A Step Off the Bow, by Briana Elizabeth


A few years ago, I dropped history as the spine of our homeschool.

I know, I know, this is a controversial thing to do amongst classical homeschoolers. If you would permit me to explain why….


It started as most life-changing things do, as a trickle. There was a huge thread on a classical homeschooling board about philosophy, literature, history, and homeschooling. Then there was the book I was reading, The Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter Kreeft. And, finally, there was a catechism class I was teaching, and that is where all the pieces started to come together.

It was a class of about sixteen eighth graders. All public school children, stuck with me, the homeschooling mom. They were a rowdy bunch, but my way of teaching is to have discussions with them, and for the most part, they were happy with that. As discussions go, there were rabbit trails, and personal anecdotes, and the volley back and forth of ideas. Of course as a teacher, I bring in references to other things: science, literature, history–whatever would elucidate my point, and to make an abstract more concrete for my students. At that time, the CCD class was in the medieval ages, exploring the idea of social justice, and I threw out a reference to Robin Hood. In return, I got a blank stare. Hmmm. I asked if they’d seen the Disney movie, and sang a bit of the Chanticleer’s song. Nothing. “Stealing from the rich to give to the poor?” I asked. A few eyes lit up; okay, we might be getting somewhere.

That whole discussion eventually set me on another path of discussion and into a thunderstorm of thought. Did they know fairy tales? I asked what fairy tales they knew. Not many. From there, I started asking about books, and apart from new modern hits, they had read almost none. This is why teaching them was so hard. I would bring up a well-known reference, one that should be a culturally understood reference, and they didn’t know it. It had been happening often enough to be noteworthy, and I wasn’t making the connections of why, but as I kept asking, the whole of it was becoming overwhelming. It would be no exaggeration to say that they had to start with nursery rhymes to backfill why they didn’t know.

I actually went home after that class and drank. I had just spent an hour with children who had no literature in their lives, no connection to the inheritance of Western Civilization they were a part of, no idea who we were as a people, and no poetic imagination.


I started asking my children, do you know Little Red Riding Hood? Pinocchio? The Steadfast Tin Soldier?

Their answers weren’t much better. But why? I mean, I’m a homeschooler. How did we end up with this huge, gaping hole? Shame on me. Then I realized, we had ended up here because historical literature had always been a priority, pushing out classic literature. At one point, I had five children under five, plus the older two whom I had pulled out to homeschool were in older grades, so that when we ‘started’ schooling we jumped in at fourth grade and seventh with nary a nursery rhyme to be found. Then, when I was done with their schooling for the day, and taking care of the littles, you can imagine what extra reading got done. “None” would be the right guess. I had left that portion of the older children’s education up to the public school.

So, out of my reaction, we dropped history.

For us, it was the right thing to do. I am only one mom, their only teacher, there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and I need to sleep. So did they. I couldn’t have five separate read-alouds for five different grades. Because I wanted what we read to matter, it couldn’t be swept away in an ocean of three hours of daily reading; it would all get mushed. So something had to be prioritized, and literature was what I chose. Why? What I was reading gave me the answers.

“Philosophy makes literature clear, literature makes philosophy real. Philosophy shows essences, literature shows existence. Philosophy shows meaning, literature shows life.” Peter Kreeft, p22 The Philosophy of Tolkien.

And, a few paragraphs later he says, “Literature incarnates philosophy. You can actually see hate when you read Oedipus Rex. You actually hear nihilism when you read Waiting for Godot. As the acts of the body are the acts of the person, as a smile does not merely express happiness (the nine-letter word does that) but actually contains it, so literature actually contains or incarnates philosophical truths (or falsehoods).”

“All literature incarnates some philosophy. All literature teaches. In allegory, the philosophy is taught by the conscious and calculating part of the mind, while in great literate it is done by the unconscious and contemplative part of the mind, which is deeper and wiser and has more power to persuade and move the reader. Allegory engages only the mind while great literature the person, for allegory comes from the mind, while great literature comes from the whole person.”

“Literature not only incarnates philosophy: it also tests it by verifying it or falsifying it. One way literature tests philosophies is by putting philosophies into the laboratory of life, incarnating them into different characters and then seeing what happens. Life does exactly the same thing. Literature also tests philosophy in a more fundamental way. It can be expressed by this rule: a philosophy that cannot be translated into a good story cannot be good philosophy. “

Peter Kreeft, pg 22-23, The Philosophy of Tolkien, emphasis  mine.

