Celebrate Reading! Enter to win a bookstore gift card!

Do you keep track of the reading your children do during the school year?

Usually I just keep a list of books in their portfolios, but a couple of years ago, I decided to make it a fun project for the kids.  I cut strips of scrapbook paper of various colors, and we turned them into book chains.  Each color represented a different type of book, such as red for read alouds, yellow for science, green for biography, blue for history, etc.  This was a great visual for the kids to see just how much reading they had accomplished.

What interesting ways have you tracked your kids’ reading? Join the conversation in our Facebook group HERE.

To celebrate our love of books, Sandbox to Socrates is having a giveaway.  One lucky person will win a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.  Click on the link below to be directed to the giveaway on our Facebook page.


Math in Real Life, by Briana Elizabeth

My children are not geniuses. I am most happily teaching regular, normal children. They are good in some things and not good in others, just as we all are. If anything, homeschooling has given us the chance to lay the best foundation for their weakest areas and allowed them the time to delve into their strongest areas.

In following, this is the story of how a weak area is given a stronger foundation when Mom supplies three days, endless cardboard, markers, and thingamagigs from all over the house. (it was like I had a passel of ferrets, I tell you).


Sophia has had some trouble with adding and counting money.  No matter how hard I pushed and pulled and prodded, she just drew a blank whenever I tried to review money.

So her sisters (who are thirteen) took it upon themselves to help her: they made her a store.

Perhaps they were all tired of listening to the constant review. Perhaps they knew something I didn’t. I think I know which it was.

It didn’t start out with a Big Plan. Matter of fact, I didn’t even know it was happening. The house was quiet, I was going about my business, and they were entertaining themselves for hours. What more could I ask for? Indeed.

They built the cash register and made all of the money. Mind you, I didn’t give them any ideas, and I made no requests. Those things on the side of the cash register? Are credit cards. They had Sophia tally up the prices, too.

By the end of the day, Sophia understood how money works.

They played like this for three days. They brought the neighborhood children to their store. They ferreted everything they could get their hands on for inventory.

Math in real life. They knew what Mom didn’t: Fia needed practical application. The play was the ‘work’ that cemented the ideas.

Some of you might yawn and say that your kids do this all the time – excellent! Such creativity is a thing to cherish.

Some of you might be wishing your kids would do things like this. All I can share to help you is that I have always allowed my children time. Time doing nothing (with no screens allowed). I have allowed them use of anything they like, as long as they use those things with respect (scissors, box cutters, etc) and put them away after use. And I encourage play by playing. Not so much games (Catan!) but in that they see me playing.

Real life math. So go play. All of you.

Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.


Lynn S- is an English mother of two gorgeous girlies (who obviously take after their mother!) She discovered the ideas of Charlotte Mason when her now-twelve-year-old was just four months old, and hasn’t looked back since. She is also the author of Exploring Nature With Children: A complete, year-long curriculum.

She enjoys reading, knitting, spinning yarn, nature study, and water colour painting.
Articles written by Lynn:

Choosing a Home Education Philosophy

Summer Bucket List

Summer Learning

Masterly Inactivity for the Homeschooling Mother, or, Why We Do Not School Year Round

About Homeschooling

What I Would Tell New Homeschooling Parents, by Diane

Editor’s Note: In case you missed it last year, here’s Diane’s timeless words to new homeschoolers. In an ever-changing world, some things remain a comfort: a warm drink on a cold day, a friendly smile from a stranger, tried-and-true advice from the trenches. Diane is a friend of Sandbox to Socrates and a homeschooling mother with two decades experience.

It is very hard to explain to a homeschool mom with young children, or a homeschool mom with only a few years of experience, exactly how to do the things you’re doing when you’ve done them for so long. Just a curriculum list won’t cut it because the curriculum itself isn’t doing the instructing.

I think your ability to teach in a classical manner is VERY dependent on your own educational experience. What are you bringing to the table as a teacher? If your own education was lacking, you will have a much harder time executing this than a mom who was classically educated as a child.

