Homeschool Wisdom

Sometimes You Must Compare, by Briana Elizabeth

I’ve said it so often myself, as a veteran homeschooler, “Don’t compare! Your child learns at a pace different from everyone else, and it’s an injustice to them to compare how fast they learn!” I mean, isn’t that what homeschooling is all about? A parent having the power to choose what’s appropriate for their student?

But I have found an exception to my rule, and I want to be a warning to you that sometimes, you must compare.

We’re almost into the middle of June, many of us are winding up our school year, or at least changing tracks for the summer, and planning out the next year and giving final grades or assessments to our students.

My 11th grader and two freshmen have all used David Hick’s Norms and Nobility Humane Letters lists which I love because I see them as an orchestra of beauty and truth, and my children have read through those challenging lists with gusto. Some of our favorite books and poetry are found on those lists. We truly love them. But my youngest son, who will be entering 8th grade this year and is a boy who would rather be playing in a fort, had to have a lot of accommodations made for his 7th-grade list (which is quite substantial, I assure you).   I was getting upset with his work, and though I have always taught to an A, meaning we do the work until it’s done perfectly–there is no mediocre and move on–I was having to constantly move projected dates back for him, and I started to realize that he wasn’t as mature as he needed to be to accomplish this list, never mind the 8th grade list. I was dreading how I would eventually have to drag him through those books.

Because of all this, I began to wonder if I should red-shirt him. Now, I have done so before with my current 11th grader, and it worked out incredibly well. I remember my math teacher in high school remarking that he wished all boys could enter school at seven years of age, instead of five, because they needed time to mature. Although it puzzled me then, now as the teacher of my children, I see what he meant. Not all boys need the time, but some do, and that should be available to them as a gift, not as a punishment of being held back.

Then I began to consider doing a 7.5 year, and just idling where we were until he was ready to take off again. Kind of like a gap year, but for middle school. It isn’t a bad idea, and one I was happily starting to pull together.

However, I recently received Memoria PressClassical Teacher in the mail and it hit me – I was expecting so much of him because I had only ever compared him to his siblings. As I read Memoria’s catalog, I realized he could more than accomplish the work they had laid out for 8th grade, and I wouldn’t have to make any accommodations.

I have long held that a parent should use MP as a plumb line, but I had forgotten to follow my own advice.  I know Memoria’s choices are wise, and their scope and sequence challenging yet appropriate. In our case, it will work perfectly.

Comparison doesn’t always have to be the root of envy. Sometimes it can be a reality check  that doing less than what you’ve expected or previously accomplished isn’t always a bad thing. I was reminded to adjust my expectations to the child. After all, he learns at a pace that is his own, and I have the power to accommodate my student as a homeschooler.

And that is always a wonderful thing.

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.

Homeschool Wisdom

Extinguishing the Flame, by Genevieve

Have you ever been excited about a new project until someone started “helping” you with their opinions about how you should execute it and sharing the reasons why all of your ideas could be improved?

I can feel the enthusiasm draining right out of me when that happens, and I think enthusiasm is often underrated.

A  feeling of ownership is extremely motivating. Remember the moment you got your first house or your first car? The possibilities were endless. Nothing could stand in your way.

That is how my youngest feels about a blank book.


It all started a year ago. We flew from Houston to Ithaca, New York, to visit my sister for a week and hopefully play in the snow. In order to keep my five year old occupied on the plane and in a house with no toys, I put a big stack of blank books in her backpack.


Before we left, she wanted to start the first one. She drew a picture and then told me what to write for each page. She was quite adamant about the phrasing of each section. Woe to the person who didn’t get her words exactly the way she said them!

That first book was completely fragmented. Each had a picture and a caption, but there was no cohesion. It didn’t tell a story.

For half of a second, I thought about pointing it out to her, showing her an example of how the pages of a “real” book are interrelated. Then I regained my sanity.

She asked us to read her book aloud several times, then was ready to start the next one. This time, there was a theme and there was a story. She was correcting her own writing.

This writing became an obsession over the next week. Every adult was enlisted to write down her dictation.


