The Curriculum Choice

May 22, 2009

Apologia Elementary Science

Filed under: charlotte mason, classical, Curriculum choices, Science, Written by Kristen — Kristen @ 12:08 am

Apologia publishes a full-range of science texts for the Christian homeschool. They began with high school science texts which have been very popular with homeschoolers for many years. More recently, Apologia began publishing elementary texts. Currently, the elementary science series includes five titles: Astronomy, Botany, Flying Creatures, Swimming Creatures, and Land Creatures. These texts follow the immersion principle of learning. Rather than study a wide-variety of unrelated science topics during the course of a school year, these texts dig deeply into one science topic.

Features of Elementary Apologia Books

  • Engaging hard-cover text with many full-color pictures
  • What Do You Remember? questions to discuss
  • Common household items used in experiments and projects
  • Master list of necessary materials
  • Notebooking activities included

All of these texts have 13 or 14 lessons. But don’t be fooled into thinking that with a small number of lessons the books won’t last a whole year. These are not short lessons. They each include 10-20 pages of text (I read these aloud). In addition, all the lessons include at least one notebook assignment and either an experiment or project. Many lessons have both a project and an experiment. I like that the author has clearly separated projects and activities from experiments. In the experiments, the scientific method is emphasized including discussions of variables, controls, hypotheses, data collection, and drawing conclusions. So although the book could easily be read in less than a school year, completing all the included notebook pages, projects and experiments will extend this text to easily encompass a year’s study. However, if you do want to complete more than one of these texts in one school year, the Astronomy and Botany books are a little shorter than the Zoology books.

I love that this one text can be used with all my students. I can customize the notebook assignments to fit their abilities. (Some of the notebook assignments have two options: one for older students and one for younger.) My first grader loves to sit and look at the pictures. He doesn’t participate in very many of the activities, but he is still learning with us. Many first graders could easily participate more than mine does. My daughter who is in 3rd grade now, completed the astronomy book when she was in kindergarten. She completed the notebook assignments and still remembers much of what we studied. I say this as a reminder that this text is easily adapted to the needs of families with widely varying ages and abilities of children.

So why would anyone not like Apologia?

You will not like this text if you do not want to include any of the Bible in your science lessons. These texts are unapologetically (pardon the pun) Christian. The author believes in creation and presents evidence that supports creation in the text. It does not give equal time to evolutionary theory believing that is better left to science geared to older students. Of course, most any animal book checked out of the library contains references to evolution, so this book helps provide a balance with its absence of evolutionary content.

You might not like this text if you want a more traditional approach to science including worksheets, tests and quizzes. The reinforcement of material in these texts is through talking about the text and creating notebook pages. The writing style is also different than most science books. These books are written like the author is talking directly to you. I don’t mean vernacular speech, but it contains questions that are somewhat rhetorical. It also goes into great detail.  Additionally, if you want to study many different topics in one school year, these texts would not be a good fit.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the other Apologia Elementary Science books, they are available from many vendors of homeschool products. They can also be purchased directly from Apologia at their website for $35.00.

Written by Kristen

The Curriculum Choice


May 13, 2009

What Kind of Homeschooler Are You? Tips for Defining Yourself

Filed under: Curriculum choices, Homeschool philosophies, Uncategorized, Written by Kari — snailstrail @ 8:23 am

Homeschoolers are in a world of their own. To outsiders, all homeschoolers are the same…weird. But inside the world of homeschooling, you quickly become defined by your method of teaching. When you meet another homeschooler, some of the first questions asked are, “What curriculum do you use?” and “What kind of homeschooler are you?” To new homeschoolers, this can be completely overwhelming and finding your options can literally drown you in information. I know that there are a lot of moms that are just like me.

I began researching homeschooling, and how to do it, while I was pregnant with my first child. I was still teaching in a public school at the time, but I knew one day that I would have the blessing of homeschooling my kids. I am a first generation homeschooler so I had no idea that there are actual methods and theories about teaching your kids at home. I also didn’t know that there are curriculum just for homeschoolers. Almost 5 years later, I am still trying to define what kind of homeschooler I am.

Before you google your eyes out, turn off your computer and sit down and write out everything you believe about education. This is your mission statement; it will become your foundation for all of the choices you will have to make. In my mission statement, I included how I believe my children learn. I also included how I think that learning is assessed. Brenda has written a great article that can help you as you write your mission statement .

