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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  1. Two of my boys are in public school, but I’m homeschooling my daughter this year! 🙂
    I use Story of the World and Writing with Ease. Highly recommend.

    Spelling Power looks interesting. I like the idea of one book for multiple grades.

    A few years ago a friend gave me Latina Christiana, but my kids were too young for it so I watched the whole thing myself! It was fun. I think I still remember a prayer . . .

    We use Dance Mat Typing. It’s groovy and free from the BBC:

    I also LOVE Spelling City. Also free. You enter your own list of words and play games with them. There is a Premium Membership that you can purchase, but we only use the free stuff.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for the recommendations! I’m going to have to check those out. Ten Thumbs works fine but I don’t love it. And I’m sure my kids would like spelling games. (I like the idea of them being able to practice independently–is that horrible?)

      • deborah says:

        I like my kids to be able to do a lot of stuff independently too. I sometimes feel guilty, but then I think, “Isn’t that a lot of what life is? Independent learning in much of what we do!” Yes, we have to be shown or taught many times, yet you learn by doing it yourself!

  2. Your homeschool sounds a lot like ours! We work in a no-worksheet zone, too. I use most of the same curriculum for my kids (with the exception of Saxon for math), plus supplemental fun from No Time for Flashcards, Deep Space Sparkle (an art blog), Spotify for Cultural Literacy (we listen to a wide range of music), and YouTube – because YouTube can teach you anything, right?

  3. Your homeschool sounds more like a “relaxed approach” than unschooling, at least how the hard-core unschoolers define it. You can’t go wrong by doing tons of reading and making a wide variety of books and materials available to your kids. Don’t give up on the writing, though. There are lots of fun ways to incorporate writing using their interests: blogging, Amazon reviews, self-published books, letters to relatives, comic books, song-writing, and travel journals.

    • Anne says:

      Those are all great ideas! We definitely do Writing as a subject. I just try to limit the amount of physical handwriting my kids (okay, my boys) have to do in non-writing subjects. That’s why we do a lot of math out loud: so we can keep their hands fresh for Writing. 🙂

    • Jennifer H says:

      I agree with this. I had a teacher once tell me that the best way to learn something was to “get it in your ear (hear it); get it in your eyes (see/read it); get it in your mouth (say/repeat it); and get it in your hands (write it)”. She was my freshman high school teacher, and this approach helped me through the rest of high school and college whenever I was trying to learn a difficult topic.

  4. melyssa says:

    how funny: my friend and I thought WE coined the term classical unschooling! I even plan on writing a magazine article about it soon. 😉 It’s what worked for us, more or less (usually less, haha) when we homeschooled). Now we’re taking a break, and I have to say, I do not miss homeschool curricula in the slightest, at all, nope, not even a little. When the discussion turns there, I bask in the warm glow that is free of all those choices. Ahhhhhh.

  5. Keri says:

    You mention using “The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading”. Is this what you used for your older two children? I have used so many reading programs and can’t find anything that really works for my daughter. Is it phonics based? Just curious about how you have taught your kids to read. Thanks! And thanks for sharing your experience. I am in the beginning stages of “formal” homeschooling with my 4.5 year old.

    • Anne says:

      Yes, I used it for my older two. It’s phonics based, it’s simple, the lessons are short. We just plop down on the couch once a day and work through a lesson. We’ve gotten our money’s worth out of this book. 🙂

  6. Idaho Jill says:

    Thank you so much for all of this info – I have been devouring homeschooling info because we are going to start this fall. My daughter is in private school right now, and we love love love it. But, she will be in 1st grade next year and the school only goes to K…and public schools are, well, to say it nicely, going downhill fast. So, we are taking the leap but there is SO much info out there that it’s totally overwhelming. I love reading all the tidbits on here, so again, thanks!

    • Anne says:

      I know, it’s incredible how much information is out there! And I, for one, am easily overwhelmed. We’re in a good groove right now but I know I’m going to have to make some major decisions as my kids get older, and we’ll be wading into the world of curriculum overwhelm again.

      Let me know if you ever have any questions. I’ll be happy to help!

