igniting our minds // homeschool curriculum

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When it comes to the subject of education, my favorite quote is the following, attributed to William Butler Yeats:

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

As a homeschooling mother of three daughters, I often refer back to this quote. It seems to be in direct opposition to the educational philosophies, paradigms and structures, presented in most modern day educational settings. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say that you could flip that quote and it would be much more appropriate when describing a majority of school settings, in our country.

I’m not saying anything revolutionary, actually. It’s simple fact that schools are tasked with teaching a set of standards and “filling a pail”, so that upon graduation, students have acquired a uniform amount of information. It’s been this way for decades. It won’t change unless there is significant educational reform, and many would argue there is no need for it to be changed. That’s why school choice In America is such a lovely freedom – because we don’t all view education, and its importance, through the same lens or worldview.

Along with the mentioned quote, I also have a educational mantra I repeat to myself almost daily. It keeps me going when I feel the fatigue of non-existant alone time and mounting lists of tasks to accomplish. I was once sent a note, from a much wiser mother and home-educating veteran. She told me, “Rachel, think with the end in mind.” That one quote has sustained me through the last three years of homeschooling, and hopefully many more years to come.

You see, we have a vision of what we would like our children to be equipped with, once they fly the nest. The knowledge, empathy, compassion, respect, love for all things beautiful, virtuous and good. When I’ve written this list down, the aspects that pertain to character far outweigh what textbooks can teach them. Obviously, I care deeply about them obtaining a robust and (at times) rigorous academic backdrop. After all, they will be students, sent into the world to light it on fire with both wit and wisdom (hopefully), all to the glory of Christ.

However, as much as I want them to excel in Latin, literature and liturgy, I also desire something much deeper, which is why I struggled with the idea of sending them to someone else, for the majority of their days. We desire to mold, shape and carefully guide them as small Christ-followers. Am I guaranteed that all of my children will accept the gift of salvation, freely, and hand over their life to the Lord, to be used however He calls? No, I am not. If I’m honest, that lack of control is difficult for me, (see previous post for background on several of my control-issues) but I’m certainly not going to ignore this call from the Lord. Homeschooling is total-life education, in my estimation. I don’t want to simply fill up a their “pail” with information, that is void of context. I want to ignite my children’s minds and hearts, to be attuned to the colorful world we have been gifted, and inspire them to learn because they love learning. To learn with a Christian worldview so they understand the importance of learning.

With all that being said, I’m often asked what we use for curriculum. Again, the above sentiments should certainly not give the impression that I’m not strict with our curriculum selections. Ask any of my close friends and they’ll tell you I’m a bit of a drill sergeant. I’ve definitely become more flexible in the past few years (a necessity if you’re going into this line of work) but I do have high educational expectations for my girls, as well as myself. While I do not believe there is one specific way that all home educators can best teach, I do subscribe to an educational philosophy that works best for our family and for which I have extensively researched. The Classical style of education is such a beautiful form for learning and offers your children many gifts – academic, personal, emotional and spiritual. I’m not here to talk you into it but if you would like to learn more about Classical education, I would start here, here and here. After you buy one of those wonderful overviews, this website has been such a gift to me, along with other websites that are too many to share here. Perhaps that’s another post, altogether!

At any rate, the photo above shows the books we are currently working through. My eldest daughter is now in 4th grade (although I think grade levels are rather arbitrary and somewhat pointless), my youngest is in 1st and I also have a toddler who is almost three.

I will link to all of the curriculum resources below, and several which are not pictured. Almost all of these texts have been used by our family for over two years – when I find a quality curriculum I like, I stick with it! You’ll see an art book that we use, but that is only for images which can be printed for home use. I write my own art curriculum, as well as my own science/nature study. Of course, I couldn’t include all of the many read-alouds our family has enjoyed of the free-reads my eldest daughter has worked through, so I just included our current one (which we love but have yet to finish. There are follow up books as well, and I can already tell that Jackson’s writings will go down as a family favorite!) We also have a daily communal meeting called, “Fireside”, where we light a candle and cover the following subjects: Bible, Catechism, Poetry, Shakespeare, Read-Alouds, Scripture memorization and composer study. Our daily meeting was inspired by this lovely lady – her podcast and website have been very helpful and if you are lost with where to begin with a daily ritual, she has pre-made plans ready to go!

