I think it is pretty safe to say that most homeschooling mothers are always on the look-out for the perfect curriculum. One that is wholesome, well-rounded, simple, attractive, comprehensive, preferably inexpensive. The very existence of bustling “vendor halls” across the nation testify to this fact and we’ve all known the disappointed feeling as our hope that was placed in the promise of success has been dashed.
I’ve been officially homeschooling for a decade now, and I’ve yet to make my way down vendor hall. Having never been to a homeschooling conference, I’ve never really felt any more lure to curriculum hop than during the few minutes I peruse a Christianbook.com home education catalogue and I quickly learned that if I stuff it in the drawer and wait a few weeks, the temptation has passed. I think that my aversion to traditional, mainstream homeschooling curriculums stems from my overly independent nature and the general skepticism I feel about spending that much money without the guarantee of a fit.
Over the last few years this has really molded me into the type of homeschooling mother I am, one that stays simple, doesn’t get into all the bells & whistles but rather is more relaxed, simple. Having known the truth that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life, allowing my children to be children and to learn gently and through experience as made the Charlotte Mason style approach a wonderful fit for our family.
But most of all, I appreciate that the journey of finding who I am as a homeschooling mother has led me to the point where if I were asked, “What is your curriculum?” my most truthful answer would be be, “Bible.” But no one wants to hear that. And I think it’s been easier for me to associate myself with the method rather than the curriculum. Perhaps that ought not to be so. May God be pleased to make me “bold as a lion.”
There are a handful of reasons the Bible makes the best curriculum. And may I humbly submit that I believe the King James Version would provide the most well-rounded education.
Thankfully a Bible can be acquired with very little cost even if every child in a large family gets their own personalized copy, yet it is far from cheap.
Think of the broad range of subjects covered in just this one book- History, Poetry, Literature, Geography, Science, and more…
It’s the only curriculum you can take into eternity without regrets and the only one suitable for all of time- past, present, and future.
In fact there’s a whole book dedicated to just character building. And the Lord was good enough to make lesson planning easy- 31 chapters for the typical 31 days of the month.
In fact, it’s the only curriculum you’ll ever need since it spans all grade levels and yet still leave the children with more to learn.
So what does this look like, or rather what is it supposed to look like (because we all know nothing ever goes to plan!) in our home?
In the past, during our typical homeschooling week, I had been covering a wide variety of different subjects. My goal was to address the following courses for a determined amount of days similar to what I outlined a couple years ago.
Phonics, Literature, Copywork, Dictation, Enunciation, Spelling, Vocabulary, Grammar, Writing, Poetry, Prayer Journaling, Letter Writing, Geography, History, Government, Math, Science, Nature Journal, Nature Diary, Life Skills, Art, Composer Study, Artist Study, Hymn Study
I have taken all of those lessons to the chopping block and dwindled them down to just:
Bible, Literature, Writing, Math, Science, Phonics
All of those other lessons will no longer be lessons in themselves, but rather within the context of the other lessons. Allow me to illustrate.
I made myself this convoluted flow chart to comfort myself when I began to feel guilt seeping back in convicting me that I was neglecting this lesson or that…. It’s been very helpful.
Phonics is necessary to my goal of teaching my children to read well. My driving motivation is that they have access to go to the Word of God themselves, searching the Scriptures to see if these things be so, rather than relying on their teachers. The sooner the better, but they have to love reading when they get there so I’ll go as slow as I need to in order to make that happen.
With my oldest, I used TATRAS with amazing results. I also had a great deal of more time to devote to exclusively teaching him with that method and he was able to fluently read the King James Version of the bible by 6. The problem was that until that time, he could read very little else. It seems that the way the program works by giving you all of the pieces of the puzzle and once they’re all in place, the child can suddenly read.
My second child I’ve taught to read with much less success. I’ve been working on it for 4 long years and she cares little to devote the time to practice reading well. As my busy child, she would simply rather do something more productive. Like a busy little bee myself, I’ve flitted from one method to another trying to find something that appeals to her taste, and in the end we settled on using McGuffey’s readers. I’ve no particular method I’m following for going through it. I’m simply applying the phonics principles I learned all those years ago as we go through one lesson at a time until she achieves fluency before moving on to the next lesson, reviewing a couple of older lessons each day. I devote no more than 10 minutes to the reader each day otherwise she can become discouraged, often to the point of tears.
Last year, I purchased a boxed set from Simply Charlotte Mason I discovered after having read Miss Mason’s method for teaching reading. I shared with you how I tackle the alphabet, teaching pre-readers, and thoughts on elementary reading & more.
I love that I’ve managed to make the Bible my primary curriculum! I use the Bible to encompass the following subjects:
Copywork- Done three days a week, this is usually a memory verse or a portion of that day’s Proverbs reading. For my older children I will have them begin working through their Journibles.