  7. Loved this, Anne. We’ve been easing into preschooling our oldest (4) at home this year using a Catholic preschool curriculum that’s very Charlotte Mason-ey and flexible. Mostly, though, we just do tons of read alouds and have fun learning how to write letters. But it’s so helpful to learn about different curriculum choices as we move forward in our homeschooling journey. Thanks!

  8. sarah says:

    love all these great ideas. i got my classical conversations curriculum in the mail this week and am SO giddy with excitement. I’m going to checkout all these link and such. THANK YOU. I am going to start this summer with reading and math for her, since we are expecting our third baby in the fall right when CC will start up.

    oh, and i think you asked about my earlier comment that you want to hear about how my husband and I, as we’re both physicians, will juggle homeschool on top of our work schedules. Totally valid question! The way we do it: I limit my practice to volunteer work in a Christian free clinic. I do medical stuff maybe only once a week, if that much! This fall I’ll take a break while the baby is nursing all the time, and while we start up homeschool. I actually left full time medicine when I became pregnant with our oldest, and only done medmission/free clinic work since. I had a lot of friends who thought I was ruining my career and was nuts, but I went into medicine to care for the poor. And raising my own kids is more important to us than accolades in medicine. My husband works 100 hours weeks as a cancer doctor, and if both of us worked those hours it would be destructive to our family life.

    Anyway, I didn’t want to leave you with the impression that I do it ALL!! No one can do it all. I love this homeschooling series–keep them coming! I am really interested in hearing more time management/home management ideas. I am going to outsource everything I can–i’m lucky i’ll be able to employ a wonderful Christian lady to clean my house weekly, and we hire someone for the yard. I’m working now to perfect and streamline meal planning etc–I’m super focused on healthy eating as I am formerly obese, so we try not to eat out a lot, and eating/shopping for food is a big time suck. Might have to do online shopping when the baby and homeschool starts. With my husband’s schedule, i’m often like a single parent, so I am strategizing as much as possible to avoid burnout as a homeschooling mom.

    • Anne says:

      Sarah, thanks for the peek into your life. I love hearing how other women do it. 🙂

      In the next couple of weeks I’ll be talking a bit more about what our schedule looks like in this season.

  9. sarah says:

    Oh, I forgot! I meant to ask: when and how did you start with Rosetta Stone. I already have Rosetta Stone French Homeschool version and have used it some myself. I just don’t know when homeschooling families find to be the best time to introduce it. I have thought I’d like to hire a french tutor, but not sure if its necessary until they are older.

    • Anne says:

      We started it last summer, I think, for the 2nd grader and 4th grader. Which is a little tricky because some of the first level calls for typing, but we just skip those lessons.

      Language may not be necessary till they’re older, but I’m sure there are advantages to starting younger. Especially if it was a fun, conversational format. But there are probably advantages to waiting, too…

  10. deborah says:

    I love audio books! We now own three of the Story of the World on audio. A few of our favorite stories we own on audio- Pollyanna, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. My kids have listened to some of them so many times I think they could quote them. I have a list right now of audios I’d like to order! 🙂

    I loved the Rod and Staff preschool workbooks, but didn’t really love any of their other curriculum. We’ve done some A Reason for Writing handwriting books when my kids were younger and I liked them.

    I also love Daily Geography books. Simple and fun!

    My daughter has been doing Rosetta Stone’s Spanish and likes it really well.

  11. Jessica S says:

    we did sonlight all the way through, but i remember Story of the World. We also all did spelling power all the way up to highschool, and we’re all pretty good spellers! 🙂

    • Anne says:

      We’re not doing a formal science curriculum right now, and aren’t planning on adding one till 8th grade or so. We’re working on laying a solid foundation in math to prepare them for chemistry, physics, etc down the road.

      For now, we do nature study and read about scientists and inventors and such.

      • Janett says:

        Love the article and completely describes our homeschool. My kids adore all things science so there is no way we could wait. I just bought a “living book” approach by topics; first up is zoology.