Can’t historical literature do that? Yes, it can. But choices had to be made. Caddie Woodlawn or Narnia? Guns for General Washington or Pinocchio? Toliver’s Secret or Little Women?

All of them are good, but what is best? Choices had to be made.

Did I want them to learn history through historical fiction books, or did I want them to learn everlasting truths through literature? Could the historical fiction do both? Yes, it can, but it doesn’t always, and those classic children’s books were classics for a reason: they embodied human nature, they fed the moral imagination, and they nurtured poetic knowledge.

Most classically home schooled children will pick up Robin Hood when they study the medieval ages, so again, why was I bothering to drop history as our spine? For me, it was where the emphasis was put. And, I have to say that as they enter the middle grades and high school, literature and history re-intwine, but in a different way.

Then I started learning about Humane Letters. My intuitive decision to drop history as our spine was right. As I learned later, it was right because I needed to replace it with Humane Letters. Humane Letters is the study of philosophy, history, theology, and literature.

“Truth is symphonic.” said Hans Urs von Bathazaar.  The symphony is the whole of Humane Letters; philosophy, history, theology, and literature.

At this point, though I know there is a difference between the Humane Letters and the Liberal Arts, within the classical homeschooling community (outside of Norms and Nobility) I’ve rarely heard either of those terms differentiated. I would love to hear a discussion on the terms and their implementation with emphasis on curriculum choices in the classical homeschooling community, but that’s a discussion for another day.

With a liberal arts emphasis you also eventually hear of Adler’s great books or Dr. Senior’s ‘good books’. From reading his books, I don’t think Dr. Senior would recommend Adler’s idea that the Great Books be read apart from instruction or in a vacuum. He was much more of a Christian humanist.


In his article The Great Books: Enemies of Wisdom, Frederick Wilhelmsen brings a strong argument against the Great Books and, in turn, against some of the neoclassical homeschool curriculum.

“But behind these pious intentions [the Great Books]–as good as they might be– repose three presuppositions, sometimes not expressed formally, but always exercised in the classroom: (1) disengaging the meaning of a text equalizes philosophizing; (2) the teacher is little more than a midwife whose role consists in leading the student to read texts and who is supposed to disappear, so to speak, behind the texts; (3) these books speak to the reader across the centuries altogether without any need to locate them within their historical contexts. Wisdom is not in the professor and wisdom is not in the tradition; wisdom is in the Books.

Let me attack these presuppositions in turn:

(1) Intellectual delicacy is needed to understand that the first prejudice is a fallacy. The understanding of the meaning of a text is not equivalent to the exercise of what Dr. Joseph Pieper felicitously called “The Philosophical Act.” Quite evidently, no one can become a professional philosopher who has not mastered the skills involved in reading a text. But a scholar who is not a professional philosopher–for instance, an intellectual historian–can do this very well without his being able to affirm the truth or detect flaws in a philosophical argument. Philosophical reasoning, on the contrary, consists in forming presuppositions into premises yielding conclusions. This habit is by no means reducible to the first set of skills. The philosophical act, therefore, can be exercised upon a text, but it does not have to be: it might be exercised on the report of a text, on a problem presented in isolation from texts, or on any issue which demands philosophical penetration.  The explication des texts hunts for “meaning” not “truth.” “[snip] The great books approach tends inevitably towards producing the skill needed to read intelligently a philosophical work, but it does not, of itself, help turn a man into an incipient philosopher.”

(2) Weighing the second prejudice, we must note that the very location of philosophy as a discipline shifts from the personal nourishment of habits of thinking about the real mastery of a number of philosophical classics. Concerning this latter, little need be said; Bergson once wrote that it takes a lifetime to master as many as two great philosophers and the very best we can do with the rest is to gain a gentleman’s awareness of their role and importance within the development of Western intellectuality. It were better to know one of them thoroughly than to know all of them superficially. No deep principal guides this observation: it is based simply on the economy of time given an undergraduate in a handful of courses dedicated, in a hurry, to his philosophical education.  [Multum non multa?]

