Homeschool Notebooking has gained a huge following in recent years. Although many people consider notebooking to be an elementary school teaching strategy, it can work very well for middle and high school students as well. Find the free History Notebooking Template here.
Incredible history resources are out there, ready for your student to read and learn from, but how do you go about turning a best-selling history book like E.H. Gombrich's A Little History of the World into a semester's worth of homeschool curriculum?

You don't have to read through every chapter before your son or daughter gets to it. You don't have to create reading comprehension quizzes or lists of dates or places to memorize.

All you need is a systematic way for your student to write down what he or she learns. Through writing, we make sense of what we've learned. We make connections between the new information we just gathered and the old information that we learned through reading, listening, or first-hand experience. 

But given the responsibility to "take notes," many middle and high school students quickly feel overwhelmed or slide into bad habits.

This template
is a simple, streamlined way for your student to internalize the information gained through reading. 

Here's how to use it:

Have your student write down today's date and the section or chapter being studied:

Date: January 28, 2016
Section: Chapter 32, France in America: Pirates and Adventurers (pp. 126-129)
Summary of Section: Your student will write a summary of what she learned as she read the section. If this is difficult at first, ask your student to explain the readings to you out loud. You may need to prompt her with questions like, "How were the French explorers different than the Spanish explorers?" or "What happened after Ribaut left the New World?" When your student offers a satisfactory oral summary, say, "Great! Now write that down." Eventually your student will be able to summarize in writing without having to run through it out loud first.
Important People: List the important people in the reading, along with any explanations or hints (for example: "Jacques Cartier (French privateer who made three voyages to New World)"
Important Places: Does your student have a grasp of the geography associated with the history? The template has a spot to list important places and add any additional information, but you might also want to obtain some tracing paper for tracing maps. Your student can trace maps from atlases and then tape the maps to the backs of the notes template before placing it in a notebook. Tracing maps is a great way to learn geography. It conceptualizes distance, boundaries, geophysical features, and it helps with memorization.
Questions/Unfamiliar Words: There's a space at the bottom of the template for your student to write down questions or unfamiliar words encountered during reading. These questions and vocabulary words can be the starting point for the discussion you 

Some of my favorite history books for homeschool curriculum are Joy Hakim's A History of US series, Gombrich's A Little History of the World, and Glencoe's World History. What are some of your favorite history books for homeschool?
It's a privilege to have a guest post today by Omoyeni Adeyemo, a Ripple Foundation volunteer. The Ripple Foundation fosters creativity, education, and imagination in youth across Canada. It's an organization well worth supporting.
I spent my childhood with my head buried in books. In elementary school, around age seven, I decided on a friendship with a girl in my class based on two events. The first was her introducing me to a Jacqueline Wilson book which spurred an unremitting love for Wilson’s books till my mid-teens. The second was that she let me in on the secret of using the library outside of library period. I also liked to write, though I never completed any of my stories because there was always something lacking. However, I never saw reading as a gateway to spurring my creativity and improving my writing.   

As I grew older, I started to read less because it seemed a quixotic past time in relation to school work or keeping up with the other responsibilities of a child. I also stopped writing much as a result. It was not until University that I reconnected with the necessity of holding on to both.

Presenting Ripple Foundation. Created by Ivy Wong and run fully by volunteers, Ripple Foundation’s goal is to educate our youth and foster creativity by encouraging them to read and write. The organization offers a creative writing challenge called Kids Write 4 Kids (KW4K) for students in grades 4 to 8 to support its cause. The competition is in its fourth year and accepting ongoing submissions till March 31st 2016. The winner(s) selected by the judges, get their book published in print and in digital forms and net proceeds from all the KW4K books go to the school of the winner(s) of the year. In addition, the winning authors have the opportunity to be part of the judging panel for the next contest, alongside teachers and people in the book publishing industry.
In the past three years, KW4K has accepted more than 500 entries and had 8 winners’ books published, the latest being Mika’s Fortune by Faith Emiry and Escape From The Taco Shop by Christopher Smolej. Because of the success of the contest, Ripple Foundation was registered as a non-profit organisation in August 2015. Prior to receiving not-for-profit status, the programs operated under Ripple Foundation were run by Ripple Digital Publishing, a Toronto based digital publishing company specializing in educational digital learning products for children. Ripple Foundation is primarily funded by donations from Ripple Digital Publishing and accepts donations-in-kind from supporters. All donations are poured back into the foundation’s programs and initiatives.