  12. Rebecca says:

    Great thoughts here. I am adamant about my kids being great writers for their stage BUT none of them like to hand write. We use the IEW program, so they write rough drafts in ink and final drafts in pencil, which helps. We started a Mavis Beacon typing program/game the summer between third grade and they type almost everything from third grade up. The only downside is that my son is preparing for AP exams and SAT’s now and is having to hand write essays for a year so he’s able to do all the timed work.

    Here’s a question I’d love your take on: How do we best prepare a student for life in the Information Age? I’m 100% in favor of the grammar/dialectic/rhetoric model, but I’m curious to see how an “unschooler” perceives the answer as opposed to those who have chosen a more traditional route.

    • Anne says:

      Gasp! Your poor son! My hand gets tired just thinking about hand writing all those essays!

      I am so intrigued by your question about preparing students for the information age. Would you mind telling me a little more about what you have in mind? Wow, this could be a fascinating discussion…

      (Although I’ll start by saying I don’t give much thought to the issue in our day-to-day school. I expect that to change as the kids get older, but right now we’re just working on laying a solid classical foundation. The piece of technology my kids are best acquainted with is the sewing machine. 🙂 )

      • Rebecca says:

        Oh, Anne. . .I wish I had your skill at communicating ideas! Here’s my best go. Thirty years ago, the goal of education was to acquire information. Information was scarce, and required effort to accumulate. We still organized information (dialectic), and learned to express our opinions on various subjects (rhetoric), but those who accumulated more knowledge had more power. The media had power because they had information we didn’t possess.
        Our children have the opposite challenge: they have oceans of information available in nanoseconds. Do we continue to memorize tables and charts? If so, which ones are important? Chinese dynasties? Times tables? Prepositions? It is now rare to express ourselves on paper. Do we teach our children keyboarding skills in place of cursive handwriting? Is spelling a priority when they have spell check available any time they type, or do we focus primarily on homonyms? What about essays and papers? Do we teach them to create and edit interactive web pages, have them write a thesis paper, or both? The media now has power, not because it has information, but because they have the ability to isolate and organize information into a manageable size. It’s simply too much work for most of us to sort through gigabytes of information and form our own opinions.
        Now the question I originally asked: How do we determine a curriculum, or unschool, or anything in between now that the whole paradigm has shifted?
        What languages are going to be the most valuable to my children in this new age? Mandarin? Hindi?
        What skills? Is it more important to learn to deliver a speech or create and edit a video? HTML is now considered de rigeur for college work– much like typing in my day.
        Do we even teach specific subjects, or simply use subjects that interest them to teach them how to learn?
        So yes, I’m probably opening a can of worms. . . happy fishing!

        • Anne says:

          I’m supposed to answer this in a comment box??? 😉

          Who am I to answer this? I’m just making it up as I go! I think it’s half-true that we don’t need to memorize the information that’s so easily available at our fingertips (Chinese dynasties, for instance). Yes, Google keeps this information close at hand for us, yet I think there’s something to be said for internalizing information. There’s a vast difference between being able to search the text of Shakepeare’s plays and knowing them.

          Keep in mind that I’m making this up as I go along, but I’m inclined to think that the technology changes so quickly that it’s a gamble as to whether teaching our children specifics (like how to code a web page) will be worthwhile long-term.

          I’m very much working through these issues you bring up. I do know I want my kids to know how to think critically. I want them to know where Nigeria is without Google’s help. I want them to be able to recite their times tables. I want them to be able to rattle off favorite quotes and a few poems without a cheat sheet (or a web search).

          Your comment reminded me of a quote from a book I finished not too long ago: Alan Jacobs’ The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. He said this about our modern world: “We suffer not from ‘information overload’ but from ‘filter failure.’ ” I’d like to teach my kids how to have a good filter.

          This is a great topic and one that deserves unpacking at length!

          • Rebecca says:

            Jacobs’ quote — which I haven’t heard before — is the basis of why we chose a rigorous traditional education with classical elements. We want our children to have a well-developed, distinctly Christian worldview (filter) in every subject. They also need, in our opinion, to have the ability to understand other worldviews and communicate their own effectively to their generation. Lastly, we’re committed to producing disciplined, independent learners who can easily adapt to changes in their work and world.
            That said, this is why I LOVE homeschooling. There are many paths to reach the same end result, and each family gets to choose what works best with their blend of personalities and resources. Sometimes we get new ideas from other family’s choices, and sometimes we simply confirm that what we are doing works best for us.