Simply as background information: I was fortunate enough to have a classical education before anybody even called it that. I studied Latin in high school for all four years, so teaching Latin to my own kids is easy. I’ve studied both French and Italian since second grade, so that’s two more languages I can teach with no problem. My exposure to classic literature was very thorough. I hated it as a kid, but I can’t tell you how grateful I am now. I never had to “pre-read” any of the classic works; I’d already read them. In my high school, you couldn’t graduate without taking a literature class every year, and the discussions were deep and thorough. Four years of mathematics were also required, in addition to four years of lab science and four years of Latin, plus one other foreign language. Logic was taken during our junior and senior years. We took art history for two years, which required a study abroad in Paris, so that we could see all of the important works of art for ourselves. Music history was also taken for two years, and we had to attend the symphony and opera more times than I can count. I hated the opera. LOL Not any more.

So, my point is that my own educational background, combined with the fact that I’m now finishing my 20th year of homeschooling, means that much of what I do is instinctual and not quantifiable. I don’t think I could explain it in a way that would enable someone else to glean anything from it. And providing you with a list of curriculum I use wouldn’t really be that helpful. You would need to spend a few days in my school to see how it works.

Give yourself time. Over the past twenty years, I learned by experience how to stop children from dawdling through their work, how to make it interesting, and how to carry out my educational plans. I will say that if your children are not being obedient, and not doing their tasks, you need to get control of it. You will never have success as a homeschool mom if your children don’t listen to you and respect you as their teacher. Having a neurotypical child take hours to get through one subject (in which they understand the material and can do the assignment) is completely unacceptable. So if that is happening in your house, don’t bother reading up on educational theory and Socratic discussions because that is not what you need to focus on.

If your own education was lacking, then you need to remedy that as well. You will need to do A LOT of studying and preparation so that the discussions about literature come to you naturally. I have never followed a “literature guide” because I don’t need one. I had it modeled for me by every teacher in my youth, and it’s second nature for me now. If that wasn’t your educational experience, then you will need to work to get there. Read Susan Wise Bauer’s book The Well-Educated Mind, if you haven’t already. It’s a great help for parents who are struggling with their own lack of a classical education. Take some courses on your own that will help you feel more confident in your knowledge base. That goes a long way toward being successful in teaching in this way.

So, personal experience in homeschooling plus your own knowledge are what makes teaching this way easier. Start with developing order in your home and school because teaching in the midst of chaos is a recipe for failure. I don’t just mean a clean and organized home and school (although that is important, too). I mean that your children have the degree of self-discipline necessary to do their work, pay attention, participate, and be respectful. They should be able to do what is age appropriate and not inject additional chaos into the environment. No learning is accomplished without a certain degree of self-discipline. In turn, as a teacher, you owe your students the respect of having well-planned lessons (not running around looking for things at the last minute…”Where did that book go? Why there are no scissors here? Why is the copier out of ink? I thought we had eyedroppers? We can’t finish this experiment without an eyedropper.”), being prepared, and knowing your material well enough to make it interesting and engaging. In a great deal of homeschools, there is more lack of self-discipline on the part of the teacher than the students. And you can hardly expect your children to learn anything other than what they see their mother model for them on a daily basis.

So, that’s the end of my ramble. I’m sorry if it sounds harsh in spots…I don’t mean it to be. But I do like to tell younger homeschooling moms the truth, without sugarcoating it. You are the end-all and be-all of your children’s education. You hold the whole thing in your hands. In the final analysis, what is comes down to is DOING it. All the theory and reading and curriculum in the world won’t mean a thing if you don’t execute the plan.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to follow every theory and recommendation perfectly. It doesn’t have to be done with the newest, shiniest curriculum out there. But it does have to be done. Teach your children with love, with honesty, with integrity, and from the heart. Do it every day. Be faithful to your goals, ideals, and personal standards. Teach them that reading is wonderful, that learning is exciting, and that knowledge is inspiring, and you’ll be successful in your educational endeavors.

That’s the best advice I can give you after twenty years at this gig.



A Day at the Museum (and More if I Convince You Properly), by Jen N.

When I heard Science Week at Sandbox I thought: field trips. I resisted the urge to add an evil laugh. Those of us following any set curriculum including day to day plans that we’ve purchased or created ourselves may find that a field trip becomes the enemy. Especially at the beginning of the year. Those plans are new, and my impulse is to reject anything that comes between me and my plans. In the dead of winter or the first warm days of spring, it may be a different matter. By then life has already intervened. There have been sick days, days of running errands for family, days when you babysit to help a friend. But at the beginning of the year, plans are almost sacred.