After you have your mission statement, and you feel you need to put a label on what kind of homeschooler you are, find the methods/theories that best suit you based on your mission statement. Research the homeschooling methods out there and find one that matches your core beliefs. If there are several that match you, you might be Eclectic. As you make a list, write down what you like and don’t like of each method. Here is a list of just some methods:

* Classical
* Unschooling
* Charlotte Mason
* Ruth Beechick
* Traditional
* Eclectic
* Unit Studies
* Notebooking
* Lapbooking
* Religion or Faith Based
* Virtual Schooling or Hybrid Schooling or Distance Learning
* Deschooling
* Umbrellas (your child learns under an organization, a public school, or private company)
* Montessori
* Enki
* Waldorf
*Reggio Emilia
* Delayed: The Moore Method
* Accelerated
* Principle Approach
* Thomas Jefferson
* Relaxed
* Delight Directed
* Child-Led
* Research Based
* Radical unschooling

Now that you know how you will teach your child, you have to find the tools to do this. There are so many curriculum choices on the market that there are conventions just so that homeschoolers can check them out. There are three main ways to find your curriculum. First there is the boxed curriculum. This is curriculum that covers every subject area for the entire year. Everything is mapped out for you, may even be scripted, and often comes with all the materials your child will need. Your second option is to pick and choose specific items from a boxed curriculum. You might just want to buy the math materials or the reading books. Another option is to create your curriculum from free online resources, or resources from the library. You also have the freedom to design your own curriculum.

There are three steps to developing your identity as a homeschooler. First, write your mission statement. After you have this ingrained into your heart, find a method that fits your beliefs. And finally, find curriculum that matches your foundational beliefs and method. The great thing about homeschooling is that you have the freedom to teach however you want to teach. And you can change your methods and curriculum whenever you want. Even if it is in the middle of the school year. If it isn’t working…move onto something new. One thing that can give you a concrete foundation is your core beliefs in how you believe your children learn best. In homeschooling, it doesn’t matter what kind of homeschooler you are. It doesn’t matter what curriculum you use. Because, as a homeschooler, you are doing what is best for your child.

Written by Kari Wilcher

The Curriculum Choice

May 1, 2009

10 reasons to buy the curriculum Guides even if you don’t use the Noah Plan

Filed under: Biblical Principle Approach, Written by Anna-Marie — Tags: , , , , , , — principledmom @ 8:59 pm

The Noah Plan curriculum guides from the Foundation for American Christian Education are hefty tomes full of almost anything you need to know to teach a subject using the Biblical Principle approach. But those who use a different approach can still gain a lot from FACE’s work.

  1. Timelines. While not comprehensive, their timelines are well done and informative, and highlight the use of the subject for the advancement of the Gospel. They are helpful for planning the history of any subject, and cross-referencing to see what was going on in other spheres at a particular point in history.
  2. Resource lists. Especially in history and literature. They are a gold mine. In the history guide they are arranged historically. And their lists incorporate as many original sources and classics as possible for a book this size.
  3. Charts, forms and graphs. Especially in English and the line maps in History and Geography. And they have sample notebook grading charts and other teacher tools.
  4. The focus on Providential History. No matter what your approach, a Providential approach to history affects all subjects and shapes your Christian worldview. Each subject guide addresses that subject’s history
  5. Research. In the literature guide, the information on Shakespeare is almost worth the price of the book. In each guide they offer original documents and a view of a subject that is hard to find in other homeschool resources.
  6. Notebook examples. Even if you are not into traditional notebooking outlines and such, there are many examples of well thought out pages. They can inspire and challenge, or even help solve a problem.
  7. The passion. The authors of each guide are master teachers, and reading their guides can spark an interest, rekindle an excitement or reinforce an idea. Anyone can get on board with doing things well, even if you aren’t keen on the specific methods.
  8. The projects. Each guide offers ideas for projects that you can adapt to any unit study or textbook you may be using.
  9. Tools. Things like word studies and the elements of notebooking are things that any teacher can use. Word studies will serve you well in elementary school through graduate school. It is an invaluable skill. And tools like sample notebook grading sheets can give you a place to start when creating your own materials.
  10. Easy on the pocketbook. There is only one book to buy for each subject. It takes you from kindergarten through high school. All this goodness is wrapped up in one volume for each subject. The investment is only made once.

