Episode 7: The One About The History of Classical Ed and Oak Meadow

“Welcome, listeners, to the Good Enough Homeschool podcast, where we cheerfully eviscerate popular homeschool curricula. In today’s show, AJ will give us a classical education history lesson. Finally, we’ll talk about Oak Meadow and what we love and what we don’t love.

From A.J.: Dorothy Sayers, Douglas Wilson, SWB, and the redefinition of “classical education”

Last time around, I talked a bit about the idea of “the grammar stage,” “the logic stage,” and “the rhetoric stage” that was popularized by Susan Wise Bauer’s excellent homeschooling guide, The Well-Trained Mind. I’d like to dig a little deeper into that history because I think it helps explain why there are several different definitions of classical education out there and why the modern classical education revival has been so closely tied with conservative Christianity and politics.

First, a couple of definitions. The Trivium refers to the study of grammar, logic or dialectic, and rhetoric, which were the three language arts disciplines established by the ancient Greeks and Romans. They were taught, in various forms, all the way through the European Middle Ages and Renaissance until at least the Enlightenment. 

Grammar referred specifically to training in Latin and Greek grammar and literature. Logic meant how to structure arguments correctly and dialectic is how to engage in debate. Rhetoric covers the art of persuasion, especially in public speaking.

So how did we get from those arcane subjects to the idea that young children are good at memorization and middle school kids are sassy?

Part 2: Oak Meadow

Courtney: First, let me start by saying I really like the concept of Oak Meadow. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I dearly love the idea of a bunch of hippies on a commune in Vermont sitting around and coming up with their own progressive, nature-oriented low-key curriculum. But, I never really messed with it much when my kids were younger because they tend to have integrated programs and my oldest child was so wildly asynchronous in her academic development. At one point she was on six different grade levels in six different subjects. 

When she hit middle school, I decided to look into their Ancient Civilizations, Grade 6. Keep in mind that I have a current teaching certification in social studies, grades 5-12, a B.A. in history with a specialization in Middle Eastern history, and I’ve professionally taught WTM-style history at both the middle school and high school level. When I review a history curriculum, I’m using that perspective.

Jenn:

 Reading and talking with Courtney really helped me to clarify my OM feelings.HEre’s a list of the grade levels and results that I’ve purchased:

Kindergarten- I wanted to love this, only it went so slooow. A letter a week? Nope. 

4th grade- We used the whole thing as is after coming off of a few years of MP and just wanting to slow down.

6th grade- bought and returned- the writing was way too hard

High school we used their art and photography and that kid is now getting her BFA in studio arts Photography so I guess that part worked? 

I just purchased a bunch of OM high school books as an insurance policy for having most of a high school curriculum here at home in case of apocalypse. I had the old American history from 2007? And then bought the 2018 version.

Lesson 4: Read about the American Revolution. This course doesn’t require a specific textbook. 

Students can research this on their own. They are told to make sure they read about 

The French and Indian War

British taxation and restrictive policies in the colonies

Significant events leading up to the American Revolution

Declaration of Independence

Articles of Confederation

Their assignment is to then write a newspaper article from the POV of either the Americans or British about another list of events like the Treaty of Paris.

All of this is creative and interesting, I like that you can tweak it for different students’ strengths- like you could make a newscast or something. But— this is what I think of as extra stuff. If students don’t have those pegs from earlier years none of this will stick either- no matter how engaged they are this week.

Further reading:

The Pandemic Created A Surge in Homeschooling: and Concerns about the Movement’s Christian Culture

Why I an (not) an Evangelical

Introducing AJ Campbell and we stan the WTM: Ep. 6

“Welcome, listeners, to the Good Enough Homeschool podcast, where we cheerfully eviscerate popular homeschool curricula. In today’s show, we’ll introduce our new co-host, AJ Campbell. Welcome, AJ! Then we’ll talk about a common question: “Shouldn’t homeschooling be joyful? Instagram-worthy? Don’t kids learn better when they’re joyful about it?” Finally, we’ll talk about the Well-Trained Mind book and associated materials and what we love. Honestly, we can’t think of much (anything?) we dislike!
Let’s begin with AJ! (Full disclosure, we love AJ! He’s an admin on SICT, a tutor, and one of our wise sages of homeschooling.)

