This article is based on the video embedded below by Sarah of Herculean Homeschooling. To hear her thoughts in their entirety, watch the video. And comment on her YouTube video if you have questions for her.
As I was writing down my reasons for loving BookShark Reading with History, I kept thinking, “That’s my favorite” and then “No, this is my number one.” And while I wanted to rank them from top to bottom, I just couldn’t narrow down what was my tenth choice versus my number one choice.
I love BookShark for so many reasons!
So these ten features are a mixed list, in no particular order, of why our family of six children loves BookShark Reading with History.
1. BookShark Is Open-and-Go
Number one, I love that BookShark is an open and go program. There is not a lot, if any, prep work that I have to do as the homeschool teacher. We can literally just open it up and start our history. I’m a huge fan of how easy BookShark makes teaching!
BookShark is really simple for the first time homeschooler. And of course even experienced homeschoolers appreciate the detailed lessons. Anybody can open it up and easily understand exactly what to do and how to do it. It's amazing.
2. BookShark’s Weekly Schedules
I love that BookShark schedules are not dated. They are labeled weeks 1-36 and days 1-4. So if there's a week where we only do two days of history, that's totally fine. The next week we just pick up on day three and do the day three work. It's not like I have to do all of this in exactly one week’s time. It's just organized day-by-day, taking you all the way through your school year.
The weekly schedules in the Instructor’s Guide tell you what pages to read day by day. You just check them off once they're done. The schedule also includes questions to ask your kiddos about the reading.
It breaks down the timelines figure stickers that go in your timeline book, any mapwork, and vocabulary words to point out. You can actually get the first three weeks of the schedule on the BookShark website to see it for yourself.
3. BookShark Has a 4-day School Week
The BookShark plan organizes all your curriculum in just four days each week. I love having this extra day without bookwork for catching up, homeschool co-op, music lessons, gymnastics, dance, sport, or other extracurriculars.
By following this schedule, you complete a full year of school with just 4-days a week of lessons. It feels like three-day weekend every weekend! I’m a huge fan of this schedule!
4. BookShark Has Zero Tests, Worksheets, or Busywork
Zero tests. Zero worksheets. None of that tedious busywork. I know a lot of people wonder, "Well, if there are no tests or worksheets, how do I know that my kids are actually learning anything?" The fact is this: Tests don’t really work to help kids retain history. For example, when I was in school, I would cram right before a test, and then I'd forget it all afterwards. I'm probably not alone in that.
With BookShark’s no-test approach, my kids and I remember a lot, partly because we aren’t stressed about taking a test and party because of point number five below.
5. BookShark Inspires Great Conversations
With BookShark, we have lots of conversations about what we read. These organic conversations stick in long term memory much better than cramming to memorize numbers, names, or dates for a test.
For example, months after our study of the American revolution, I heard an epic LEGO battle upstairs. When I peeked into the bedroom, I saw a reenactment of their history lessons with George Washington facing King George III of England. They still remembered, and were acting out, the key facts from that period of history.
Can you imagine kids playing with a topic they studied for a test? Because we are learning history in an enjoyable way, my kids have a love of learning and retain the material.
The Instructor’s Guide provides questions to help you start these discussions with your children. When I started homeschooling, I didn’t even know what to ask after we did our reading. Now after using BookShark for five years, I have learned what kinds of questions to ask and how to stimulate a good dialogue. But I still look at the suggested questions to make sure I’m touching all the key points.
6. BookShark Is Ideal for Combining Children
With six kids, I do not have time to use six different history programs at six different levels or on different topics. But with BookShark, we can all study the same history subject together and share the material.
Obviously, the kids grasp the material at different levels, depending on their age and maturity. There are some things that the older kids might be ready to hear and understand that the younger ones won't, and that's okay. When we do our history, my little ones are there listening, usually doing something active with their hands like coloring or modeling playdough. The older children are answering the questions and filling out the notebook pages.
7. BookShark Addresses Hard Topics of History
Reason number seven that I love BookShark Reading with History is that the program doesn’t avoid the important but deep and tragic topics in history. While some programs may sugar-coat history or gloss over the difficult parts, BookShark includes these painful truths so you can discuss them with your children.
Of course, the material is presented in an age-appropriate way because kids don't need all the gory or graphic details. When the curriculum includes these tough or controversial topics, you’ll find special notes in the Instructor’s Guide, alerting you. Thanks to those little red flags, you can mentally prepare ahead of time, make sure your children are ready, or think about how to address it (with the help of the notes). In some cases, you may even choose to skip the troubling part if you or your child is especially sensitive.
8. BookShark Language Arts Is Connected to the History Program
From levels D and up, BookShark Language Arts ties to the Reading with History. So your Readers are based on the same period of history, and the language arts activities are taken from those Readers.
When language arts and history are integrated like this, you get something like a unit study approach, with lots of layered —but meaningful— repetition.
9. BookShark Includes Hands-on Activities
The next reason I love BookShark is that it's not only reading books. There are also hands-on activities that coordinate with Reading with History. For example, my kids have made model Trojan horses, model chariots, and an olive laurel headband during our studies of ancient cultures. When we studied American history, we made lap books. (Not just any lap books. These are lap books on steroids!) And at Level F, we used the Eastern Hemisphere notebooking pages.
Depending on what level you choose to do, there are different kinds of hands-on activities planned.
- Levels A, B, and C have Hands-on History Kits
- Levels D, E, G, and H have Lap Book Kits
- Level F has notebooking pages
10. BookShark Books Are Fantastic
My tenth reason for loving BookShark is, of course, all the books. I am 100% a bibliophile who loves reading. I love that we get to look back and see all these beautiful books that we have read together as family read-alouds and that my children have read as personal readers.
The majority of the books in BookShark Reading with History are historical fiction, which is one of my favorite genres to read in general. Instead of reading a textbook, telling us what life would have been like, we get to fall in love with characters and experience life through their perspective. Learning through living books brings the history to life for both me and my children.
With BookShark, it feels a bit like time traveling as you jump back across the centuries to learn meet these characters in their different periods of history and various cultures.
11. Bonus Reason: My Kids Adore BookShark
But even more than those 10 reasons, my absolute favorite thing about using BookShark is that my kids love it. They don't get this excited about math or any other topic, but they ask to do their history. They're thrilled to find out what's going to happen next in the books, and they share the stories with their dad at dinnertime.
To me, my kids’ preference is the ultimate test of a curriculum. I can trust a program is a good fit for our family when my kids are eager to do it. BookShark Reading with History passes the kid-test, and it passes my homeschool-mom tests. It’s an 11 out of 10 curriculum!