Category Archives: Education

There have been a LOT of books written about homeschooling. Here are my top recommendations published from the 1960’s to the present.

The Colfaxes: they are THE original modern homeschool family. I love how they just went for it, pre-internet, out in the boonies, their strong family culture of learning, and their academic results. Homeschooling for Excellence and Hard Times in Paradise.

John Holt: a single, childless educator, but you gotta love his deep faith in childrens’ natural ability to learn, if they are allowed time and surroundings conducive to their unique development and interests. Teach Your Own, How Children Learn, How Children Fail, and others.

Raymond and Dorothy Moore: their slant is Better Late than Early, School Can Wait, and others. Service is one of their unique aspects of a balanced education. Their concern about too much reading damaging eye development is outdated, but there are some recent interesting studies about nearsightedness and outdoor time.

David Albert: And the Skylark Sings With Me. He blew my mind with community based education. His family circumstances are about as opposite mine as you can get [a dad educating two daughters widely spaced in age], but this book completely inspired me to embrace our community resources, and just get out there and experience life as much as we possibly can.

Marva Collins: the only other person I know of with this much energy is my MIL. Marva Collins’ Way is an exuberant book . It’s also nice to read something by an educator who is not white and middle class. I guess she could be described as more cottage school than homeschool but her drive to provide individual inner city kids with a classical-ish education is very inspiring.

Dorothy Sayers and Susan Wise Baeur: Lost Tools of Learning, and the Well-Trained Mind. I don’t buy into neo-classical educational theory at all and don’t follow either of these philosophies, but reading the essay and the book helped me articulate some of the ways I don’t want to educate our kids. 🙂 And the Well-Trained Mind forums have been incredibly helpful as I decide on curricula every year.

Ruth Beechick: she has some really strange ideas, and her books sound like the 90’s version of fortress homeschooling, but these two books are what I would want if I had no internet. The Three R’s and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully cover how and when to teach the basics K-8, they are simple and concise, and have a very can-do, encouraging tone.

Grace Llewellyn: caveat–The Teenage Liberation Handbook was published just after I had been homeschooled through the middle of 10th grade and  graduated from community college at age 17. It was a great read about non-conformist kids. I was an anarchistic and a hippie then; now I’m just a libertarian wanna-be hippie, and I haven’t read the book since then, so it might not be as great as I remember. 😉 But back then it was awesome!

Daniel T. Willingham: Why Don’t Students Like School? is a strangely named book. It’s really about brain science, and debunks the myth of learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) while explaining how people DO learn and how to use those ideas in education. Sounds dry, but it is quite readable and has strongly influenced me in how we do what we do at home.


Goals of Education

When Kid Uno was about five years old, DH and I brainstormed some pretty rough educational goals for our children. Four years later, I have more specific goals for our kids. Everything beyond Year 3 is very much a work in process, and the years we have completed (so far, Years 1-3) will continue to be modified for each child. These goals will be modified and updated at least once a year 😉 I picture each of our children receiving an education somewhat tailored to their interests and gifts, while also exposing them to common cultural knowledge and developing necessary skills. I like the idea of starting broad, and narrowing/deepening as they grow up, and grow into themselves. At this point, I am only considering ages 6-14; after that, I expect them to have a fair amount of input as to the direction they want to take with their lives. Maybe an Associates Degree at age 18? Maybe some shadowing or technical training for a chosen field of work? Maybe college, grad school, internships? Maybe studying at home with me? Who knows!

So here are my very-much-in-process goals and curricula for the next few years (the first part is goals, and the second part is subjects broken down by year):

Goals for Years 1-8 (age 6-14)

a ? or blank space means I’m undecided or playing with ideas or haven’t researched enough yet

special studies means something tailored to the student or designed with his input

AO is Ambleside Online and MA is Mater Amabilis



  • to learn to read fluently through phonics and plenty of practice reading aloud
  • to enjoy reading and be competent in various types of reading
  • to pronounce words correctly, have pleasant elocution, and be comfortable with public speaking
  • to separate personal opinion from that of the author
  • to be able to comprehend the main point of a text upon a single, careful reading
  • to have a long attention span and an ability to concentrate on and understand difficult text


