Good Enough Homeschool Season 1 Ep 19

The Curriculum Rating Game Part 1

Jenn keeps score as she, Courtney, and AJ rate curricula, Yelp style. On deck in this episode are: 100 Easy Lessons, All About Learning, Analytical Grammar, History of US, Seton, Ambleside Online, Art of Problem Solving (Beast Academy), ARTistic Pursuits, Blossom and Root, Barefoot Meandering, Beautiful Mundo, Five in a Row, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, BookShark, Botany in 8 Lessons, Botany in a Day, Building Thinking Skills, Brave Writer, Build Your Library, Calvert, Canon Press, Logos, and Veritas, Matin Latin, Writing & Rhetoric, Latin for Children, Phonics Museum, Classical Conversations, Core Knowledge, Charlotte Mason, Ecce Romani, Evan-Moor, Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool, English from the Roots Up, and Elemental Science.

Good Enough Homeschool S1 Ep 18

Changing Your Homeschool with the Seasons / Pepper & Pine Silk Road Unit Study

“In addition to homeschooling with the calendar seasons, we also face the challenge of homeschooling through life’s seasons. When things in our families may not be ideal or right now when the whole world is in chaos because of the pandemic.”

–AJ Campbell

Links to referenced organizations, books, and websites:

Good Enough Homeschool S1 Ep 17

 Secular Bible Study with Christy Knockleby

“families should have access to the same type of historical critical exploration of the Bible that is taught at university. It’s a perspective that says that the Bible was written by human beings over a long period of time, and it was edited by other humans. The writing itself has a history and scholars can attempt to uncover that history. In looking at the Bible, we’re not just looking at the stories, but also possible explanations for why the stories were written, what ideas are promoted within different stories.”

–Christy Knockleby

Links to referenced organizations, books, and websites:

A Secular Bible Study

Christy Knockleby – Outschool 

an article with an image of a page of the Talmud

National Council for the Social Studies

American Academy of Religion

Guidelines for Teaching about Religion in K–12 Public Schools

Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

The Works of Lord Byron. Vol. 5 (Cain)

The King’s Mirror (Speculum Regale–Konungs Skuggsjá)

The Project Gutenberg eBook of “The Bacchae”


Digital Hammurabi YouTube Channel


The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Project

The Edge of the Circle

Good Enough Homeschool S1 Ep 16

 English Language Arts: what they are and how to teach them within a classical framework.

Parts of ELA:

Teaching your child to read is perhaps the most difficult and most important job you will ever have as a homeschooling parent. The Simple View formula presented by Gough and Tunmer in 1986 is: Decoding (D) x Language Comprehension (LC) = Reading Comprehension (RC)

Hollis Scarborough, a reading researcher, came up with the analogy of the Reading Rope. Her analogy is that learning to read requires seven strands of education for children to become fluent readers. Addressing each strand is necessary, but insufficient on its own. 

Classical education addresses all of them, often with specific curricula.

Decoding (the early years)

Why it matters?

Stanovich, Keith E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 22, 360-407.

Quote: “The increased reading experiences of children who crack the spelling-to-sound code early thus have important positive feedback effects. Such feedback effects appear to be potent sources of individual differences in academic achievement”

Comprehension (accumulates) — the Matthew Effect

In 1988, Recht and Leslie tested children by dividing them into four groups based on two factors: reading ability and prior knowledge of baseball (creating groups of high-high, high-low, low-high, and low-low). In all measurements, the students with high prior knowledge performed better, regardless of which reading level they had been grouped with. “In light of the importance of adequate prior knowledge, strategy instruction and the knowledge base should be equally considered in the design of instruction.” In other words, we need to give kids background knowledge AND teach them how to decode texts.

How to?