I hope this short list might send you on some exciting rabbit hold adventures – finding what resources work best for you and your children. I’d love to do some posts in the near future with our favorite family books, art supplies (we do art projects almost daily and that was never my intention – God works in mysterious ways!) and my favorite choices for encouraging adult books. Let me know which you would most like to see and feel free to pass this post along to anyone who might need a homeschool hug from a fellow mom-in-the-trenches.

Where God has called us, He will equip us!

Curriculum 2017/2018:

The Story of the World

A four year program that covers Ancient Times-Modern Day. As a history lover, I’m critical of almost every curriculum I’ve come across but I truly believe this program is second to none. It is extensive, chronological and offers a huge selection of crafts, additional reading and ideas. It’s my favorite part of the day. Even if you love to read your history lessons, please buy the Audio CDs with Jim Weiss. He’s amazing.

Rod & Staff

We have used Rod & Staff for a variety of subjects but If I had to recommend one, it would be their “English Series”. We also use it for Spelling work. The information it covers for English is comprehensive and complete. It’s a Christian curriculum and it’s goodness and innocence is perfect. We plan to use the English series all the way through the girls education.

How to Teach Your Child Shakespeare

This year we are learning the Bard. It’s been such fun and we owe much of our excitement (at least I do) to Ken Ludwig. Get this book and look up his great website.

Math U See

Our favorite math curriculum. We’ve also tried Saxon Math and Horizons but this has worked the best for our family. It is perfect for my learners who like to see/touch. You use manipulative and watch a video and then do your lesson. They both enjoy it greatly.

Now We Are Six (our current poetry book, but we also love this and this and this book)

We are currently working our way through several poetry books. We adore so many and would recommend starting small and working your way up. We love E.E Cummings, Frost, Alingham, Longfellow, Silverstein, and Carrol. One of the first poems we ever learned together was, “Maggie and Milly and Molly and May” but Cummings. It will always have a special place in my heart.

The Child’s Story Bible

We read a chapter a day. The girls each have a spiral notebook that they use to depict what they are hearing. They color it in, label it and it serves as a sweet memento of our Bible learning.

120 Great Impressionists

This includes downloadable images to use during your art study. We study one artist a week and this year we are focusing on the Impressionists.

Westminster Catechism

We learn and recite these questions daily – storing the truths of Christ, His kingdom and His love in our hearts.

Handwriting Without Tears

We use HWOT for cursive (my eldest) and writing practice (for my middle daughter).

Latin For Children

Following in the Classical tradition, we are going to begin our study of the Latin language, this year. Stay tuned for an update on how that goes. I’m nervous!

Maestro Classics

A engaging way to introduce your children classical music, while also exposing them to poetry, theatre and more. Our favorites are “Casey at the Bat”, “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker”.

I hope this list has proved helpful – please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions. I’d love to connect with you!

3 Replies to “igniting our minds // homeschool curriculum”

  1. My oldest is only 4 so we haven’t really strted too much school, but I’ve been researching and am pretty set on Charlotte Mason, but you’ve got me wanting to research Classical! I recognize several of your books and subjects though, so I know there is overlap. I love your explanation of your purpose behind education; it sounds quite similar to my own! Any thoughts on classical vs CM?

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    1. Hi Natalie!
      Thank you so much for dropping in and commenting. Like you, I also had a great interest in the teachings and wisdom of Charlotte Mason (and still do). I have her collections of writings and believe in so much of her philosophy. I very much think that there can be a marriage of ideas between Mason and the Classical method and you can absolutely join the two. I would recommend you purchase “Consider This” by Glass. It’s wonderful and sheds light on the similarities and differences between the two philosophies! I hope this is helpful – let me know!

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