AJ: Thanks! I’ve been working in education since the 1980s and have been actively involved in the classical homeschooling world for about 15 years now. I started out as a homeschooling parent, then was a cottage-schooler, then a classroom teacher and administrator at a classical school in New Hampshire, and now I’m a private online tutor for writing, literature, and Latin, working with homeschooled students. I’m the author of The Latin-Centered Curriculum, a classical homeschooling guide that’s now OOP, and I Speak Latin, a Latin curriculum for elementary age kids. I’m married to Anne, who is a web designer, and we have one adult daughter, Ruby, who’s currently taking a pandemic-induced break from her graphic design studies. My family and I just moved from rural Western Massachusetts to Orlando, Florida. You can find me at quidnampress.com and the SICT group on Facebook.

Now let’s switch gears to our question of the day: “Shouldn’t homeschooling be joyful? Instagram-worthy? Don’t kids learn better when they’re joyful about it?” 

Jenn– Let me say, that if internet culture had been around when I was a young Mom I would have failed at it entirely. Especially for parents of bigger families the pressure to have every kid look put together, your house spotless, and every kid happy in order to Instagram your life to everyone you ever met and strangers? *picture me shrugging* It’s too much. 

Courtney–I think this idea that you should find joy in homeschooling is deceptive. Obviously kids can’t learn when they’re in full meltdown mode. But many sullen students have been poked and prodded through long division or learning phonics. Reading is hard. Math can be hard. It’s OK to acknowledge that something is hard, that we don’t want to do it, and that we’re going to do it anyway. If we just avoid everything that’s difficult, we’re going to have a hard-knock life.  I also think that making everything easy and happy for students robs them of the agency in mastering a difficult skill. We can successfully engage with things we don’t like–we do it all the time! I hate cleaning, but I engage in it every day!  

We throw out some love towards The Well Trained Mind Press Courtney works for The Academy so she stays quiet while AJ and Jenn say only nice things.

Side note from Courtney: SWB takes a lot of heat for not being religious enough on the one hand, and a lot of heat for including religion on the other hand. Personally, I am less interested in whether materials are religious and more interested in whether materials are effective. You’ll note that up until this point, Jenn and I have not differentiated between secular and religious materials. Part of that is because the definition of secular varies. Another part is that we’ve both been shamed by various groups for our choices in curricula, whether that choice was secular curricula or religious curricula. Good Enough Homeschool is about whether the curriculum is good enough, not about whether it carries a whiff of secularism or religion.

We talked in a previous podcast about what classical was. We do discuss curricula that aren’t seen as traditionally classical because these are frequently recommended, and we’d like to know what they’re about. Also, we discuss them because classical is open to interpretation–if you interpret it as different subjects at different age levels, then the content of the curricula is more important than the way in which the material is presented. Finally, we discuss a wide variety of curricula because we aren’t purists–we’re about what’s Good Enough, not what meets some debatable narrow definition.

Book Lists, Dr. Kripa Sundar, and BYL- Ep 5

In today’s show, we’ll talk about a common question: “How do I make a book list for my child?” Today we have a special guest, Dr. Kripa Sundar talking about distraction in curricula.  Finally, we’ll talk about BYL and what we love–and what we don’t love.

Booklist: I’m going to give away my secrets, and we’ll link to my free lists on our Amazon shop

First off, I’m so excited about this because I adore a curated booklist. It is one of the “chores” (air quotes) that I look forward to each year. 

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel: there are a lot of companies that are literature based and they have wonderful booklists. There may be a ready made solution out there for you. I’ll list my favorites in the show notes.
  2. My old world go- to was the library, if your library is still open (by the way, what kind of reality has me uttering those words?) Simply go to the section of the subject matter and grab a stack of books, sit down on the ground and flip through them. 
  3. If you are online with your library, or Amazon- I highly recommend using Amazon as a bookish search engine- you can always request what you find at the library or order from your Indie Bookseller.
  4. Add Middle Grade or YA to your search term. Then add nonfiction, historical fiction etc.
  5. Example: children’s books american revolution brought me a list that was random and even included adult titles. historical fiction american revolution YA provided me with a great list.
  6. So, you’ve got the list and if you haven’t read any of the books, it is still a daunting task. Use the preview function and check the reviews. Book reviewers are honest, it isn’t like a vitamin review where people are getting paid to post 5 star ratings.You can check GoodReads also.
  7. What ratio of fiction/nonfiction should your reading list contain? I’m a big proponent of nonfiction written at or under the grade level of the kiddo. That doesn’t mean a board book for your 8 yo- it does mean that your high schooler shouldn’t have to struggle with a dictionary to get through a college level text. I’d aim for a 60/40 split. The larger end should be what your child prefers to read.
  8. My secret: Sometimes I add meaty picture books or graphic novels to even my high school lists. 