St. Thomas Aquinas spoke of a kind of sin – probably a minor sin – which is “curiosity,” wanting to know what may be worth knowing in itself but which is foreign to the destiny a man has given his own life. He was thinking of the cleric who ignores the things of God and busies himself with “pure” philosophy. But long before Aquinas, Plato pointed out that a mark of the philodaster, the false philosopher, was his knowing “many things” but knowing none of them in depth.”


(3) Weighing the third of these prejudices–the conviction that books make sense to students without being located within the historical context that gave them birth and in abstraction from the living tradition in which they play their part–we must note that a kind of philosophical fundamentalism asking to its religious counterpart has insinuated itself into many departments of philosophy given over to Great Bookism. Yet very few, if any, philosophical masterpieces speak by themselves to the contemporary student. This is specially true when they are read, as they are, in translation.” pg 328

Please, go read the whole paper. I have brought out what is relevant to this article, but the whole is full of gems.

I must admit that when I read this, I had three reactions. The first was great sadness–where do we go to receive this education for either our children or ourselves? Secondly, I rolled my eyes. How does Wilhelmsen propose we begin to rebuild this lost education? Who are the rebuilders? How do you rebuild the educational system of an entire country? And thirdly, I was angry because it seemed he would have us burn all of the good for the pure. Nevertheless, I agreed with his diagnosis.

So, how do I apply what I’ve learned?

I adopted the curriculum put forth in David Hick’s Norms and Nobility. A friend who read it, and who classically homeschools, described it as elegant. It is.

I will write about the practical changes I made in my next blog post.

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.

"Write From Ancient History" Level 1: Review

Megan and Caitilin each received a review copy of Write from History; Megan a Level 1 copy, and Caitilin a Level 2.

Megan says:

“Anyone who knows me knows that I am in love with the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. I try to apply it to my own homeschool as much and as often as I can, so I was excited to review a product that both followed her methods and incorporated two subjects into one. I always appreciate programs that make my life easier.

I used the Write From Ancient History Level 1 manuscript models. We used the digital format, which retails for $22.95. Each lesson has a story for the child to listen to or read, a page where you can write your child’s narration of the story, and three copywork sections. There are also instructions on how to use these lessons to incorporate grammar.

At eight years old, my son often balks whenever he has to write copywork sentences. This was not the case when we used the Write From History program. When we first started, there were a couple of times when he didn’t want to copy longer passages. When I told him he didn’t have to write the entire passage, he cooperated much better. By the end of the review, he was willing and able to copy the entire passage.

He really seemed to enjoy the stories we read.  I was surprised at how well he did with narrations. I told him that he needed to pay attention and he’d have to tell the story back to me at the end. Then at the end, I’d ask him to tell me what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of the story. And as he narrated, all I’d do is ask, “Then what?” and he would keep going. This is the first time he’s narrated such long passages with such accurate detail.

We aren’t really studying much history at the moment, but I think it would be very easy to coordinate Write From History with your regular history spine. Since we aren’t using a history spine, I would just talk a little about the history and try to explain any questions he had.

Some things that I would have preferred:

–Online samples of what a lesson looks like. I would have a very hard time not being able to see samples before I bought a program.

–More stories and less copywork. The level we used had one passage for narration and three copywork sections. One of those sections is a passage that is meant to be copied twice. I think I would have preferred the reading to be divided into two days and two days of copywork. Also, one of the chapters is Aesop’s Fables. While I love Aesop’s Fables more than anyone, I would have preferred more history stories instead of the fables.

–A clearer schedule. While I understand that this program is meant to be flexible according to each student’s needs, the sample schedule was very confusing to me. It lists parts of two lessons for one week. I wasn’t sure why they would suggest using two lessons instead of one or why there would be so many copywork sections if they weren’t all needed. In the end, I chose to do one lesson per week. I did the narrations one day, plus three days of copywork. I did simple grammar lessons with our copywork.

All in all, I would recommend this program as a history supplement.”

Caitilin says:

“Overall, I enjoyed the program, which used as its base Famous Men of the Middle Ages. The materials were engaging, and the writing selections were well-chosen. I used it as a temporary hiatus from our chosen program, also based on Famous Men, so we were able to pick right up in the middle of the program. For our family, Write from History was not as good a fit as our original program, due to the style of the writing assignments. We prefer less copywork or dictation but more essay or comprehension questions in our history work. That said, I would heartily recommend it to a family whose children need extra practice in writing and don’t want to add another subject into their weekly routine.”