Dictation-Done twice a week, my two oldest dictate to each other a Psalm or a portion of a Psalm. They seem to have very little patience with one another, so perhaps I can categorize this under character building as well.
Enunciation- We rotate the reader for our morning Bible reading encouraging their “public” speaking skills.
Vocabulary- As I mentioned, we read the King James Version of the Bible and I love its rich use of the English language. My experience has been that children raised on the KJV have no difficulty understanding the passages and it’s not often that we have to narrate it back to them. Particularly challenging words can be added to vocabulary notebooks.
Poetry- Psalms are the most beautiful poetry ever written!
Prayer Journal- My oldest child is encouraged daily to write in a prayer journal well thought out and articulate prayers.
Hymn Study- I’ve learned to allow the children to choose a hymn they’re interested in learning and then we go over one stanza per week, reviewing the words, explaining meanings, if necessary, after devotion time. This helps mostly with the little ones who don’t always understand what words they hear, but primarily we study hymns by integrating them into our lives. I set about learning it myself simply by singing it aloud throughout the day. It’s hard to have a grumpy day when we’re all singing together!
Geography- The Bible is of course a wonderful source for Middle Eastern & Asian geography. As we move into post-Biblical times or different regions, living history sources should cover geography nicely. General geography concepts are covered here and All Through the Ages categorizes literature by region as well as time.
History- I should hope this is self-explanatary, but as we go chronologically through history, the Bible is worked in where applicable. Reese Chronological Bible is an excellent resource for assisting you to put some of the pieces of the puzzle together. Last year, I officially abandoned all history curriculums after being thoroughly disgusted as I worked through it the second time. I’m on my own, starting from the beginning of time and working through, I’m putting together our own curriculum comprised mainly of the Bible (of course) and living books. The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History has been an amazing resource to help me get started.
Government- Full of the rise and fall of nations, God has recorded many principles upon which a just government would stand. (For example in 1 Samuel chapter 8, the Lord says that a tyrannical government will tax a tenth of your income)
Apart from our history reading, I won’t deny my children access to great literature even if it happens to be irrelevant to what we’re studying elsewhere. I think to limit my oldest in particular would be akin to telling him he couldn’t breathe anymore! I keep it twaddle-free, slightly above their comfortable level, and stray from typical CM & classical education advice and don’t permit fantasy. (Gasp people, there’s even no Tolkein or CS Lewis tales allowed here since I think that the concepts of Christianity can be introduced and explored without needing to resort to the types of parabolic stories & characters that are so general even mainstream Hollywood can reproduce them and still appeal to the country at large without their making the connections.)
Some of my favorite book lists:
I cover vocabulary by choosing words they’ve asked the meanings of and if they don’t ask, yet I suspect they don’t understand the word, I’ll ask them to define them.
We do occasional prompts for fun using Story Starters by Karen Andreola. These are not your typical story starters but are excellent, in-depth ones that excite the child’s imagination and make them want to give the story an ending. I’ve tried to seek out penpals who are being raised in Christian homes for my children. Ideally, I’d like them to be writing to enough penpals that they could write to one a week, once every month or two. Otherwise, daily writing will be in the form of prayer journals or nature journals/diaries. I skim their writing not so much for grammar errors- they learn good grammar by reading great books with good grammar- but will pick out spelling errors and make them write them 10 times in an English Notebook.
My favorite way to do science for most ages is through nature walks, observation & journaling.It’s Miss Mason’s favorite way too. I rounded out our “curriculum” for that this year by purchasing regional field guides covering everything from animal tracks to wildflowers to fish. This will help them to learn to seek things out on their own rather than relying on my internet searching abilities. “Green caterpillar with black dots.” Who has time for that?!
Still specialized area need to be covered. Astronomy, geology, anatomy, etc… I do my best to seek out resources that won’t be using the “E” word, but a firm foundation in creation science makes them laugh and mock those silly publishers who think they come from seashells.
Nature journaling easily allows me to check off “art” for the day. When the weather is just too inclement, they can sketch from Dover’s Copyright-Free Animals or Plants. We also do an artist study for art which is very little work with a great reward at the end. (We don’t bust out the paints often, and I’m learning that for our family it’s best to stick with watercolor.)
I don’t fuss with math too much for the under 9 crowd unless they really are interested. Charlotte Mason gives us a gentle way to approach this subject that seems to trip up most little ones. After that age, when they know their tables and basic concepts, they jump right into Saxon. As far as math textbooks go, it’s better than any one I used growing up and it’s given me no reason to search for another. I really found Dive to be a helpful tool for the advanced math.
We handle Composer Study much the same as we always have, usually listening to various works from the composer over lunch… and do I need to cover how we learn life skills?
I do recognize and am thankful that I live in a country and state where I still am at liberty to make these choices for educating my children. Please understand and know that if you have to go above and beyond what I have laid out above and make your children’s homeschool more inline with what is seen in the modern system, you are in no way less (or more) of a good teacher to your children in any way.