How We Became Classical Unschoolers, and the Books We Use in Our School Every Day

How We Became Classical Unschoolers, and the Books We Use in Our School Every Day

how we became classical unschoolers, and the books we use in our school every day

Last week I told you why we quit private school for home education. Today I’m sharing a little bit about how we homeschool. 

Back when we first started homeschooling, we bought boxed grade-level curriculum from Memoria Press. We chose this route because it was easy: my son had been using the same books at the private school, so we all knew what to expect from school-in-a-box. (I felt validated when I later heard Susan Wise Bauer recommend boxed curriculum for the first year of homeschooling.) I tried to follow all the directions to the letter.

That lasted for about a month.

It turns out that the boxed curriculum called for a whole lot of things that didn’t suit our little homeschool very well. It required enormous amounts of writing, and I had a boy who could only write one page of anything before freaking out. It was highly structured, and structure is tough to maintain when your 3-year-old is trying to feed legos to the baby. who won’t nap. again. And it turned out that everybody–me, student 1, student 2–hated worksheets. And there were a lot of worksheets.

I felt guilty about deviating from the lesson plans for the better part of that year, but I eventually got over it, and we settled into a style that worked for us. For all of us. And eventually, we gave it a name: classical unschooling. (Hat tip to my friend Jessica for the turn of phrase.)

I came to depend on the lesson plans less and less. Eventually, I stopped looking at them. I finally came to believe what I’d always heard about homeschooling: that you really can tailor your school to meet the needs of your students.

Our General Philosophy, and What We Use in Our Homeschool

As you can see, our curriculum is built around math, reading, and writing. (I’m convinced we need to add Latin to this. *Sigh.*) We do a ton of reading, read-alouds, audio books, stuff like that. I let my kids be pretty self-directed here, and stock our shelves with tons of books on subjects they’re interested in.

I try really hard to avoid worksheets, and to keep writing to a minimum. We do a lot of work orally everyday for this reason. If we’re having a rough day writing, we’ll work on the dry-erase board instead.

We use a few core materials. Please notice that they are NOT very expensive. Right now I have a 4th grader, 2nd grader, kindergartener, and once again, a feisty 3-year-old.

The reference books I keep coming back to are The Well-Trained Mind and How to Get Your Child off the Refrigerator and on to Learning.

For the younger kids (kindergarten and below):

The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington. I’m currently teaching my 3rd child to read with this $20 book. I love it and it’s been a great investment.

Rod and Staff preschool workbooks. Fun, engaging, cheap.

A million read-alouds from our public library. Of course.

For the older kids (1st grade and up):

Rod and Staff math curriculum. This series is called “Mathematics for Christian living.” There are Bible verses on the bottom of each page, and the word problems have a very distinct feel: “If Mother bakes 5 pies to take to Brother Paul’s house for the potluck….” That’s not why we use it. We like it as a simple, solid math curriculum.

Writing With Ease writing curriculum. I love this and wish we’d started with it (instead of Rod and Staff). I have the hardback overview, which you need if you’re going to go this route. We also buy the optional individual workbooks. They save me so much time they’re totally worth the cost.

(I recommend heading over to the Peace Hill Press site and downloading the MP3s about writing. They’re totally worth your $4.)

Story of the World history. I finally bought the audiobook version, and we listen to it during snacktime every day. Occasionally we’ll do an activity from the activity book.

Spelling Power. This book is pricey but it has all the spelling my 4 kids will ever need, ever.

The core subject we’re not currently doing but ought to be:

We own Latin curriculum but we’ve never used it. After our weekend away, I’m convinced that we need to make room for it in our schedule.

Things we do that aren’t core:

Rosetta Stone German. (My kids picked the language, and I was a German minor in college, so it works for me.) This is pricey, but we can use it for all 4 kids. And remember, it’s totally optional.

Ten Thumbs typing. (My daughter wants to learn to type so she can blog, and my son wants to do anything my daughter does when it comes to school.)

The Bottom Line

I hope you can see that our school isn’t too fussy or complicated. And if it’s not abundantly obvious, we are still very much in-process. Feel free to ask me anything at all–I have another post planned to hit on more of your questions.

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84 comments

  1. Cait says:

    Just wanted to thank you for this. This is a lot like what school looks like for us, including the things I wish I did but don’t. I have these days where I have a total crisis because we’re not doing everything recommended by our curriculum. My kids can read at the level they should. They can do math. They are asking lots and lots of great questions and listening to the answers. But I still don’t feel like I’m doing “enough” because it doesn’t take all day. This really helped me relax. I should book mark it and re read it whenever I freak out 🙂

  2. Just found your website last night and am loving it. (And am wasting spending far too much of my fall break on it. 😉 )

    Your homeschool looks a lot like ours. We use different curriculum, but the focus is the same: lots and lots of great stories, a solid foundation in math, fun memory work, and limited worksheets.

  3. When I came saw the title for this article, I was like “Yes! Classical Unschooling! That sounds like me!” I’m in a mid-year re-evaluation and I’m starting to feel a little crazy cuz we have one more day of winter break and then I have to to hit it again, and I feel like I don’t even know what my educational philosophy is right now, so how do I plan curriculum?! I started out thinking I was “Classical” all the way. But then reality hit and I realized that Unschooling just feels right in a lot of ways. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and I think that almost everything I remember is stuff I read on my own, not stuff I learned in the classroom. (Exceptions being math, grammar, and foreign language.) Anyway, Classical Unschooling has a nice ring to it. I think I’ll adopt that name for my approach. And I’m excited to browse through more of your site. I think I linked here randomly from Pinterest, but I’ve seen you mentioned multiple times on Read Aloud Revival, which I just started following recently. Oh gosh, I’m just so glad to feel like I have “people” out here in cyberspace. Thanks for being a big encouragement to me today!

  4. Karina says:

    Finding the right balance for your home-school is so challenging. I’m still working on it, but I think it may be an ongoing journey for us. As our kids grow and change I’d like their school to grow with them. Thanks for sharing what your family does – I love hearing about other families and learning from them!

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