When I first learnt about Ripple Foundation, what came to mind were the opportunities it would have afforded me as a child.  Ripple Foundation would have enriched my childhood in a few ways: as a reminder that reading and writing go hand in hand, as an incentive to write, with the chance to be a potential author thereby fostering creativity. Also, reading other children’s published books would have given me proof of the prospect that I too could be an author. 

Even better is that Ripple’s focus is boosting creativity and educating youth in general, writing is simply a medium. Writing was chosen because it is less exclusive than, for example, music or art. Ripple might eventually have more contests and incentives to build other sorts of creative abilities, only time will tell. But for now, my childhood self is grateful that there is such an organization to nurture my reading habits and cultivate better writing practices.
Many thanks to the Ripple Foundation for the wonderful work it does to promote literacy, creativity, and imagination in children. Encourage the children in your life to enter the Kids Write 4 Kids challenge. 

Thank you, Omoyeni.

When your students learn to tell the difference between static and dynamic characters, they'll gain deeper insights into the stories they read. Static characters are the same at the beginning of the story as they are at the end; dynamic characters change through the events of the story.

This is what happens in real life. As we encounter challenges, new people and places, and successes, we change. We may look at the world differently once we've been to a new place, or we may learn patience or forgiveness based on a humbling encounter with another person. These life lessons are part of what makes us human, and reading about them helps us to see the world from different points of view.

Additionally, learning about static and dynamic characters can help your students to become critical thinkers. When introducing the concepts of static and dynamic characters, it can be helpful to start with a story everyone already knows. For example, you could use a movie most kids saw when they were younger, like The Incredibles.

In The Incredibles, there are lots of different characters. Some change over the course of the movie, and others don't. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible change quite a lot. When the movie opens, they are young and fearless. They seem indestructible. In the middle of the movie, they are beaten down by the challenges life as dealt them, but then they learn to overcome those challenges and evolve, and in the end, they are changed once again. They are dynamic characters.

Fro-Zone and Edna Mode are good examples of static characters. They're not as important to the main action of the plot, and they don't change over the course of the story. They provide comic relief, and they show us interesting aspects of the main characters, but they don't change.

Once you have explained static and dynamic characters using a story everyone knows, you can introduce the new book you're going to read. Old Yeller is a great book for teaching about static and dynamic characters. Travis is a 14-year-old boy who is given the job of being the man of the house while his father is away herding cattle to Kansas for several months. The experiences of those months change Travis forever; he's a very likeable, relatable dynamic character.

Minor characters, like Little Arliss and Bud Searcy, are important to the action of the story, but they don't change like Travis does during the story. Interestingly, although Bud Searcy doesn't change during the story, Travis learns to see him in a different way because he has grown up and learned to understand people better. These insights make for great discussions and essay topics for your students.

If you've ever wanted to try out a Tolman Hall literature unit study, here's your chance. All you have to do is sign up for one of these Goodreads Giveaways, and a Tolman Hall unit study could show up at your front door--for free!

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The law and other democratic institutions ensure little if they are not backed up by the willingness and courage of decent people to guard against their abuse.
-Vaclav Havel, Summer Meditations
As I walked home from my polling place this brisk November morning, I felt that satisfying, contented feeling I always get after I've voted, but this time it was tinged with a little sorrow and nervousness. Here's why.

There were many uncontested races on my ballot today: County Clerk, Board of Regents, County Commissioner, Sheriff, County Engineer, Public Defender, and several Lower Platte District races. 

When I was doing my pre-election research, I found that most of the uncontested candidates didn't respond to interview questions on voter-friendly web sites. Why should they? They're going to be filling those seats whether or not they explain their positions. As a voter, I knew it didn't matter if I filled in the oval next to their names. My vote didn't seem to count if I didn't make a choice.

I thought back to the summer of 1992 when I was a foreign exchange student in Czechoslovakia. That summer the Czechs and the Slovaks were alive with the prospect of making a choice that would forever change their lives and their country. At just 2 1/2 years old, their democracy was still perilously fragile, but they were holding an election to determine whether they would remain Czechoslovakia or become the Czech Republic and Slovakia. People were out on the streets talking about political ideas and philosophy. Their playwright president (who had served jail time for his outspoken ideas about democracy) had recently written a book about his vision for the country. I remember the day of that election. Of course I couldn't vote in it, but I could soak up the feel of it, the palpable joy of once-oppressed people directing their own destinies, for better or for worse.

