About Homeschooling, Uncategorized

Is University the Only Choice?


*This piece originally ran over at Simplify and is posted here with full permission*

The world of work has changed, and our educational system hasn’t kept up. In some cases, students have a career plan decided upon at an early age. If not, you shouldn’t overlook community college, tech school or interning for a year as post-secondary options. The old school advice that anything less than a university degree is second best is just old-fashioned. The Community College where I grew up had the initials CLC, which held the nickname “college of last chance.” That isn’t the case anymore.

Many students, even ones with straight A’s, find themselves on the treadmill of expectations earlier than ever. They are taking classes in eighth grade to test into prestigious high schools which they then study hard at to be accepted to selective universities. Many assume that they should know what they want to study and when it isn’t clear it can be frustrating for the entire family. Choosing something innocuous like “business” and hoping that upon graduation they get hired somewhere is a common outcome.

Communication between parent and student is essential. Begin early in high school if not before. Talk about how your child sees her future. Expect the view of the future to evolve and keep adjusting the plans to accommodate those changes. Taking some time to consider all paths shouldn’t feel like a luxury.

Community colleges are and have always been a real bargain. Many have teamed up with four-year schools so that you can complete a bachelor’s degree without living in a dorm. Many students can test out of credits in Community College using either the CLEP system or using the  Proficiency Examination Program that allows students to test out of many classes not available through the CLEP system. Both the CLEP and the Proficiency Examination Program give ample information on the material covered in the exam, and a motivated student can save a sizeable amount of time and money pursuing credits in that way.  In some academic areas, students may show proficiency through appropriate means other than written tests. Alternative forms of testing include a musical performance, review of art portfolios, review of credentials, work skill evaluations, or other means.

Consider that there is a growing need for skilled tradespeople (mikerowe.com), yet the stigma surrounding vocational technology vs. the traditional 4-year college route remains entrenched. Homeschoolers, especially, have the time to introduce Vo-Tech skills into their chosen curriculum. All students should at least witness the creative energy surrounding welding, machining, woodworking, plumbing, carpentry, and heating systems. With the growing trend toward green technology, creative and practical opportunity abounds in solar, wind turbine, geothermal, radiant heat, and green construction/fabrication in general. Most of these new technologies do not require a four-year degree. Rather than retype the advice, I would give for considering a career in the trades, go read this excellent primer on the subject at The Art of Manliness (don’t be fooled by the title…there is good advice there for us girls as well).

Interning during a gap year is another valid option. Usually, interns are not paid and can work part-time (allowing the student to save for College) while interning in an industry that interests them. Internships are highly competitive so applying for them before the end of high school is necessary.

This is the time of year that seniors are making their final decisions and writing essays for college applications. If your senior isn’t sure about their future plans, now is the time to consider all options.


Jen Naughton reviews books for homeschoolers at GeekReadsKids.Com and is a Homeschool/College Muse at Simplify.

About Classical, About Homeschooling, Uncategorized

Sometimes I Waffle About Classical Education, but Then I Remember My Own

  • Welcome to Farrar Williams our first guest contributor since the re-boot

I’ve been homeschooling for a while now, and in the course of educating my kids, I’ve tried on a variety of different styles and methods. My boys have their passions in the arts and sciences, not the humanities. They’re performers and creators. They’re much more interested in creative and hands-on learning. In the end, I’ve educated the kids I have, just like we all do, choosing experiences and styles that meet their needs best.


I’ve really only been classically influenced. However, every time I start to think about moving further away from that influence, I get dragged back to my own education, and I know I can’t let go of that influence.


I was fortunate to have attended a public magnet school where the humanities programs were profoundly influenced by neo-classical ideas. While newbies like Susan Wise Bauer and Leah Bortins and older writings like those of Dorothy Sayers and Charlotte Mason tend to dominate the classical education conversation in homeschooling circles, one of the loudest voices in education encouraging a return to classical thinking and great books was once Mortimer J. Adler. Adler’s work How to Read a Book, originally published in 1940, was a bestseller in its day. He helped solidify the term “Great Books” and proposed a system of classical education in his work The Paideia Proposal.