If you would like a chance to win an e-book copy of Write from History, enter our giveaway!

Disclaimer:  We received a free copy of this product in exchange for our honest reviews on the Sandbox to Socrates blog. Opinions expressed in this review are the opinions of ourselves or our families and do not necessarily reflect those of the From Sandbox to Socrates blog. We received no compensation for this review, nor were we required to write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Megan–Megan is mom to three children: Pigby (boy, age 7), Digby (boy, age 4), and Chuck megan(girl, age 2).  She loves history, ballroom dance, and crocheting.  She made the decision to homeschool when her oldest was three and they’ve been on this journey ever since.

Field Trips in Fort Worth, TX, by Kristen C

Field Trips


There are so many great field trip opportunities here in Fort Worth. Some are well-known and others are slightly off the beaten path. If you are a local wanting to shake up your regular school week or if you are planning on visiting our excellent city, there are some places you certainly won’t want to miss. Any of these locations could fit seamlessly into your studies, be it viewing the Assyrian and Sumerian works at the Kimbell while you are studying the Ancients, or learning about the native insects and visiting birds at the Fort Worth Nature Center for Biology. Fort Worth has something for everyone.

History & Government

National Cowgirl Museum

  • Hours: Tuesday through Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. & Sunday: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Price: Adults (13+) – $10.00, Children (3-12) – $8.00, Children (3 and under) – Free with adult
  • What’s Special – Along with the amazing collection of real Cowgirl clothing and amazing photography, there are plenty of things for kids to enjoy.  The highlight of your visit, though, will be riding the life sized Bronco replica.  While you ride the gently bucking bronco, a screen will be playing old style rodeo videos behind you making you feel like you are really there.  Later, you’ll be able to get a code and download a 10 second clip of your ride!

Texas Civil War Museum

  • Hours – Tuesday through Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Price – Adults (13+) – $6:00, Students (7-12) $3.00, Children (6 and under) – Free with adult
  • What’s Special – In this Texas sized museum, you’ll be able to see the largest collection of original Texas Flags in the state, as well as view a rotating collection of over 300 Victorian dresses.  If you have a large group, be sure to contact them, you can arrange for a special presentation.

U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

  • Hours – Tuesday through Friday:  8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.  The last tour walkway entrance is at 4:30 p.m.
  • Price – Free!
  • What’s Special – Visitors to this facility can see billions of dollars printed from an enclosed walkway, which is suspended above the production floor.  Tours are self-guided and at your own pace.  Be sure to plan enough time to get through security, as this is a government building.

Log Cabin Village

  • Hours – Tuesday through Friday: 9 a.m.- 4 p.m., Saturday & Sunday: 1 p.m.- 5 p.m.
    Closed Mondays
  • Price – Adults (18+) – $5.00, Children (4-17) – $4.50, Children (3 and under) – Free
  • What’s Special – The Log Cabin village is a living history museum and is entirely outdoors.  There are things to do and see at each cabin, but make sure not to miss the Seela Cabin where you are encouraged to touch and explore all of the things around the cabin.

Science & Nature

Fort Worth Zoo – 

  • Hours – Open 365 days a year, check the website for times.
  • Price – Adults (13+) – $12.00, Children (3-12) – $9.00, Children (2 and under) – Free
  • What’s Special – The Fort Worth Zoo has over 7,000 native and exotic animals so you probably won’t be able to see all of them in one visit, but you are welcome to try!  As you explore, though, don’t miss MOLA: The Museum Of Living Art.  This air-conditioned exhibit is a welcome break in the Texas Summers and houses the most amazing collection of amphibian and reptiles.  You could spend most of your day in this area alone!

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

  • Hours – Monday – Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sunday: Noon – 5:00 p.m.
  • Price – Adult (13+) – $15.00, Children (2-12) – $11.oo
  • What’s Special – The FW Museum is home to many permanent exhibits, but make sure to visit DinoLabs and see the State Dinosaur of Texas (the Paluxysaurus jonesi)
    and to visit the Innovation Studios where you can get hands on with experiments, art, and maybe even lay on a bed of nails!