  • to learn to print and to write and read cursive
  • to be precise and neat
  • to be exposed to lots of good writing
  • to learn to summarize through oral narration
  • to learn to compare/contrast, notice setting and character, order events chronologically, assign motive, etc. through oral narration
  • to learn to type
  • to master English grammar and spelling
  • to be able to write effectively in any format


  • to master addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fraction, percents, ratio, English and metric weights and measure, time, money, algebra, geometry
  • to enjoy math competency and see how it is used in daily life
  • to understand statistics
  • to manage personal finances
  • to be aware of higher math which might be required in or enhance various fields


  • to observe carefully
  • to replicate what is seen by using perspective, line, shading, etc.
  • to achieve a level of proficiency which makes drawing an easy and enjoyable way to communicate


  • To have very minimal use of screens at young ages
  • To learn word processing and programming at appropriate ages (when needed for efficiency)
  • To know her way around a computer (able to create, save, and organize files; navigate the Internet; make purchases; send emails; etc.)
  • To use reliable sources for research
  • To use common sense in communication


  • to be exposed to all forms of lit (rhymes, fables, folk tales, fairy tales, myths, novels, plays, sci fi, utopian, dystopian, humor, essays, speeches, satire, allegory…)
  • to have deep and broad cultural literacy of western civ
  • to have broad literacy of non-western cultures and non-dominant viewpoints (ie, Anansi and other trickster stories, creation myths, Sherman Alexi…)
  • to learn empathy and to look at life from various points of view
  • to enjoy Shakespeare and appreciate his role in shaping culture


  • to enjoy the beauty, power, and humor of reading poetry
  • to strengthen memory by regularly memorizing portions of poetry
  • to have deep and broad cultural literacy of western civ
  • to have insight into and enjoy flavor of other cultures
  • to appreciate the role of oral traditions of the past (epic poetry)


  • to spend many hours outside daily to build connection to local nature
  • to spend time traveling and exploring to be exposed to diverse nature
  • to have many real experiences with things and events so science remains tangible
  • to enjoy the world and be amazed at natural phenomena and human technology
  • to see patterns and organization in the chaos of life
  • to have resources and time to create and experiment
  • to read at least one living book on every topic imaginable, including topics usually left for specialists (ie, architecture, anthropology, coding, cartography, time travel, medicine…)
  • to regularly go deeper with topics of personal interest
  • to learn to separate science from pseudo-science
  • to thoughtfully consider origins
  • to identify hidden agendas in the sciences


  • To have a bird’s eye view of human history from creation to present
  • To understand integration of Bible and church history with world history
  • To view church history from different denominational and cultural angles
  • To know when events happened worldwide in same time periods (ie, American and French Revolutions)
  • To read many biographies of key people
  • To read several narratives of time and events
  • To understand difference between primary and secondary sources
  • To approach several controversial events (ie Civil War, Trail of Tears, Roe v. Wade, Vietnam War) from at least two opposing viewpoints
  • To become familiar with family history and learn about the past through older relatives
  • To visit local areas of historic interest
  • To spend time traveling and exploring to be exposed to diverse historic interest
  • To give more attention to world rather than American history
  • To study history through various lenses (ie, art, horses, explorers, inventions)


  • To understand different types of government and how American government works
  • To appreciate the role of individuals within societies (Plutarch?)
  • To have a working knowledge of societal systems (economics, law, taxes, community resources)
  • To learn to serve others and live in communities


  • To be able to locate and identify everything on the globe
  • To understand how physical features influence political events
  • To appreciate our neighbors’ cultures (Samoan, Tongan, Mexican, Salvadoran, Burmese, Cambodian, Sudanese)
  • To be familiar with Canadian and Mexican history and culture
  • To be able to read road and topo maps and orient oneself


  • To begin studying Latin around age 10 for logic and deeper knowledge of English language
  • To study Greek and Hebrew [maybe][this might be good for Bible study, but I don’t know how useful otherwise]
  • To speak, read, and understand a living language of her choice (or ASL or Braille) to communicate with many other people and to appreciate more cultures
  • To be at least somewhat familiar with Spanish if it is not her language choice


  • To be exposed to diverse musical styles
  • To learn to listen carefully
  • To understand basic music theory (rhythm, melody, harmony, tones)
  • To identify diverse instruments and musical forms
  • To study an instrument to the level of enjoyment
  • To learn common hymns and worship songs
  • To learn folksongs for fun
  • To be comfortable singing and be able to carry a tune to some degree