The school I attended took the idea of reading through the canon seriously, though it thankfully made it a more diverse canon than Adler ever envisioned (Adler’s refusal to include non-Western and non-white authors was one of the things that eventually made him unpopular in academic circles). It started slow, but by the time I graduated high school, I had read a dozen Shakespeare plays, several major epics like The Odyssey, classic works of British literature from The Canterbury Tales to Heart of Darkness, American works from The Scarlett Letter to The Joy Luck Club, and pretty much everything in between. I read Things Fall Apart in tenth grade. I did a deep dive on Native American authors in eleventh. People I know are often astounded by the number of books that I offhandedly mention were required reading for me in high school. I decided not to become an English major in college after realizing I’d spent four years mostly rereading.


In addition to the longer works, we read poems and excerpts of longer works. In history class, we tore through primary source documents in piles. I read The Communist Manifesto and A Vindication of the Rights of Women. We used Adler’s Paideia seminars as a reading approach, discussing everything from creation myths to Candide to Freud. Adler talked about ways to encourage close reading and then bring that knowledge to a classroom seminar for discussion where students would deepen their knowledge through other understandings of the text. The Socratic discussion was encouraged and modeled.


This is not to say that I was always the best student or that I didn’t cut corners occasionally. It was still high school, not an ivory tower paradise. However, overall, I loved it. I was challenged and academically fulfilled most of the time, given real work that was really worth doing. I wouldn’t give it up for the world.


When I look at my own kids, just beginning to be assigned classic literature like The Time Machine and To Kill a Mockingbird, both of which I read in high school, I’m pulled back to just how much I value that time in my own life. I am a better person to this day for having been pushed to read classic literature. I’m more informed, more cultured, more able to participate in that Great Conversation. I have more references, a better vocabulary, a deeper understanding of history, and a better understanding of other cultures from having read literature from Asia, Africa, and South America.


My own sons aren’t the bibliophiles I was as a child. I don’t think they’ll ever read the sheer volume of books I had to go through. Nor would they intentionally choose the harder options like I sometimes did, devouring Anna Karenina as a supplemental read instead of a shorter option. Instead, I find myself picking a smaller selection of those books carefully, looking at the shorter titles and thinking about how to push them toward that ability to read, understand, and most importantly, enjoy what they read. Despite having exposed them to history from start to finish and to as many good read aloud and well-written children’s versions of classical stories, they’re just not ready, even on the eve of high school, to be thrown into the deep end. I’m not letting that discourage me though.

I’m determined to give them a taste of that classically flavored experience to help them become well-rounded, literate individuals who can also participate in those deeper conversations about the world around us that are based in understanding our past.

Farrar Williams has headed the online homeschool community for Washington, D.C.-area homeschoolers, taught theater classes, at different local arts programs, coached Destination Imagination, and helped run a small, family-centered learning co-op. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she writes fiction and blogs about home-based education at I Capture the Rowhouse.

About Homeschooling, Education is a Life, Uncategorized

Who’s Keeping Score?

Post on any social media group where homeschoolers gather and you’ll find plenty of advice for compiling a transcript and making sure that your child has the extracurriculars, standardized test scores, and all the rest of the hoops that college entrance requires. There are people out there like Mike Rowe, a famous example of someone who will tell you that college isn’t for everyone. I think that intuitively parents sense that college may not be the right path for one or more of their children and trying to push them into it is stressful for everyone.

I guess what I want to address is the peer pressure aspect of it all. I would have loved to just keep my kids on a straight path like college attendance. Sure, we homeschooled them, but now they are going to be “normal” and go away to a four-year school like all our neighbors. This time of year it is especially in your face- dorm shopping sales, pictures of college campus visits on Facebook, and the curriculum catalogs that promise that if you buy their text, all will be well. Everyone still seems to assume that college attendance is the ideal and anything less is a failing on either the child or the parent for not inspiring them to attend.

I don’t want to dwell on my own family too much, for several reasons, one is this: what works for our family may not work for yours. Our family is full of fantastic academic under achievers, and that goes back at least three generations on both sides. We are a family of hands on specialists. We get going with something and don’t stop until we’ve conquered it. The traditional two years of Gen Ed classes can’t compete with starting life and getting good at your passion. I think if one of us had a career goal that required a degree he/she would do well at a university because of the requirement.


I’ll use myself as an example. In my third grade, public school classroom my teacher had paper hot air balloons for each class member. As you completed quick math fact sheets, your balloon was raised higher on the wall until at the end of the year everyone else had their balloon on the ceiling while mine was very low to the ground. I didn’t care. I spent the end of math class writing stories and couldn’t care less about memorizing math facts. Coincidentally, part of math that year introduced calculators so it really seemed like a waste of time to learn facts that you could look up in seconds.