She filled a shoe box to bulging with finished books. Then one day she just stopped. When I tried to suggest making a book, she informed me,”Oh, I don’t do that anymore.” It turns out that she couldn’t draw to her own standards, so she decided to pursue other activities instead.


Again, I bit my tongue and butted out.

At Christmas, my brother called to ask me what he should buy her.

“She has too many toys already. I don’t think there is anything she doesn’t already have, so don’t waste good money….there is one thing she might like.”

After an eight-month hiatus, she had just started writing books again.

“She might really enjoy a nice blank book.”

She opened her presents and tossed the book aside, but that night, she picked it back up and made a decision.

She started writing her first novel.


It took almost a full month of frenzied drawing and dictating to complete all 98 pages. I guess her drawing had caught up to her ideals because that issue was never mentioned again.


Her novel has fifteen chapters that tell of the protagonist’s adventures being in a band. What an amazing leap from her first book a year earlier!


Sometimes the most important thing we can do to help our children is to give them ownership, bite our tongues, and let the fire blaze.


Genevieveis 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 .

Homeschool Wisdom

Curriculum Junkie, by Lynne

I know you’re out there.  In fact, I know several of you in real life (I’m looking at you specifically, Lisa.).  You’re the ones who can’t get enough of poring over the shiny books with their beautifully illustrated covers.  You can’t wait to crack that spine and examine the wonder within.  The smell of freshly cut paper pages fills your nostrils as you run your finger lovingly down the table of contents.

I’m one of you.  I, too, suffer from the compulsion to buy the cool curriculum books. It’s a disease, and I’m pretty sure no one has found the cure.

You’ve probably succumbed at some point to the inexorable siren call of a homeschooling conference or curriculum fair –  YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE AND TOUCH ALL THE BOOKS!  Browsing the Rainbow Resource Catalog or scoping out the best deals on Amazon is also satisfying.  Box Day* is almost as good as a vendor hall.


The problem lies in the fact that there is a certain amount of guilt involved in purchasing and hoarding all the beautiful books.  Because, let’s be honest, there’s no way in the world you’re ever going to be able to use all of these books in your homeschool.  There’s just not enough time.  Well, *I* would be willing to do school for 12 hours a day, but the students are not down with that plan.

Every year when I’m lesson planning, I pull out all the books I purchased for each subject and then proceed to alternate between laughter and tears.  I laugh at myself for ever thinking we were going to get to use all these things, and then I cry because we’re never going to get to use all these things.  Why, Universe?  Why do you let so many amazing books exist and then not provide enough time to read them all?


Then I remember the whole “depth is more important than breadth” thing about classical education.  So I pick the books that I think will provide the most meaning in our lessons. The rest of them get held, petted, sniffed, and then gently returned to the shelf until their fate is decided at a later date. It’s a sad process, but a necessary one.

Someday, Books, someday . . .

* Box Day is that glorious day when the UPS or FedEx guy shows up at your door with your curriculum order.

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

Homeschool Wisdom

Do I Have To? No, But You Get To. by Briana Elizabeth

It started with my kids having an obligation that they didn’t want to fulfill. Like most obligations, it wasn’t anything they could back out of; it was something they had to endure and hopefully grow through. As a parent, I knew that it was what was best for them, and I also saw the fruit it would later bear. My children weren’t all-together opposed, but there was complaining which disappointed me, so as I shared our troubles with another homeschooling mom, she rephrased that command from “You have to” to “You get to.”

It turned their dispositions around.

It helped them realize that that obligation was an opportunity to do something which  became a privilege to do, which shone the sun on so many other things.

Do you have to help your sister? No, you get to.

Do I have to do math? No, you get to.

Do I have to go walk Mrs. Smith’s dogs–it’s so hot. No, dearest, you get to.

Do I have to deal with Smarty Pants at co-op? No, you get to.

Don’t think for a moment that it only changed the children’s lives. Not at all; it helped me too.

Do I have to teach them the subject they hate? No, I get to.

Do I have to finish school and then make dinner? No, I get to.