  • To be exposed to great global works of art
  • To learn to observe carefully
  • To understand basic art theory (color, line, perspective, shading)
  • To identify diverse works of art and schools of art
  • To experiment and create with various media
  • To become proficient in some art form of personal interest
  • To be able to critique current art—film, photography, architecture

Bible/Spiritual Reading

  • To read the entire Bible at least once
  • To memorize books of the Bible, passages of scripture, a creed, several prayers
  • To learn how to read and study the Bible critically
  • To read bios of saints and influential Christians from all three streams (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox)
  • To be familiar with basic doctrine and why it is important

Practical Skills/Handicraft

  • To learn enjoyable hobbies
  • To become proficient in skills necessary for competent adult life

Sports/Physical Activity

  • To enjoy using bodies
  • To use energy and competitiveness in a healthy way
  • To learn teamwork
  • To understand the rules and basic play of several major sports (basketball, baseball, soccer, football, tennis)
  • To enjoy some form of personal physical fitness




YR 1: complete phonics, practice McGuffey primers and 1st reader

YR 2: practice McGuffey 2nd, read aloud poetry, practice other readings

YR 3: practice McGuffey 3rd, read aloud poetry, practice other readings

YR 4: Practice McGuffey 4th, read aloud poetry, read aloud one reading per week

YR 5:

YR 6:

YR 7:

YR 8:




YR 1:  complete printing, begin cursive, oral narrations (summaries)

YR 2: continue cursive, oral narrations (mostly summaries, sometimes other questions)

YR 3: continue cursive, oral narrations (summaries and other prompts), begin dictation (words), one uncritiqued written narration per week

YR 4: finish cursive, oral and written narrations, dictation weekly, begin critiquing written narrations, begin daily grammar

YR 5: oral and written narrations, perfect essays, dictation weekly, continue daily grammar

YR 6: oral and written narrations, perfect essays, dictation weekly, continue daily grammar

YR 7:

YR 8:




YR 1: work through Ray’s Primary at least add/subtract, work through Miquon, read I Love Math books

YR 2: work through Ray’s Primary multiply/divide, begin Intellectual and Practical, work through Miquon, read I love Math books

YR 3: continue Ray’s Intellectual and Practical up to fractions, work through Miquon, SU half of red, read a few non-fiction math books

YR 4: continue Ray’s Intellectual and Practical through common and decimal fractions, finish Miquon, SU half of red, read a few non-fiction math books, Number Stories From Long Ago

YR 5: finish Ray’s Intellectual and continue Practical through percent and ratio, SU half of yellow, use some fun supplements

YR 6: finish Ray’s Practical, SU half of yellow, SCM business math?, AOPS?, begin Jacob’s algebra?

YR 7: Jacob’s algebra?, SU half of blue

YR 8: Jacob’s geometry?, SU half of blue




YR 1: start yellow book

YR 2: finish yellow book

YR 3: work through drawing book options (Colored Pencil, Human Figure, Drawing Lessons)

YR 4: Private Eye and drawing options, (Colored Pencil, Human Figure, Drawing Lessons)

YR 5:Private Eye, Prang?, anime?

YR 6:

YR 7:

YR 8:




YR 1: informal

YR 2: informal

YR 3: informal

YR 4: learn typing?

YR 5: learn word processing?

YR 6: learn spreadsheets?

YR 7: learn graphic design/video/photo?

YR 8: learn coding?




YR 1: fables (Aesop)(Just So Stories), fairy tales (Blue Fairy), animal stories (Herriot), Shakespeare (Lamb’s)

YR 2: Understood Betsy, Wind in the Willows, myths (Robin Hood), Shakespeare (Lamb’s), Pilgrim’s Progress

YR 3: fairy tales (Princess and Goblin), myths (Heroes)(American Tall Tales)(People Could Fly), Tom Sawyer, Jungle Book, Shakespeare (Lamb’s), Pilgrim’s Progress

YR 4: Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island or Kidnapped, myths (Bulfinch or Hamilton), short stories (Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle, Isaac Asimov), long poems (Paul Revere, Hiawatha, Evangeline), Shakespeare (audio) 2-3 plays

YR 5: myths (Bulfinch or Hamilton), King Arthur and His Knights, Oliver Twist, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea?, Shakespeare (audio) 2-3 plays

YR 6: Shakespeare (audio) 2-3 plays, Oscar Wilde play?, myths (Bulfinch or Hamilton), The Hobbit, Animal Farm, The Illiad, Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes/Agatha Christie

YR 7: Shakespeare (audio) 2-3 plays, Don Quixote play?,  myths (Bulfinch or Hamilton), Spanish lit? CS Lewis Space Trilogy?

