The Big Picture. It’s important. Before we go off into all kinds of directions, it’s good to get a sense of where we want to end up. The guides below are just that: helpful signposts from those who’ve had success educating their kids at home. That said, every family is different: many parents today adopt a few ideas from a variety of approaches. Which makes sense, given the complexity of our society and culture today. All of the following guides can be taken as a whole or in part, according to the needs and goals of your family. Happy planning!
The Classical Approach. Today most of the homeschoolers I know value an approach that incorporates the time-tested principles of learning developed in our long tradition of education, from the Greeks onwards. The following are good places to start reading about how this can look, day-to-day:
- The Well-Trained Mind is a foundational K-12 curriculum guide written by two pioneers in the home education movement: Susan Wise and Jesse Bauer, a mother and daughter who together offer advice, plus a schedule for learning that features a classical approach from an evangelical Christian perspective, with a focus on American history and literature. They divide the K-12 years into the traditional classical stages of learning and intellectual development in children: the grammatical, the logical and rhetorical stages. A good read before even embarking on the homeschool journey, to get a sense of how children develop intellectually and to shift focus from a typical school mentality and curriculum to a home-based rhythm.
- Several years after the publication of A Well-Trained Mind, Laura Berquist wrote Designing Your Own Classic Curriculum. It advises a similar structure as The Well-Trained Mind but incorporates history and literature from a Catholic worldview. The beauty of the approach recommended by both Berquist and Wise-Bauer is the integration of all of the subjects into historical coherence, so that families can truly learn together at a variety of ages and stages, and get a sense of how each historical age builds on the next, as well as how different modes of learning go together.
- To accompany her book Laura Berquist also wrote a full curriculum package for Catholic homeschoolers, called Mother of Divine Grace. This guide includes specific plans and resources for each grade.
- St. Thomas Aquinas Academy offers a complete liberal arts curriculum from a Catholic perspective, as well as a suggested list of resources for following a classical curriculum.
- Memoria Press offers a range of classically-oriented resources, including a complete Latin program incorporating a number of Catholic prayers and teachings. Memoria is not a guide per se, but incorporates a variety of classical principles and topics into their curricula.
- Both Catholic Heritage Curricula and Seton Home Study School have an extensive range of academically thorough, systematic curricula for all subject areas.
Charlotte Mason was an educator in the 19th century who modernized the classical approach, and is beloved by homeschoolers for her principles, which attend to the ethical and personal dimension of education, as well as the academics. Charlotte Mason’s methods are very popular on the island and lower mainland, and worth exploring either as a foundation from which to draw principles of learning, or to adopt as a whole. Here are some starting points:
- Simply Charlotte Mason has a free ebook introducing the principles of Charlotte Mason. A useful, readable introduction.
- The Charlotte Mason Companion, written by Karen Andreola, is a collection of reflections on how to implement the Charlotte Mason approach in our own time and place––a useful aid, given that Charlotte Mason’s ideas were originally developed in the 19th century.
- Ambleside Online has a free home education curriculum using the Charlotte Mason approach, as well as a short introduction to Charlotte Mason and her learning principles.
- Mater Amabilis also has a free Charlotte Mason curriculum, written from a Catholic perspective, with lots of ideas and book suggestions.
- For a list of ‘living books’ go to the Ultimate List of Living Books Curricula (also based on Charlotte Mason’s principles).
- For those interested in a memory-based classical program, both Catholic Schoolhouse and Classically Catholic Memoryoffer comprehensive options, which can be used together as a family or in a coop setting.
Focus on Relationship. In keeping with the modern idea of the person, and personal relationship, there are newer resources that build on the above principles while also emphasizing the importance of relationship in the family:
- Homeschooling Simplified, written by Vancouver Island’s own Bonnie Landry, is a set of short homeschooling ‘how-to’ books on education at home, with the importance of relationship as a reference point. While Bonnie’s approach emphasizes the learning process rather than specific content, her principles respect both the classical emphasis on knowledge of history and literature, as well as Charlotte Mason’s learning principles (focusing intently for shorter periods, the importance of curiosity and motivation, and so forth). Bonnie is available for workshops in the island/lower mainland areas, and her books can be purchased individually or as a set at Amazon.
- Five in a Row is a great approach for families with small children who want to ease into school as a cozy relational experience. This program has compiled award-winning short stories for children, and created a variety of lessons for each story in question-and-answer format, matched to a variety of topic areas in the stories. The books themselves can be purchased together in a pack or borrowed from the library. A strength of this program (in addition to being friendly to families with kindergarteners and pre-schoolers all together) is that it contextualizes lessons about geography, math, science language, and ethics within a story, while also building reading and critical thinking skills at a pre-reading level.
- Come Sit By Me offers a similar program to Five in a Row, but focuses on Canadian content, and also includes biblical content––so a great alternative for the Canadian Catholic context! Oriented to the primary grades (4-7 year olds) and available through Maple Tree Publications.
If you know any other amazing homeschooling guides that I’ve missed, please feel free to add them to the comments below––will be much appreciated!