Do I have to read to them even when they’re nothing but antsy-pants? No, I get to.

Do I have to go do all of that laundry after a full day of school? No, dearest, you get to. And teach them to do laundry also. They’ll be gone soon enough. The days are long, but the years are short.

This is no small task, this rewording of my default response. It’s taken me over a year to make it into a habit–my new default.

But retraining your brain to think of obligations as opportunities and privileges makes it so much easier to dwell in a place of gratitude for those obligations and to see such privilege bestowed upon us as truly a blessing.

Little did that other mom know what that small rephrasing would open up for us, turning that small fruit I had initially expected into a lifetime of harvest.

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.

Education is a Life, Homeschool Wisdom, How We Make it Work

Homeschool Carousel, by Briana Elizabeth

I woke up this morning feeling a strong sense of deja vu. It’s a homeschooling carousel, the music and bright lights being the books and pedagogies, and the choosing of what to do each year is the up and down of the circular ride.

Though I am wed to classical schooling, each child is so different that I have to reassess subjects each year and decide what is to take precedence.

This year has been particularly hard for me, so I’m going to do something I never really do: I’m going to share about one of my children specifically so you can understand how some of these questions and struggles never leave until your last student is out on his own. This is just part of homeschooling, and you can expect it. It’s nothing to angst over, and yet these are our children and our high calling, and so we dwell on these questions.

He is entering his sophomore year and is my first child that I have homeschooled from the very beginning. There has been a marked difference between his studies and that of his two older siblings whom I pulled out of public school. Though my other children were good students, their public school years served as a birth defect in their education. This son’s studies, his abilities, his bent, if you will, are a shining example of how education informs character and will and forms loves. I say this only to remind myself that there is no right or wrong decisions with his schooling at this point; there are only right and wrong decisions as to what is best for him. Let me unpack that and share how though your children get older, the struggles of what to teach each year are still there, no matter how long you’ve been a homeschooler. My purpose is to hopefully give you some peace; this is how it goes; this is a stage of every year, just like stages of growth in children, and in relationships.

I could graduate him. Yes, as a sophomore, I could enroll him into the community college in my town and let him loose. He has finished his required subjects for graduation. However, he is also enrolled in our local public school’s extra curricular activities of marching band, jazz band, concert band, wind ensemble, honors choir (this is a hugely popular choir whose performances with purchased tickets are standing room only – rightly so), and this year he is auditing AP music theory. He also participates in track and swimming. To graduate him would mean that he would have to give up those very worthy classes, having  been matriculated, and these are classes and experiences that I would not be able to afford him privately.

He has also started his own business, and is working toward his Eagle Scout. He is taking coveted classes with a renowned luthier.

And so I am left with deciding which subjects are the most important for him to know in these three short years we have.

This is no small decision. And this is where I can say there is no wrong answer -he is essentially finished – yet our choices are of the utmost importance because we have to choose the very best for him. He doesn’t have the time for me to throw a full schedule at him; he only has 24 hours in his day and I insist on his sleeping at least 8 of those hours, and having some hours to stare at a wall if he chooses. Eating is also high on the priority list.

Believe it or not, he loves Latin enough to continue on with Henle 2 this year. I thought for sure we could cut out Latin because we had more than finished it as a requirement, but this is what he wants, and how can I argue other wise? He has a wonderful mentor in Scouting who was classically educated, and they conjugate verbs and talk of translating when they’re not teaching young scouts to shoot rifles, and my son’s affection for this mentor, and this language are so worthy of his time. However, I am leaving it all up to him. He can take The National Latin exam if he chooses also.

We could cut out math, but should we? With his desires to continue his education, quitting math might be a danger because his lack of using it might lead to forgetting much of what he had learned. Math continues. It will be what he chooses, and we’ve been toying with the idea of  a course in statistics.

Science is our own course, The Physics of High Fidelity and some Biology* this year because I love dissecting things, and I think he should too. This is not a course that I’ve built for him, rather he has built it for himself and I’m just giving him the credit. It is basically what his business is. He is designing guitar foot pedals (they alter the sound on the guitar, and he can design them to make different sounds; he then draws the schematics and builds them with electrical circuits. It’s a lot of wire and welding) He chose to do Chemistry last year, and we can switch things up like that because we’re homeschoolers.