YR 8: Shakespeare (audio) 2-3 plays, myths (Bulfinch or Hamilton), Russian lit?, Jane Austen? Willa Cather?




YR 1: A. A. Milne, R. L. Stevenson, anthology, memorize 3

YR 2: Walter de la Mare, James Whitcombe Riley, Christina Rossetti, memorize 3

YR 3: William Blake, Vikram Seth, Marilyn Singer, Sarah Teasdale, memorize 3

YR 4: Alfred Lord Tennyson, Aussie Poets (Lawson, Paterson, James), Emily Dickinson, memorize 3

YR 5: Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Naomi Shihab Nye, Canadian poets?, memorize 3

YR 6: Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, memorize 3

YR 7: Shakespeare’s Sonnets, ?, memorize 3

YR 8: John Donne, Pablo Neruda, John Milton, memorize 3




YR1: four One Small Square books, Among the People, non-fiction organized by BFSU

YR 2: four One Small Square books, Among the People, non-fiction organized by BFSU

YR 3: four One Small Square books, Among the People, non-fiction organized by BFSU, oceans (Pagoo), food chain (Wild Season)

YR 4: non-fiction organized by BFSU, human body (Golden Book), architecture (Building Book)

YR 5: non-fiction organized by BFSU, astronomy, oceanography (Cousteu? And Kon Tiki?), inventions

YR 6: non-fiction organized by BFSU, periodic table, weather, geology

YR 7: non-fiction organized by BFSU, history of science, origins, psychology

YR 8: non-fiction organized by BFSU, original writings (Faraday, Darwin, Mendel, Newton, etc.),  naturalists (Abbey, Muir, Carson, Thoreau…)




YR 1: stories (50 Famous, Viking), American bios (Pocahontas, Franklin, Washington, Buffalo Bill)

YR 2: half of world history read aloud (CHOW), British/French history (Little Duke), Signature bios

YR 3: half of world history read aloud (CHOW), British history read independently (OIS), Signature bios

YR 4: world history read independently, age of exploration through Landmark bios

YR 5: state history leading into US history, special studies through Landmark bios,

YR 6: sideways history through Genevieve Foster, special studies

YR 7: sideways history through Genevieve Foster, special studies, Daughter of Time

YR 8: opposing viewpoints through primary sources




YR 1: informal

YR 2: informal

YR 3: informal

YR 4: Bill of Rights, Pledge of Allegiance, Star Spangled Banner

YR 5: Plutarch, government (Courts of Law), economics (Penny Candy?)

YR 6: Plutarch,  Constitution

YR 7: Plutarch, religions

YR 8: Plutarch, Utopia by More?, essays by Francis Bacon?, statistics




YR 1: US/Canada (Paddle)

YR 2: US (Seabird, Tree in Trail)

YR 3: US (Minn), Asia focus (MA Russia, China), India (Mother Theresa bio)

YR 4: World (explorers bios), Americas focus (MA)

YR 5: State and US, Africa focus (MA)

YR 6: World E and W (Halliburton)

YR 7: physical? Horse? Food? Guns, Germs, Steel?

YR 8:




YR 1: Spanish exposure

YR 2: Spanish exposure

YR 3: Spanish exposure

YR 4: chosen language

YR 5: chosen language, Latin

YR 6: chosen language, Latin

YR 7: chosen language, Latin

YR 8: chosen language, Latin




YR 1: Great Composers, instrument

YR 2: variety, instrument

YR 3: variety, instrument

YR 4: Young Person’s Guide to Orchestra, instrument

YR 5: history through music?, Story of the Opera?, instrument

YR 6: instrument

YR 7: instrument

YR 8: instrument




YR 1: picture study, begin Usborne,

YR 2: picture study, finish Usborne, begin Foresman

YR 3: picture study, finish Foresman

YR 4: picture study, Private Eye, Draw 50 Buildings

YR 5: picture study, Mapping World Through Art or Geography Through Art

YR 6: picture study

YR 7: picture study, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages?