  • Diffuse background knowledge
    • field trips to museums, art galleries, and the like, as well as … travel and exchange programs”
    • talking with your child–possibly the most important intervention you can do with young children. Erika Christakis wrote a whole book about why it was so important (The Importance of Being Little)
    • picture study
    • “an ongoing atmosphere of exploration, experimentation, and happy chaos” — Susan Wise Bauer
    • Memory Work (AJ! Poetry memorization, etc) Classical education uses memorization as a way of cementing the knowledge gained in the curriculum. Memorization frees up working memory to deal with new cognitive tasks (i.e., what you’re trying to teach them!). It also provides connecting points for new information to build knowledge.
      In ELA, that can include things like grammar definitions or more general background knowledge (mythology, proverbs, etc.), but memorizing poetry is the most common and popular type of ELA memory work. As Courtney mentioned, nursery rhymes and tongue twisters build phonemic awareness and help with pronunciation (mention my recent Spanish class). Children’s poetry is often playful and humorous but also introduces simple poetic forms and accustoms children to the rhythm of language. Classic poetry for older students helps exercise the memory and helps them recognize common types of figurative language, which will be important both in literary analysis and in their own writing.
  • Spelling -> vocabulary/etymology 
    • “a systematic curriculum that presents new words in familiar contexts, thereby enabling the student to make correct meaning-guesses unconsciously” — E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
    • “In the content areas (history, science, literature, art, music), classical learning provides a [systematic] framework” for learning about new things — Susan Wise Bauer
    • curricula
      • Spelling Workout
      • All About Spelling
      • Barton
      • Vocabulary from Classical Roots
      • Wordly Wise
  • language structures/Grammar and composition
  • verbal reasoning
  • Read-alouds/literacy knowledge
    • Writing With Ease (curriculum that includes print concepts, genre)
    • “The student who is working on ancient history will read Greek and Roman mythology, the tales of the Iliad and Odyssey, early medieval writings, Chinese and Japanese fairy tales, and (for the older student) the classical texts of Plato, Herodutus, Virgil, Aristotle.” — Susan Wise Bauer
  • Penmanship
    • curricula
      • Handwriting Without Tears
      • MP’s New American Cursive
      • Logic of English–Rhythm of Handwriting
      • Getty-Dubay

Show notes links:

Living Memory and 101 Poems anthology:

Why Memorize?

Good Enough Homeschool S1 Ep 15

Becoming an Educational Architect. We think this is not only the best podcast in quality that we’ve recorded, but it’s also the most important one for you, the listener, to take to heart.


AJ Campbell- (AJC) Courtney Ostaff (CO) Jenn Naughton (JN)

Early Childhood
The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis (AJC)

What’s Going on in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot (CO)

Science of Learning

Make It Stick by Peter Brown et al.  (AJC)

How Learning Happens: Seminal Works in Educational Psychology and What They Mean in Practice by Paul A. Kirschner and Carl Hendrick (CO)

Reading Instruction

Uncovering the Logic of English by Denise Eide (AJC)

Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It by Mark Seidenberg (CO)

Math Instruction

Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics by Liping Ma (AJC) (JN)

The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics by Stanislas Dehaene (CO)

Writing Instruction

The Writing Revolution by Judith C. Hochman and Natalie Wexler (AJC) (CO) (JN)

K-12 Homeschooling Guide

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (AJC) (CO) (JN)

Classical Education (Theory or History)

Climbing Parnassus by Tracy Lee Simmons (AJC)

Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass (CO) (JN)

More Books for the Avid Reader

Closing of the American Mind by Bloom (CO) paired with Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz  (CO) 

The Great Tradition by Richard Gamble (AJC)

Useful Posts:

People to Follow on Twitter for Solid Educational Info

Daniel Willingham @DTWillingham (AJ) (JN)

Right to Read Project @right2readproj (JN)

Tom Sherrington @teacherhead Curriculum Design (CO)

Harry Fletcher-Wood @HFletcherWood Habit training, “knowing what students know” (CO)
Michael Pershan @mpershan Math Instruction (CO)
Patrice Bain @PatriceBain1 implementing cognitive science at home (CO)
Timothy Shanahan @ReadingShanahan science of teaching reading (CO)
Oliver Lovell @ollie_lovell Cognitive Science in teaching (his podcast is fantastic) (CO)
Stephanie Ruston @Spell2Read how children learn to read (CO)
Jennifer Binis @JennBinis historian of education (CO) (JN)

Vesia @VesiaHawkins Black mother, grandmother, education & reading proponent (CO)
Emily Hanford @ehanford NPR journalist focused on cog sci of reading (CO)

Get Yourself a Plan!

The Well-Trained Mind by  Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise (neoclassical)

Core Knowledge Sequence (K-8) – free download, free curriculum (public/charter) 

CM Your Way Form Guides (Charlotte Mason)

Other works mentioned:
Chetty, Friedman & Rokoff’s research on teacher effectiveness
The researchED Guide to the Curriculum

Good Enough Homeschool Podcast S1 Ep 13 and 14

Here we are back in 2021. We’re starting strong out of the gate with two episodes talking with our favorite Math guru- Lu Allen.

