The most common question I am asked regarding home schooling is, “Which curriculum do you follow?” and most of the time, the person asking assumes I am following a specific program. We don’t. We use the general structure of the classical education, but everything else, we’ve patched together or have made up ourselves. I say “we” because although I am in charge of most every day teaching (which is why I sometimes use “I”), our children’s curriculum is something my husband and I have worked out together.
Based on the classical approach to education, the focus of our first four years – the grammar stage - is facts and memorization. The subjects we study are English, Math, History + Geography, Science, Music + Art, and starting in third grade, Latin, and fourth grade, French. It’s all quite basic; the goal is to build a strong foundation in English and Math, and add as many facts as possible, as well as curiosity.
The next four years make up the logic stage, where the student learns to ask and answer questions about the facts: Why? How? etc. The subjects studied during this stage are English, Math, History + Geography + Religion + Social studies, including some philosophy, Science, Music + Art, Logic, Latin and French, adding German and/or Spanish after a couple of years. Why so many languages, you ask? Studies show, that if you start learning a language before the age of twelve, your chance of learning this language well, including the acquisition of a perfect pronunciation, is much bigger. I am living evidence. Also, they are learning these languages because I know them, my husband doesn’t, and we both feel I have a clear advantage. So we are passing on that advantage to our boys.
During the last four years of the primary education – the rhetoric stage - the student learns to articulate arguments in an elegant and convincing manner, defend ideas and engage in critical thinking. Since we haven’t got here yet, I don’t have an exact plan on what to focus on or include yet, but I assume that in addition to our regular studies and progress (with the addition of certain subjects, such as Greek), we’ll have to at least spend some time preparing for AP exams and the SAT.
Every year over the four year cycle we follow a theme:
1. Prehistoric and Ancient
3. Early Modern
This year is a medieval year. Most of our subjects relate - as far as possible - in one way or another to the central theme of the year. This approach is best described in The Well Trained Mind. Our only exception is science: since last year we rotate the four science subjects – biology, geology + astronomy, chemistry, physics - in yearly cycles. More on why and how we do this when I discuss our science curriculum.
Sounds fun, right?