YR 8: picture study, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages?


Bible/Spiritual Reading


YR 1: AO Bible, Saints I, memorize 3-6 passages

YR 2: AO Bible, Saints II, memorize 3-6 passages

YR 3: AO Bible, memorize 3-6 passages

YR 4: Special Studies, Screwtape?, memorize 3-6 passages

YR 5: Special Studies, memorize 3-6 passages

YR 6: Special Studies Bible, memorize 3-6 passages

YR 7: Special Studies Bible, memorize 3-6 passages

YR 8: Special Studies Bible, memorize 3-6 passages


Practical Skills/Handicraft


YR 1: individual

YR 2: individual

YR 3: individual

YR 4: individual

YR 5: individual

YR 6: individual


YR 8: self-defense


Sports/Physical Activity


YR 1: individual

YR 2: individual

YR 3: individual

YR 4: individual

YR 5: individual

YR 6: individual

YR 7: individual

YR 8: individual

The Purpose of Education

What’s the point of all this planning and the long process of educating our children? I thought you might enjoy seeing how DH and I brainstormed our goals. We were driving home from southern Utah on an anniversary trip, and it was right before Kid Uno started school. So here are our very rough, unedited, and ungrammatical thoughts on what we are trying to accomplish by the time the kids are 16ish. Looks like we have our work cut out for us! 🙂

Purpose of Education: To raise children who are rooted in the knowledge and love of God, prepared to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God, and equipped to persevere by the grace of God.


Spiritual formation

  • We’ve brought them to the feet of Jesus
  • Love God
  • Love each other and love their parents
  • Know the Word
  • Know how to pray
  • They’ve grown up around people who model the love of God
  • Willing to act on it
  • They know church history
  • Solid grounding in biblical theology


  • Honest
  • Others-centered
  • Tough – mentally and physically
  • Able and willing to serve
  • Not afraid to take responsibility for mistakes
  • Good leaders
  • Good listeners
  • Diligent
  • Willing to work hard
  • Responsible
  • Self-starters
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Humble
  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Generous
  • Compassionate

Prepared to Bear Fruit


  • Basic knowledge of
    • economics
    • politics
    • human sexuality
    • American history
    • law and the legal system
    • philosophy
    • church history
    • Logic
    • Science
    • Latin
  • Appreciate music
  • They’re not afraid of math


  • They have discovered and developed their God-given talents
  • The are effective at communicating through writing and speaking and art
  • They can type fast and accurately
  • They can read cursive
  • Excellent writers
  • Comfortable with public speaking
  • Able to research


  • Funny
  • Look people in the eye
  • Good conversationalists
  • Good etiquette for proper situation
  • Able to let loose and have fun
  • Confident in trying new things
  • Have areas of interest that are uniquely theirs
  • Able to form deep friendships
  • Have at least one good friend each


  • Fit
  • Comfortable with their bodies
  • Enjoy being active
  • Tough
  • Enjoy the outdoors

Equipped to Persevere

Life Preparation

  • Critical thinking
  • They are aware of and knowledgeable about competing worldviews
  • They love learning
  • They love reading
  • They’re thirsty for new knowledge
  • Able to understand other people’s motivations (marketing, surveys) – not gullible
  • Shrewd as serpents, innocent as doves
  • Able to sniff out logical fallacies and poor reasoning

So there it is…nothing fancy. But for me, at least, when I am immersed in the daily round of multiplication, cursive, science, and lit, it helps to remember the bigger picture. So the ten minutes of copywork every day isn’t just about writing pretty cursive sentences, it’s also about learning consistency, paying attention to detail, completing a whole book by breaking it into tiny chunks, developing mental and physical discipline, and practicing something to perfection (or practically perfect). Having a big picture gives me the freedom to drop a book because it does not convey church history in a way that is appropriate in our view, or the freedom to take a day (or week) off from school because it will give them an opportunity to spend time with grandparents. And it helps me mentally validate things like selling lemonade (entrepreneurship), buying an entire series of fairytales (love reading), washing dishes (willing to work hard), helping with the baby (willing to serve), or tearing apart the living room to build a fort (able to let loose and have fun).

Education seems like just an extension of parenting to me…and it’s nice to know what we are aiming for at the end of the day!