I’m not saying that learning or formal education is not necessary- it is. I just want to live in a world where more people pursue their passion and not just go through the motions and get a degree, graduating not having any idea what they want to devote their working years too. Many times that can be alleviated by taking a gap year and working at something. I’ve seen it go a couple ways. Either you discover that what you thought was a dream job isn’t or it is and now you are motivated to get qualified for that field.

In some ways, this is an introductory article to what I hope will be a series that tells the other side of homeschooling. We all hear about the academic over achievers getting accepted to fantastic schools. Statistically, and in my own experience I know that there are plenty of homeschool students who are average and who graduate high school going straight into the job market, trade apprenticeships, or Community College Certificate Programs.




About Homeschooling, Distance Learning, Uncategorized

My Ideal Online Student

Our very own Courtney is a teacher over at  Well Trained Mind Academy. I asked her to write up some guidelines for both students and parents who may be considering online classes there or anywhere else. It’s not too early to be thinking about next Fall. –JN

My Ideal Online Student Would:

  1. Read the syllabus. Most teachers put lots of time and effort into their syllabi. I provide a week-by-week breakdown of assignments, allowing students to plan their entire year in advance. Also, since I’ve been doing this for a while, I try to provide an answer in advance to most of the questions I receive in an average school year. This year is 2/3s of the way completed, and I’ve yet to receive an assignment question that isn’t already answered on the syllabus.
  2. Provide me with valid contact information for both themselves and their parent (I teach middle/high school). Online classes mean that most communication takes place by email. I faithfully update the parents of my students on their progress every week, but I inevitably receive emails from blindsided parents who provided no email address, a wrong email address, or never check their email.
  3. Reach out when they have difficulty. I don’t see these students every day to give them side eye when they fail to turn in their daily work. I can’t stop them after class for a quiet chat about paying attention while completing homework. I’m not across from them at the dining room table when they’re frustrated. I want to help–it’s my job to help–but I can’t help unless the student tells me there is a problem.
  4. Create a personal study schedule, and stick to it. Just because the Well-Trained Mind Academy caters to homeschoolers, and these are online courses, doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t take them seriously. Online classes quickly fall prey to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Even my 6th – 9th graders often require parental support in scheduling their study time and class attendance.
  5. Familiarize them with the online user interface. Most online learning systems have a significant learning curve. Blackboard is the most widely used software (over 1/2 of all K-12 students, nationwide), but it’s not necessarily intuitive. I provide an orientation session and work hard to establish a routine at the beginning of the school year so as to minimize confusion, but I inescapably have students who email me 3 weeks into the semester to ask me how to turn in their work.

Last, but not least, I treasure all my students. I attempt to establish a warm, professional relationship with my students and run my classes so that they have clear but reasonable standards and expectations. I deliberately schedule assignments so that students have less opportunity to forget about their classes. I offer daily office hours so that students can have one-to-one assistance. I answer my email after dinner and before breakfast to help my students. Every student matters, and I hope they know it!


Courtney– Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000 while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncts, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time, she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats


About Homeschooling, Dear Miz Socrates,

Dear Miz Socrates

How do I choose curriculum?

Getting my 8-year-old to memorize his multiplication tables is killing both of us. Is there a better way?

My high school student wants to learn technical skills. How do I add them to her transcript?

Can I count Elvish as a foreign language?

You’ve all got questions, and we’ve got answers. Tap into our decades of home education experience by asking us a question or two, and we’ll answer them here on the blog.

Ask away here or on Facebook in our closed group, and we’ll answer on Tuesdays.


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 lives in a world of fandoms. With three(soon to be four!) students graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and reviews books at  www.recreationalscholar.com and is Content Editor here at Sandbox to Socrates.

About Homeschooling, Veteran Homeschoolers

London and Paris

I just read an article about “world schooling,” otherwise known as “travel schooling,” or schooling that involves interaction with the greater world around us.  The article suggested that kids who are left to discover the world on their own will have more self-direction and develop a sense of purpose naturally.  That may be true, but I believe there are many ways to find one’s purpose.  I also believe that no matter which style of schooling, some kids will always have more self-direction than others.

I do think there are some definite benefits to taking time out of your regularly scheduled programming to explore the world a little.  It can be as simple as taking time out of your day to explore your neighborhood, or as extravagant as sailing the world with your kids in your boat.  Some families hop in an RV and take a few months to tour the country, stopping at historical sites and gazing at natural wonders.  Some families make every Friday a day for field trips.  Some families take a magnifying glass out to the backyard to search for bugs and worms.  The point is to take a break from the pencils and workbooks and computer screens and engage in some personal time with the world outside the house.