Written by Anna-Marie

The Curriculum Choice

April 25, 2009

Review of Tapestry of Grace

Filed under: classical, Curriculum choices, history, Literature, Written by Kristen — Kristen @ 6:12 pm

What is Tapestry of Grace?

Tapestry of Grace is a Christian, classical, history-focused, multi-disciplinary, unit-study curriculum for the entire family.


Christ is the central focus of this curriculum. Tapestry of Grace presents the history of the world showing that history truly is His Story. Christ, His coming, and His sovereignty are woven throughout the threads of this comprehensive curriculum. I should mention however, that the curriculum makes use of many secular resources.


Tapestry of Grace uses the classical model of the Trivium for instruction.The assignments are divided into Grammar (Lower and Upper), Dialectic, and Rhetoric levels. In the dialectic and rhetoric levels there is an emphasis on reading many of the “classic”  works.


Tapestry studies the history of the world chronologically and all the other subjects are studied within their historical context.


Tapestry of Grace includes assignments in history, literature, Bible, worldview, geography, government, philosophy, art appreciation, hands-on activities, and composition.


Each year of Tapestry of Grace (there are 4 total) is broken down into 4 units. These units are history related and within each unit are assignments in the before-mentioned disciplines.

For All Ages

Tapestry of Grace can be used for all your school-aged children at once. Not only that, but there are extensive teacher’s notes for mom to learn as well. They even have a special summary CD for dads called the Pop Quiz.(not included in the year plans) The unit celebrations are intended to be shared with the entire family, or even extended family and friends.

How does Tapestry of Grace work?

There are four different year plans in Tapestry of Grace.

Year 1: The History of Redemption: From Creation to the Fall of Rome

Year 2: Between Ancient and Modern: From Byzantium to the United States Constitution

Year 3: The 19th Century: From Napoleon to Teddy Roosevelt

Year 4: The 20th Century: From Teddy Roosevelt to September 11th (Coming soon)

The program is designed so that a student completes each year plan and then begins the rotation again, studying the same topics again at a higher level.  It is not necessary to begin at Year 1.

Each year plan has four units with nine weeks per unit. The introduction of each unit begins with a summary of the history included in the unit, and an explanation of how the unit fits in with previous history studies. It outlines the scope of the unit and provides some general information about the topics that will be studied. Also included are ideas for a unit celebration. These unit celebrations provide an opportunity for a compilation of everything studied in the unit to be displayed and presented. Unit 1 of each year plan also contains a guide to help users get started with Tapestry.

Following the unit introduction are the week plans. There are nine weeks in each unit, for a total of 36 weeks of study in each year plan. Each week’s plan is divided into several sections.

  1. Threads – These are the weekly learning objectives for each of the subjects studied in Tapestry of Grace. The objectives are divided by subject and level. (1 – 2 pages)
  2. Reading Assignments – These sheets give the assigned readings for all the threads and levels for the entire week. The scheduling of the reading is flexible, and will vary between families and from week to week within a family. There is one page of primary resources and one page for alternate and extra resources. The alternate resources provide additional flexibility to the program. (2 pages)
  3. Weekly Overview – These pages include vocabulary words, people to know, time-line dates, activities, and geography activities for the week. (2 pages)
  4. Writing Assignments – There are 12 different levels of composition assignments. These assignments are usually related to the history lessons that week. (3 pages)
  5. Student Activity Pages – These pages are designed to be used by the student. They contain questions about the history and Bible reading for the week, as well as geography assignments and suggested activities. There are often separate literature assignment sheets. These are usually about 2-3 pages for both the lower grammar and upper grammar sections, and longer for the dialectic and rhetoric levels. These pages are conveniently color-coded in the corners by level for easy identification.(Length varies – Year 3 Unit 1 Week 1 has 14 pages)
  6. Teacher’s Notes – This section is usually the longest section of the week. It contains articles with background information for the topics studied in the week. In addition, it contains the answers to the literature worksheets and the discussion questions. One of the most impressive portions of this section, and perhaps of the entire curriculum, are the discussion outlines to be used with dialectic and rhetoric students. (Length varies – Y3U1Wk1 -14 pages)
  7. Glance into next week –  This handy page lists things the parent should be aware of in the upcoming reading assignments. It sometimes includes budget-stretching suggestions for combining students of different levels into one text. (1 page)

What do I like the most about Tapestry of Grace?