So that leaves humanities to whittle down – and the pain of this you cannot imagine. Which books to cut? It’s a knife to my humanities-loving heart. His father and I have an abiding love of history, and he wants to pursue a minor in history in college.  He happens to love the Catholic Textbook Project’s textbooks, so it will stay as a spine. (Did you know I hate textbooks? Hate. These are amazing. I have all but one.) But we can’t do all of the wonderful assignments. He can’t outline every chapter. We read (I try to keep up with him) and we discuss – this is what we’ve done for years. How can I argue with this streamlined option when it made him love history so much in the first place?

The last choices would be what books to read. With this schedule, it’s leaves only room for the most excellent. However, because I’ve used the Norms list since seventh grade, he has some excellent books under his belt already. Now I can cherry-pick the ones from the tenth grade list he hasn’t read and that I feel are most important. He doesn’t have time to write reports on all of them. Again, we read, and we discuss. I can’t bring myself to fix what ain’t broke.

When I have to pare reading lists down to what is most essential, I always check myself with Memoria Press’ choices. You can’t go wrong if their books are the only ones read for the year. More is not always better. For this year I’ve chosen The Aeneid, Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, St. Augustine’s Confessions, Dante’s Inferno, Pico’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, Erasmus’ Education of a Christian Prince. That still is quite a list, and we will just keep chipping away at it. Literature is read year-round in our house, so there is no set month he has to finish these. If he is still reading them next year in eleventh grade, is that the worst thing? Not in the least. Poetry will be interspersed because that’s how I roll.

The last of my decisions, and what I will require, is one small paper each semester and one research paper to be handed in at the end of the year. Because he has been homeschooled from the start, because right thinking leads to good writing, we’ve climbed this ladder well. We’re honing skills at this point, and our lingering family dinners have made this possible as much as any writing courses we’ve done over the years.

So that’s it. It’s the most of what we can do, and the least of it.

I can get anxious over what he might be missing–what I thought he should have done – but would that really be worth the anxiety? Isn’t he doing enough? Is it not classical? Is it not beautiful and crafted specifically to him?

This is why I don’t really pore over books and schedules and get upset, fretting that we didn’t do everything. Those books and schedules don’t have MY child, with his talents and loves. I’m not saying to not look at them, but don’t be bound by them. Glean what they have for you, but be free in leaving what is not for you, your family, your child. Leave it with no look back.

*This is my friend Macbeth’s homeschooling site. She’s a biologist who has graduated four kids. We love her science recommendations.

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.

Homeschool Wisdom, Preparation

Flip-flop Weather, by Lynne

We’ve finally made it to flip-flop weather here in Ohio.  After the giant sheets of ice covering everything in sight over the winter, I wasn’t sure we’d ever see warm and sunny temperatures again.  Summer is my favorite time of the year.  I could live in perpetual cook-out and pool party mode.  In fact, I spend a great deal of time floating around in my pool, staring up at the clouds and pondering life –  that is until one of the kids does a triple-whammy-twist jump into the pool and knocks me off of my raft.

During those floating times, though, I often think about school and lesson plans and how we are definitely NOT going to get behind schedule like we have every other year.  (Yeah, right.) I love planning out our school year and school topics.  I love looking at all the things I’ve accumulated for the next year.  I love coordinating field trips with lessons.

I have old-lady feet and cannot walk more than two minutes in those flimsy pieces of plastic that are de rigeur from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but I have my own version of flip-flop weather.  It’s the season where I start to doubt the path we are taking.  All that floating time allows me to question my philosophy of education, my choice of curriculum, and my sanity.  Am I doing the right things for my children?  Will they be academically or socially stunted because of how we choose to educate? Can I keep this up for six more years? I assure myself that yes, we’ve been over this a dozen times.  Homeschooling suits us.  My kids can function relatively well in society.  We’re fine.