I’m here today while you are still planning and scheduling to encourage you to plan days at the museum now. It is not an intrusion if it is part of your curriculum. I think the term “field trip” has become a sort of euphemism for a day off from learning. I know that my children learn as much or more when we are in the field than on the days where we are home with our books. This year I am going back to a set curriculum,  and as I sat with the plans and my calendar I too fought the impulse to leave each day intact. I really want Monday to be on Monday. Throwing the entire week off-kilter on the first day seems counterproductive to keeping on track.

There are two ways to get around this feeling. I’m giving you permission from the high council of homeschoolers here at Sandbox to Socrates to adopt either method.

The first is easiest. Just decide that the schedule and plans are not going to be the boss of you. If you want to take your kids to the museum regularly and then do it. Be comfortable with doing Tuesday’s work on Wednesday thereby throwing off the pre-printed schedule. Don’t worry about fitting it in with anything that you are reading or studying. Those connections will come later as you get to those subjects. Did you study the ancients last year? Or not for two more years? It doesn’t matter. Some part of the mummy exhibit will stick with the kids. We were at the Field Museum recently and thoroughly enjoyed their Mammoth and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.  We studied the Ice Age during our study of the ancients two years ago. It turned out to be the highlight of our day. We actually went there to check out the insects on display.

When you encounter something you studied awhile ago, you’ll get a “Oh, yeah that guy- we read about him.”  If you haven’t studied that subject yet, you’ll have to wait to hear,”We saw that at the museum, I remember that.” As Susan Wise Bauer says,” Your goal is to supply mental pegs on which later information can be hung.”

The second way takes a bit more planning. If you are a planning junkie,  you probably won’t need my step by step directions either – but humor me. I’m actually sitting down this morning hoping to do this myself. I’ve got my plans out, and I’m reading through them and the texts to see if any obvious connections between museum exhibits and subject matter jump out. Then I look at the websites of all the museums that we could possibly get to and take a look at both the permanent and temporary exhibits.

My point is simply this: Don’t let the schedule rule the year. Any kind of home education takes so much dedication. You are already a hero for taking it on. The memories that my graduates talk about are all field trip-related and since I am down to two students, I am trying to keep that in mind. The one thing I can’t help you with?






Jen N. Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog:


Excited About Earth Science, by Lynne

Last year I wrote a post about our grammar stage earth science which was really fun for all of us.

This year, we are going to be doing logic stage earth science. Actually, I should say THEY are going to be doing logic stage earth science this year. Unbeknownst to my children as of yet, I am going to have very little to do with teaching science this year. They will be doing most of the learning themselves. In fact, I have not purchased or borrowed any materials whatsoever for earth science this year. (I feel positively un-schooly about this!)

We happen to have a membership to a decent natural history museum. I’ve decided to take advantage of this membership and let the museum be the cornerstone of our science curriculum this year. Here is my plan:

Before we begin, I’m going to purchase notebooks in which they can draw and write Perhaps something like this or this. I will take them shopping or let them browse online to pick a notebook they will enjoy using.

Once we’ve started our new school year, I’m going to have them look at some websites, such as to learn what Earth Science is. Then I will have them pick a particular field in Earth Science to study first. So, let’s say Boy #1 chooses meteorology. I am going to assign him several tasks relating to the meteorology exhibits at the museum. First, he will have to list all of the meteorology exhibits he can find. Next, he will have to choose one particular exhibit and write a summary of what he has learned from that exhibit, including a drawing, graph, diagram, or some other type of illustration that demonstrates that he understood the exhibit. I will then discuss with him what he has written and drawn and assign him the task of doing more research on that topic using library books, websites, or materials we already have at home. I may assign the topic. For example, I may decide that I want him to learn more about the causes of hurricanes. Or, I may let him decide what aspect of meteorology has sparked his interest enough for further study. I will ask him to include the new information he has gathered in his notebook. We will discuss the topic again, comparing what he originally learned at the museum to the new information he has gathered.