River Legacy Science Center

  • Hours – Mondays-Saturdays, 9 am – 5 pm
  • Price – Free!
  • What’s Special – River Legacy Science Center is a small center that houses interactive environment exhibits as well as aquariums and terrariums with native wildlife.  As you explore here, though, make sure to check out the park surrounding it and if you are local, take a look at the amazing education programs they offer!

Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge

  • Hours – Daily 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Price – Adults (13-64): $5.00, Children (3-12): $3.00, Children (3 and under):  Free, Seniors (65+): $3.00
  • What’s Special – The FWNC has over 2,ooo acres of wildlife and over 20 miles of hiking trails.  This is a beautiful way to see Native Texan forests, prairies, and wetlands.  Don’t miss the short hike around Greer Island, it never disappoints!  If you are local, be sure to ask about their Summer programs.

Art & Local Culture

Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District –

  • Hours: Varying
  • Price: Varying
  • What’s Special – The historic Stockyards are home to so many activities, attractions, and amazing food you just can’t pass up a chance to visit.  If you have to pick only one thing to do, though, make sure you visit during the daily Cattle Drive.  Yes, daily.  Every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. real Cowboys and Cowgirls drive the Fort Worth Herd up and back East Exchange Avenue.  The longhorns are nothing short of spectacular.

Casa Mañana –

  • Hours – Varying
  • Price – Tickets prices vary, but generally are between $10-$75
  • What’s Special – Casa Mañana provides outstanding Musicals and Children’s Theater performances year-round.  If you can only make it to one, be sure to see whatever Children’s performance they are currently performing.  Casa does excellent Broadway shows, but their Children’s Theater is unbeatable.

Amon Carter Museum of American Art –

  • Hours – Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursday: 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sunday: Noon–5 p.m.
  • Price – Free!
  • What’s Special – The Amon Carter is the perfect trip for any family that wants to view an outstanding collection of American art.   Take your time and don’t miss the Georgia O’Keefe paintings and the excellent collection of illustrated books.

Kimbell Art Museum

  • Hours – Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday:  10:00 a.m. – 5:00p.m., Friday Noon – 8 p.m., Sunday Noon – 5:00 p.m., Closed Mondays
  • Price – Adults (12+): $14.00, Children (6-11): $10.00, Children (6 and under): Free
  • What’s Special – When you want to see the truly breathtaking works of art, the Kimbell is where you visit.  Home to an impressive collection including works by Monet and Michelangelo, the Kimbell houses more than you can see in one visit.  On your way to visit the famous pieces, don’t miss the newly finished Piano Pavilion, currently housing their African, pre-Columbian, and Asian collections.   Again, if you are local, ask about their Kid & Family programs.

If you are interested in learning more about any of the above locations, please visit the websites linked in their names.  Each place has so much more to offer than can be shown here!

Kristen is a homeschooling mom of four, living deep in the heart of Texas. She loves history, 13021867383_2cf4e968cb_qrunning, and camping, and drinks more coffee than is prudent. Kristen blogs about her daily adventures trying to classically homeschool kids who would always rather be up a tree than writing anything, ever, at www.unsinkablekristen.blogspot.com

Science and History: Hand in Hand, by Lynne

Teaching Science at Home


I am a history nerd. I’ve always enjoyed history classes, historical fiction, and historical documentaries. I never considered myself a science nerd, though. As I’ve said before, The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer changed my life. Of course, I knew that science and history did not happen independently of one another. And, of course, I knew that history influenced and inspired scientific discovery. I also knew that certain events in history often discouraged scientific advancement, such as when Mongol invaders destroyed libraries and universities during their rampages. What I didn’t know until using the four year history and science cycle described in the book was how much sense the history of science would make when studying science in conjunction with history.

“We divide the four years of science into subjects that roughly correspond to the history periods. First graders, who are studying the ancients, learn about those things the ancients could see — animal life, the human body, and plants. . . Second graders collect facts about the earth and sky, a division designed to go along with the medieval-early Renaissance period, when Copernicus and Tycho Brahe observed the heavens.”  (The Well-Trained Mind pp. 157- 158.  2009. W. W. Norton & Co.) The book goes on to describe how third graders learn about chemistry while learning about great chemists of the early modern period, like Robert Boyle. Fourth graders learn about physics and technology while they are studying the history of the modern age and all its exciting scientific and technological developments.

These cycles of history and science together are then repeated again in the logic and rhetoric stages, building on the facts learned during the grammar stage.