Thriftbooks

Library Extension

Curriculum Companies with excellent Book Lists:

The Well Trained Mind– Credit where credit is due- this is an entire book of book lists that will take you from K-12. There is no bigger bargain out there.

Build Your Library– more on this below.

Book Shark– (note neutral science)

Guest Hollow– (not all secular, but nonsecular is labeled)

Ursa Minor Learning

Wildwood Curriculum

Mater Amabilis– (not secular)

Winter Promise– (not secular)

You can find lots of great books for your kids even if the company is not secular. Check the descriptions and reviews on Good Reads.


In looking at curricula, parents seem drawn towards “pretty” curricula, with aesthetically pleasing color choices and lovely graphic design. But Jenn and I were chatting the other morning, and agreed that when the pedal hit the metal, we both preferred simple black and white textbooks and workbooks. I mentioned that there was a science to this. Can you tell us a little bit about this science and what you’ve found about how it affects learning?

Dr. Kripa Sundar is an independent consultant, researcher and parent working to spread the love of learning. She grounds her research and practice in the science of learning to inform and develop effective, engaging, and efficient learning

She is currently most excited about launching a resource hub for adults to support their kids’ learning called Learning Incognito and her forthcoming book How do I learn? for young kids to learn and explore how they learn, every day.  

Check out her website- www.kripasundar.com

Spoiler- We were slightly wrong in our hot take of pretty curriculum in Episode 4. Say it isn’t so.


Courtney mentioned Jennifer Hallock and her website- History Ever After.

We also talked about Build Your Library and how much we adore Emily’s booklists.

Courtney: Love the book choices, love the ability for a child to work independently.

Don’t love the younger years, but that’s partially because I don’t love Charlotte Mason’s younger. Not great for children who are not auditory learners, doesn’t demand enough in terms of handwriting, IMO. This illusion of joyous hours of reading out loud (I hate reading out loud). Very whole literacy movement that children will learn to read by exposure, but that’s not how it works. Students need to engage with material, and just having soundwaves in the room doesn’t make it happen. Need specific, directed narration questions–need to test them!

“Make sure to join our Facebook group Secular Inclusive Classical Teachers if you haven’t already where we talk about homeschooling all the time, with many veteran homeschoolers.”

“Thanks for listening to Good Enough Homeschoolers. Before we go, show some love for your favorite podcast by leaving us a review on SoundCloud. Then stay tuned for next week where we will show some love and hate for another curriculum.”

And finally, I’m plugging myself over at The Bookish Society. We are just getting started and I’m bursting with all the cool bookish programs that I’ll be rolling out this year! I’d love to see your child in one of our Round Table groups and/or help you with navigating the curriculum maze!

Classical Education in Our Words: Podcast Episode 4

What is classical education? The name is thrown around enough that sometimes I wonder what people mean when they self identify as classical home educators.

We talk about the stages:

  • Logic – connection (more, deeper, more difficult texts)
  • Rhetoric – argument (persuasive argument analysis)

Courtney says:

For me, it’s mostly about method. We put equal time for science and social studies in K-8, assign more language analysis (sentence diagramming), have a literature emphasis (as opposed to screens or experiential (i.e., unschooling). The focus is on building key background knowledge. Yes, we do Latin, but not as the “point” of classical homeschooling. Other views may vary.

Jenn says:

Can you classically homeschool without Latin? I think you could, but I also think that it isn’t what most people mean when they say classical. That’s something worth talking about because methodology should change with the times. The point of Latin to me is teaching English grammar and logic skills and speaking Latin would be a side benefit. So could you sub in another modern language? In Europe students learn 2-3 languages routinely – and that is everyone from age 6 upwards. So I think you could make the argument that learning any language other than your native one would provide the same neurological growth. Just my 2 cents. For me I chose Latin because I like to buy scripted or nearly scripted lessons.    