Lu Allen is an educator and homeschooling parent living on D’Harawal land in Australia. She currently teaches history, mythology, literature, languages, and mathematics to small groups of students through her business Epic Education Illawarra. Lu is interested in Ethics of Care in education, and in teaching children with learning exceptionalities including but not limited to autism, ADHD, and giftedness.

Show Notes: Aristotle’s Laws of Thought:,_non-contradiction,_excluded_middle
Mandelbrot Set:

Courtney’s math curricula recommendations:

  • RightStart — Montessori-based, lots of manipulatives (you do absolutely need their kit), very hands-on, expensive, rigorous, scripted (good for busy parents). The review is built into games, parent-intensive. My personal favorite for kindergarten. Suitable for children with learning disabilities.
  • Singapore Math Essentials — just what it reads, the essential bits of math. Easy to use. Singapore Math is justifiably regarded as a high-quality math program. 
  • Singapore Math Primary — Singapore Math is best-in-class for math curricula. However, it is parent-intensive, expensive, and has lots of moving parts (2 textbooks per year, 2 workbooks per year, 2 necessary home instructor’s guides). Manipulatives are required and must be purchased separately or scavenged from around the house. Very little interleaved, interval spaced review. Not suitable for children with a math learning disability. Renowned word problems available in yet another book. (tip: use the grade below, not the current grade)
  • Singapore Math Dimensions 7 & 8 Algebra I. Singapore Math is best-in-class for math curricula. However, it is parent-intensive, expensive, and has lots of moving parts (2 textbooks per year, 2 workbooks per year, 2 teaching guides, 2 solutions manuals). Very little interleaved, interval spaced review. Not suitable for children with a math learning disability. At this level, mostly suitable for parents who are themselves math teachers or very confident in explaining rigorous mathematics.
  • Saxon K-3 — one of the favorites among homeschoolers for decades. Many engineers come out of the Saxon math curricula. Scripted, mostly aloud, intensive interleaved, interval spaced, varied retrieval practice. Parent intensive, but short lessons (15-20 min). Required manipulatives kit sold separately. Often available inexpensively, used. Suitable for children with learning disabilities.
  • Saxon 5/4 and up one of the favorites among homeschoolers for decades. Many engineers come out of the Saxon math curricula. Written to the student. No instructor guide available.  Intensive interleaved, interval spaced, varied retrieval practice. Often available inexpensively, used. Suitable for children with learning disabilities who can read well or whose parent will read to them.
  • Miquon Math — very different. Based around Cuisenaire rods, it’s all hands-on, no to very little reading. K-2 only. Required teacher’s books sold separately. Very conceptual, good for later transition to Singapore or Beast Academy. Suitably primarily for parents who themselves are math teachers or early childhood specialists.
  • Math Mammoth – grades 1- 7 written to the student (a fluent reader could probably do this without much support), very high quality, easy to use, excessive practice, inexpensive, no manipulatives, very conceptual, not much review. Comes with fillable PDFs, so a student could use an iPad or similar to do the work (no need to print). 
  • Beast Academy — Grades 2- 5 Designed by math competition academics. Highly conceptual, typically much more difficult than one would expect. Comic book style (children will either love it or hate it). Expensive, with four workbooks and four textbooks per grade level. Some levels available online. Feeds directly into the Art of Problem Solving curricula.
  • Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra and up Designed by math competition academics. Highly conceptual, typically much more difficult than one would expect. Includes access to online practice and videos. Available as an online class through AoPS and other online boutique schools.
  • Teaching Textbooks, To be honest, this is not a particular favorite of mine. However, it does allow the student to work independently, and at the middle school level, which can reduce conflict between student and parent. All a parent would need to do is check and make sure the work has been done. This is a streaming service that covers the traditional topics, with a digital textbook. Suitable for slower math students.