Before we started homeschooling, I had been afterschooling my kids in history by having us all listen to The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer in the car as we drove all around.  My younger son was in Kindergarten at the time, and my older son was in first grade — the year students study ancient history. The next year we were homeschooling full time, so I decided to move ahead with history and study the medieval period. Therefore, we didn’t do life sciences the first time around in our four year cycle. We went straight into earth science and astronomy.

I was amazed by the resources my public library had on these topics, so I didn’t even purchase a curriculum for science that year. We read dozens of library books about weather, geology, the solar system, etc. We also did experiments from Janice Van Cleave’s 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre & Incredible ExperimentsWe made a rain gauge and kept weather journals. We went to the planetarium and learned about the constellations. We searched for different kinds of rocks and labeled them.  We even put together our own models of the solar system. As we learned about the rotation of the planets in science, we were learning in history class about Hans Lippershey inventing the telescope and Galileo being excommunicated for his radical scientific views.  How cool is that?


In our second year of homeschooling, we were studying chemistry in science and the early modern era in history. Now, you could not have prepared me for the enthusiasm my older son would have for chemistry! I was not a fan of chemistry in high school, so I never imagined that my kids could like it so much.  I purchased this beautiful deck of element cards, and my older son would sit with them, and pour over them, and read information from them to me. We even used them to build a giant periodic table on our sunroom floor. In addition to the Janice van Cleave experiment book, we also used Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry Pre-Level I. This book was a great introduction to basic concepts in Chemistry, and my kids really liked how atoms were drawn with arms to show how they linked to other atoms to form molecules. The atoms were drawn with the same number of arms as they had available spaces in their outer electron shell. Such an easy way for elementary kids to understand the concept of how atoms could join with other atoms! There were numerous advancements in science during the early modern period, and it was interesting to see how the advancements in science instigated changes in world politics and history. The study of chemistry and physical properties of matter were at the heart of these advancements.


Our third year of homeschooling corresponded to the fourth year of the history/science cycle- the Modern Age. This year, we used Real Science for Kids Physics Level I.  We also used the corresponding lab book.  I liked how the lab book had students conduct their experiments by using the scientific method. We learned about electricity and simple machines. The kids took a class at the Metroparks about how light and sound waves work.  We learned that there was such a thing as nuclear physics. We had interesting conversations about the historical implications of nuclear physics, such as the devastation caused by atom bombs, and (an event my kids remember) the damage caused by earthquakes to the nuclear reactors in Japan. We also had some laughs when a physics discussion would be prompted by a family TV night watching The Big Bang Theory.

This year, we are in the Logic Stage and have gone back to the first year of our cycle. We are studying Biology, using Pandia Press R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Biology 2. This is a fascinating book, with lots of hands on experiments and many chances to look at things under a microscope. We are also taking a second look at ancient history.  So much was happening in life sciences during the ancient times.  Egyptians were mummifying bodies, Hippocrates was busy establishing the study of medicine in Greece, and people in India were busy working on a classification system.

Obviously, during all periods of history, all kinds of science was happening in all sorts of areas. The study of chemistry wasn’t limited to the early modern period any more than astronomy was limited to medieval times. People have studied the world around them since the dawn of time. You can’t have biology or physics without chemistry. It’s all interconnected. So, even though this four year cycle breaks down the different disciplines of science to correspond with different eras in history, it doesn’t limit us to these four designations. If you are studying modern times, you are going to learn about the newest discoveries of the latest satellite or Mars Rover, right along with your physics lessons. The four year cycle just provides a consistent backbone to pursue historical AND scientific scholarship simultaneously. When my kids had to temporarily go back to public school this fall, giving up this four year cycle was, honestly, the biggest regret I had concerning their academics.  I am relieved we get to continue on this path, and so are the kids.

Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief lynnestint 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.

Homeschool Rite of Passage: The Chicken Mummy, by Lynne

You’ve all heard of the Mommy Wars.

Get ready for the Mummy Wars.

There is some debate as to whether one can call oneself a homeschooler if one has never mummified a chicken during the study of ancient Egypt. The faint of heart try to pass off mummifying an apple or even a Barbie doll, but it’s just not the same. A shriveled-up apple simply does not compare to the slowly evaporating chicken carcass that must remain for weeks on the kitchen counter. Mummifying a Barbie doll does not give you the satisfaction of watching the muscles harden and contract.

