The Big Picture. It’s important. Before we go off into all directions, it’s good to get a sense of where we want to end up. The resources below are just that: helpful guides from those who’ve had success educating their children at home. That said, every family is different: many parents today adopt a few ideas from a variety of approaches. 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!
Focusing on relationship––a truly Catholic approach. In keeping with the modern idea of the human person as developed by John Paul II and other 20th C. Catholic theologians, Bonnie Landry’s Homeschooling Simplified series builds on classical principles while also emphasizing the importance of family and relationship. Her books emphasize the learning process rather than specific content, and are invaluable as a starting point for families new to home education. Bonnie also has a full-day workshop available on video, called Homeschooling with JOY.
The following resources also prioritize the value of learning together, especially through stories:
- Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival offers a strong case for reading aloud together as a family, as well as booklists and strategies. She has recently written a book which serves as a great starting point: The Read-Aloud Family.
- 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.
The Classical Approach. Today most of the homeschoolers we know value an approach that incorporates the time-tested principles of learning developed in our long tradition of education, from the Greeks onwards.
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 today, 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 Memory offer comprehensive options, which can be used together as a family or in a coop setting.
The following are also good places to start reading about how a classical approach 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.
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!