Yesterday I spoke with one of our elected representatives here in Lincoln who told me who would be "taking his seat" this coming May in our next election. "Taking his seat." Not "running for office" or "campaigning." I suppose in a city where so many races go uncontested, his remark makes sense in a disheartening, ominous way.

But that's not democracy.

Preserving a democracy isn't easy. It takes work and thought and initiative. We have so long enjoyed the blessings of our hard-fought democracy that apathy has set in. We haven't been ground down by years of totalitarianism or monarchy, and we little appreciate the control we have over our lives. In 1991, Havel wrote, "And yet, if a handful of friends and I were able to bang our heads against the wall for years by speaking the truth about Communist totalitarianism while surrounded by an ocean of apathy, there is no reason why I shouldn't go on banging my head against the wall by speaking ad nauseam, despite the condescending smiles, about responsibility and morality in the face of our present social marasmus. There is no reason to think that this struggle is a lost cause. The only lost cause is one we give up on before we enter the struggle."

Have we given up on the struggle? Have we relegated our control to a few people who may or may not have our best interests in mind? Have we trusted bureaucrats with our tax dollars and our children's educations only to find out later that they've been bought and sold by advocacy groups who have favors to dole out? 

We have six months until the next election. Let's make our choices count.

Last summer I was visiting with my grandmother and a couple of aunts and uncles when I learned something I had never heard before in all my 38 years: my great-great-grandfather had a mail-order bride, and it "didn't work out."

This was unexpected news to me. I knew that his first wife had been tragically gored by a bull while her husband was away from home and her three young children had watched from the house. That part of the story had been passed down. But this new part, this mail-order bride part, had been shut up in the closet with who-knows-what-other skeletons.

My great-great-grandfather and his three little kids lived in Wyoming, which is not the most hospitable place in the world, and he needed help. So apparently, he sent off a letter to a service, and a woman arrived some time later. Nobody seems to have known what happened, but she decided not to say, and g-g-grandpa was apparently so upset about her leaving that he ordered his children to not look at her while she drove away. But they loved her, so they watched her anyway, even though they knew they would get in trouble. 

That's how my grandmother told the story, and I'm sure it's true as far as she knew it. My grandmother was a very truthful person. 

I hadn't thought too much about that story until I listened to the audio-book version of Sarah, Plain and Tall, yesterday. It's a beautiful little story about a usually-not-for-children topic: mail order brides. The father in this story was in a very similar predicament to my g-g-grandfather's. He is a widower with two young children to raise. He gets matched up with a plain and tall woman from Maine, and after writing a few letters back and forth, she arrives.

What I found so beautiful and haunting about Patricia MacLachlan's story were the children's thoughts and feelings and desires. They adore plain and tall Sarah. They fear that she might leave, and because this is children's literature, she stays. Maybe what made it so haunting for me is that I've heard the story about when "it doesn't work out," and the children and lonely man are left on their desolate farm with no one to dry flowers for them so they'll have something beautiful to look at during the winter. 

That's what's so amazing about literature. It takes the heart of humanity and reminds us of who we are. I don't like to define fiction as "made-up" or "untrue" because what could be truer than the longing for a mother?

Back in April, I wrote about why it takes so long to get ebooks from the library. Essentially, it's because the Big 6 publishers are charging libraries an arm and a leg ($80) for limited copies of ebooks. 

Well, this morning I woke up to an email in my inbox from Smashwords that says they've negotiated a deal with Overdrive (the largest provider of ebooks to libraries) to sell digital copies of Indie-published books to libraries for as little as $4. 

Win win!

Library card holders get access to hundreds of thousands of new titles, libraries satisfy their members and reduce their prices, and Indie authors can reach a vast audience that was previously off-limits to them. When I wrote that post less than six weeks ago, I thought it would be months if not years before a solution was found to the ebook/library problem. I'm sure glad I was wrong--because I'm running out of library ebook selet
The author interviews we've collected over at the Book Pound have become a treasure trove of great advice from successful authors. Some of these authors are self-published and some are traditionally published, but they all offer helpful tips for authors who are just starting out.