All kidding aside, mummifying a chicken is quite an educational experience for parents and kids alike. Vegetarian and vegan families may choose to mummify another object and still benefit from learning about the process. Hands-on activities like this are wonderful ways to cement in kids’ minds the lessons learned from books and museums. It’s one thing to learn that pharaohs were mummified to preserve their bodies for their next lives, but it’s another thing entirely to see what that actually meant for the physical body.

Our family embarked upon the mummification journey almost four years ago. I documented the whole experience in photos. There are instructions for mummifying chickens on the internet and in several curricula, so I’m only going to give you an overview here. Take my advice and start with a small chicken or a capon. Ours was pretty big and took quite a while to dry out.

We prepared our chicken by washing it thoroughly, rinsing it in wine, and drying it completely. We chose not to preserve the innards in canopic jars like they did with real Egyptians mummies, but that would certainly be a good accompanying project. I was a little skeptical that this would actually work, so it was with trepidation that I watched the boys cover the chicken in its first salt bath. Here’s how it looked after the first salt bath:   12182643523_cd7e5a659d_z

We were all amazed that the chicken didn’t smell as horrible as we thought it would. I was beginning to think this might actually work. The chicken did smell a little bit, so we added some spices to the next salt bath. We repeated this procedure for several weeks. Each time we took the chicken out of the salt bath, my boys were excited to see that he was a little skinnier, and that his color and odor had changed as well. The boys dubbed him King Akhenaten.


Eventually, King Akhenaten was ready to be entombed, so we read about how the body was prepared for wrapping in the long strips of linen. We anointed King Akhenaten with oils and made amulets to wrap up in the linens with him. Wrapping was a messy step, but once finished, the chicken looked like a real mummy.


The boys made a sarcophagus for King Akhenaten, as well as a pyramid in which to entomb the sarcophagus. We had a funeral procession and burial service. King Akhenaten remained in his pyramid, which was placed in my boys’ room, for three and a half years. Not once did any odor emanate from that pyramid. I stuck my nose up to that pyramid every so often, just to check. I think that was probably the most important lesson we all learned from this whole thing– the ancient Egyptians were pretty clever to figure out what it took to preserve a human body for eternity.

Unfortunately, King Akhenaten was purged from my boys’ room in the last great clean-out.  His pyramid did not withstand the test of time as well as the real Egyptian pyramids have. Despite protests from my sons, I made the decision that it was time for King Akhenaten to find another final resting place. He has been in the next world for about six months now, and I find that I actually miss that chicken.

After giving public school a brief try, Lynne and her two sons have decided they are really more of a homeschooling family.  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 http://www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com .

How We Made Our Own History Year: Native American Studies

By Caitilin Fiona


As I was contemplating my son’s fourth grade and my daughter’s third grade history options (they do most of their subjects together, being at basically the same level, though twenty months apart in age), nothing was capturing my fancy. I was not even a little bit excited about studying and teaching through the “history cycle,” though I do think it an excellent organizing principle in general. Somehow, I just couldn’t get my head in the right space for it. At that same time, I happened upon a book at my local library, in the New Titles section. This was The Story of The American Indian, written by Sydney Fletcher. I took it home and spent some time with it, thinking as I did so that it would make an excellent text for a co-op class. Finally, the penny dropped: I could organize my OWN history program, using this book as a text! I dove into planning, head first.

My first stop was the education boards on the Well-Trained Mind Forum, where I read and solicited opinions on which books were suitably unbiased, and at the right level. Taking what I had gleaned there, I moved on to purchasing my books.

First, naturally, I bought The Story of the American Indian, as it was the title that started it all. Of all the books I bought, it is the most challenging to read for an elementary student. I planned to (and did!) read it aloud, for the most part. The other two texts I bought were The Indian Book, a Childcraft Annual book from 1980, and The Real Book About Indians, a 1950s era book for children by Franklin Folsom. These books I supplemented with the picture encyclopedia of First People, by David C. King.