In addition to pool time, I also have more time to read over the summer.What do I read?  Books, of course, but I also read blogs and articles about education. So, yes.  homeschooling is the bomb!  But, am I doing THAT right?  Is Classical Education really the way to go?  If the majority of today’s students are not being trained this way, will my kids be at a disadvantage in their future lives?  Maybe we should experiment with some other ways.  We know lots of other families who do things differently.  Maybe we should see what unschooling is like. Or, maybe we should explore a Charlotte Mason approach.  Or, maybe we should find out what the local schools are doing and incorporate some of that material in.  The choices seem endless.

I’m a very big fan of Classical Education.  I firmly believe in it.  But I don’t think that I know everything about everything, so maybe I’m wrong.  Well, not wrong.  Perhaps just a little too shortsighted or rigid? What would happen if we took a year off and did nothing but student-led learning?  What if we did nothing but read books?  What would happen if we enrolled the kids in a private school?  Maybe they’d be better off.

I’m leaving this article open-ended on purpose.  I don’t know if I have all the answers.  I think we’re doing the right thing. It appears to be working well.  For now, I’m leaving well enough alone. I’ve written so many articles about how fabulous a classical education has been for us all, and I still stand by that.  I’m just saying here that it’s okay to question yourself.  I think it’s good to question yourself and not get stuck in a rut.

Flip-flop.  Flip-flop.  Flip-flop.


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, Homeschool Wisdom

The Oldest Trick in the Book, by

In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German-Swiss philosopher and writer.

Apparently cafeteria food hasn’t improved over time. Education seems to be suffering the same fate – look at the history of education in our own country.

In pioneer days a school section (one square mile) was required by law.  An area six sections by six sections would define a township. Within this area, one section was designated as the school section. As the entire parcel would not be necessary for the school and its grounds, the balance of it was to be sold with the monies to go into the construction and upkeep of the school.  In those days a single teacher would typically have students in the first through eighth grades, and she taught them all. The number of students varied from six to forty or more. The youngest children sat in the front, while the oldest students sat in the back. The teacher usually taught reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and geography. Students memorized and recited their lessons. Sound like classical education? I think so too. Students educated in this way did not often go on to college, yet most ran businesses, farms, and households quite well.

“No, no,” Mr. Darling always said, “I am responsible for it all. I, George Darling, did it. MEA CULPA, MEA CULPA.”
He had had a classical education.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

We still fund public education in this country. We as taxpayers spend a lot of money, yet our nation’s children are behind most of the world academically. There are hundreds of studies trying to explain why and how to improve our situation. Some say we need more STEM; others say there is too much time in the classroom and the kids need more play; still others say the exact opposite. Let me proffer this idea:  that a new and improved classical method along with an age-appropriate workload is the answer.  While not every child will or should attend college, all our children need to be educated to become good, moral, responsible citizens.

Books are the bedrock of a classical education.  The oldest trick in the book is to actually forget the books.  As the popularity of homeschooling has increased more curriculum has become available. A good education does not require a kit or a set of workbooks. Classical education requires a teacher, a willing student, and time. You need only visit a homeschool convention for minutes before noticing the Thomas Jefferson was homeschooled t-shirts. The greatest minds of the ages were educated by reading books, learning to debate ideas, and discussing those ideas with teachers. None of the ancient Greeks ever had “box day.”

In our consumer-driven society it is easy to fall into a “needing the next new thing” mindset.  It all comes down to trusting ourselves. Do we know the nature of our children? Do we understand the nature of education? Are we willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen? A classical education is worth working toward, but it is work. Will a classical education benefit all of us? I don’t know anyone who would argue that a country of children educated to think logically and to know the history they do not wish to repeat would be a huge benefit to all of us.

We need more than just a syllabus.  Knowing the how’s and why’s of an education that most of us did not receive ourselves leaves us constantly running to catch up.  The idea of an education that only supplies a student with skills to get ahead in the world is not  an adequate preparation for even entry-level employment. An education rooted in the classics gives each student their own arsenal of information and experiences to draw from. This is where the non-classically educated teacher must accept the responsibility of continually self-educating.