Recommended Book

We complained about yet another state department of education providing a non secular list of homeschool providers. Here is our more balanced list.

Note: If you’re looking for materials that are strictly secular, you’ll also need to make a decision between “neutral” science and mainstream science. Neutral science omits information about the age of the Earth (and universe) and evolution. Typically, religious kits include creation science.

School in a Box Kits with Mainstream Science:

  • Moving Beyond the Page: (K-9) “Moving Beyond the Page is a comprehensive homeschool curriculum that covers science, social studies, and language arts. Moving Beyond the Page curriculum is most closely aligned with what is known as the Constructivist Theory of Learning. Constructivists view learning as an active process in which the learner actively constructs knowledge as he tries to comprehend his world. Constructivist theory is about facilitating the learner to go beyond simple memorization toward understanding, application and competence.”
  • Calvert Education:  “For more than one hundred years, Calvert Education has provided families with the curriculum and instructional support to successfully educate their children at home. A carefully curated curriculum from best-in-class educational content providers. Traditional print materials/online format or Online only. Engaging projects that challenge students to apply what they learn in deeper, more meaningful ways.”
  • Oak Meadow: “Oak Meadow provides flexible, progressive homeschooling curriculum for students in K-12. Our student-centered, nature-based approach allows families to set their own natural rhythm of learning and encourages creativity, critical thinking, and intellectual development through hands-on activities and interdisciplinary projects.”
  • Build Your Library: “Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history? What about a secular science that is mostly literature based in the elementary years? Well, you have come to the right place! Welcome to Build Your Library Curriculum!” (Math, and if desired, spelling and grammar, must be purchased separately.)
  • Rainbow Resources Kits: “Made with the new homeschooler in mind, we wanted them to be easy to jump into and get started. We also wanted them to be solid and strong in academics. And we wanted them to utilize a variety of homeschooling products, so you would have a better idea of what works well for you and your students.”

School in a Box Kits with Neutral Science:

  • Timberdoodle: “The “Timberdoodle family” loves Jesus and we are thrilled to offer products with a Gospel perspective to our customers. When we choose our products, we look for ones that are the best and most unique overall, so sometimes it is Christian-based curriculum, and sometimes it is not. As always, we want to help you find what is best for your family, so if you are looking for a curriculum that has either more of or less of a Christian perspective, please feel free to contact us; we want to help you find exactly what you need!”
  • Bookshark: “BookShark is a complete, literature-based, homeschool curriculum developed for Pre-K to Age 16 students. Our curriculum uses a variety of educational resources including literary fiction and nonfiction, biographies, illustrations and hands-on experiments to deliver an engaging and complete education that extends beyond textbook memorization.”

School in a Box Kits with Religion:

  • Memoria Press: “The Classical Core Curriculum is a complete classical Christian curriculum that emphasizes the traditional liberal arts of language and mathematics and the cultural heritage of the Christian West as expressed in the great works of history and literature.”
  • Christian Light Education: “Christian Light is dedicated to the development and distribution of Christian materials to spread the Gospel and evangelize the lost; to edify, inspire, and build conviction in the saints; to strengthen families; to support the church; and to provide a Christian education curriculum for children and youth.”
  • Sonlight: “Books – quality books – can distill the wisdom of an entire life into the span of a few pages. They can feed us with spiritual insight beyond imagination. Whether written by Christians or non-Christians, great books help us to develop critical thinking skills. These benefits of great literature have inspired us to build our Christian homeschool curriculum on quality books that present content in a highly engaging fashion.”
  • Abeka: “Abeka’s curriculum is parent led and focuses on building character. Every subject is approached from a Christian perspective, and you’ll find Scripture and biblical principles used to emphasize or illustrate concepts. It’s all the basics for that grade level, plus art in preschool–6th and electives in 7th–12th.”
  • Bob Jones University Homeschool: “BJU Press is a publisher of textbooks and video lessons for homeschool families. We are committed to creating materials that help parents deliver an education that is based on sound educational principles, inspires a joy in learning, and is rooted in a solid biblical worldview. We believe this approach helps children see how all learning is connected and important. As mastery and perspective increase, so does the desire to learn and create. As Proverbs 14:6 says, “knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.”
  • Our Lady of Victory: “Our Lady of Victory home study program was founded in 1977 by Roman Catholic laymen and was the first Catholic home school program established in the country. For over 35 years our apostolate has been dedicated to providing parents with the support and confidence that they need in order to succeed in their home school endeavors. Wherever the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is discussed, you will find our materials always refer to the Latin Tridentine Mass, as promulgated by Pope St. Pius V”
  • Seton Home Study School: “Seton Home Study School is a nationally accredited, faithfully Catholic private PreK-12 distance school located in the state of Virginia. We serve an enrollment of approximately 12,000 homeschooled students, and several thousand more families through book sales and by furnishing materials to small Catholic schools. Seton Home Study School provides a Christ-centered, academically strong program designed for the Catholic homeschooling family in today’s world.”
  • Kolbe Academy:  “We are devoted to providing a philosophy and method of education that is thoroughly Catholic, that will form the whole individual—mind, soul and body—to renew the world with children and young adults with high educational, moral, civic and spiritual values. Kolbe Academy’s classically based curriculum focuses on studying the greatest spiritual, literary, artistic and cultural achievements of Western civilization by reading the original sources whenever possible.” (mainstream science)