  • "Write what you like and what you want.  Decide if you like main stream publishing through an agent and publishing company or if you'd prefer to self publish.  There is no shame in either method." -James Buehler
  • "Choose your entertainment wisely. Whether a book was written centuries ago or the ink is still wet, do your best to choose that which will uplift and even educate you where possible." -Lea Carter
  • "Read and read more. Start writing—anything. Set aside a small amount of time each day to write or, even if you don’t write anything down, just to think about your story. Join a writing group and learn to take criticism. Don’t expect to be a good writer without learning the craft of writing." -Gwen Dandridge
  • "Enjoy life. Do what makes your heart sing. And, if you fail once, twice, or a hundred times at what you love to do, then get back up and keep going." -Brandon Ellis 
  • Someone said it takes about a million words to get the craft right, and I know that was true for me. So write whatever you can, whenever you can, be it a blog post, essay, journal entry, or something. -Amber Skye Forbes
  • "Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and everyone has different tastes, but that doesn’t mean that an author’s writing style or book is no good because someone else doesn’t like it." -Elsha Fornefeld
  • "I have certain tricks to force myself into sitting down for a writing session; like making a regular writing schedule, treating it like an exercise program, and balancing my life." -Stephanie Fowers
  • "If you are self-publishing your story, have someone sit with you as you, he, or she read it and follow along to see if the story actually says what you think it says. Have different people you trust to do the same. I have found that the human brain often plays tricks on you. You may not have written what you think you have." -DR Fuller
  • "I think about my characters and then I just let them tell me their story.  Now, if the story starts to drag, usually towards the second part of the middle chunk, I might very vaguely plot out the rest to both avoid a sagging middle and to make sure that everything pulls together at the end." -Amber Gilchrist
  • "Spend the time necessary to research your topic, but allow your creative mind to fill in the gaps." -Kevin Hansen
  • "Learning to write in many formats—articles, blog posts, reports, product descriptions, essays, and web-site content—will enhance all the writing you do and teach you how to communicate ideas in a way that others can understand." -Teresa Hirst
  • "Just do it! Also, don't write fiction for money. Don't leave your day job and say "I'm going to support my family with this novel." If you make money... great! But if you set out for that purpose you will probably just find frustration and not the satisfaction and fulfillment that writing a book can give you." -Sam Lytle
  • "I'm always looking at social networking sites as a communications tool or marketing tool. What I do enjoy about it is adopting new tools, or trying out the next big thing, before most people do, and figuring out how to make the new "tool" work for marketing." -Erin Ann McBride
  • "Art inspires me and I find myself creating artwork for each of my characters. It inspires entire scenes at times!" -Heather McCorkle
  • "Don’t be too fussy about your first draft. You will edit it many times over. I see students who get stuck like I did when I had to write in school. They feel that their first draft has to be near perfection." -Brian Michaud
  • "Patience is a required virtue of all authors." -Laurisa White Reyes
  • "You are your best marketer for your book. If you don't believe in yourself or your work - no one will." -Lindsey Rietzsch
  • "Just recently my book got into a juvenile jail, and a 15 year old that's never going home again wrote me, and said that my book helped change his life for eternity." -Tommie Scott
  • "However I must admit there were some nights I had to "walk" away from writing for a few nights when memories and emotions got to much to handle." -Gracie Lea Silverwood
  • "Patience and a good work ethic are major tools to building a buzz about your books. Learn everything you can about the business of publishing if that’s your end goal. It will help you avoid the myriad of scams out there." -Sabrina Sumsion
  • "KEEP AT IT. Don’t get discouraged. This is the best time to be an author. I published my first book traditionally, which was a great experience. For the sequel, I decided to give self-publishing a try. It’s been a completely different ball game, but so far I’ve really enjoyed it. If you have a story to tell, tell it with the confidence that your words will be read someday. Writing can be a whirlwind of highs-and-lows, but in the end, it’s worth it." -Holly J. Wood

I get why it takes so long to get a hardcover copy of Divergent from the library. There are only so many copies, and everybody gets three weeks to read it. Then they return it to a random city branch, and the library has to transport the physical copy to a different branch where the next person on the waiting list has requested to pick it up. That requester gets several days to pick it up before the next three-week check-out begins. Yeah. Got that.

What I've wondered is: why does it take so long to get ebook holds from the library. They're not physical copies, right? They're just collections of bits and bytes that get uploaded and downloaded between servers and e-readers. Should be a snappy process, but it's not. I've waited months to get email notices that say, "The following digital title is now available to borrow and will be held for you for 7 days (168 hours) from the time this email was sent. If you do not borrow this title within 7 days (168 hours), the hold will expire. Thank you!"