  • Multi-level teaching – I love being able to teach all my children at once. Right now, it is not as hard to do, because my youngest is only 2-1/2 and not in school. But as I look ahead, I see the value in being able to have the entire family studying the same history topics when my children are in, for example, 9th, 7th, 5th, and 1st grades,
  • Non-consumable and reusable – Tapestry of Grace is more than the typical non-consumable curriculum that can be passed down to younger siblings. It can be reused by the same students, as well as being passed down to younger siblings. I can conceivably use each of the Tapestry of Grace year plans four times!
  • Unit-study approach – I love how so many subjects are covered in Tapestry of Grace. I love to add in projects and writing assignments that go with our history studies. Also, understanding the Bible in its historical context is invaluable.
  • Flexibility – There are so many ideas and resources listed each week, that it would be impossible to do them all, so I can pick which ones are best for my family. I have the ability to schedule the reading as well. Many of the suggested books are available from the library and often there are easy substitutions for those that are not.
  • Product Support – The customer support at Tapestry of Grace is excellent. They have promptly answered questions and provided help. There is a user’s forum at the Tapestry website, as well as very active Yahoo groups for general and year specific support.

What are some specific topics?

I received Year 3 Unit 1 Digital Edition to review. In addition I received the corresponding Map Aids. The unit is entitled Napoleon’s World. The 9 weeks are:

  1. When John Adams was President
  2. Napoleon: The Man and His Career
  3. Early Industrial Revolution
  4. Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase
  5. Jefferson and the Supreme Court
  6. Madison and the War of 1812
  7. Reshaping Europe and South America
  8. South America in Transition
  9. Monroe and the American Hemisphere

I love the literature selections for this unit. One of my very favorite books, Pride and Prejudice is studied for four weeks of the unit by the rhetoric students. One of the dialectic books is Frankenstein and the Swiss Family Robinson is included for upper grammar. You can search and see the recommended books for any of the units or the entire year plan at The searches are quick and easy. You can even copy the results to a spreadsheet so you can sort them by level or subject.

There are some great activity suggestions for this unit. Lower Grammar Students can write with a quill pen, make a water wheel out of Legos, make a silhouette, and practice counting money. Upper Grammar students spend much of the unit on an invention product and learning about the branches of American government, including preparing a Supreme Court scrapbook. Dialectic and Rhetoric students make a display board with major Napoleonic figures and an inventor project, as well as building models of the Supreme Court Building and the Arc de Triumph. All levels listen to violin music, learn how to cook food from South America, study the Star Spangled Banner, and learn proper etiquette concerning the American flag.

The Map Aids are a tremendous time saver. They include black-line maps specific for each week. You don’t have to worry about finding maps, just print them out and go.

What about the Digital Edition?

I have been using a print copy of Tapestry for this school year. The unit that I received to review was the digital edition (DE). The download was easy. I find the DE easy to navigate and it has a very convenient search feature that allows you to use your computer to search instead of flipping through hundreds of pages trying to find something you know is in there. I like the fact that the DE saves space. Each unit of Tapestry of Grace fills up a 2″ binder. Storing 16 total binders for all the year plans might have been a problem. One important thing to note is that the digital license does NOT allow the DE version to be resold. I personally find the DE a very convenient format for Tapestry of Grace. I would not print out very many of the pages so I don’t think that increased printing costs will be an issue for us.

How much does Tapestry of Grace Cost?

There are several different ways to purchase Tapestry of Grace. All purchases are made directly from the Tapestry of Grace Store.

  • One year plan – printed = $225 + shipping
  • One year plan – digital =  $170
  • One year plan – digital + print = $270 + shipping
  • One year bonus bundle – digital = $250
  • One year bonus bundle – print only = $295 + shipping

* Bonus bundles include entire unit, the Loom, and Map Aids, plus your choice of a bonus option (Writing Aids, Complete year lapbook kits, complete year evaluations,  or complete year Pop Quiz) and a bonus item (one level of evaluations, one unit lapbook kit, or one unit Pop Quiz.)

The units are also available individually.

  • One unit digital = $45
  • One unit digital + printed = $76.40 + shipping
  • One unit printed = $60 + shipping

The stand-alone printed versions are not currently available for all the year plans. Be sure to check the store for the unit you are interested in to see what is available.

Bookshelf Central provides the resource books for Tapestry of Grace plus suggested grammar and spelling curricula. The books are also available from major book retailers. In addition, many of the books are available through the library or can purchased used.