Courtney Ostaff (she/her), author of The Teaching Online Handbook, has been teaching online and offline since 1999. Her second master’s degree is in Secondary Education, with certifications in mathematics, science, and social studies, and a special education certification in teaching the visually impaired. Currently, she homeschools her own children and teaches online at the secondary level, ages 8 to 18. CourtneyOstaff.Com

AJ Campbell, PhD, (they/them) has worked in education since the 1980s and has been actively involved in the classical homeschooling movement for over 15 years. AJ is the author of The Latin-Centered Curriculum, Living Memory, and I Speak Latin. A former homeschooling parent, classroom teacher, and classical school administrator, AJ now offers secular curriculum and private online tutoring through Quidnam Press & Tutorials at

Jenn Naughton, (she/her) is a five-time homeschooler and lifelong bookworm who champions the power of reading for children of all ages. She is the creative behind The Bookish Society which introduces both great new books and new people who share a literature love. Our round table sessions bring bookworms of all ages together in a safe and welcoming atmosphere to bond as readers.

Good Enough Homeschool S1 Ep 12


Today we are talking about my most favorite things: Choosing Books for Curricula, and Free Reading.


Jenn: It’s funny when I sat down to write my notes I was stuck for a bit. This topic is completely in my wheelhouse, and yet it is a difficult thing to “teach” It’s actually easier to start with a list of What Not to Do:

  1. Don’t censor your kids choices (within reason of course). What I mean is don’t worry if they only want to read a certain kind of book. IE: graphic novels, tumblr blogs, fan fic, one certain book series, etc. ‘
  2. Don’t hound them with questions about free reading. They’ll share if they want to.

How do I get my kid to read? Read to them. If you hate reading to them, get them all the audio books they like. That is still reading and whether or not your kids switch to book books at any point they will still learn to love the written word. Many adults only have time to listen to books, so it’s not a bad skill to have. 

Let them see you reading. Anything that you take time doing shows them that you value that hobby/pastime/obsession.  

Don’t expect a long attention span at first. Feel free to edit on the fly in order to help the listeners make it successfully through the book.

Now, let’s get to the fun part and I’ll gush about some books your kids will love. I posted an entire Amazon list. It’s an affiliate link so I’ll get like quarter off Bezos if you purchase 10 books.


Typical classical approach to choosing literature in conjunction with history or geography: historical fiction, contemporary fiction, travelogues (historical or contemporary), biographies, and (my favorite!) traditional tales (=fables, folktales, fairy tales/wonder tales, myths, legends, etc.). The world of 398.2!

Benefits of traditional tales: cultural literacy, short enough for young kids to focus on, convey important cultural values/virtues, clear structure prepares kids for more involved plots, easy to teach basic literary concepts (character, setting, plot, theme, moral…).

The importance of reading traditional tales, poetry, and drama aloud, even with older students.

Traditional tales as preparation for Great Books, especially ancient and medieval. Think about what books you want your high school student to be able to read, and prepare them starting in elementary school with the necessary background: myths, cultural info, historical context, etc. (LCC as an example of a literature curriculum designed for this.) Example: If you want your child to read Homer in high school, give them D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths in elementary. If you want them to read The Divine Comedy, give them the Christian Bible. For 19th-century novels, give them short stories and novellas from the period in middle school.

Courtney gave some excellent advice on teaching children to read and I’ll refer you to her earlier blog post on that.

Good Enough Homeschool S1 Ep 11

In today’s show, we’re focusing on critical thinking: What is it? Can you teach it? And if so, what curricula work best? After you listen, don’t forget to like, share, and leave us a review.

AJ: I thought we’d start by defining what we mean by “critical thinking,” but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Merriam-Webster doesn’t even offer a definition of it as a set term. The Oxford Languages online dictionary defines it as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes it as “careful thinking directed to a goal.” John Dewey defined what he called “reflective” or “critical thinking” in an educational context as “active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends.” 

“Critical Thinking” article at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:


[Note that this is from Daniel Willingham’s most recent article on this subject: found here.]

Willingham defines critical thinking as having 3 key components:

  1. your thinking is novel—that is, you aren’t simply drawing a conclusion from a memory of a previous situation; 
  2. your thinking is self-directed—that is, you are not merely executing instructions given by someone else; and 
  3. your thinking is effective—that is, you respect certain conventions that make thinking more likely to yield useful conclusions.

Willingham argues that critical thinking can be taught if you define it this way. For example, teach students to certain criteria for evaluating something, have them evaluate something by that criteria, and et voila! They do better than students who are taught general principles rather than evaluation criteria.

If this is interesting to you, I highly recommend Thinking, Fast and Slow by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman and Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value by William Poundstone, as well as counters against cognitive biases like the ideas in The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.