My family was fortunate to do some world schooling this month.  I took my two middle school age boys to Europe for two weeks.  We spent a week in London and about a week in Paris. I’m not sure I can even tell you all that we learned on this trip, but we definitely came away from it with knowledge and experience that we didn’t previously have.  I don’t think the full impact of the trip will even settle with us for a long while to come.

We did many of the typical tourist things, like watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and riding in the London Eye- the large Ferris wheel that provides an excellent view of the entire city.  We took a double decker tour bus around both cities and listened to the guide explain the various buildings and sites. We rode up to the middle of the Eiffel Tower and gazed out at Paris while the evening lights glowed in the misty rain.


We also explored small portions of the British Museum, the Louvre, and the Musée d’Orsay.  I told the boys I was counting this as Art for school, so they read the signs about the items that interested them and came away with knowledge about different cultures and time periods.  My younger son was fascinated by all the different sculpture, particularly in the Musée d’Orsay.  He kept making up stories to go along with the statues.  My older son liked looking at the intricately carved netsukes in the Japanese section of the British Museum.

We saw the theatrical production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well.  It was a brilliant and magical production that we will never forget.  We promised to Keep the Secrets, so I can’t tell you about the show, other than to say that they turned a mediocre script into a magnificent spectacle.  My biggest lesson learned was not to judge something too quickly.

The entire time we were on this trip, I kept thinking of an article I wrote in 2014 called Making Connections.  As I said earlier, I cannot tell you exactly what we learned on this trip, but I’m positive that we were making connections to the past and the future.  I know that if my son is required to read, say, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in college, he will be able to endure those first 2oo pages that describe the cathedral in intimate detail because he will know exactly what the cathedral looks like and will be able to say, “Hey! I know what this author means!”   I know that when my son reads about the princes imprisoned in the Tower of London, he will be able to picture exactly where it happened.  And in the future, when news comes on about either London or Paris, my kids will pay a little closer attention because now these places occupy space in their hearts and minds.  I’m so grateful to be able to have the chance to share these opportunities with my children.

About thescrappyhomeschooler

I’m a secular homeschooler extraordinaire. I have two wonderful sons who make my heart sing. I’m obsessed with all things Harry Potter. I love dancing and eating organic vegetables.

About Homeschooling

Dripping Water Homeschool

“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” – Ovid


I have a degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. I’ve taught in both public and private schools. I have homeschooled for the last 16 years. I have spent decades studying educational theories and pedagogical practices.  Why then is it so difficult for me to identify and describe my own method of teaching? Is it classical? Is it unschooling? Is it Waldorf? Is it Montessori? Why yes, yes it is.

If you’re familiar with my posts on behavior management, you already know that I prefer a collaborative, non-punitive environment. This philosophy transfers to my educational choices as well.

Rather than teaching with strict time schedules and adhering to daily plans, punishing off-task behavior, and agonizing about getting it all done, I prefer to keep lessons short, remain flexible, quit when the kids get tired or lose interest, and just do the next thing.

I’ve found that grown kids who are enthusiastic about learning and are healthy, emotionally, mentally and physically have a real edge over their burned-out peers.


Unlike many homeschoolers, we do not have a particular time that we must wake up and start school. This morning, at 9:15, this little one joined me in bed for snuggles before going downstairs.

We always have a hot breakfast. We might skip lunch, or have leftovers for dinner, but breakfast is always made to order.

While I’m making breakfast, the girls read their library books.


Sometimes, with assistance.


This morning, we had to stop reading every so often for Vivienne to make herself more comfortable. Some consider this kind of coddling to be a recipe for raising an egocentric demagogue. However, time after time and child after child, I’ve seen that children who are treated with respect treat others with respect.


After breakfast, each child writes a sentence in her writing journal.


Next, Vivienne practices her sight words on the iPad,


while Louisa plays Latin scramble and reviews her multiplication facts on quizzes.


After that, the girls each complete one page of phonics,




and grammar.


Louisa takes a little break from book work to practice piano using the iPad app “Simply Piano” by JoyTunes.

We love Right Start Math, and of the hands-on activities it incorporates.


Then, the girls help prepare lunch.


and conduct a short science experiment demonstrating displacement.


The narration is the last subject of the day. We alternate between History, Bible, and Science. For more information on how I teach this topic, see my video.