I love Tapestry of Grace for my family and plan to use it for a very long time! I think it provides the framework to provide my children with an excellent understanding of history and God’s sovereign hand in history. If Tapestry of Grace sounds like something your family would like, be sure to go to their website to download their free samples. You can see the layout of the program and try out the digital version for yourself.

Written by Kristen

The Curriculum Choice

April 24, 2009

Meet Me At The Corner & Robert Sabuda Pop Up Books: A Review

Filed under: Literature, Written by Kari — snailstrail @ 3:17 am

We got an amazing pop-up book for Christmas from Big Sister Snail (we are known as the snail family at The Snail’s Trail). who is in college. It is called The Chronicles of Narnia Pop Up Book by Robert Sabuda. It is absolutely the best pop-up book I have ever seen. It is so amazing that it stays high up on a shelf and can only be read with Mommy or Daddy Snail. It has become very special to us. Just look at the amazing detail and how big some of the pop-ups are:

Little Snail loves the ship in the book.
The pop ups are giant and very detailed. We have spent hours just oohing and ahhing over them.
Just look at that giant lion! He just leaps off the page!

I was very happy when my friend, Donna Guthrie, told me that there is an interview with Robert Sabuda on her website, Meet Me At The Corner. Check it out (just click here).

The host of this virtual field trip is a little girl. She does an excellent job at interviewing Robert and showing kids how he makes his pop-up books. Our favorite part of this virtual field trip is learning how to make a pop-up card. It has really inspired us! After we watched the virtual field trip, we visited Meet Me At The Corner’s Learning Corner to extend our learning on pop-up books and Robert Sabuda. The site even directed us to Robert Sabuda’s website with directions on how to make more pop-ups (Aslan the lion is on page 2).

We have completely fallen in love with Meet Me At The Corner. This website needs to be added to every homeschoolers list of favorite, most useful, websites.

Meet Me At The Corner, Virtual Field Trips for Kids, is more than just a collection of videos for kids to watch. It is a dynamic, interactive site that allows kids to submit their own individually created videos! Meet Me At The Corner is becoming a community where children can be creative and expressive. As a homeschooling mom, I know that to get my kids to really learn something, I have to make it interactive, hands on, and fun. But most importantly, if I want my kids to really learn something, they have to produce something. With Meet Me At the Corner, The Snails can write, direct, and produce their own educational movies about what they are learning. They even get to use the old video camera! It has really been amazing to see their storytelling come alive. I especially like that the kids can use this as a medium to re-enact the stories that we read and recap the units we have been learning. Of course our videos aren’t near ready to upload to Meet Me At The Corner, but they will be when The Snails get a little older.

The virtual field trips that we “just have to watch over and over again” are:

Meet Me At The Corner makes planning your units, themes, or projects easy because with each video you can get recommended books, websites, activities, downloadable files, and lessons to extend your learning.

I am so happy that my friend, Donna, has created such an amazing resource for kids. Please, visit Meet Me At The Corner for your next field trip. I hope that it inspires the storyteller that is in your child!

Written by Kari

The Curriculum Choice

April 21, 2009

Writing a Family Mission Statement

Filed under: Homeschool philosophies, Organizing, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 7:40 pm

womansilhouettesmlSomething I always recommend to new homeschoolers is to write a family mission statement. The value of a mission statement for a new homeschooling family is irreplaceable. I also strongly believe that Mom and Dad need to sit down apart from each other (or vow not to peek) and write separate lists of what is important to them. Then, convene together and take the time to discuss and learn from each other. For seasoned homeschoolers, a good idea is to go over your mission statement each year and see if anything has changed.

Below is a list of things to think about discussing for your mission statement. These are a starting point and you should certainly add to and take away as you see fit.

  • religion, will all, none or some of your books be written from your religious background? Will you expose your children to other religions.
  • budgeting, will you be budgeting school books or using the library?
  • sports, are athletics important to your family and who will be involved?
  • socialization, are you concerned with whom your children are around, and are you planning on creating the type of “socialization” that you believe is good for your child?
  • philosophy, which philosophy do you lean towards? (Do your homework)
  • college, are you raising college bound children or not?
  • involvement, who will be involved in raising and educating your children? (hubby, you, friends, family, other moms, co-ops, state standards)
  • siblings, will you be educating siblings together or separate?
  • history, history is a messy ugly story some times, how will you teach history?
  • timeframe, will you homeschool for two years, until high school or all the way through?