  13. Tim says:

    Re deviating from curriculum – I do it all the time. All.The.Time. My judicial ethics classes are based on a well-written curriculum created by some very talented judges, but when I get in the classes themselves I work with it in a way that best suits the judges I’m teaching. Do the table exercise? Not this time. Skip that question and discussion? Sure. Allow more time than alloted to explore an idea they are focused on? Absolutely.

    Being a teacher can be so liberating!


  14. Katie says:

    That’s the Latin curriculum I used when I taught Latin. I liked it for the first two levels; less so the third one. It was an awkward jump; it introduced much more complicated grammar but tried to keep the simple format of the earlier years and it just didn’t work, at least for my students.

    Especially with younger children (fourth grade down), it is so, so helpful to teach foreign languages orally, with lots of repetition. Chant the verb endings, that sort of thing. At least that’s what worked for my kiddos–they were really bad at remembering how to spell the Latin words, but they could do a lot of stuff orally.

    • Anne says:

      I didn’t know you taught Latin! Or if I ever knew, I’d forgotten. 🙂

      Thanks for the warning about the Latin program. My biggest complaint about the program is the faint Kentucky accent on the cds. 🙂

      • Katie says:

        I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it before. I taught fourth grade Latin for a year before I realized I really am not a teacher, but then I continued to tutor several girls in Latin for a couple years after that, and I enjoyed it much more than classroom teaching. 🙂

        I never used the CDs; I inherited the curriculum and I don’t think they were still with the books. How funny! But a Kentucky accent should fit right in with your kids, right? 😉

      • Jennifer H says:

        I wouldn’t worry about the accent, since Latin is not a language they will ever have to speak to someone else 🙂

  15. Carrie says:

    Our lineup is very similar to yours. My 2 middle kids do First Language Lessons Level 4. I’ve found that I can rush through each lesson and not follow it precisely (it’s very wordy and repetitive), those two are usually done with the exercises by the time I read the instructions. 😉

    I love Writing with Ease/Writing with Skill (my 9th grader is doing WWS). He does better now that I allow him to type his writing lessons.

    • Anne says:

      I’m glad you like Writing With Skill, because I had high hopes we’d be able to continue with this program down the road.

  16. Janice says:

    Hi Anne, my question is what does your normal school day look like? (If that’s a reasonable question for a homeschooler!) I have a 6 year old that I homeschool in a pretty similar manner to what you do and a 3 and 1 year old who love to imitate wild monkeys whenever possible.

    Do you aim for a certain amount of time each day? Or just have a goal of what to get done?

    • Anne says:

      They love to imitate wild monkeys? Oh, that sounds like my house!

      Great question! I’m going to unpack this question a bit more in the weeks to come.

    • Tim says:

      Stacey, I’d say 2 1/2 is a great age to just keep reading to them and playing with them. We also gave our kids a lot of opportunity to play with other kids, whether through Sunday School or having friends over or whatever. Using some sort of “teaching concept” at 2 1/2 seems superfluous to this veteran dad. That type of thing can wait a bit still. Just do what’s enjoyable for now, and then enjoy it!


        • Tim says:

          Thanks, friend!

          I guess our way of doing things turned out ok for my kids. At 20 and 22, they seem to have not yet brought about world-wide devastation. They’re young still, though. Give ’em time.

          • Katie says:

            Give them time, Tim. The window for wreaking world-wide devastation closes precisely at 24 years, 11 months, which is why rental car companies won’t rent cars to you until you’re 25. The paperwork you have to fill out if one of your cars is involved in causing the apocalypse is quite cumbersome. 😉

      • Stacey B. says:

        Thanks for the response, Tim!

        Thankfully, my girl loves reading books with us, and we often read to her during meals, too. She loves her books and trips to the library. We do need to work on getting her around more kids her age, though…she’s the youngest in our country Sunday School….