Last but not least, we decimated the beautifully graphically designed Scientific Connections Through Inquiry.

Some Books Go Out of Print For A Reason Podcast Ep 3: Pandia Press

In today’s show, we’ll talk about a common question: “What is the best online curriculum?” Next, we’ll talk about types of curricula, and finally we’ll talk about the Pandia Press’s Ancient History, Level 2 curriculum, and why we won’t use it.

We chat about parents moving to homeschooling. They want all online curriculum and there are definite problems with most online curricula.

Don’t get wrapped up in pedagogy. When you start wading into homeschool curricula you are going to be affronted (accosted?) with so many kinds of methods. Put that aside for now. Think: one room schoolhouse. If you continue homeschooling after this is all over you can tweak a basic 3R routine into whatever flavor of homeschooling you desire. Remember that we are all in emergency mode. I was looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs this morning and although we are accepting this new normal- none of this is the old normal and kids know that too.

For all ages you need Math, Science, History (social studies in school is history and geography), Reading and Grammar. Start with Math and reading and do a placement test test like DORA. Start your child where she is is even if the grade level is nowhere near their age group. You need to fill in whatever gaps she has.

For history, most kids in public schools haven’t had any substance so  I’d start with the ancients no matter what the grade level. Make a timeline and match your reading to the history and science. None of this is actually my idea by the way- it’s all courtesy of learning about education from classical educators like Susan Wise Bauer. In grade school I’m a huge proponent of interest led science so I’d choose something your kid wants to learn about and save more formal science progression for high school- although in the 4th edition of the WTM even Susan Wise Bauer has changed her stance and said you can switch up the order even in high school.

A great online store for all things homeschooling is The Rainbow Resource Center. You can search and more than likely they will have several homeschool programs with unique long descriptions. They do include religious curricula, but it is all marked. You may find that you are willing to tweak some religion out if it is an otherwise perfect fit for your student. They also have excellent pricing.


Look at all the sample pages you can before hitting that purchase button. It’s tempting to take too much on when you first begin learning at home. Concentrate on the minimum this year and leave some time for projects. I think we’ll talk about scheduling another episode.

Pandia Press says: *The Story of Mankind: Due to the polarizing nature of The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Van Loon, it is optional reading in this level two course. It should be considered a possible resource for gathering information. If students choose not to read TSOM, they might need to seek out other resources on the Internet or at a library in order to complete some of the lessons. 

We compared Van Loon to Wikipedia

In the seventh century, however, another Semitic tribe appeared upon the scene and challenged the power of the west. They were the Arabs, peaceful shepherds who had roamed through the desert since the beginning of time without showing any signs of imperial ambitions.

Van Loon

versus

The Nabataeans, an Arab people, formed their Kingdom near Petra in the 3rd century BC. Arab tribes, most notably the Ghassanids and Lakhmids, begin to appear in the southern Syrian Desert from the mid 3rd century CE onward, during the mid to later stages of the Roman and Sasanian empires.

