Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum

In the past I have been very unsure about the whole idea of the Classical homeschooling method with its Trivium, but I did cherry-pick some ideas from The Well-Trained Mind including the decision to introduce logic work and the history cycle recommended in that book.  This book takes a different look at things, showing that even two people who claim to follow the same method can have different approaches.

In Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum Laura Berquist shares the classical curriculum that she designed to use with her own children based on her own trial and error and influenced by Dorothy Sayers.  Berquist’s curriculum is the basis for the Mother of Divine Grace School homeschooling program.  But the book title is slightly misleading because it doesn’t really help you to design your own classical curriculum.  It basically just outlines her curriculum choices with maybe two or three options for spine books in some subjects.

This book gave me a lot of food for thought, though, and I’m planning on buying my own copy (a very rare compliment indeed).  For one thing, I like Berquist’s approach to religious education.  She doesn’t just buy a packaged curriculum for the subject; she’s put together a unique set of books for instruction and discussion.  I especially like her recommendations for high school since they revolve around applying Catholic teachings to real life situations.  I’ve really kind of been at a loss of how I want to handle religious education in the future and Berquist definitely gives me a starting point.

The biggest thing that will have me cracking this book over and over is the reference lists.  Starting in Grade 4, there are reference lists of real books, poems, and saints for a certain historical period.  Once you get to high school the lists are more detailed as they cover historical fiction and non-fiction and literature.  I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about the layers I want to add when we start our history cycle again for 5th through 8th grades and how I would love to do a Literature-based history curriculum in high school.  This book does a lot of the work of putting something like that together for me.

Now we probably won’t follow Berquist’s sequence exactly.  She puts a lot of emphasis on American History, and just like in most schools Modern History is kind of non-existent.  So, I do plan to continue using the four-year rotation of Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern History at least through 8th grade.  I will just tweak her lists to fit our schedule and goals.

We won’t be doing Latin, either, which she starts in about 4th grade and continues through high school.  Around that period, we’ll probably just start a few vocabulary programs based on Latin and Greek roots.  Then we’ll do Spanish and/or a foreign language of each child’s choosing.

One thing we will also be doing that she doesn’t mention at all is home economics based on the book Life Prep. for Homeschooled Teenagers.  How to navigate credit cards, loans, health insurance, and budgeting is probably one of the most important things that I can teach my kids.

Since I read this book, though, my mind has been swirling with thoughts and ideas.  I’ve updated my tentative homeschooling plans through grade 12 (knowing that they are not set in stone).  And I’ve got a list of possible resources for religious education, geography, history, writing, and literature that I want to check out.  I know this will be a great reference for years to come, and I’m hoping to get a hold of her book Teaching Tips and Techniques for more food for thought.

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