        She’s my first, so, you know…I don’t want to mess her up. =)

  17. Maddie says:

    I love watching families as they embrace the homeschooling path.. we have been on this path for 23 years.. never the same year to year.. Love reading about your adventure!

  18. Christa says:

    I really appreciate this post. It is very validating for me. I was homeschooled in high school, went to college and became a public school teacher, and now homeschool my daughter. I decided early on that I wanted to do the basics and then read as much as we could. I did not want to do too many workbooks or worksheets. We have certainly learned a lot along our short path of homeschooling, but what I keep coming back to is phonics, math, and reading. I’m sure as she gets older we’ll do some other things (noting your suggestions!), but with other littles at home it’s what works for us. Adding a dry erase board made a huge difference with her phonics (Phonics Pathways, have loved it!) as did making the lessons shorter. We never followed the book curriculum to the T when I taught because most all of our students were below grade level. Believe it or not, this helped me when it came to homeschooling my own. I can be a check list kind of person and remembering back to that time helps me throw the book out when needed and meet my daughter’s needs. Okay, sorry for the long response. It’s just so great to read something that lines up with my thinking. Now, I’m going to go read parts of The Well Trained Mind again. Thank you!

  19. First time commenter, here, I think! Kindred spirits when it comes to home education–SOTW & Writing w/Ease are favorites here, SOTW since its first editions many moons ago. Re: Latin, when I discovered Song School Latin from Classical Academic Press, I never looked back. Now using CAP’s Latin for Children with the 6th grader and we’re going slow. It’s a good, fun, but thorough program, and I’m about to order Song School Latin #2 for the 4th grader, since he is not quite ready for Latin for Children.

    • Anne says:

      Hi Nancy! I’m so glad to have found a kindred spirit. Thanks for the tip on the Song School Latin. Since we’re not actually doing the Latin we have now, I’m going to look into it.

  20. Karol says:

    For Rosetta Stone, do you recommend buying the package of all 3 levels as a bundled package, or buy the levels one at a time? We want to begin with Russian, which is a family heritage language.

    • Anne says:

      Karol, I don’t know. I didn’t feel comfortable forking over $400+ without trying it first, so we’re doing one year at a time. But it’s cheaper if you buy them all at once, as you know! That’s the dilemma.

      I would recommend doing a quick search or asking around to see how the Rosetta Stone program is for Russian. I’ve read repeatedly that Rosetta Stone is great for some languages (German is one of them) but that the program isn’t well suited to several other languages (Chinese immediately springs to mind as one I’ve read complaints on).

      Good luck!

  21. Noreen says:

    Look up Khan Academy (website and apps) on how to teach math. Lots of short videos. And it’s free.

    • Anne says:

      Yes! We’ve started using Khan Academy for math with my oldest. I love that he’s able to hear fractions explained by someone who’s not me–it gives me a break, and I think it’s helpful for my child to hear someone else explain the concept. Just hearing it explained a slightly different way can give someone the burst of insight they need to grasp a new concept.

  22. A Jackson says:

    I am a big supporter of public schools and frankly don’t understand why there would be a need to home school except if the local public school system is inadequate. I am a product of the public schools, have a MA in Liberal Arts, my son is a CPA, and my grandson will be a chemistry major at a major university this fall. I just don’t get the whole home school thing…

    • Anne says:

      I’m a product of the public schools, too. 🙂

      I’m just tossing out some ideas real quick for “why homeschooling”: no other good school options in the vicinity, a child who is struggling to keep up, a child who’s ahead of his/her class, or a child with special needs (and I am using this term very, very broadly–I have one of these). This is just off the top of my head; I’m sure there are more.

      Many families also choose to homeschool because of lifestyle issues: the parents could work odd hours and would never see their kids if they were in school during the typical “first shift” (this was a big factor in our homeschooling decision), the parents could travel a lot and want to bring the kids, the child might be devoting huge amounts of time to a sport or an instrument or a specific academic discipline.

      I’m not knocking the public schools: they’re the best option for many, many families (and it’s an option we consider when it’s time to re-up every year). But for many families, homeschooling makes a lot of sense.