Wikipedia

Here’s another example.

When they listened to Mohammed, mounted their horses and in less than a century they had pushed to the heart of Europe and proclaimed the glories of Allah, “the only God,” and Mohammed, “the prophet of the only God,” to the frightened peasants of France.

Van Loon

versus

The Umayyads continued the Muslim conquests, incorporating the … Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) into the Muslim world. At its greatest extent, the Umayyad Caliphate covered 6,000,000 sq mi and 62 million people, making it one of the largest empires in history in both area and proportion of the world’s population. Survivors of the dynasty established themselves in Cordoba which, in the form of an Emirate and then a Caliphate, became a world center of science, medicine, philosophy and invention, ushering in the period of the Golden Age of Islam. The Umayyad caliphate ruled over a vast multiethnic and multicultural population. Christians, who still constituted a majority of the Caliphate’s population, and Jews were allowed to practice their own religion but had to pay a head tax (the jizya) from which Muslims were exempt.[12] There was, however, the Muslim-only zakat tax, which was earmarked explicitly for various welfare programs

Wikipedia

This is a problem with many older spines, and why I’m not terribly attracted to Ambleside or very pure Charlotte Mason style curricula, which tend to use older books. The racism, sexism, and casual xenophobia are baked into the texts that are chosen. 

Here is a handy dandy list of Middle Grade novels set in Ancient Times.

Torchlight: Why it Doesn’t Light Up Our Homeschool Lives Episode 2

And we’re back with our second podcast about secular classical homeschooling. This time we begin with this question:

  How did you handle that so you didn’t end up feeling like a terrible parent?

You’ll have to listen in for our answers. It’s tricky.

We also talked about more complete curriculum recommended on Facebook and why that may or may not be a great idea if you are new to the home education environment. Within that discussion Courtney mentioned The Overton Window and said,”  when the discourse shifts because the limits of acceptability shift, is something I think a lot about in homeschooling.” Follow the link to read more on that. The Let’s Go Learn tests can be found here.

And then we talked about TorchLight. Although parts of are excellent-– Right Start Math for instance–as a whole it isn’t for us. We do recommend these books:

If you like what you’ve heard please join us here on Facebook:

Also if you want to outsource some Classical Ed we love WTMA:

Meet the Secular Classical Homeschool Duo Podcast Episode 1

“Stacks of books on every surface…”

We know how to reel in our bookish homeschool people. We’ve been haphazard about blogging, and in these pandemic times, we’re worried about your new homeschoolers. Join us weekly to here all the tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years.
Episode 1 of our new podcast is ready for your listening enjoyment. Please sit back and let us school you on the finer and broader points of home education. Courtney Ostaff and Jen Naughton are a part of the old guard of secular homeschooling.
In this episode, you will hear our origin stories into the educational world of Secular, Classical Homeschooling.
Jenn and Courtney are two experienced homeschoolers who practice classical, secular homeschooling. Jenn’s been doing this since 2001, and Courtney has been homeschooling since 2014. Using their experience and expertise, they cheerfully eviscerate popular recommendations and curricula. Join them to hear what they consider the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In this episode we mentioned several books

Homeschool Day in the Life 2019

A few weeks ago I posted a Day in the Life from the way back when all my kids were homeschooling. Today I’m posting something more current. If you are in the trenches juggling children, know that eventually, you’ll be down to one kid- an older kid who is mostly self-sufficient. It’s completely different.
On the one hand, we have time to do most anything. On the other, I have to reign myself in so that I don’t overload the poor kid. Just because I have more time doesn’t mean he needs to “do something” every second of the day.


We’ve tweaked our schedule and our materials and are now in a pretty good routine even while fighting some nasty colds.
We’re studying math, lit,
Comp/ grammar, daily. Science, geography, American history, and ancient history are on a rotation.


Today is Thursday and our day looks like this:
8 am: I serve up some cold brew, and the teen boy takes the dog outside.


8:15: They’re back inside, and he heads upstairs for some computer time while I check emails and figure out the day.


9:00- I head up to shower and remind him to eat breakfast.


9:20- we meet in the office to discuss his literature assignment. He’s reading Treasure Island, and we’re using the Lit Guide written by Memoria Press. We go over the student pages together, and he fills in the questions that I have highlighted. Then we go through the flashcards that I’ve made for this unit.