Once I’m satisfied that he has thoroughly ingested this one topic, we will return to the museum where we’ll start the process over again with a new exhibit. I figure we will probably end up at the museum once every two weeks or so, with lots of reading in between. I’m looking forward to seeing their completed earth science notebooks this time next year.


Life is Science-y, by Faith

In our house, we love science. My father is an engineer. My husband’s father was an electrician. Both of us spent a lot of time outdoors seeing science and nature up close and personal. Insatiable curiosity is in the blood. So in our homeschool, I teach a lot of science.

We’ve used Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (my favorite elementary science for hardcore science fans), Sassafras Science, Singapore science, TOPS science, and more. But most of our science happens outside science hour.

You don’t need “science time.”

Life is science-y.

We go outside and explore. We do nature study, carefully observing what we see and questioning why it is that way. We draw or paint or collect samples of our observations. I send kids up trees with binoculars and a bird guide. We notebook. My daughter took apart a huge (previously sprayed/killed) wasp nest. I brought out a science notebook and some colored pencils so she could draw and note the different stages of wasp she found in the nest. We take glasses of water, put food coloring in each, and run a paper towel strip to a class of clear water and wait. When someone gets a bloody nose, a bit of the blood is smeared on a slide and examined under a microscope. We check out most of the nonfiction section at the library on our current subject. We watch Bill Nye, Beakman’s World, Magic School Bus, and all the documentaries Netflix and Amazon Prime have to offer.


But that’s not our main science time either. Life is science-y. Mostly, we talk. We observe. We talk. We question. We talk. We answer. We talk.

We talk about the difference between the tasty purslane and the poisonous woody spurge when we spot some in the church lawn. We talk about chlorophyll when the leaves change color. We discuss condensation and evaporation when water builds up on a soda can. We talk about blood pressure when someone gets dizzy when standing suddenly. We talk about the logical flaws in zombies when a child is scared at bedtime. We talk about four-chambered digestion and the number of hours a horse spends eating when we pull up a handful of grass while resting under a tree. We talk about insects burrowing and bark shedding when we notice a wiggly tunnel on a dead branch. We talk about colors blending when we paint. We talk about how only the water molecules evaporate and then other molecules remain and leave a sticky residue when we spill milk. We talk about the foibles of genetics and methods of adaptation when the children notice someone with unusual characteristics, as children do. We talk about the evolution of cultural standards when they want to know why they can’t run around naked at the park.

We talk.

It doesn’t need to be complicated or advanced.

For example, this very morning my preschooler cut a large piece of construction paper to serve as an ocean. The wavy edge was much more zigzag and sharp, so naturally it turned into a dinosaur as he cut, and roared, chomping at me. After laughing and roaring along, I asked if those sharp pointy teeth would eat plants or animals. “You mean meat?” he asked. We’ve talked about this before, evidently. “It eats meat!” Then he finished the cut and glued it to the page.

That’s all it entails. Just take the opportunities that present themselves, and explain the why, the how, the when. You’ll be surprised how much they remember from these seemingly casual conversations. When science is applied in real life, it sticks.

Now, all this science talk may have unintended consequences. Your kids may start to talk about science all the time. Your daughter might create a detailed puberty-changes coloring sheet and be offended when you won’t let her sell it at the yard sale. Your son may insist on food coloring in everything after exposure to the first experiment. Loud conversations about when body odor begins in girls versus boys may punctuate the Doctor Who playtime when friends visit. When your children learn life is science-y, the science may never stop.

Faith–Faith is a highly distractable mother of four. She believes in doing what is best for each child and has experimented with various combinations of public, charter, and home schools.Her children struggle with autism, severe ADHD, anxiety, and more, but are blessed with an overabundance of creativity and other talents. Faith is an unabashed feminist and “crunchy” mom, strongly LDS with a passion for knitting, avoiding cooking, and Harry Potter.

Organization, Planners, Preparation

Planning an Entire Year With Scheduling Software, by Cheryl

It’s that time of year again – time to start planning for the new school year. Maybe even a little past time – our new curricula has been staring at me since May when it all arrived. I have flipped through it, even studied some of it; but now it’s time to really break it open and spend a week planning!

I have tried several methods of planning – and not planning. For our first year (kindergarten for Aidan) I purchased a planning book and recorded what we did each day.

