Right after college, my best friend, Jenny, moved to New York City. I drove up from North Carolina to Brooklyn, ready to hang out and try all the new food the big city had to offer. We sat in her apartment the first night staring at the yellow pages (remember those things?) trying to decide where to go.
“Well, let’s just go to your favorite place,” I said, exasperated.
“Actually, we’ve only ever ordered pizza. There are just so many choices. It’s too overwhelming to consider them all,” Jenny said.
Hello. Yes. I so get that. That’s where I am now: staring at the 700
Yellow Page Google entries for homeschool curricula, and thinking it might be easier to order pizza – which option is that?
A few decades ago this was not a problem. There was no such thing as homeschool curriculum. You simply bought a history textbook, a math textbook, a science textbook, a grammar workbook and some novels. Hazzah! Homeschool! But, like any good neighborhood, the homeschool world has become more diverse and crowded over time. Now you must choose not only the materials you will use to teach, but also an educational philosophy.
Oh, yes. There’s Classical, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Neo-Classical, Literature based, Unschooling, Traditional, Robinson, Jeffersonian, Montessori, Student Directed, Unit Study, Notebooking, Virtual Learning, Road Schooling, and more. AND THOSE ARE JUST THE PHILOSOPHIES! For each of those, there are about 100 actual programs. FOR.EACH.SUBJECT.
I’m always talking with friends about the permeability of parenthood. It’s this phenomenon whereby, as soon as you become a parent, you become particularly susceptible to the influence of the other people’s ideas. Things that always seemed completely ridiculous to you, like say, sleeping for three years with a kid in your bed, suddenly seem to have some merit. The internet, God love it, does not help with this either. For any parenting philosophy or conundrum you may encounter, there are hundreds of people on both sides of the issue offering reasonable and convincing arguments. It’s our desire to do the best job we can, and a deep fear of failing, that causes us to care so much in the first place. There’s nothing like being responsible for a child’s entire life and wellbeing, to foster self-doubt. Except maybe also being responsible for their entire education. When you decide to homeschool you go from being merely permeable to being downright porous, with swiss cheese sized holes in your sense of certainty.
And yet, at the end of the day, you just have to pick something. You do your due diligence, you make a choice, offer up a prayer, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. Thankfully, one of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that if it doesn’t work – you can throw it out and try something else.
So here’s what I’ve got so far for next year:
- We’re going with a literature based curriculum called, Build Your Library. Grey (4th grade) will be studying the Modern Age from Queen Victoria to present day; Zoë (7th grade) will be studying world geography. This curriculum uses a Charlotte Mason meets Classical type approach, tons of literature, no worksheets, but instead notebooking pages the kids fill out based on their learning, as well as dictation.
- Incorporated into the Build Your Library curriculum, is a science component. Grey will be learning the basics of Physics through books like The New Way Things Work, while Zoë (and probably Grey too, crazy science kid) studies Chemistry through the recommended course Chemistry for the Logic Age from Elemental Science.
- Technically, Build Your Library contains a language arts component, but I don’t think it’s deep enough for my wordy kids, so we’ll be using Michael Clay Thompson’s Language Arts program. This covers grammar, poetics, and vocabulary based on Latin roots. It looks AMAZING and I’m super excited to try it out.
- Math has been our stickiest wicket. Grey has a mathematical mind, though his recall of basic math facts is slow. Zoë struggles with math. She thinks it’s boring (it’s not), she thinks she’s terrible at it (she isn’t), and she and I clash over her attitude and my impatience. Both kids will use Reflex Math daily to work on recall of basic math facts. Both kids will also use Life of Fred books, where math is presented in a funny, hands-on story way. Grey will use Beast Academy, a curriculum designed for gifted math kids, with Khan Academy to supplement. Zoë will use Khan Academy, with supplements, as needed from Key Curriculum.
- Zoë (and perhaps Grey) will use The Big Book of Lively Latin, not because I’m trying to overwhelm her, but because this girl thinks she wants to be a Classics Professor and she LOVES Latin.
- Both kids will use Rosetta Stone for Spanish.
- Zoë will participate in Girls Up Loud (Nashville peeps, you gotta check this out!) and The Theater Bug (ditto!). Grey will continue in Boy Scouts and resume karate (hit me up with suggestions).
- I’m still looking for a great art program for the two of them. If you live in the area and have any ideas, please leave them in the comments!
Some of this is still open for discussion. I’m no more immune to the permeability of parenthood (or homeschooling) than the next girl. And I’m still wondering what happened to the pizza option.