10:15- Math/Saxon 87 lesson 7. (We started this school year finishing up Saxon 76). I copied all the worksheets and facts practice sheets over the Summer, and so now I need to click open the binder to pull out the correct pages. Today we’re doing practice page B (simple equations), then we do the mental math, and problem-solving section. I then teach lesson 7, and we do the practice problems A-G together. Then he does the problem set alone, asking for help when needed. I’m nearby reading a book.


Noon he’s done with math, and we cook/eat lunch.


12:30 we take about a 2-mile bike ride through our neighborhood.


12:50 we get back and grab the dog for a walk to the park.


1:15 we are back in the office for writing, we do a lesson on outlining from Writing With Style.


1:45, at this point, we begin our rotating subjects depending on the day. Today is geography. We’re studying in Western Europe. First, we do flashcards. He has about ten capitals and countries memorized so far. We add a few more into the pile and read the lesson in Geography 3 from Memoria Press. We fill in the student pages together.


2:15 I hand him his handwriting notebook and remind him to read the next chapter of Treasure Island, the next American history chapter and to do 15 minutes of dragon box.


After that, he’s done for the day.
If we have errands or if I have to work midday, then all of the school gets pushed back accordingly, so some days we aren’t finished until 5 pm, but he would have had time to waste time midday if he did not want to work without my help.

I’m feeling more relaxed, not every book needs to be in its original form.

This is a very different experience for both of us. He’s used to be the youngest, not the “only”. I’m used to doing two or three levels of math at once. I have to say though this is turning into one of my favorite years of homeschooling ever.

Homeschool Day in the Life

This post is an old one from back in 2006. My kids were 1,7,10,12,15. I think I typed this up for one of those WTM threads when I was Jen in IL. It makes me tired just reading it. If you know us, you’ll be able to figure out which kid is which number. I did some editing for clarity but left it pretty much as is.


6 am: I’m up with the baby (I should call him toddler now) drinking tea and reading my oldest’s Biology lesson for the day. It doesn’t look that hard. It calls for him to dissect the bluegill. I can send the oldest three boys over to the pond to catch one at lunchtime.
6:30 am: I put the baby back in the pack n play, switch the laundry, let the cat outside and wonder who was cooking late last night. Dirty dishes first thing in the morning is so annoying.
7 am: I’m hearing movement upstairs, so I start breakfast. 10 comes down and wants to play Mario. Sure. The game noise wakes up 7. They play a game while I cook up a batch of muffins. I run up to shower while they are in the oven.
8 am: Everyone’s up now except 15. I read a book that has you block out every hour of the day and write what each person should be doing during that time. I think it will help with who is watching the baby while I do school with the other kids. It needs tweaking as the times are all off. Nothing takes as long as you think it will. I’m hoping the oldest two will cooperate trying it again today.
8:30 am: Baby threw up all over me, and now I have to change my clothes. He still isn’t talking, but he screams a lot. 7 watches him while I run upstairs to change and try to get 15 out of bed. I get sidetracked sending husband out the door.
8:46- Give 12 his math lesson, 7 has the baby watching Barney, 10 is reading his lit book and 15 is in the bathroom. We’re not too far off track.
9:30- doorbell. The neighbor who stayed home from school wants to play. I send him away because we are doing this block thing. It will work. I tell him to come back at noon, or 3. 10 and 12 are now annoyed with me. 15 is finally out of the bathroom, and I ask him to start his work. I’m letting him choose what he wants to do except when he is on baby duty.
9:40- we should be on a break, but I tell the kids if we go to the next block we’ll be able to catch up and be done sooner. No one likes these blocks but me. I start math with 10. 12 has the baby, and 7 watches a nature video that I’m calling science enrichment, but is really just something to keep her out of the way and quiet.
9:55- 12 tells me that baby has thrown up, and luckily, the dog licked it up. Luckily? That’s up for interpretation. I make a note to call the gastro doc, this is getting to be a bit much. I’ve already eliminated most foods from my diet.
10:00- I do math with 7. We’re using Saxon 2, and she loves the counting bears. 12 is reading, and 10 has the baby. 15 is playing loud music, which means he isn’t reading his Psych book. I go upstairs, and he is reading. Crisis averted.
10:30- My homeschooling friend is here with her 3 girls. I’m teaching all of them Latin. Her twins are 8, and her other daughter is 12. I park them in the dining room with my 10 and 12. None of the kids did their workbook from last time, so I have them start there. 7 keeps dancing through with her army of Polly Pockets. I tell her she can sit with us or go play in the yard. I nurse the baby while we do Latin chants.
11:15- We decide to take all the kids to McDonald’s for lunch and to use the nearly empty play place. Except for a few toddlers, we are alone there. I grab a large soda and am thankful I haven’t had to give that up. Afterward, I drop the oldest three off at the pond. 7 goes home with a friend to play with the girls. I’ll do a reading lesson at night with her.
1:00pm- Baby is napping, and the boys bring the fish in the kitchen. 15 shows me the Biology lesson, and we both agree that he has dissected it according to the directions. I send him off to write it up in his lab book and remind him to read his American History.
1:30- 10 and 12 will not work together. I keep trying to combine them, but they fight nonstop. I make more tea and send 12 downstairs to switch the laundry while I work with 10. We do all his workbook stuff, and then they switch places, and I work with 12.
3:00- the Neighbor kid is at the door right on time. 15 and 12 go outside. I do Math with 10 while nursing the baby again. He cannot get a long division. Understands dividing as a concept but gets lost in the algorithm.
4:00- I call the homeschool day done and check my email, start dinner, and deal with some insurance calls.
5:00- Dinner. Husband isn’t home yet, there is construction on the tollway, and it sometimes takes him 2 hours to get home now. We eat and then I go get 7 from a playdate. We do some phonics and then take turns reading aloud.
6:30- Reheat dinner plate for the husband and talk to him while he eats. Watch him do yard work until LOST comes on. We all watch that, and then I start sending all the kids up for showers at 9.
9:30- get 7 tucked in with audiobook playing. Remind 12 to clean up and feed his ferrets. I can’t even go in his room anymore cause they freak me out.
10- Remind 15 that he needs to mail his tests into the school the next day and to finish them up. Go to bed with book and nurse 1 to sleep.

