The school year has begun. For many parents, that means getting backpacks together, lunches prepared and packed or paid for, and possibly making sure the school uniform is clean.
For homeschoolers, that means preparing lessons, making sure we ordered all the books, and keeping the house clean. (Who wants to learn around a pile of clothes?) But it also means figuring out how to keep the little ones occupied during school time.
Typically, in the past, we have done a “Box” curriculum. We’ve ordered through Abeka (it’s a common Christian curriculum), and it’s very comprehensive and rigorous. The only problems with it are that it’s somewhat expensive and it is basically an In-School curriculum that has been sort of adapted to a homeschool setting. What that means is that there are a lot of teacher’s manuals, a lot of worksheets, and a lot of curriculum books. That’s fine if you are only homeschooling one child, but we had about 20 books for each of our kids, and it was crazy last year.
Something had to change this year.
One of my wife’s passions in life is researching curriculums (weird, yes, I know), and she has always loved this book called The Well-Trained Child by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. She actually has read it for “fun” here and there throughout the years, wondering when it would be the time to take the plunge. This book describes itself as “a guide to classical education at home” and explains the ideas and benefits of classical education, and gives specifics on how to make it work.
I’ll write more about it as we go into it this year, but essentially it’s a holistic approach to education, and focuses on Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. We’re mostly doing this with Katie, since she’s in 5th grade and we want her to start acquiring skills of logic, research, and writing, but we’re going to also use some of it with Annabelle (the history and science). Katie’s History, Geography, Reading, Writing, and to some extent, Bible, will all be tied to the study of Ancient History (The Fertile Crescent through the Fall of the Roman Empire).
So, here are some of the books we are using…
The Story of the World is the history book and Atlas of the Ancient World is Geography, and there are many, many additional books and resources that we’ve bought online or found at used book sales or checked out from the library.
Then, we’re using Abeka for Language and Spelling (Abeka’s language program is the best out there), Saxon for Math, and Apologia for Science, plus she’ll start Logic and Critical Thinking later in the year.
Another thing that we’re doing this year is a Bible curriculum. We’re using Route 66: A Trip Through the 66 Books of the Bible, and I think it’s going to be good. Every week, they’ll go through a book or two of the Bible (starting with Genesis and ending with Revelation), looking up verses, doing fun little worksheets and learning a verse.
The thing that I’m mostly looking forward to is that the girls are doing History, Geography, Science and Bible together, and we’re taking a more relaxed view of the other subjects. In years past, I felt that I was bound by the teacher’s manual, and some of that was fine because in teaching reading and early math, it’s important to make sure to cover all the rules. But it was stressful. There were always so many books and remembering of what lesson we were on, not to mention the fact that to save money, we bought a mixture of new and used books, which meant that our editions didn’t always completely match and I would have to scramble to see what the differences were.
Also, we didn’t get to do many of the hands-on projects and experiments that were detailed out in the curriculum, due to time constraints. I think that with keeping the girls studying the same subject, we can do more of the experiments and hands-on projects that we tried to do last year, but didn’t always get to. That curriculum is geared toward a 5th grader, though, so I will have to adapt some of it for Annabelle. Thankfully, though, Belle is an incredibly strong reader, so I’m not too concerned about it.
I’ll post more about our schedule after we’ve been doing it a few more weeks to report if it’s going well or not, but meanwhile, my wife is in curriculum research heaven, and I’m looking forward to a different, more straightforward, hopefully easier to manage, school year.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.