All posts by Monica

A Selection of World History Overview Books

— Congratulations to Janet, who won my almost-new timeline!

Last week, I discussed the usefulness of a family timeline book to pull together all of the history threads our children are exposed to, both through regular study of history and through happy coincidence in everyday life.

Covering the entire span of human history in a short period of time can be a helpful way to create anchor points (a.k.a. hooks) for deeper knowledge.  It also helps to give a “big picture,” helpful for those who prefer a whole-to-parts approach to learning.

Here are a few books I can recommend, grouped by age.  They can be re-read regularly, or you could read a different survey book each year or two.

Continue reading A Selection of World History Overview Books

Why Use a Timeline?

5982837164_aa57b8bd61_bIf you’ve been wondering where I went, I’ve added a note to the end of the post to excuse my bad blogger behaviour!  My apologies!  Watch the video in my post to learn how you can win a free timeline book.

In my last post, I talked about some of the reasons I have fallen off the four-year-cycle bandwagon.  I don’t feel it’s a flexible schedule, I don’t feel it’s “fast” enough for the younger ages, and I don’t feel it capitalizes on spontaneous learning opportunities.

Despite that, I still love many of the products available for the four year cycle, such at the Story of the World books/audioboks, etc.

I’ve tried hard to think of a way to have my cake and eat it, too.  This is how we approach  history in our home:

Continue reading Why Use a Timeline?

Why I’m over the chronological history hype, and how you can break up but stay friends, too.

Castree-Fig-2I have always been disappointed with my history education. In part because my public school history curriculum jumped all over the place, chronologically speaking, leaving me without any concept of antecedent, cause, or effect. I would cite examples of my history gaps, but I don’t make a habit of publicly embarrassing myself if I can help it.

When I started our homeschool journey, I was captivated by the idea of chronological history cycles, something I first learned about in Bauer’s absolutely amazing resource, The Well-Trained Mind, but which has become an omnipresent feature of the neo-classical method.   There are a number of variations, but the basic idea is this: a student goes through all of world history in four years, broken down into ancient, medieval, renaissance, and modern eras. In a twelve year education, a student cycles through three times, each time diving more deeply into the topics and wrestling with concepts in history at higher and higher processing levels.

But chronological history, I’m just not that into you anymore. I mean, I love you, but I’m not in love with you.

These are the downsides to chronological history:

Continue reading Why I’m over the chronological history hype, and how you can break up but stay friends, too.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: Adaptations for Home Use

Last week, I talked about the importance of background knowledge and introduced Bloom’s Taxonomy as a way of thinking about skill development.  Now I’ll take a closer look at Bloom’s taxonomy, and how it can be a useful tool to a home educator.

Bloom’s Taxonomy was originally created by a committee aiming to identify the fundamental questions within the education system, and published in 1956 in Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals.  (1)

Committee? Education system?

Aren’t we trying to avoid those things by homeschooling?

Absolutely!  But in this case, Bloom’s Taxonomy may be the baby in the bathwater, so let’s not throw it out just yet.

Blooms Taxonomy
Image Source:

Continue reading Bloom’s Taxonomy: Adaptations for Home Use

The Retention Toolkit #3: Hooks- Content- vs. Skill-Centered Approaches

klsgfx-Swiss-Army-Knife-2The Retention Toolkit is a series of posts describing research based tools which help improve long-term knowledge retention.

The mantra, “Teach children how to think, not what to think.” has become an almost unanimous refrain in education.  On some level, it makes sense: We want children who grow into critically thinking adults, creative thinkers and problem solvers, not simply organic hard drives. But the statement itself is a trap. The idea that one can know how but not what, or what but not how, is fallacious- a false dichotomy. Research indicates in fact that one cannot know how without a whole lot of what already in place. In Daniel Willingham’s excellent book, Why Don’t Students Like School, he devotes a full chapter to this topic, which I will draw from throughout this post.

“Cognitive processes, such as analyzing, synthesizing, and critiquing cannot operate alone. They need background knowledge to make them work.” (1)

A solid knowledge base (content) is the foundation on which upper level skills are built. What we often times think of as strategic or critical thinking is memory at work. Our brains are designed to synthesize and make connections- but they need the raw material in the form of broad knowledge to do it.

Continue reading The Retention Toolkit #3: Hooks- Content- vs. Skill-Centered Approaches

And the winner is…

Using the random number generator found at, I was able to draw a winner from those who participated in my M.O.M. giveaway.  Without further ado, the winner is…

Dr. Skeeter!  Congratulations, you will be receiving a free copy of the M.O.M. E-Course, including the 2-week jumpstart program.  I hope this is the first step along the road to a less cluttered 2015!

Please contact me by email at monica dot borel at gmail dot com, so that I can connect you with the Power of Moms team!



The Retention Toolkit: Introduction

In this series of posts, I look at research into how the human mind gains, and more importantly, retains knowledge. Most of these methods have been used for hundreds of years, some beyond that, simply because they made logical sense to educators in the past. Cognitive science is now confirming what the great teachers of the past reasoned to be true.

Like any toolkit, not every tool will be appropriate for every job. By compiling a list of tools here, you can pick and choose from amongst them when asking yourself how best to approach a subject. I cannot claim this list is exhaustive, but any time I find a new retention tool in my research, I will post about it and link it into this series.

Continue reading The Retention Toolkit: Introduction

The Retention Toolkit #2: Spacing Effect

klsgfx-Swiss-Army-Knife-2The Retention Toolkit is a series of posts describing research based tools which help improve long-term knowledge retention.

In my first post of this series, I presented research on test-enhanced learning: using testing not as an evaluation technique, but as a learning technique to improve retention.  Testing is a far more efficient use of time than study techniques such as rereading, reviewing lecture notes, or making outlines.

But how is test-enhanced learning best implemented?  Research in human memory shows that timing is everything.  It’s called the spacing effect.

Information that is spaced over time is better remembered than the same amount of information massed together.(1)

forgetting-curve_en Continue reading The Retention Toolkit #2: Spacing Effect

Get Organized in 2015: A M.O.M. E-Course Giveaway

Giveaway details are found after my review!

In 2014, we welcomed a fourth child into our family, complete with two clubfeet and many trips across the country to a specialist (all fixed now!), we continued our homeschooling journey, and I began to dream about a research-based homeschool teacher training blog that I wanted to create. But I felt mired to move forward by the day-to-day chaos of a large family, large education goals, and the intense needs of a newborn. I needed a way to un-stick my brain in order to begin moving forward again.

Continue reading Get Organized in 2015: A M.O.M. E-Course Giveaway

Worse Than Useless: How multiple choice tests can negatively impact learning, and what to do about it

ExamCritics of standardized testing have long held that multiple choice tests are useless for evaluating a student’s real understanding of material. They wrongly assume that the testing itself is learning neutral- that taking the test has no impact on students, aside from wasting their time.

Policy makers who support standardized testing also view test taking as learning neutral, despite long standing and robust evidence that test-taking has an important impact on retention of knowledge.

Generally, testing is an excellent way of increasing retention. But there is one exception: the multiple choice or true/false test without detailed feedback- a.k.a. the standardized test.

Continue reading Worse Than Useless: How multiple choice tests can negatively impact learning, and what to do about it