A mission statement may also include future goals that you want to set for each child and character traits that you want to instill in your children. Take the time to work through these issues before they become issues of contentment. Being on the same page as your husband is the best place to be when homeschooling and raising children in general and if there are things that you can not agree on, I would advise to leave it alone. Address it at a later time and be happy with the things that you have agreed on!
Written by Brenda

The Curriculum Choice


April 20, 2009

Classical Education

Filed under: classical, Homeschool philosophies, Written by Kristen — Kristen @ 8:45 pm

Evaluating a Classical Education

It’s that time of year again. No, not spring cleaning. (although I’m working on that too!) It’s the time of year where we’re winding down and I’m evaluating. What did we learn this year? What has worked well? What didn’t work? What do we need to do better next year?

One of the things on my mind a lot lately is classical education. I was introduced to classical education when my oldest was in preschool. My husband and I were both very inspired by the research we did on classical education, and planned to implement the classical model in our homeschool.

So what is classical education exactly? That is somwhat dependent on whom you ask because there is a tremendous amount of variation among classical educators. However, there are two basic schools of thought in classical education.

On one end of the spectrum are what are sometimes called the neo-classicists. The essay by Dorothy Sayers entitled The Lost Tools of Learning details three stages of learning. These three stages she has called the poll-parrot, the dialectic, and the rhetoric stages.   Sayers goes on to suggest that instruction during these stages should match the strenghths of the children. In The Well-Trained Mind, authors Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise expounded on Sayer’s original essay by detailing educational methods that capitalize on these natural stages in students. In this book, these respective stages are re-named as the grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage.

The grammar stage is the first stage and ranges from first through around fifth, sixth, or seventh grades depending on the child. This stage is characterized by the child’s ability to memorize facts and their thirst for knowledge about many different things. The student should not be performing analysis on these facts at this point, but rather acquiring knowledge that will be used as a foundation in further studies. An excellent summary of the grammar stage written by Christine Miller can be found at Classical Christian Homeschool.

The grammar stage is followed by the logic or dialectic stage. This stage typically begins around the middle school years. You can recognize when a student is beginning to enter this stage by the questioning of the student. The logic stage is when the student begins to constantly ask “Why?”. Students at this stage exhibit the desire and the ability to understand how things are interrelated, and an increased capacity for logical thought.  Many students will exhibit some of these aspects of logical thought at an early age, but parents must be careful not to push them out of the grammar stage too soon.  A more thorough exposition of the logic stage can be found here at Classical Christian Homeschool.

The third stage is the rhetoric stage. This stage of learning usually coincides with the high school years.This usage of the term rhetoric should not be confused with the common usage of political rhetoric.   The rhetoric stage is characterized by the student learning to effectively communicate his own thoughts and ideas. These  thoughts and conclusions are drawn from the study of great literature and philosophers of the ages.

These three stages proceed in a logical fashion with each stage building on the other.  Students will be able to reason more effectively if they have learned lots of facts and correct useage of grammar in their elementary years (grammar stage).  In turn, students will be able to more effectively communicate in the rhetoric phase if they are able to quickly retrieve the correct facts, and then assemble those facts together in a logical manner. 

The neo-classicists place great value in the study of history, literature, and language. The Well-Trained Mind suggests that history should be taught chronologically in a repeating 4 year rotation. History is divided into 4 periods represented approximately by Ancient History, Middle Ages and Reformation, Colonial Times through Victorian Ages, and Modern (20th Century) History. Ideally these topics would be taught in 1st-4th grades, then repeated in 5th-8th grades, and again in the 9th-12th grades. There are many curriculum providers that have modeled their programs after this design.

Another key portion of classical education is the study of at least one classical language, usually Latin, although some people add or substitute the study of Greek or Hebrew. Many classical educators begin Latin instruction very early, in the grammar stage, because that is a good time to memorize all the various declensions, conjugations, and vocabulary required in learning Latin. There are many benefits to the study of Latin. It greatly increases English vocabulary because so much of English is derived from Latin. Also Latin is a language that requires rigorous thought and thus is good training for the mind. An excellent argument by Cheryl Lowe of Memoria Press that more thoroughly expounds the benefits of Latin study can be found at the Memoria Press website.