If we accept the premise that classical education is the best that has been thought and said, then why wouldn’t that type of education be for everyone?

Photo by Thomas R Machnitzki





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:

About Classical, Homeschool Wisdom

Classical Homeschooling: Not Just for Christians, by Lynne

If you Google “classical homeschooling”, you might think that classical homeschooling is a method of education exclusively for Christians, since many of the publishers of classical homeschooling materials are Christian companies that publish materials with a Christian focus.

If you Google “classical homeschooling statistics,” you won’t find much information to disabuse you of the notion that classical homeschooling is definitely a Christian thing.

Why is this?

Well, there are many reasons. Christianity has played an enormous role in shaping the history of Western Civilization. In the middle ages, the Church charged itself with preserving the great works of the past and carrying that knowledge into the future. So, for centuries, there has been a Christian tradition of preserving classical education. Although there were certainly secular roots to the modern homeschooling movement, a new group also emerged. A large number of Christian families decided to homeschool for religious reasons. The classical tradition was there waiting for them.

Since there aren’t many detailed statistics on homeschooling in general, I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t find anything reliable about the number of non-Christian classical homeschoolers. Therefore, this article is anecdotal in nature, based on what I have experienced in my homeschooling circles, both in real life and online. I’m here to tell you that classical homeschooling is for everyone, regardless of religion.

My little family is a prime example. Our children receive religious instruction in my husband’s family’s non-Christian religious heritage (which is different from mine), but we are all basically agnostic and do not homeschool for religious reasons. Our homeschool has a secular focus.

I was fortunate to attend a small liberal arts college. At the time, I didn’t understand just how lucky I was. But as I read and researched on various homeschooling methods, I have come to realize just how well my education has served me in life and how much I want my children to have that advantage. I recently listened to The Modern Scholar: How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value.  It renewed my conviction that I have chosen a sound path for my family.

See, a classical education is all about learning how to learn. It’s about learning to be a productive citizen. It’s about learning how to think for yourself and to work through problems using logic and reason. It’s about learning the steps to becoming an effective communicator. This is what the Greeks taught to their children. This is what the Romans thought their patrician class needed to know in order to run the empire. This is what my liberal arts college thought we needed to be well rounded individuals that could be successful in any direction life might take us.

Many of the Christian classical education enthusiasts like to say that the purpose of classical education is to discover what is good, true, and beautiful. That sounds good to me, too. Subjective, maybe, but nice.

I have met many, many families who feel as I do. They can see the benefits of training your brain with classical methodologies, regardless of materials. You need to learn how language works, how the parts of speech come together to form sentences. It doesn’t matter if you use the Bible to study language or if you use translations of Greek myths. The poetry of language is evident in both. You need to understand how history has affected literature, politics, art, and science. It’s all interconnected. You need to learn the mathematical principles that help us control and use our surroundings. To transmit human knowledge to future generations, you need to know how to put the information down in a logical way. To convince someone to agree with your ideas, you need to learn how to present your opinions in a clear and persuasive way. None of this necessarily has anything to do with religion, although it would definitely help to proselytize if you’ve learned the art of rhetoric.

As a secular homeschooler, I do wish there were more secular materials available. However, I have used materials from Christian publishers because they were excellent materials. And quite frankly, you can give yourself or your children a solid classical education just by utilizing what’s available at the library.

I’m not opposed to religion. In fact, I think learning religious stories, especially Christian stories, will help my children to understand cultural references in the literature and art of the Western World in which we live. Learning religious tenets of other faiths will help them understand where their fellow citizens come down on various issues regarding morality and politics.

While I don’t have numbers to give you, I do have personal experience, and I know many families of all creeds – and no creeds – who have chosen classical homeschooling. So, if you haven’t considered classical education for your homeschool because you think there is a religious bias to it, I invite you to reconsider and read some information about classical education with an open mind. For more information on what exactly is classical education, check out our Classical Ed. Glossary. For further discussion, join our Facebook group – everyone is welcome.

photo by Ian Barnard from


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

Homeschool Wisdom

One Key to Preventing Burnout: Know Thyself, by Briana

The holiday creep has started. Santa is in the mall ringing his bell, and radio stations are playing Christmas carols. The pressure is on, and through all of this you still have a house full of kids who are expecting to eat, wear clean clothes, be somewhat educated, and for mom to hand-make everything, pipe Duchess Potatoes …and you are supposed to do this with with style and ease. Perhaps in kitten heels. At least that’s what society tells you. And it’s not even Thanksgiving as I write this.