First of all, why are there holds in the first place? If 300 people all want to read Amy Chua's new book on their Kindles at the same time, why can't they?

Here's why:

Libraries purchase licensing agreements to e-books through a distributor. The purchasing agreements stipulate either a time frame or a number of uses. For example, the e-book may be loaned out for a year or for 26 uses. After this time period or number of uses, the digital copy disappears from the library's catalog.

This is something new and different because with paper copies of books, the library only has to buy the copy once, and they can continue lending it out until nobody cares about it anymore or the binding has turned to  dust, whichever comes first. In most cases, this is many, many years of good hard use for about $12.99.

Digital copies of books, on the other hand, cost much, much more, and they're only good for a short amount of time. For a new bestseller today, publishers are charging libraries $84 per copy, and only one person can use it at a time.

How did this happen?

Traditional publishers have been caught off guard by the sudden rise in demand for e-books. A recent survey showed that roughly 50% of adults have e-readers, and sales of e-books continues to rise unabated. To protect their interests, publishers create these stringent and expensive purchase licensing agreements to keep the money flowing their direction. But I think this tactic is going to backfire.

What is preventing smaller publishers and independent publishers from creating much more attractive licensing agreements with libraries? Nothing except convenience for the libraries. And as we've seen with Amazon's innovations in independent publishing, it won't take much for someone (or perhaps the libraries themselves) to develop a simple way for small and independent publishers to make their e-books available on a vast and inexpensive scale to library readers everywhere.

Once this happens, publishers will not be able to charge $84 for a year's worth of single-use checkouts, and readers everywhere will have easy access to books that educate, entertain, and make life interesting.

So who's going to invent it? Is it you?

In high school and college, whenever a teacher would announce there was going to be a group project, I inwardly groaned and slid down in my seat. Group projects really weren't my thing. 

There was the research writing project I ended up doing all by myself because my partner suddenly had severe medical problems. There was dissection lab with the girl who was became obsessed with "getting the brain out" of the fetal pig. There was the college poetry group project that was really more like organized flirting.

So as an adult, I've steered clear of anything resembling a group project until several years ago when I was working at a publishing company and my boss asked if I would be interested co-authoring a book about babysitting co-ops. Co-authoring sounded like it could be perilous. Would there be struggles for control? Would there be missed deadlines or guilt if I failed to live up to expectations? On the other hand, people co-authored books every day. How bad could it be?

I agreed, and I began working with Samantha Nielsen on the project. As it turned out, we worked very well together. We didn't have the same strengths, but that turned out to be a great advantage for our team. The result Babysitting Co-op 101: A Win-Win Childcare Solution, _a well-written resource for parents of young children who need babysitting options and don't have much money to spend on childcare. And along the way, I learned all about the advantage of co-authoring.

3 Seriously Awesome Advantages of Co-Authoring

More Ideas

Best friends Taksh Gupta and Akhil Ahuja came upon the idea of co-authoring their novel Love@365 Kmph as they told each other stories. Their combined ideas came together, and they decided they might as well write a novel together since their ideas worked together so well.

Many co-authors send chapters back and forth to each other via email, but Gupta and Ahuja talked through their story and took turns writing it down. Of course, they didn't always agree on the course of the story, but they hashed it out and turned it into a seamless narrative.

More Contacts

Even for traditionally published books, marketing can be a real headache for authors. Most authors just want to start working on their next project when they finish a book, not start peddling their book like a virtual door-to-door salesman.

This is another area where it really helps to have a co-author. When there are two of you, you have twice as many social media contacts, professional contacts, and friends and family members who have their own contacts. This can make a huge difference with marketing, which can get you focused on your next project sooner.


If procrastination is one of your major weaknesses, co-authoring can be the key to keep you moving. Why? Because you're more likely to keep a promise to someone else than you are to keep a promise to yourself.

With a co-author, you'll be saying things like, "I'll finish up Chapter 12 and get it to you by Friday." Guess what? Chapter 12 will be done by Friday, and your book will steadily march along toward completion. For some people, this is the biggest advantage of co-authoring. Accountability to another professional is a powerful tool on your path to publication.
If you haven't tried co-authoring before, give it a try. You might find that working with another human being on a writing project is just the kick-in-the-pants your writing life has been looking for. And you might just make a great friend and colleague along the way.