The study of Latin and/or other classical languages is the single biggest point in common between the neo-classical and the traditional classical schools of thought. In addition the study of logic is included by both. Another commonality is the study of the Great Books, although there is some disagreement about what is included in the list of Great Books.

In my opinion, the greatest difference between the two models is their focus. Where the neo-classicist focuses more on method in education, the traditional classicist’s focus is on content. A traditional classicist also values the study of history, but the focus is on Western History with a strong emphasis on the Greeks and Romans. The 4-year history rotation is absent from the traditional classical classroom. The use of the terms grammar, logic, and rhetoric do not apply so much to developmental stages to the traditional classical educator, but are titles of disciplines to be studied. The stages are naturally to be followed in any study independent of the age of the student. For example, a student who is in the “logic stage” according to the neo-classical model, but is just beginning to study Latin, must still begin with the grammar stage of learning the Latin language.

So what have I gleaned from my reflection on the definitions of classical education? Do I still agree with this philosophy? How am I doing in implementing these ideas in our home?

After reviewing the principals of classical education I must give a resounding “yes”, that it is still the direction I want our homeschool to take. I still lean more strongly toward the neo-classical side of the spectrum. I am particularly enamored with the 4-year history rotation. 

How are we doing in practice? On the positive side, we are completing a year of studying the ancients in history. This is the second time through this time period for my oldest child. We will be continuing on in our chronological history study next year. My two older children are studying Latin and Greek which is crucial to a classical education.

The place where I have failed the greatest is in memory work. I have not done a good job implementing memory work in all of our subjects and I have not used sufficient drill in our Latin, Greek, and math courses. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to see some of the consequences of that now. My older son is having problems translating in Latin because he doesn’t know his vocabulary and word endings as well as he should. Both of my older students need work in math computation speed. (I got a huge reminder of that last week when I administered their standardized tests.)

What am I changing for next year? I hope to implement memory work in all our subjects. Also, my oldest is soon entering the logic phase, so he will be adding logic to his studies soon. I want to add more drill for Latin and Greek so that they will better retain what they have learned. In addition, I plan to add more drill in our math program. I think I’d better get to planning!

Written by Kristen

The Curriculum Choice

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd Edition

Apologia: Exploring Creation With Biology 2nd Edition  Am-biology2

This is a college-preparatory, high school level, biology course that would be recomended in a student’s freshmen year. It is designed to be an independent study. It includes tests, labs, and video clips to go along with the course. Dr Jay L. Wile is the author of this course.  

Overview of the program : 
The are 16 modules to be covered in one year.  The student will read the modules and answer review questions throughout each module. There is a study guide at the end of each module to be done before the student takes a test. There are tests for each module. There are 1-2 experiments for each module. Many of the experiments are examing prepared slides under the microscope. There are four animal dissections.  
Supplies: You need to purchase Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology textbook or CD-rom version. Both versions are the same. You need a student micropscope, prepared microscope slide set, dissections tools and animal specimens. All of these supplies can be easily purchased from Apologia or many other homeschool suppliers. I do suggest to shop around for the best prices.
The student will be introduce to the study of biology in the first module. The student will then start to study the five kingdoms of the animal world. The course starts at the microscopic level of Kingdom Monera. In the second module the student will collect samples of pond water, and will study the samples under a microscope.
Kingdom Protista is the third module. Microscopic life is studied under the micropscope. There are some great video clips of Amoebas.
Kingdom Fungi is the fourth module of the course. The student will have opportunties to do experiments with yeast, and different types of mold. The student will study  samples under the microscope.
The fifth module is a basic introduction of chemistry. The student will perform experiments that explore diffsion and osmosis. There is also an experiment with organic bases and acids.
The sixth module is the study of the cell. It is great chapter that explains the magnificent world of cells.
The seventh module is the study of cellualr reproduction.  Again ther are some great video clips to go with this chapter.
The eighth module is a short chapter on genetics. Experiments with punet squares are done in this chapter.
The ninth module is a great chapter on creation vs. evolution. Dr. Wile goes over microevolution and macroevolution. Charles Darwin is introduced along with his theories.  It is great chapter with wonderful tidbits of interesting information.
The tenth module is thestudy of ecology. Dr Wile did a great job making this chapter interesting with true stories.
The eleventh chapter is where all the fun begins. This chapter is the study oinvertebratesThe student will disect the earthworm. This is a great disection to start with. It’s interesting and easy to do.
The twelth module studies one phylum; Pylum Arthopoda. The student has the oppprotunity to disect a second time. This time it is the crayfish. This is another great disection. It is very interesting and fun. The student will also study insects and spiders.
The thirteenth module is the study of Phylum Chordata. There are two more dissections in this chapter. The student will study Class Osteichthyes and will dissect a perch fish. This was my least favorite dissection due to how bony the perch fish is. I would reccomend getting a fresh fish to dissect as oppose to a preserved fish. The student will then study Class Amphibia. You can guess what dissection comes next. Yes, its the infamous frog dissection. My kids loved the frog dissection. It is amazing to see all the organs in a small creature. My daughter took the heart out and sliced it in half. It was amazing to see the chambers of the frog’s heart! 
Modules fourteen and fifteen are the study of Kingdom Plantae. Again, their will be experiments using the microscope. There is an experiment to dissect a flower, not as fun as the frog but still interesting.
Module Sixteen is the last module. You study reptiles, birds and mammals in this chapter. The last experiment is examining a slide with chicken embryos.
What are the pros? This is an excellent college-preparatory course for high school. There has been claims that some students have been able to clep out of a college biology class after taking this course. The course is set up for independent study. There are some interesting video clips that can be seen on the CD-Rom version or the CD companion that goes along with the hardcover textbook. The microscopic slides are  wonderful quality, and are a great teaching tool with the course. The dissections are fun, easy, and interesting. The textbook reads easily. The author has a wonderful writing style that keeps the student interested. There are tests to go along with the course. The author has a pro-creation view point given through-out the book.
What are the cons? Can be costly especially if you don’t own a microscope.
If you would like more info here is a link:
Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology
Written by Korey

