Planning to begin a family based course of study can be exciting….and scary. You likely think of your child as a 2nd grader, or a 7th grader and want so badly to be sure they are getting what they need to know at that stage.
The goal of Catholic Schoolhouse is to give resources such the parent can educate their children in an environment that uses classical elements and promotes family unity. As such, if you are looking for a “Grade 6 syllabus,” “Grade 2 required reading,” or such type plans, you will not find it here. If you seek something special for your family, based on the idea that learning can happen together in a natural way, you have found your home!
The goal of classical education is an integration of subjects. As such, it is often helpful for parents to look at a list of skills this age student needs to acquire. I believe that if we can break away from checking the subject boxes to observe what our child is able to do, we will have found the heart of classical education. Remember, classical education at its core must be teacher involved. Once you put classical ideas into a strict structure or workbook, it ceases to be classical.
You students need to learn to write, read, speak, and think. The authentic classical homeschool is built upon the mastery of the parent who understands the foundations of these subject. If you feel lacking in these areas, spend less time searching for the perfect curriculum or workbook, instead devoting time to learning. Use workbooks and texts as valuable tools for a busy mom, not replacements for your leadership and involvement. Better yet, read good curricula like a good book, learning their techniques to be implemented by you into your family. Once you feel confident in your role, you can begin to homeschool from a place of rest, with your family unified in your own one-room schoolhouse.
So, how do I teach these skills to my children? From the beginning! In the youngest grades, you will likely use someone else’s step-by-step method. As they grow older you will see how these skills can be taught in your unified schoolhouse.
Reading – this involves learning the basics of decoding and phonics. Once this is learned, reading should no longer be looked at as a subject but as a skill. A skill which your child will apply to a variety of subject matter to grow in proficiency. Look at programs like Sound Beginnings, Explode the Code, or All about Reading to find the phonics approach that is right for you. Little Angel Readers (early phonetic practice) and American Cardinal Readers (grade level expanded selections) will give you delightful, Catholic materials on which to practice.
Writing – this involves forming letters, then words, then sentences, then paragraphs. In that order. Don’t wait for a magic age to begin writing instruction any more than you waited for a magic age to begin to teach your child to walk. Once your child has mastered letters, introduce words. Label everything with them. Encourage them when they write – even if it is wrong. Point out the words in books and how they compbine to make sentences. Then encourage them to write their own. Copywork and dictation are fun ways to stretch the student’s level.
Speaking – this is a skill your children already have! Now you want to foster it in a purposseful direction so that they can grow to share their ideas in a fluent manner. Opportunities to narrate, share and teach are the best way to increase confidence. Always listen closely, showing your child that what he is speaking about is valuable. If you are a busy mom, make a schedule! Give a child the opportunity to speak at dinner, while everyone else’s mouths are busy — teaching listening skills simultaneously!
Thinking – Oh, what exactly are thinking skills? In the beginning they involve sorting and categorizing, ordering and numbering — many call this preschool. Later expanding to comparing and analyzing as your child grows. Memorization improves thinking skills. In order to memorize, your child need to figure out the best way to put information into his brain, in a manner such that he can later retrieve it. Sure sounds like thinking! One of the most enjoyable things to sort and categorize and think with are numbers. Math shines at teaching thinking skills. Why do we bother teaching math when everything your child will learn in elementary school can be done with a $10 calculator? Because through math, our children will learn to think in brand new ways!
But what about science and history, poetry and art? Ah yes, these are the subjects about which you and your child will read, write, speak, and think!
Catholic Schoolhouse exists to help you with this question. Following the three-year cycle of topics will allow your child to apply his skills to new and different content – keeping boredom away. Returning to the topics three years later will allow your child to encounter new information at their current level of ability. Why three years? Precisely so you can return again to all the topics before your child leaves the grammar stage, then visit the time period in history again at the dialectic stage and again at the rhetoric stage.
Looking for some help? What Else should I Use? will give you some specific books that have been enjoyed by others.
The Catholic Schoolhouse blog continues with week-by-week ideas.
Pinterest pages are also beginning to grow.
This post at the Classical Scholar is an excellent resource with further explanation about what the four important skills involve.
Get involved with the CSHatHome Facebook clan – share ideas and learn from those who are already doing it!
Older students? CSH is designed to keep them in your schoolhouse! One survey of ex-homeschooled students asked what was the biggest mistake your parents made? Many students replied, “Thinking I could be an independent learner in high school.” The ancients new better, with students always retaining mentors until they, themselves became teachers. This is the foundation of classical education.
Please see planning for the dialectic student for more help.
God Bless you ad your families as you begin your journey to homeschool from a place of rest.