For first grade I purchased a planning software called Edu-Track and LOVED it! I planned the whole year and checked off everything as we did it. It was great. Until my computer crashed. In the lag between the crash and replacement of the computer, we got so off schedule that I never reinstalled. I had a backup file, but we were doing fine without the schedule.  We then did two years without any planning.

Eventually I decided I wanted an online planner so that a computer crash would not wreak such havoc on our schedule. For two years I played around with programs while we just did the next thing. I finally settled on Homeschool Skedtrack and have been so happy with it! It made adding a second child to our homeschool much more manageable. Skedtrack had all of the features I loved with Edu-Track plus the added bonus of being online and better yet – it’s FREE!

You can use any planner that works for you. The first thing to do is learn how the planner works. I watched all of the videos on the Skedtrack website. I could have learned it all by trial and error, but using the tutorials and FAQ pages helped me learn some of the more complex features of the program with a lot less frustration.

To get started, set up your school, students, and the school year. Our school year runs from the start of August to July 31st. Pick the dates that work for you, of course. I always do the full year because we don’t really stop for the summer. We work until we finish the curriculum for the year; then we do unit studies, camps, and summer reading that I keep a record of.

Next, set up the courses for the year. I like to break things down into the smallest subjects possible. Instead of English or Language Arts, we have reading and spelling and writing and grammar. This lets me put each set of lessons in a separate list and allows more flexibility in our school week. If I listed everything under language arts, it would require that I go in and manually edit the lessons on days when we did not get to it all, which happens frequently. By separating everything, I can check off what was completed and it will disappear. What we don’t finish will just show up on the checklist for the next day.

What I see at the start of the day (This is a summer day, so there is not much in our checklist.)

What I see after the work is completed

After you have your school year, students, and courses set up, you are ready to input lessons. No matter what planner you use, you need to do a little work on paper before you get started. A few easy steps will let you plan for a full school year while leaving plenty of flexibility.

  1. Figure out the number of lessons for each subject and then how many days per week you need to do each subject to complete it in 36 weeks (or whatever length of time you chose). We do a standard 36-week school year for our subjects and do extras over the summer. Last year our grammar program had about 130 lessons I wanted to complete. We then needed to do 3-4 lessons a week to complete it in a year. Spelling and history needed 3 lessons a week. Science and geography needed 2 lessons a week. Math and reading were daily. We had co-op once a week for 25 weeks.
  2. Develop a weekly schedule to spread your work out and make your days manageable. I like to have Mondays be heavy days and Fridays be light. We always do better on Monday, and then we can play catch up on Fridays. Last year our schedule looked like this:

Edit each course individually to set the days. Then you can view the chart and see how your week looks.

This is what I see in Skedtrack when I look at our schedule. I assigned days of the week to each subject. After I input my lesson plans, they will automatically appear on the days assigned to the subject. If we do not complete the lesson, it will be automatically bumped to the next assigned day.

3. Finally, input your lesson plans for each subject.

Edu-track has two amazing features. You can purchase pre-made lesson plans for a couple of dollars. The plans are from the publisher’s recommended schedules and from parents who have created and shared their own plans. This feature saved me so much time! It also has a feature that will create lesson plans for numbered lessons automatically. It was quick and easy – fill in the date range, days of the week for the subject, lesson number range (1-180), and the name for the lessons. Edu-Track will populate the database and assign dates. It would even do a series of lessons for the week: Monday – Study Word List, Wednesday – Dictation, Friday – Spelling Test and fill in the number for the word list.

Skedtrack does not have those two features, but it does have some other great features that make it easy. You can create a general lesson, copy it 100 times, and then add the page or lesson numbers manually. It is not quite as quick, but I was able to do spelling and math lessons in just a few minutes. You can also copy plans from one student to another, even from past years. So once you set up a class for an older student, you can reuse it for a younger sibling.

Sample Math plans – I do a lot of copying and renumbering to save time typing.

Sample history plans – the completion dates show up after you check the items off in your daily checklist. You can also add them manually if you forget to check things off for a few days.