The Curriculum Choice

Math-U-See Review

Filed under: Curriculum choices, math, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 1:38 am


Math-U-See is a mastery based math program.  This means that it teaches math concepts to mastery.  This is very different from the spiral approach, which spirals through math concepts adding harder equations as the years progress.  (Saxon would be a good example of a spiral approach).  Understanding the difference between the two approaches can be key to picking the right math curriculum for your student.

The great thing about MUS is that each book teaches one math concept from beginning to end, meaning that in the addition book, Alpha, your student will be adding multiple rows and learning place value extensively.  Next, Beta teaches subtraction.  Gamma is multiplication.  Delta teaches division, then Epsilon covers fractions and Epsilon decimals.  As the years progress they do cover previously learned concepts.

Division requires a student to be able to multiply and subtract, so why teach division until the student masters the previous concepts?  That’s something I never understood about traditional textbooks.

Other things I like about MUS:

  • DVD lessons for you to watch or student
  • enough practice per lesson to master the concept yet not overwhelm the child
  • review pages for previously learned concepts
  • great price
  • time, money, measurement, geometry are woven into the lessons
  • word problems on every worksheet

I’ve used MUS from Primer – Zeta and have never thought twice about switching because of content.  I think MUS is a wonderful math curriculum and my children have liked it also. Please visit the site for more information on placement.

Written by Brenda

The Curriculum Choice

April 17, 2009

Math resource review: Beyond Numbers

Filed under: Biblical Principle Approach, math, Written by Anna-Marie — principledmom @ 11:44 am

Beyond Numbers book

Beyond Numbers: A Practical Guide to Teaching Math Biblically

by Katherine Loop is the most helpful introduction to teaching math with Biblical principles that I have come across. She packs a lot of food for thought into less than 100 pages, and as a busy mom I appreciate that I can read it in one night. Chapters include “Where Did Math Come From and Why Does it Work?,” Math is Not Neutral,” and “Teaching Math Biblically.” It is a concise synopsis of math’s origin, exactly how to discover principles and how to teach them to your children of all ages. She also offers  curriculum suggestions, supplement resources, and help to overcome challenges (which we all have with some child at some time).

BPA requires you to internalize the principles and ideas in order to teach them to your children and she does a good job of helping you do that. If you have a hard time with math yourself or if you struggle to get your children when math lessons come around, this book will bring the subject alive for you. As she states in the chapter “Adopting a New Heart Toward Math, “…I would encourage you to do more than just add Bible verses to your curriculum. Let God change your heart toward math….As you begin to see and use math Biblically yourself,you will be able to teach math Biblically to your children so that they too, can behold God in math.”

For more info on this book visit Christian Perspective. They offer many mathematical resources.

written by Anna-Marie

The Curriculum Choice

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