holy Father….it is emblazed on souvenir T-shirts we bought for our little ones after being incredibly blessed to participate in the Papal Mass at Nationals Stadium April 2008. Our little ones wear these shirts often and we love that they are a constant reminder of this important message. The Divine fire of God’s love was reignited in our family as we were reconfirmed in the Holy Spirit at that Papal Mass. We also know that it was through God’s marvelous timing (not ours) that our Holy Father came to this country to bless us and bestow upon us an encouraging message that we need right now, especially as our nation transitions to a new administration and as we pray daily for the end of Abortion.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines hope as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” It goes further to say, “The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.” (CCC 1817 & 1818) It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.” (Rom 12:12).
Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. (St. Teresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3.)
Hope is also written on the faces of our children as a window to their hearts. The decision to home educate our children is not an easy path to follow…but as we have seen with our own children it is priceless and a blessing to the entire family. All one needs to do is to visit a college campus like Christendom College where our two oldest boys graduated and our daughter now attends. The students are amazing testimonies to hope as are the professors and the mission of this college. As you consider colleges for your own children we encourage you to witness what a blessing Christendom College is as a witness to hope!
Preschoolers are learning every minute, every day, absorbing their environment. But how do we prepare this environment with rich soil, in which we can plant their precious imaginations? Author and mother of six, Cynthia Blum, has designed the very answer. In the pages of Little Saints: A Catholic Preschool Program with Classical Disciplines, an extraordinary two-year, literature-rich, lesson plan, you will see the dignity of the child, his very soul and imagination nurtured and led towards a deep love of God. There is simply nothing like it….rich in classic literature, poetry, art appreciation, classical music, classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes, finger plays and circle games and art projects that make learning essential, developmental, and cognitive skills FUN and faith-filled! It even comes with a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur from Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz.
We have loved using this lesson plan for our own children because it is so thorough in covering all the necessary elements desired for beginning a Catholic Classical education. There are 40 weekly themes, filled with enjoyment, character building concepts and virtues, each to be taught over three days. Each day begins with the “Word of God”, a brief passage from Scripture, appropriate to the virtuous lesson introduced in the week’s theme. Then a classic poem, that has been carefully chosen to pause and reflect upon, links once again to the main theme for the week. In addition other poems are read aloud on days two and three to help remember the main theme or are just introduced simply for the pure enjoyment of the language and rhythm of the poem. Next comes story time, with a big list to choose from of classic children’s literature (many of which can be obtained from your local library), followed by traditional nursery rhymes and finger plays, songs and circle games. Ending each day’s lesson with an art project or learning game, using common household items. Each learning game capitalizes on the strength of a preschooler’s ability to learn foundational skills through hands-on creative experiences, such as sorting, counting, sequencing, matching and role playing. To further surround and fill your home environment with truth and beauty, a selection from a well-known Classical composer is included at the beginning of each lesson to be listened to throughout the week. Included with the lesson plan is a pattern packet with black-line masters, granting a family permission to copy them.