". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

School Planning

We're starting back into our homeschool routine on Monday. Don't be impressed. Our normal approach is to do "school" year round, taking breaks as needed due to holidays or trips or family demands or pure exhaustion. We do typically take off the full month of August. Not this year. Our homeschool routine has been so frequently interrupted this past year and the interruptions have been so extended that we all agree we need to refocus now, not next month.

I will be spending the weekend trying to get our books and plans in order. Here's the first step: a listing of what we plan to incorporate into our studies this year. It's a pretty big list. My older son has one year left at home before he heads off to college, and we plan to make the most of it.


British Literature, using Elements of Literature (Sixth Course) from HRW as the framework and supplementing as needed/desired.

A survey of grammar, using my accumulated knowledge and textbooks from English courses of lore.

A research paper, which I have not yet had either of my teenagers do. As a former classroom English teacher, I think that research papers are overrated and prone to abuse and that most students in traditional schools are required to do too many of them (every year starting in junior high or earlier is overkill). But it's now or never with my son, and I do want to guide him through one before he has to do it on his own in college.

How To Read a Book - To hone reading skills for all those college texts.


Caitlin started Algebra I last year and will finish it this year. I have told her she can take the whole year if she wants. She does fine with math but it will not likely play a significant role in her college studies or career path, so as long as she has the equivalent of three years of high school math (geometry and Algebra II are on the horizon) I will be satisfied. Our math curriculum of choice for some time now has been Teaching Textbooks.

Trevor completed pre-calculus/trigonometry his sophomore year. Last fall he took Introduction to Statistics at one of the local junior colleges. This fall he is signed up for Finite Mathematics.


We spent last year working through about half of Apologia Biology. We will finish it this year. Trevor also wants to study Advanced Physics, and he will be doing that concurrently on his own.


Our approach to history from the beginning has been to attempt to follow the 4-year ancient through modern cycle suggested by most classical educators. It has been a rather slow go. This year we are going to do whirlwind reviews of both world and American history using the Short Lessons texts from Walch Publishing. Once those are under our belt I would like to end the year with study of the 20th century, which always seems to get neglected.


Trevor will be studying Government this year using Clarence B. Carson's Basic Government and several supplementary texts: What Would the Founders Do?; Lies My Teacher Told Me; Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity.

Art History

There have been times in our homeschooling journey that we have incorporated art study, but never in a systematic way. This year we will try to do so using another Short Lessons text, this one a survey of Western art.


My huband, fluent in French, will continue his dearly held desire to pass that fluency on to our children. Our curriculum is French in Action, a great immersion program which my husband and I used to watch on PBS early in our marriage. The videos are now free online, and the supporting texts are widely available for purchase. We just ordered and received the audio cassettes, workbook and teacher's guide for Part 2 (Lessons 26-52). I doubt they will finish Part 2 this year, but they'll go as far as possible. Maybe I'll even drop in to class and do a little auditing this year (there was a time I took part regularly, but Crazy Life and Mommy Brain finally got the better of me).


This is a particularly weak area for all of us (except my husband, who knows everything. I'm serious. He knows everything.) The Short Lessons incorporate some geography and map study, but not enough. We will supplement with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geography (yep, that's us) and The Handy Geography Answer Book. I have also purchased one of Sonlight's markable maps (we had one years ago but they have updated/colorized it), and we plan to do some listening to world news and marking corresponding places on the map.

Philosophy & Psychology

We have long been teaching our kids about the variety of world views that are out there. It is a natural by-product of bringing them up in the faith, since so much of what we teach and confess is foreign to the culture. But before Trevor goes to college we would like to arm him with the fullest possible understanding of what he may encounter in the secular culture. To do so we will use three texts (and Caitlin will join him in reading them):

100 Essential Thinkers - for some historical context

Understanding the Times (we have an older edition of the book, purchased used)

Homeschool Psychology - to prepare for and provide balance to college psychology


Let's see, have I left anything out? There will be piano lessons, of course. And church choir. And chess for Trevor and Tae Kwon Do for Caitlin. Lots of work on life skills particularly for the young man that is about to fly the coop.

I haven't included Bible and catechism because those are incorporated into our family devotions, which my husband leads and selects the materials for. But in addition to whatever he does, I plan to read some more C. S. Lewis with Trevor and Caitlin. We have read The Screwtape Letters. Next on the list is Mere Christianity. Maybe we'll do a few more.

I know. I have one more kid. I'm saving him for another post.


Elephantschild said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elephantschild said...

OH, OH, OH!!!!!!

If you are reading psychology and government, and are trying to get your son's armour ready for college, you MUST read The Pilgrim's Regress by CS Lewis. It's rather an anti-thesis to The Pilgrim's Progress, and on the same model, but in the course of the story, the protagonist comes across (and discards) nearly all of the various modernist views of philosophy. Eventually, he ends up in the Church.

It's a fascinating read, and I think it may be in my top 3 favorites of writings by Lewis. It's a fairly painless way to overview much of modernist thought and the beginnings of post-modernist thought. It's fun to try to play "spot the philosopher" in the happenings of the book. It's a good companion to The Abolition of Man.

PS "Finite Mathematics" *giggle* That means the math ENDS, right? Then I can go home?

Cheryl said...

EC, that is a great idea. We are planning on reading The Pilgrim's Progress, so how awesome to follow it up with The Pilgrim's Regress (since more Lewis is also on our list). Wow. Thanks!

Regarding math, it ended for me a long time ago. Trevor? Don't think it every will, finite or not. :-)

Leah said...

Cheryl, do you happen to have any suggestions for any books good for teaching "rhetoric"?
Our kids go to our private Church School, and we are always looking for more good curriculum material.
I ordered two used books from Amazon to have a look at - "The Power of Persuasion" by Peter Roise, and "The Power to Persuade" by Sally De Witt Spurgin. I haven't heard of either of these books or their authors, but they were cheap and seemed worth the look. So if you have any experience with any literature teaching rhetoric with a Christian worldview, I'd appreciate any input there.

Oh, and congratulations on getting "Blog of the Week" from Issues Etc a few weeks back there.

Cheryl said...

Leah, I would strongly recommend "The Fallacy Detective" and "The Thinking Toolbox" by the Bluedorns of Trivium Pursuit. Junior high level, excellent introduction to logic and rhetoric.

Thanks for the congratulations! I think congratulations are in order for you for the same reason, right?

Leah said...

Thank you so much. I'll check into those!
And yes, I was shocked when I realized I got the "Blog of the Week". Who'd a thunk?
I believe you commented (which I appreciated) on the very post that won. You and Todd Wilken must think alike ;). (and Jeff Schwarz, come to think of it)