Now that I had all my materials in hand, I had to decide how to divvy them up appropriately for our school year. [A couple of years ago I had switched our school year from the quarter system to a “six weeks on, one week off” system, labeled A through F, so I had to divide up the books both according to region and to sixths.] I divided the school year into eleven subject groups:

–Native American Immigration and Origins

–Southeast Tribal Groups

–Northeast Tribal Groups

–Great Plains Tribal Groups

–Southwest Tribal Groups

–Central and South American Tribal Groups

–Great Basin Tribal Groups

–Pacific Northwest and Plateau Tribal Groups

–California Tribal Groups

–Arctic Tribal Groups

–Caribbean Tribal Groups

I took each book individually and found and labeled the chapters according to which of these sections it would fall into. In none of the books were we able to proceed straight through from beginning to end, but had to jump around, often quite a lot, unfortunately. However, it seemed to me to make the most sense to have the whole year be coherent rather than any single title in itself. In the end, it worked out fairly well, as I made up a schedule where I wrote down the chapters from each book that related to each topic, and the weeks in which each would be studied.

So in section A we studied the Native American immigration and origins and the tribes of the Southeast. Section B was devoted entirely to the tribal groups of the Northeast, while C was dedicated to studying the peoples of the Great Plains. After our Christmas break, we learned about the tribes of the Southwest for all of section D. In E we covered the Central and South American native peoples, as well as those of the Great Basin. The last section was an overview of five different tribal groups: the Pacific Northwest, the Plateau, the California, the Arctic, and the Caribbean.

Clearly, there was a great deal more information on some tribal groups than others, but I was not troubled by this as there is no perfect system for any historical endeavor, and this was merely an elementary level overview.

As we read each new chapter, my children wrote narrations of what they had learned. This exercise gave me new insight into how difficult a skill to acquire this can be, but with perseverance, they improved a great deal.

Caitilin Fiona is a homeschooling mother of six children, ranging from sixteen year old twins down to a five year old. Her particular interests in the homeschool universe include teaching Latin, Shakespeare, and Great Books. Outside of homeschooling, her interests include language and languages, theology, cookery and nutrition, movies, and fooling around, er, researching on the Internet.

Summer Self-Education with Professor Freeman

by Amy Rose

What do you do when your Homeschool Moms’ Online Book Club drags a little during the long, hot summer? Our group decided to stop reading books. Instead, we’ve been listening together online to Professor Joanne Freeman of Yale University as she teaches us (and many others) about the American Revolution. We have a Facebook group in which to chat as we listen, and we are having so much fun with it! Some of us have already taught this subject to our children  and are pleased to find we know the people, places, and events of which Professor Freeman speaks. Others in our group have younger children and are fortifying their knowledge before teaching this era of our nation’s history in their own home schools. Certainly, we are all learning.

This is an excellent foundation for an American History course for your homeschooled teens, or if you are really hardcore you could use it for Family Movie Night for 25 weeks. Or simply enjoy it yourself, to add another layer of depth to your own understanding of the era. Professor Freeman obviously loves her work and speaks very animatedly (and often humorously) about the founding of our country. She brings each hero, villain, and episode to life, while skillfully posing the big questions and providing perceptive and satisfying answers conversationally and memorably.

As Professor Freeman explains in the first lecture, the point of the course is to understand why the Revolutionary War was only part of the revolution. She quotes John Adams who said, “The war was not the revolution. It was on the effect and consequence of the revolution. The revolution was in the minds of the people.” We learn more about how the people of the era actually thought through the excellent teaching by Professor Freeman.

What exactly is the course about? From the introduction:

“The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations–converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause–but it was far more complex and enduring than the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, “The Revolution was in the Minds of the people… before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington”–and it continued long past America’s victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants’ shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.”

The home page for the course is here: History 116: The American Revolution

The home page includes links to the syllabus, sessions, and recommended reading. (My friends and I did not purchase the books. You might want them for your students, or you might want to just use the lectures as “gravy” for an American History course that you’ve already chosen.)

And here is the first lecture, “Freeman’s Top Five Tips for Studying the American Revolution.”

amy_roseAmy Rose was a middle child growing up in a trailer park in the Midwest with talented parents who struggled financially. Her future life was easy to imagine until one magical day when she was thirteen, her fairy godmother gave her a box of oil pastels and a vintage textbook titled, “England in Literature.” Suddenly the entire wealth of riches found in the history of the West became to her a Holy Grail.  So she grew up and learned how to classically educate her own children who all turned out to be geniuses or at least mostly teachable.