Starting classical education at home is intimidating. Where do you start? Do you need to add Latin right away? Don’t worry. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to seamlessly transition into classical education.
Simply add the subjects to your homeschool in this order, and soon you’ll be well on your way to classically educating your children. Just remember classical education is a journey, not a race. So take your time and enjoy the process.
Start a Classical Education at Home
The Homeschool Week
The first step is to decide if you going to homeschool 4, 5, or 6 days a week?
Many homeschoolers are able to school 4 days a week leaving the 5th day for field trips, visits to the library, and play dates with friends.
Other families prefer to spread a week’s worth of work over 5 days. This allows for a shorter homeschool day than the 4-day week while making excellent progress in school.
A few homeschoolers enjoy a regular routine of 6 days of school a week.
Just remember, there’s no right or wrong way. It’s simply a matter of choosing what works best for your current family situation.
Reading or Phonics
Reading is the basis for education. Children need to be able to read books, read their math assignments, read for entertainment, read on the computer, read maps, etc. So start your journey into classical education with reading.
If you have a young children in the house, begin daily phonics practice (daily meaning formal homeschool times). It doesn’t need to be hours of intensive labor, but rather 10-15 minutes of lap-time practicing sounds, blending, and reading.
Older children need time to read everyday. Start with easier classic children’s literature you remember fondly from your childhood. It doesn’t matter if the books are picture books or full length novels.
Keep your focus on creating a love of reading and books.
Also read aloud to your children everyday. Plan a family read-aloud after dinner, or enjoy a novel together at bedtime. My kids and I enjoy read alouds while the kids eat lunch.
Start a commonplace book in which the children keep track of the books they’ve read. Younger children can draw a picture and narrate a sentence or two.
Older children can write a paragraph or two about the book and possibly include a picture as well.
Once you have a good reading routine going in your household, it’s time to introduce mathematics.
Keep in mind that math programs vary in their approach to math.
The spiral approach introduces concepts in small bites while reviewing constantly. The mastery approach teaches one concept and has the children master it before moving to the next concept.
Another two types of approaches are the traditional method and the conceptual method. One teaches concepts through traditional algorithms, while the latter teaches the concepts first then the algorithms.
The goal of all four approaches is the same. To create children who are comfortable mathematicians. Find a program which works for you and your family and stick with it.
Here’s a marvelous list of math programs that Karyn Tripp at Teach Beside me compiled. Use it as a starting point for finding a math program for your family.
Once you have chosen your math curriculum and placed your children into the correct level, add math to your homeschool day.
At this point the children should be reading, writing in a reading notebook, and doing math daily.
Once reading and math are established in your homeschool, add memorization. Start with poetry, psalms, or Bible versus you’d like the children to know.
Eventually move on into introducing grammar rules such as the parts of speech, spelling rules, presidents of the United States, Kings and Queens of English, or Pharaohs of Egypt.
There are several good books such as The Harp and Laurel Wreath: Poetry and Dictation for the Classical Curriculum to help give you a good start.
When should you work on memory work? Some families find doing memory work at breakfast works best. Others do a morning circle time while other prefer lunch time. You can even do memory work in the car!
Once you have daily reading, math, and memory work settled into your routine, it’s time to begin filling out your language arts program.
Some language art curricula are all-in-one programs. This means they provide literature, spelling, grammar, and writing lessons for you. Others prefer to find the separate components of language arts. They look for spelling books, grammar texts, and writing curricula.
Finding a good writing curricula is difficult for many families. You can look at Writing Strands, IEW, Classical Writing, etc. Another option is to begin with narration and copy work in the grammar years.
As your child reaches 5th and 6th grade, teach outlining skills and require your child to outline science or history readings. Once outlining is second nature, you can teach your child to write a report from the outline.
Add opinions, introductions and conclusions and voila… an essay!
History, Science, Fine Arts
By this point we have the basic skill subjects and memorization settled. It’s time to add some fun into the school day!
Many history programs include geography. Since you’re already studying, say Italy, it’s a relatively easy matter to add in rivers, mountains, and major cities to your lessons.
My children have absorbed most of their geography lessons through copying landforms, cities, and country boundaries onto their maps.
Science should also be added to the school day. Have fun and look for a science program you and your children will enjoy. The goal is to have learn, have fun, and lay a foundation for high school, but not to cram all of the world’s scientific knowledge into your children at this time.
Also add fine arts to your week. You can turn on the stereo and listen to great musicians while drawing, painting, or sculpting.
The usual suggestion is to do history on Mondays and Wednesdays, science on Tuesdays and Thursdays, saving music and art for Fridays.
Sometimes it’s best to complete daily homeschool work Monday-Thursday and spend all of Friday enjoying the content subjects such as science and history. There are many schedule variations. Experiment and find what works for your family.
It’s finally time to add Latin into the mix. Take your time, decide your goals and research programs. Keep in mind that baby steps are best and you don’t need to learn all of Latin in a year.
Instead concentrate on where you want to be when your child starts high school and graduates high school. I’ve found we’ve made better progress when I keep it slow and concentrate on consistency.
By slowly adding subjects into your school day, you can easily transition into a classical education without you or your children losing your minds.