Today, we read about the Golden Calf.


Now for the most important part of the day: FREE TIME!


Every evening, the girls swim laps for an hour or more. We find that this improves their emotions, their attention spans, their attitudes and the quality of their sleep.


After swim practice, there is a short amount of time for a quiet game before books and bedtime.



Although our wake time may be flexible, bedtime is practically written in stone. 8:00 is time to be read to and get a good night’s sleep so we can get up tomorrow and do it all again like water dripping on a stone.


“Gutta cavat lapidem”

About Genevieve

Genevieve is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time, she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy,

About Homeschooling

Don’t Listen to the Naysayers, by Lynne

You know how sometimes an internet search leads you to places you’d never intended to go?  Well, that happened to me, and I came across something that I found to be quite interesting.  It was a commencement address given by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the University of Southern California in 2009.

In this speech, Governor Schwarzenegger outlined six rules for success.  He illustrated these rules with examples from his own life, but as I was reading, I thought how these same rules could easily help out a new homeschooling family.  Here are the short versions of  his rules and my own views about homeschooling.

1. Trust yourself.

This is probably the biggest key to success in homeschooling.  You have to know that what you are doing is the best solution for your child at that time.  Even if everyone around you doubts your abilities, you have to be able to trust that you, as the parent, knows what’s best for your child. You have to trust that you have what it takes to provide the kind of education your child deserves. And if you don’t think you can do it all yourself, you have to trust that you can find a way to make it happen.

2. Break the rules.

Arnold is very clear that he doesn’t mean break the law, and I wouldn’t recommend that either.  You really should be familiar with your state’s homeschooling laws and follow them to the letter.  However, there is definitely something to be said for breaking the rules. It is often very difficult for people who aren’t familiar with homeschooling to understand that homeschooling is pretty much nothing like traditional schooling.  We homeschoolers are constantly going outside the box of current educational trends.  We find success in the strangest of places sometimes.  You don’t have to do things the way schools are expected to do them.  You get to make your own plan and design that plan around your particular child.

3. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Nothing in life is guaranteed.  Homeschooling is wonderful and can be a tremendous boon to your family.  But homeschooling is not for everyone.  I don’t consider it a failure if you choose to never homeschool or you choose to send your kid back to traditional school after an attempt at homeschooling.  This goes along with rule number one.  Trust yourself.  Do what is right for you and your child.  Also, don’t be afraid to fail with your actual homeschooling choices.  You need to be able to admit when something isn’t working well for your child, even if you were sure it was going to be just the thing the kid needed. It’s okay to change course.

4. Don’t listen to the naysayers.

This one is difficult.  Some people are fortunate to be surrounded by supportive family and friends.  Others have the naysayers constantly fomenting discord and criticizing their choices.  In fact, some of the biggest culprits can be the people who love you the most. Don’t let these negative people have power over you.  They are afraid.  They don’t want to see your children suffer for what they perceive to be your mistakes or delusions. They can’t understand why you would want to step outside of the “normal” box and do something so crazy.  They actually care about you and what happens to your children, but they think you’re going about it all wrong.  Guess what?  They are entitled to their opinions.  But you are also entitled to entirely disregard their opinions.  If you trust yourself and you know that you are doing the right thing, let the naysayers’ comments go in one ear and out the other.

5. Work your butt off.

Hmm.  I’d say parents pretty much do this one without even trying.  Parenting is hard work.  Applied to homeschooling, I’d alter this rule to say, “Never stop examining your plan.”  Things change, curriculum is updated, kids gain new skills and talents.  Be open to updating your own goals and plans for homeschooling. Be engaged in the learning process. Research methods and materials. Help your child figure out life goals and how to achieve them.  Don’t just hand your kid a workbook and expect them to get a quality education from it.  Be involved.

6. Give something back.

I like this rule.  I try to do this in my local homeschooling community.  I was helped by veteran homeschoolers online and by my sister who had thoroughly researched homeschooling before her kids were born.  I like to reassure new homeschoolers that everything will be okay, even if you feel like you’re on a sinking ship at the moment. This blog also provides me an opportunity to share my ideas and experience with a broader segment of the world.

Basically, in summary, to be successful at homeschooling, as well as in other areas of life, you need to be confident in your decisions but also willing to be flexible.  You need to keep your eyes on the prize and ignore the doubters.  And you need to work hard at your plan. When you finally reach a successful spot, reach out a hand and help a fellow human along the path.

Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for over 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 www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

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.


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 www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.