You can also just leave lessons blank and fill in after the fact. I do this for reading with my oldest. I can’t plan his reading. I never know how long it will take him to finish a book! Once all of this is done, Skedtrack creates the checklists. It takes the next assignment that needs completion and assigns it to the correct day of the week. If you check it off, the next assignment will appear on the next day for that subject. If you do not check it off, that assignment will appear again.  That is what I love most. Edu-Track allows you to quickly and easily bump one lesson or a series of lessons if you got behind.

My whole year is planned – everything that I want to complete is listed at the beginning of the year. But I don’t have to adjust for days off, sick days, field trips, or just not getting it all done. Skedtrack adjusts automatically! Most planners will track field trips, reading lists, hobbies, tests, grades, and more. You just have to decide what features you need and find a planner with those features.

I love planning for the entire year. I cannot be sure that I will have time to plan every month or every six weeks. If I get everything set up at the start of the year, I can make changes in just a few minutes if I need to add, delete, or redo lessons for any reason.

My lesson plans are always changing and adjusting for our life schedule. By having the frameworks laid out in a flexible program, I can keep us on track while allowing for life to happen.

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

About Classical, About Homeschooling

Is Classical Education About Curriculum? by Lynne

As a member of an inclusive homeschool co-op, I’m surrounded by lots of homeschooling families with multiple approaches to schooling. I think there is often confusion and misunderstanding about what exactly certain methods of homeschooling entail. For instance, I know some unschoolers are leery of any type of published curriculum. And I know other types of homeschoolers who are leery of any kind of child-led learning. To dispel some of the mystery and confusion, we need to engage in more conversation with our fellow homeschoolers so that we can all recognize the merits of having more than one way of doing things. We have enough polarization with politics in the world; we don’t need more of it in home education. This article is the result of a missed opportunity, in which I wished I had explained that using published curriculum is only a means to pursuing a method.

So – is classical education about curriculum? Consider the definition of curriculum in Webster’s New World Dictionary: “a fixed series of studies required, as in college, for graduation . . .” If we take the part of the definition that says “a fixed series of studies”, then yes, classical education is about curriculum. That curriculum is the trivium – the study of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. There is also the quadrivium, which in ancient Greece meant the study of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy that followed the trivium.

That’s it, folks, in a nutshell. Now, you can find plenty of articles online that will further complicate matters, but the above is your bare bones definition of classical education. Grammar, logic, and rhetoric make up the core “curriculum,” followed by math and sciences. During the trivium stage, you study the construction and mechanics of language. You learn how to think logically. You learn how to express yourself in a clear and logical manner. You use history, literature, and art to accomplish all of these things.

Some folks will argue that you can’t have a classical education without studying Latin and/or Greek. While I find the study of Latin to be extremely useful for understanding English vocabulary and grammar, I wouldn’t go so far as to say you must be studying it to have a classical homeschool. Some folks will also argue that you can’t have a classical education without certain content, such as the Great Books. Here’s my 2¢ – the world has changed dramatically since Plato wrote The Republic. We have a lot more history, literature, art, and scientific information to include in our educations. I believe the definition of classical education has to expand to include emphasis on things that are of importance to us in our modern day society, as well as covering the canon of work that has maintained its relevance over hundreds of years.

What about our homeschooling perception of the word “curriculum”? I don’t know about you, but I think of things like Saxon Math, Sonlight Cores, All About Spelling, and Story of the World when I hear the word curriculum. When someone asks me what curriculum I’m using, I’ll usually answer that we use a variety of different curricula. By that, I mean that we use a wide variety of published materials.

But classical education is not about curriculum in this latter sense of the word. I could use any different number of math books or grammar books or history books and produce the same results. I could use no “specifically published as curriculum” books and get the same results. Classical education is not about curriculum. It’s using the information we have from the past to learn the skills we need to understand humanity. This can be accomplished by following the methods of classical education, such as copy work, dictation, and Socratic questioning. For centuries students were taught in these methods using nothing but the few published works available to them.

While a particular curriculum may not be necessary for a classical education, there are certainly several curricula that can help you accomplish your goals. Parents are not necessarily trained in the teaching of these methods. Finding a curriculum that guides and directs you through the classical method is quite handy. I’m a huge fan of many products published by the various Classical homeschooling companies and others. Classical education is a time-tested method of producing logically-thinking adults, and if you find that a certain publisher helps you produce those logically-thinking adults that you can launch into the world, be thankful. That is the goal.


Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past 4.5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at

About Classical, Education is a Life, Homeschool Wisdom, Preparation, Reading

Stoking the Fire Within, by Briana Elizabeth

In another article, I shared some good summer reading material that we’ve enjoyed. Now I want to share my own summer book list. Now, this isn’t my leisure reading, for that I actually read the books on Hick’s Norms list, and I try to stay a book or two ahead of my oldest student. Instead, this is a list of books about education or classical schooling that I bring out to the pool to read as I play lifeguard or when I don’t want to knit anymore. Usually I will fill a basket with about four books (no, I will not pick just one – heaven forbid!), my Bullet Journal, my commonplace book, a clipboard with paper, pens, and my knitting.

Over the last few years I’ve read some amazing books on classical schooling. Looking back, I sense a certain order that they should be read in. That list goes like this:

The Schools We Need, and Why We Don’t Have Them by Dr. E.D. Hirsch

Yes, this is about public schools in America and we are homeschoolers, but in this book Dr Hirsch brilliantly lays out the history of school and teaching pedagogy, and gives insight and criticism as he goes along.

Why this one first?

Some of us may start home educating with no knowledge of the history of schools or pedagogy and then homeschooling itself has its own pedagogies that can be a quagmire, so it’s a wonderful overview of where we are on the continuum. You can’t know where you are going unless you know where you are. It’s great if you want to decided between unschooling and classical home education, for instance. This book is like the huge amusement park map with the big yellow arrow that says, “You Are Here.”  Now that we know where we are, we can figure out where  we want to go and why.

(If you’ve decided to classically educate from the beginning, I still urge you to read this book so that you can sniff a very old, bad idea if it appears wearing a “Classical Education” costume. And those ideas do try and wheedle their way in. Choose them if you like, but at least having read the book, their mask will be off. )

Caveat Emptor: if you are an American, this book will make you mad. Not because it shines a spotlight on the ineffectiveness of our current educational system, but because we ourselves have been raised and taught in this system, we’ve become inadvertently indoctrinated about education in so many ways. I remind you of Aristotle’s saying, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  So, don’t throw the book with great force. Consider his ideas; you don’t have to accept them.

The Great Tradition by Richard Gamble

Now that you’ve read about the history of educational ideas in schools, you might decide you want to classically educate your child, and this is a great place to start learning about classical education. What were the best ideas about educating human beings from antiquity to now? What is this Great Conversation that so many classical educators speak of? Why do I care? What does it matter? This is the book to read when you want to answer those questions. In this book you can view the arch of classical education through the centuries. It’s like standing far back from Monet’s “Water Lilies” and taking in the beauty of the whole.

Climbing Parnassus by Tracey Lee Simmons.

Now that we know where we are and why classical education is so important, it’s time to consider Greek and Latin languages, the nucleus of Classical Education. For this we need a good romance and argument to convince us. This is that book. Mr. Simmons calls it an apologia for Greek and Latin; I call it dinner and wine which lure us into making a decision we will surely rail against in one point or another in our studies. Climbing Parnassus is a long, arduous journey, but with Mr. Simmon’s book, we remember why we fell in love in the first place (this is often why I reread it – the bloom is off the rose and I need a second date).

Lastly in that summer reading basket is Poetic Knowledge by Dr. James Taylor.

It’s another romance. Classical schooling is not all about Rote Drill,  Slapping Knuckles, and Chanting. Aristotle said, “Education begins in wonder.” In this book, Dr. Taylor shows us how and why wonder is so important for us as humans and in home education. In Poetic Knowledge, Dr. Taylor quotes Dr. Dennis Quinn, co-founder of Integrated Humanities Program, “‘Mistake me not; wonder is no sugary sentimentality but, rather, a mighty passion, a species of fear, an awful confrontation of the mystery of things.’” What a beautiful education wonder brings us.

These books (and others like them) keep my heart afire for educating my children. They romance me. They remind me of my love for doing this hard task year after year. They give me hope for the world and prepare me to go back to the salt mines of the every day to save our little plot of civilization. I hope they do the same for you.