Mom Monica Olivera shares her thoughts on the Big Fat Notebooks series
The Big Fat Notebooks series is set of five books covering all the major subjects in middle school in easy-to-understand detail. They are your middle-schooler’s new BFF! The best thing about this series is that it is very reader-friendly and presents the information in an engaging manner with lots of visuals to help your student understand and retain the concepts. Children in traditional schools can use the series to help them complete homework, while homeschoolers can use the books as a curriculum spine, or the base curriculum for your entire school year.
The books were created by the same people behind the popular series, Brain Quest. We’ve used their workbooks regularly in our homeschool as a supplement to our lesson or for days when we just need a change from our main curriculum. But the Brain Quest series only goes through 6th grade.
Enter the new “COMPLETE Middle School Study Guides.” They are very different from the workbook sets. There is a greater emphasis on layout and the use of colors. We love how these books break up concepts into short manageable sections that focus on the key concept being taught. The front of the book states that these are “notes borrowed from the SMARTEST KID in class” and the information is definitely arranged in the form of a notebook, with highlights in different colors representing different things (i.e., yellow highlights = important vocabulary, green highlights = definitions, and blue writing = important people, places, dates, and terms). The illustrations are more like doodles that help the note taker to visualize big ideas.
Each chapter ends with a list of questions that helps the student test their knowledge. (It’s almost like a quiz, but the students simply have to turn the page to check their answers.)
The only thing that would make this series better is if they had included an index at the back for easy reference. For instance, my daughter was trying to look up subordinating conjunctions, but they weren’t listed in the Table of Contents because they were included in the chapter with phrases and clauses. So it took a little while to find them.
This book covers five areas:
- Reading Fiction
- Reading Nonfiction
From intensive pronouns and figurative language to setting and tone to plagiarism and citation, your child will learn about these concepts in easy-to-understand language with simple examples. There are definitions, diagrams, doodles, and even mnemonic devices to help your student remember important information.
My daughter often forgets what the difference is between finding the greatest common factor and the least common multiple. Sometimes she needs help remembering how to find the percentage. This book is a fabulous reference and a must-have when doing school work. It covers six areas:
- The Number System
- Ratios, Proportions, and Percents
- Expressions and Equations
- Statistics and Probability
- The Coordinate Plane and Functions
This book is really a goldmine not just for students, but for the parents to whom they turn asking for help! Can’t remember how to convert measurements or calculate simple interest? No problem! You can just look it up in this handy notebook!
This book is my favorite of the set! It covers so much information and I’ve enjoyed just starting at the beginning and taking each section one by one with my kids. Sure they can use it to supplement their science curriculum, but this book is also fun to use as a science spine. Take it one section at a time and then supplement it with activities, books, and experiments!
It covers ELEVEN areas:
- Scientific Investigation
- Matter, Chemical Reactions, and Solutions
- Motion, Forces, and Work
- Outer Space: The Universe and the Solar System
- The Earth, Weather, Atmosphere, and Climate
- Life: Classification and Cells
- Plants and Animals
- The Human Body and Body Systems
- History of Life: Heredity, Evolution, and Fossils
- Ecology: Habitats, Interdependence, and Resources
The doodles are simple but very entertaining, and the explanations are clear and concise. If you could only get one book of the whole series, this would be it!
I think this book is great for explaining the more difficult events in American history, such as the cause behind World War I. I love how superfluous details are left out and the main points are the focus of these books because it really helps to clarify those murky moments in U.S. history.
This book covers ten areas:
- Prehistory – Early 1600s
- Colonial America, 1607-1780s
- American Revolutions and the Early Republic, 1776-1791
- American Expansion, 1801-1861
- Civil War and Reconstruction, 1850s-1870s
- Reshaping the Nation, 1850-1917
- World Wars and Modern America, 1900s-1930s
- World War II, 1930s-1945
- Post-World War II Era, 1945-1980
- American History and Current-ish Events
From the Louisiana Purchase to Burr vs. Hamilton to D-Day, this book is a super helpful guide for students studying American history.
This book covers nine areas:
- The First Humans: Prehistory-3500 BC
- First Civilizations: 3500 – 300 AD
- The Middle Ages: 400 – 1500
- Renaissance and Reformation: 1350-1650
- The Age of Exploration: 1400- 1800
- Revolution and Enlightenment: 1500 – 1865
- The Era of Imperialism: 1800-1914
- World Conflicts in the Early Twentieth Century: 1914-1945
- Post-World War II: The World from 1945 to Today
Overall, I love how these books strengthen a student’s skills for using a reference source. It also empowers them to find the answers they are looking for rather than asking an adult or looking it up on the internet. Actually, it is better! Have you ever looked up the reason for World War I on the internet? Or how to find the least common multiple of two numbers? We like the descriptions in these books best.
For homeschoolers, this isn’t a stand-alone curriculum. It must be supplemented with textbooks or living books and online tools, if you choose to use it as a curriculum spine.
You can order your set here.
Monica Olivera is a homeschooling mother of two and a freelance education writer. Her site, MommyMaestra.com, helps Hispanic parents get more involved in their children’s education by providing resources, tips, and opportunities. She is also the co-founder of Latinas for Latino Lit and the content creator of the Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program, the first national, online program designed specifically for Latino families. Her education articles have appeared in numerous online sites such as NBCNews, latinamom.me, and PBSParents. To learn more, visit her About.me page.