The Work Smart Academic Planner Review

One of the most common reactions I get to homeschooling is that of parents saying that their child won’t work for them. Usually, those kids aren’t doing great in school either, and it all may be an executive skills deficit.

The Work-Smart Academic Planner is the gold standard of teaching the skills that students (grades 6-12) need to master, and it’s their planner for an entire school year. I’m going to use it alongside my eighth-grader as a sort of ongoing study skills seminar.

Parents/ Teachers can access their user guide to determine how they can present the material to the student. After reading through the planner and teacher materials, it looks easy to implement.

Section 1 includes an Executive Skills questionnaire/checklist/ tip sheets that are useful for both teacher and student. I’m going to copy the questionnaire and answer it for myself, and then we can both look through the strategies and keep each other on task. This section is going to take a while to dig into as it includes these common problems and then the approach you’ll need to draw from to improve:

  • Response Inhibition
  • Working Memory
  • Emotional Control
  • Task Initiation
  • Sustained Attention
  • Planning
  • Flexibility
  • Organization

Section 2 is Goal Setting. Again- great checklists and lots of suggestions that aren’t the same ideas you may have encountered in the past. See also the authors’ Coaching Students with Executive Skills Deficits, which provides additional resources and guidance for professionals working with this population, plus the authoritative Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents, Second Edition. Also from Dawson and Guare: Smart but Scattered parenting guides and a self-help guide for adults.

Section 3 is possibly my favorite. Strategies For Success includes:

  • Studying for Tests
  • Five Paragraph Essay Template
  • Long Term Project planning Form (!)
  • Reading Comprehension Strategies
  • How to write a Summary
  • Managing Distractions
  • and more

That’s all before you get to the actual planner that they can use daily for the entire school year. It’s a slim book despite all that it contains. There are Daily/Weekly and Monthly Planner pages that all include the same terminology that you are familiar with after you’ve completed the first half of the book.

I’ll check back in and let you all know how it went for us in a few weeks. I decided to push the review out now before we get too far into the school year. Trust me, I’ve paid for an ADHD counselor, and this $15 may be the best money you spend this school year.