The pressure is hard enough as it is, but for some reason, to a homeschooler, it can be utterly excruciating, even to the point of ruining your holiday and leaving you in a hot pile of burnout. I started planning out my next few weeks and almost had an anxiety attack at all of the concerts, recitals, pot-lucks, and cocktail parties I have to go to. Yes, have to. These are my kids, they are important to me, they have been working hard and I will go and clap. I will meet my neighbors, who are throwing a party for the noobs in the neighborhood, because I want to invest that time into knowing the people I live next to. On top of all of that, I have two kid birthdays before Christmas.

I’m an INFJ.  Now, those of you who know what that is will see precisely where I am going with this.

See that “I” as in the first part of INFJ? That stands for introvert. I am extremely introverted. I have to psyche myself up into walking out my door on a good day, let alone a day where I have to make lots of small talk with strangers and actually wear kitten heels. I have one obligation outside of my house this year, and even though it is only one hour a week, it still greatly weighs on me and takes some preparation on my part.

What that also means is that in these next few months, if I don’t want to land in January (where I have four more kids’ birthdays) cursing the day I was born, I am going to have to seriously look at my obligations, and prioritize. See, being an introvert also means that my own people, this fruit basket of my own loins, are extremely draining to me. I am with them all day, almost every day, and with very little time to myself. They all talk, which I love, but even talking with people you love is draining. They make noises I’m not fond of. There are instruments that are loudly practiced, dogs running around, a parrot who is sassy, and I cannot go lock myself in a room because this, all of this, is my responsibility. As it is, most of my free time is spent in prepping for the next day’s lessons, cooking, and cleaning or taking care of the animals. (Yes, my kids do chores, a lot of them. We are a horde.)  So I mean draining not in a bad way, or a regretful way, but in a way that I need to prepare and take account for if I’m not going to be all cranky and sullen teaching them each and every day.  They don’t deserve to have a sullen and cranky teacher and mother. I signed up for them; they didn’t sign up for me. With some self-discipline I can prevent any foul moods that can occur because of too much pressure that I’m putting on myself, or letting others put on me. Meaning, I need to know myself. I need to make sure I’m always on full so I can pour out.

I’m also a Highly Sensitive Person. Go ahead and take the test. I got 23/27. Now, I don’t tell you this stuff so we can all wear spechul snowflayke crowns. I wish I knew this stuff about myself before. I would have saved myself a lot of anger, resentment and tears if someone would have told me that I (should not have gotten a cockatoo when I had three toddlers, an infant, and two dogs) need to adapt my surroundings and my priorities so that I can give the very best of myself to those who are most important to me. And let’s be honest, it seems that everything is pulling on you out in the world.

It’s not selfish to work your life so that you can be the best at what you have to do. I mean, if I had a career outside the home, wouldn’t it be expected that I be the best I could be and fix my environment in a way that made me the most productive for that job? Why is it that when we are homeschool moms, curating our environment sounds like some sort of luxury for the spoiled? We all need systems that work for us, and homeschooling moms need that just as much as anyone else. I need it if they all want me to be sane.

It’s not selfish to find out who you are, and to make your environment and expectations reflect that. It’s a kindness to the people you are raising and those who love you and live with you. It’s a first step in being the best version of yourself so that you have the best of you to give, not the dried out leftovers.


So make it work for you. Write down what is most important to you in these next few months. Even if it is making stockings, or concerts, or baking cookies, block it in. The important stuff doesn’t happen on its own. If you’re like me, the day after you have something outside of the house, you’ll need three days inside the house to work yourself back to normal. Block that in. Save your Yes for the most important things.



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.