When I first starting researching how to homeschool 4 years ago, I found every approach under the sun: Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unschooling, Unit-Study, just to name a few. There's curriculum everywhere, websites and catalogs galore. This was good. . . .and bad. It was great because it just thoroughly debunked the myth that no one homeschools or that there just isn't any thing out there for the homeschooling community. Trust me, there's tons and tons of stuff out there for us homeschoolers!! However, it was overwhelming already, and I hadn't even started yet! I didn't know where to begin or how to implement the things I wanted my kids to learn.

Praise God for a good friend of mine who held my hand and walked me through. She started simply by showing me how she homeschools and encouraged me to add and remove according to the needs of my family. She recommended the book, The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. It was and is very helpful to me and many of the things I discuss in this post can be found in greater detail in the book.

Although The Well-Trained Mind is popular amongst homeschoolers (meaning I'm sure most have heard of it), I realize that for many, you either love it or hate it. My family uses it as a guide to classical education, a tool that we can refer to for building a framework for our children's education. It is not the final say in our homeschool. Because we are Christians, there are things we agree with and things we don't. And for what we don't, we substitute with materials according to our Biblical beliefs.

What is a Classical Education?
In general, a classical education is based upon the trivium, which is Latin for "the three ways" to educate. It consists of the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages. The thought is that one stage should be a foundation for the next.

In the grammar stage (1st - 4th grades), the focus is on language, writing, reading, and memorizing the fundamental rules in each subject. During the logic stage (5th - 8th grades), the child is now prepared to reason and analyze, understanding the relationships that exist between what they are learning. And finally, in the rhetoric stage (9th - 12th grades), the child should be able to clearly debate and construct compositions of the subjects they are learning. Click here for a more extensive explanation.

Why "Christian" Classical?
As a Christian family, we believe in a sovereign God and a Biblical worldview. That means that any material that is in direct conflict with God's Word we do not teach as "truth". We try to examine all things in light of the Holy Scriptures and compare it to what God would have us do. We believe that true knowledge and wisdom come from God and that quality education cannot exist without Him. In all of our learning we draw connections between the subject matter and an omniscient God.

Part of our "curriculum" is Bible study and Scripture memory. Here is where the lines between school and life blur because knowing God's Word is part of our daily walk with Christ. But in any case, this is how we begin our school days: reading the Bible at breakfast and reciting Scripture. Click here to see how we do Scripture Memory; it has been a blessing to our family!

Sometimes we do devotions; most of the time we simply read His Word. Sometimes I think we can get so destracted by the various materials that claim to be the "best" at teaching children God's Word that we neglect simply just opening the Bible and reading. My children and I just finished the book of Acts and we will begin reading Romans in January. During Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter we focus our Bible reading on those celebrations.

History is a Big Deal
This is just about my favorite subject to teach because I'm actually a student along with my children. It has been fascinating to learn history chronologically, as the public schools I went to as a child did not present history chronologically. That made it difficult to understand where everything "fit" and why one event was connected to another.

We are approaching history on 4 year cycle, studying one time period per year: Ancient Times; Middle Ages-Early Renaissance; Late Renaissance-Early Modern; Late Modern-Present Day. {{Because there's a lot to cover, so far it's actually taken us a year and few months to get through each period!!}} We begin with the Genesis Creation account and learn Biblical history, right along side secular history. The most exciting thing about this approach is it has helped my children know that the Bible did "happen" and that it is not segregated to its own point in time. There are many wonderful resources that approach history this way. We're using The Story of the World series, along with Biblioplan (which we use primarily for Ancient History).

We are big fans of time lines in our homeschool. We've tried all types and are still figuring out what works for us. We've done them on the walls in our kitchen and our school room and we've done a Book of Centuries. We've also tried a file folder timeline (click here for a video demonstration; start the video at 11:28 for instructions.) We also have a copy of My Big Book of History that we use as a fun reference.

But that's not all. History is woven throughout our curriculum. Much of my children's narration and writing assignments, as well as their literature readings, coincide with the historical time period that we are studying. I've found The Well-Trained Mind and Ambleside Online very helpful in selecting books that are appropriate.

Latin, Art, and Music
Latin is one of those tell-tale subjects that screams classical education. Our family, however, takes a very relaxed approach to Latin. I introduce it in the 3rd grade and we go at our own pace. I have found it to be very useful for word associations in English (i.e. luna is Latin for moon, English derivative is lunar). Latin has also been helpful as my daughter learns Spanish, since Romance languages have their roots in Latin. (Luna, by the way, is also the Spanish word for moon!) We use the Latin curriculum from Memoria Press.

Many classical education models will tie art and music to the historical time period being studied as well. I've found that it hasn't fit so well for my family, especially for art. While we do make time for picture studies and narrations, I don't strain to tie art with history. When we come across an artist in our history readings, we will also look at their works. Most of the time, our art sessions are hands-on (i.e. drawing, painting, crafting, etc.). Here are some websites you can use to view original artwork:
Art Institute of Chicago
Art in the Picture
Chrysler Museum of Art

For music, I recently came across an old college music book of my husband's. Wouldn't you know that it covers musical styles according to historical time periods? And, isn't it great that my husband also kept the music Cd's that accompany the book?! I wish I'd looked at that book 3 years ago! We've been using that this year and it's worked very well. The text is much too advanced for younger students, so I heavily modify the information I read to my children. Then, we listen to the corresponding songs and discuss what we've heard. You can check out that book and CD combo here. (Please note that I own the 2nd edition from 1996 and there are newer editions available. It has a high price point, in my opinion, so I'd recommend buying used or checking for it in the library.)

Classical Education and Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason is another great approach to teaching your children at home. Although I would not classify our educational style as Charlotte Mason, there are definitely some similarities between the two. Here are a few resources I have come across that have helped me to incorporate some of the Charlotte Mason style of educating or understand the differences between Classical and Charlotte Mason:
Classical Education vs. Charlotte Mason: Similarities and Differences
The Classical Side of Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason Method Explained
A Charlotte Mason Companion

Although I am by no means an expert in either method, I will gladly answer any questions you may have as best as I can.
What approach do you use in educating your children? Please feel free to share so that we can learn from each other!

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