As usual, I’m here to present practical applications and precedent after homeschooling/parenting for so long.  Basically, my anecdotes support the science that Courtney and AJ quoted. Critical (deep thought) is hard won and IMO only achieved when you get the student heavily invested in the subject matter. I want to do a quick dive into the very many Critical Thinking workbooks on the market.

In my opinion, Critical Thinking workbooks don’t do much besides raise test scores in most cases. They also teach kids how to “game the test” While test practice is helpful- especially for students at home who don’t get as much practice- it doesn’t take long for students to figure out shortcuts on the standardized tests. But, do standardized tests measure Critical Thinking? I don’t think so. 

Good Enough Homeschool S1 Ep 10

Episode 10!! Wow, thank you all so much for tuning into our show. Courtney, AJ and I are thrilled that so many of you are finding our words useful. We hope that you’ll stay with us.

Episode 10:

Introduction to Hirsch’s work:

E. D. Hirsch, Jr., is best known as the author of the book Cultural Literacy and as the founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation. For decades, he has championed the idea of a knowledge-rich, sequential curriculum. Although his work is focused on public and charter schools, many homeschoolers will be familiar with his “Grader” series: What Your First Grader Needs to Know, What Your Second Grader Needs to Know, and so on. The Core Knowledge Foundation also makes their entire K-8 scope-and-sequence document available for free, as well as their language arts and social studies programs. (Their site is It’s an incredible resource for homeschoolers who want a well-designed, coherent, and academically rigorous program that is broadly compatible with classical education. Hirsch’s most recent book is How to Educate a Citizen, in which he argues that American students need a shared knowledge base and a healthy sense of patriotism if we are ever going to overcome our divisions as a nation.

We discuss his newest book: How to Educate a Citizen

Our guest Julie is a fan of the Core Knowledge Sequence.


AJ: Ten years ago, when I was given a chance to design the curriculum for a PreK-12 classical school, I chose Core Knowledge as the basis for our Lower School’s program. Our Upper School’s Humanities program was all Western Great Books, and Core Knowledge gave kids the background they needed to discuss those intelligently. I still believe that it’s a very solid program and miles better than what you’ll find in most American public schools.

In the intervening years, though, I have developed some serious concerns about the assumptions that underlie Core Knowledge, and those tie into my problems with Hirsch’s most recent book, How to Educate a Citizen.

I’m fully on board with many of Hirsch’s basic ideas: that students need a knowledge-rich curriculum, that the curriculum should be cumulative and therefore carefully designed, that it should include heavy doses of world history and geography and literature, and that kids of all backgrounds are capable of high academic achievement when given the right kinds of support. 
Hirch’s premise in How to Educate a Citizen is that a common knowledge base, instilled in elementary school, will lead to a unified national culture. He bases this assumption on periods in American history when, at least on the surface, we had such a thing, and he claims that it was largely created by a common curriculum in the form of textbooks like McGuffey’s Readers and the patriotic education of the 1940s and ‘50s. Right away, this raises some red flags for me. I’d argue that we’ve never had a unified culture in America, but we had and still have a dominant culture – WASP culture: white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant culture. Emphasis on the white. When Hirsch talks about “cultural literacy,” he’s talking about fluency in the language and assumptions of this dominant culture, including its presumed superiority. In short, he’s conflating cultural unity with cultural dominance.

Courtney: This is a long-term divide in social studies education, but I don’t think it’s necessarily all that out of touch. Historically, one of the purposes of public school was to be educated in what it was to be a US citizen–think about the naturalization process, for example. You are actually tested on your knowledge of what it means to be a US citizen. Part of the explicit goal of social studies is to socialize children into our culture.

And yes, our idea of what our culture is, is changing, broadening, becoming more inclusive, and I think that’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s an impossible task, although I do think it’s a difficult one. I thread that needle every week when I teach social studies, and it’s by far the most difficult task I face as a teacher. A couple of years ago, I read a blog post by Jasmine Lane, an early teacher from Minneapolis, and she made the excellent point that it’s a privilege to not have to worry about test scores–that for children who are not of the dominant culture, choosing not to know these pieces of knowledge is not an option if they want to be successful in this culture. 

Jenn: I feel like again, like I do with religious curriculum I’m forced to cherry pick from the CK list of “cultural literacy” In other words what happens when the story of us- is no longer us?