The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Monday, August 06, 2007

Trent's Tips: How to homeschool

From an email to some friends about to begin their homeschooling adventure.


As a lover of Great Books and member of several curriculum comities I’ve designed—literally—hundreds of classes, even several K-12 curricula. It’s fun, but the content is nothing compared to the method. The method is instilling good intellectual *skills* and instilling the love of learning. This latter can’t be taught but only caught by observing the lives of intellectually adventurous parents (or other role-models).

Fiona’s “curricululm and instruction” has thus far amounted to excitedly telling her I think she might now be ready to read _______. First was Little House, then Anne of Green Gables, then Narnia, then Robinson Crusoe, then Hobbit, then Gilgamesh, then LOTR, now A Wrinkle in Time, with the Great Divorce and Out of the Silent Planet up next. Interspersed throughout here are lots and lots of horse books, probably all the one’s you’ve ever heard of. That’s fine to fill the gaps between the real stuff. Here and there she also read some kind of Classics for Children which gave her a run-through of Homer and Virgil.

Other than Dante and Milton (and real-Homer and real-Virgil) the rest is icing on the cake. We’ll just turn her loose on our bookshelves. All the classics both great and small are there for serendipitous discovery.

They see us reading constantly and excitedly discussing them. We get boxes of books often, we have shelves of books all over, we have piles of books all over, we go to book stores, book signings, etc. I honestly think our *décor* is as much a part of our curriculum as anything! It communicates what we value.

History is handled by my own obsession with it. I started with a very coarse timeline (and appropriate narrative) and started filling in the gaps. In a couple of years she’ll read Churchill’s HESP and then she can just follow up on what she’s interested in.

Science might be harder, but we just use Hirsch’s outline to make sure we’ve got the basics covered and the rest is serendipity. They are *constantly* asking about this or that and our active outdoor lifestyle is like biology on parade.

It’s all just so easy when it’s your lifestyle. Getting them to keep their room clean. That’s hard. Homeschooling is easy.

If polymathic learning is *not* one’s lifestyle then I wonder how one is motivated to homeschool in the first place and there’s no amount of planning that can make up for that gap. To them I say to read James Sire’s _Virtues of the Mind_ and the autobiographies of Mortimer J. Adler. If that doesn’t get you excited about reading then your kids are screwed anyway.


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