How to Create a Simple Classical Homeschool
“The curriculum goes or I go,” I informed my husband one January.
We’d been struggling all year and nothing was going right. Our homeschool was on the brink of failing and the house was a disaster.
Keep the early years simple.
The temptation is great.
Your 1st grader is thriving on an hour of academics each day. Surely you can add a math drill sheet to solidify facts. It’s only for 5 minutes. What about a bit of reading, vocabulary, and critical thinking?
No gaps allowed in your house!
But 6-year-olds learn through play. It doesn’t matter if they’re running around waving sticks, darting through the bushes, and drawing beautiful pictures.
If your 1st grader is studying academics all day, they don’t have time to play. They don’t have time to dream. They don’t have time to live.
The simple mistake I made.
I sat down with my oldest with a thorough, intensive curriculum. We were going to do school all morning! He read, he wrote, and he learned.
And I lost valuable time elsewhere.
I’d forgotten the focus of the grammar years is reading, writing, and math. Another way to look at it is to prioritize language arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar) and math in your child’s homeschool.
A student who can read and write well is much easier to educate than one who’s struggling to read books.
Math builds on itself.
That’s not to say our youngsters should only do the skill subjects during the day. Add fun subjects such as history, geography, science or nature study, art, and music throughout the week.
Use these subjects to inspire our kids’ curiosity. Kids love recognizing different civilizations, knowing countries on a map, and learning why the sky is blue.
You need to work on the skill subjects 4 or 5 times a week. But rotate through the content subjects over the course of the week. You’re not trying to learn everything about history, science, art, and geography. You’re working to lay the foundations for future learning.
Plan a morning time that includes memorization and touches on the content subjects.
Keep the grammar stage focused on laying a strong foundation for future learning, and your kids will thrive.
Related: 4 Simple Ways to Add Beauty and Wonder to Your Homeschool
Keep middle school logical.
As our kids reach middle school it becomes tempting to keep adding subjects to the school day. After all, high school is coming up fast and kids need to be ready.
But we don’t want to burn out our kids. Instead, gently lengthen the time of the school day (I aim for 3-4 hours) and increase the rigor. Aim for short but challenging material. Spend your time on one well-written curriculum that covers many different subjects.
I’d learned my lesson by this point.
I kept my focus sharp and didn’t add curriculum for the sake of doing more. Nor did I add a curriculum to relieve my nightly worries. I only added a curriculum that served my family. But now I was making a different mistake.
I added too many activities.
We didn’t have time for long discussions over cookies and tea. We struggled to find enough minutes in the day to compare George Washington and Bonaparte Napoleon. There wasn’t even enough time to ponder the ramifications in today’s society.
Instead of focusing on logic, critical thinking, and Socratic questions, we raced to see if we could complete our schoolwork before we needed to leave the house.
We needed to slow down.
This time the answer came, not in an ultimatum but in bed rest.
We came to a complete halt. Activities were minimized. Chores left undone. We finally had the time we needed for long discussions.
Middle school, or the dialectic years, are the years to focus on logic and critical thinking.
As you plan your dialectic years, remember to focus on logic and critical thinking. Plan time for long discussions to help them think logically and ponder new ideas.
Watch out for adding too many marvelous activities.
Too many activities reduce the time available for the discussions. Instead of inspiring children to make connections and think deeply, discussions become just another task on your to-do list.
Your kids never think deeply about new ideas or make connections between subjects. They never learn to think logically.
It’s critical our emotional preteens learn to balance emotion with logic.
Teach high school teenagers to express themselves.
Have you ever noticed that our oldest children tend to be guinea pigs? After adding too much school work in the elementary years and too many activities in middle school, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson.
Homeschooling high school is the time for panic. You suddenly realize college and adulthood are marching steadily towards you. If you don’t do it now with your teenager, you’ll never do it.
We start throwing more things at our kids. More schoolwork, more activities, and more skills.
But 9th graders still more children than adults.
They need time to follow interests and develop hobbies. They need time to figure out who they are and what they love.
High school students need to learn how to express themselves.
And in classical education, high school is about rhetoric or the art of expressing yourself clearly. Teenagers study how to communicate and apply the logic they studied in the dialectic stage.
But learning to communicate clearly takes time and practice. Don’t fill your teenager’s day up with so many classes and activities that you can’t enjoy long discussions. Discussions about current events, friendships, and passions.
So plan high school carefully to get where you need to be. But leave room for your teen to follow interests and develop hobbies.
Leave time for long discussions and written papers.
This doesn’t mean all discussions need to be held in the house. Use time in the car to ask your teen what they think about history, science, or world events in the car. Clean the kitchen together while you laugh and chat about current events.
Make discussions pleasant with tea, cookies, or hold them over dinner with the entire family.
Teach your child how to express themselves clearly.
Related: 7 Easy Steps from Outline to Writing a Thesis Paper
Don’t try to do it all.
The trick to a simple classical homeschool isn’t to do everything. It’s to focus on what’s most important at each stage of development.
Little grammar stage children need to play, explore, and develop basic skills.
Middle school kids need to develop logic and critical thinking through studies and discussion.
High school teenagers need to concentrate on learning to express themselves clearly.
When I gave my husband the ultimatum, I’d made the same mistake many other homeschoolers have made throughout the years.
I’d tried to do too much and lost my focus.
There were too many subjects, too many activities, and too many things to do each day. It was overwhelming. Until the day I informed my husband the curriculum goes or I go.
Are you looking for a simple classical homeschool?
Love this! “The trick to a successful homeschool isn’t to frantically try to do everything. It’s to focus on what’s most important at each stage of development.” There are so many good options out there that it’s easy to overwhelm our kids… and us. Thanks for this wonderful reminder!
I’m always a little hesitant to chime in to curriculum discussions with homeschoolers of preschoolers, kinders, and even first graders who have shelves of packaged curriculum and extensive plans for their young children, that mine is only doing math, phonics and basic letter formation/penmanship. I’m sure a lot of their resources are wonderful, I just don’t have the time for that!
I’m a little bit worried though, that in the coming years I will have to stretch myself thin to meet the needs of several children with increasing time requirements!
Thanks for sharing Sarah, I’m a big fan of keeping it simple!
I found the kids and the homeschool keep changing. The handy thing about children growing up, is they do grow more independent. I found the amount of time I need to invest per child remains roughly constant. My K and 1st grader sit down with me and do all their school work for the day. My 8th and 11th graders complete most of their schoolwork by themselves. We sit down together to correct problems, answer questions, hold discussions, and ensure quality work is done. 🙂
Love it! Thanks for this reminder.
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