Planning to begin a family-based course of study can be exciting…. and scary.
If you have a 7-year old child, you likely think of him as a second grader and want to be certain that he is learning what’s necessary at that stage. With Catholic Schoolhouse, however, you won’t find a “grade 2 syllabus,” a “grade 2 required reading list” or similar plans for any grade. What you will find is something special for your family, based on the idea that learning can happen together in a natural way. Classical education is an integration of subjects, and the goal of Catholic Schoolhouse is to provide classical education resources for parents to teach their children in an environment that promotes family unity.
Although it seems helpful for parents to have a list to check off, we believe there is a better way. If you can break away from checking subject boxes to observing what a child is able to do, you will have found the heart of classical education. Classical education at its core must be teacher-involved. Once confined to a strict structure or workbook, classical education ceases to be classical.
Students need to learn to write, read, speak, and think. The authentic classical homeschool is built upon a parent’s understanding and mastery of a subject. If you feel you are lacking in an area, spend less time searching for the perfect curriculum or workbook and instead devote time to learning. Opt to use workbooks and textbooks as valuable tools, not as replacements for your leadership and involvement. Learn techniques from good curricula, then implement them into your family learning. 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! Your first time through the youngest grades, you will likely use someone else’s step-by-step method. As your children grow older, you will see how these skills can be integrated into all that you teach 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 which becomes more proficient as it is applied to a variety of subjects. 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 for grades K-1 or 2) and American Cardinal Readers (grade level expanded selections for K-8) offer delightful, Catholic reading materials.
Writing—This involves forming letters, then words, then sentences, then paragraphs—in that order. As there is no magic age to begin teaching your child to walk, there is no magic age to begin writing instruction. Once your child has mastered letters, introduce words. Label everything with your child. Encourage her when she writes – even if it is wrong. Point out words in books and how they combine to make sentences, then encourage her to write her own. The biggest hindrance to writing is fear of failure–tell her always that she is a good writer! Copy-work and dictation are effective ways to stretch the student’s level, but shouldn’t replace the joy of creating her very own writing.
Speaking—This is a skill children already have! It should be fostered in a purposeful direction, so that ideas can be share fluently with others. Opportunities to narrate, share, and teach are the best ways to increase confidence. Always listen closely, showing your child that what she is speaking about is valuable. If you are a busy mom, integrate narration into the family schedule. For example, give your child the opportunity to speak at dinner, while everyone else’s mouth is busy (and simultaneously teach listening skills to the others!).
Thinking— What exactly are thinking skills? In the beginning, they involve sorting and categorizing, ordering and numbering. Memorization improves thinking skills. In order to memorize, your child must find the best way to put information into his brain, so he can retrieve it later. As your child grows, “thinking” expands to comparing and analyzing.
Is there a reason we bother teaching math when everything our children will learn in elementary school can be done with a $10 calculator? Absolutely! One of the most enjoyable things to sort, categorize and think about are numbers! Math shines at teaching thinking skills. Through math, our children learn to think in brand new ways! Chose a curriculum that promotes thinking, as well as memorizing and practice.
But what about science and history, poetry and art?
Catholic Schoolhouse exists to help you with these subjects. Science, history, poetry and art are the topics about which you and your child will read, write, speak, and think! Following our three-year cycle encourages your child to apply her reading, writing, speaking and thinking skills to new and different content each year. Returning to the topics three years later allows her to encounter new information at her new level of ability. In the grammar stage your child will move through the cycle twice,then a third time at the dialectic stage. Rhetoric stage. gives a final opportunity to review and go deeper, preparing students for college.
Looking for some help? Go to the What Else Should I Use? page on this website. It will offer some specific book titles that have been successfully used by others.
The Catholic Schoolhouse Blog is chock full of week-by-week ideas and printables for all three Tours.
Pinterest pages are also good places to find resources.
This post at the website, Classical Scholar, is an excellent resource, offering an explanation about the reading, writing, speaking and thinking skills formed in a classical education.
Get involved with the CSHatHome Facebook clan – share ideas and learn from those who are already using Catholic Schoolhouse (CHS).
Older students? CSH is designed to keep your older students 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 knew better, with students always retaining mentors until they, themselves, became teachers. This is the foundation of a classical education. Use outside texts and resources as needed, but never remove these students from your family’s conversation because they have too much work to do. Please see our page, Planning for the Dialectic Student, for more help.
God Bless you and your family as you begin your journey homeschooling from a place of rest.