    • It sounds like you and your family had a good experience with public school. (Homeschoolers do go to college, by the way.) Many families choose to homeschool as a lifestyle choice or feel they can do a better job than the local schools. And yes, many schools are failing our kids–academically and socially. Homeschooling families are not looking for a one-size-fits all curriculum or high-stakes testing. They enjoy a flexible schedule, freedom to travel, the ability to nurture their children’s interests, and spending a lot more quantity and quality time together. I am a trained teacher and have worked in both private and public schools. Some of my children went to school and one did not. She is now a high schooler and doing very well in all directions. It works for us.

      • A Jackson says:

        Thanks to both of you for your replies. I worried that I came across as too judgemental in my question, but it is something about which I have wondered for some time. I know that my family was very lucky with our public school systems — my son and I ended up graduating from the same California high school 22 years apart. It was, and still is, an outstanding school. We live in Virginia now, and my grandson had a similar school experience and just graduated from a high school that specialized in performing arts (he played the bassoon for 4 years). However, I live in a different community than my grandson, one with a terrible school system, so private school would have been the only option if he had lived here with me. Your home schooling system sounds very interesting — thanks again for the reply.

  23. Shelley says:

    I just wanted to ask if you worried about/did the various aspects of Language Arts. That’s my concern right now with my youngest (who just turned 9). He enjoys Wordly Wise like his older brother and sister do for vocabulary, and he doesn’t seem to mind Easy Grammar/Daily Grams for grammar, but he needs help with spelling (we have yet another workbook for that), and cursive practice which we are still working on. We also haven’t done much with the details of reading comprehension other than asking him to tell me what a story is about, or with writing, other than the occasional paragraph or short story. We are good with the other subjects, but I feel overwhelmed with all there is to cover in LA. My other two didn’t have that issue because they attended a partial homeschool school for their primary years and got rigorous instruction in that, for better or worse. They are also voracious readers and those topics seem to come easily to them. My youngest will abide by some workbooks, but not too much without some complaining. Thanks for your thoughts!! We love SOW by the way and that is sooo cool that Susan Wise Bauer was your prof!!!

    • Anne says:

      We’ve covered a lot of grammar through our writing curriculum, and this next year we’re going to focus more explicitly on grammar, sentence diagramming, etc. It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed with all there is to cover, too, so I think we’re going to do a curriculum instead of scatter shot. I just got First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind (level 2) to get an overview of what we should be covering.

      • Shelley says:

        Thanks. 🙂 We enjoy a rather relaxed type homeschool, while still maintaining a loose schedule and agenda. It seems to have worked well and my kids are doing exceedingly well, in my humble opinion. 🙂 My 7th grader just finished Tempest and now loves Shakespeare as well as H.G. Wells, and is quick to engage anyone in a literary conversation. LOL

        We read lots and read/discuss SOW, Apologia Science, do our daily math and a bit of workbook time with occasional writing…then various educational and fun family/friend outings and involvements. We have lots of discussions to about things that matter, it just sometimes seems in the younger years there is so much to take care of…so many new skills to learn and maintain. But all in all, I probably need to worry less and relax and enjoy this time. 😉

  24. 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 🙂

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

  28. Desiree says:

    I couldn’t believe it when I saw your title. I coined the same phrase for myself years ago (at least, I thought I did) in an attempt to quantify our homeschool. I’m thrilled to see I’m not alone!

  29. Melanie says:

    Unschooling is trusting your children to learn everything they need when they need it. What you are doing may be child-led, but it’s definitely not unschooling. I’m glad you found what works for you, but please don’t redefine words. As a true unschooler, I wouldn’t pretend we are classical just because I have a few books on Greece at my house.

  30. Ashley says:

    Genuinely curious question: what you’ve described here doesn’t fit my understanding of classical or unschooling. I would love to hear you elaborate, especially in regard to which parts of the two somewhat opposing philosophies you have chosen to adopt.

    I promise I am NOT trying to be a snarky snob; these are two philosophies that appeal to me and I am thinking about how to balance them.

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