So once your child can read, write and do basic math, the world is open to them. But really, this is done in the elementary years, and of course there is a lot more they will need to know to navigate the world and to be able to do the things they want to in life. I think the following are really good for rounding out our knowledge and being able to function well in society with greater understanding and wisdom. These would make up a most excellent curriculum for your homeschool!
Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric
These are the three points of the Trivium which was the basis of education in the Middle Ages, and are the basis for much of Western Civilization and thought starting with Socrates, Aristotle and Plato when Logic and Rhetoric were born. Here are two excellent books on the Trivium which explain a lot– The Trivium by Sister Miriam Joseph and Climbing Parnassus by Tracy Lee Simmons. Memoria Press also has some excellent resources for implanting such a study into your homeschool.
Grammar is more than just what different words are doing in a sentence or diagramming sentences. Grammar is the study of the building blocks of language. Words matter, the way the words are used matter, and in order to understand each other and ideas, we have to be clear about what we mean. The study of the different tenses of verbs and what they mean, and the ambiguity of the English language makes it easy to ignore the study of grammar in English. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
One way to really understand grammar is by studying another language. When learning another language, it is easy to tell which words are nouns, verbs, pronouns, etc. Other languages use different words and ways to convey meanings that we express in another way in English. It really helps us to become clear about the ideas we wish to express. These are mind exercises at their best. This type of thinking really trains the brain and the mind to be clear about what they are thinking and what they wish to express.
The study of Latin is the best language to study for grammar, because it covers pretty much every type of verb tense and declension there are, plus all the adjectives and adverbs have to correspond directly with the nouns and verbs and other adverbs they describe. We learned about this aspect because my husband had the fortune of studying Latin in his high school and college. He found it very helpful in his academic development and credits Latin to training him to be able to devote the necessary brain power it has taken him to be a successful computer developer in his career. I grew up in Mexico and thus was bilingual at a young age, so I also benefitted from learning grammar well. I did not recognize the advantages being bilingual had for me until I was much older, but there are a lot.
Before moving to France, our language of choice for the kids was Koine Greek using the Elementary Greek curriculum by Christine Gatchell. For French now we are using First Start French and other resources. We started Latin with the older kids around 8th -9th grade using Henle’s Latin courses – dry but thorough without too much vocabulary.
Logic is the next step after Grammar. Logic is sort of like math with rules about how ideas or concepts can be compared and expressed but with words. There is an actual study of it. Memoria Press has an excellent course which can be started whenever your child is ready. I learned a lot from the course also. It is very interesting, and I think it is important to understanding exactly how we have come to the ideas we have a society that we have. It is easy to get off course in argumentation, and the study of logic will help us to think clearly through different problems, ideas and situations.
Rhetoric follows logic. Rhetoric is the ability to express ideas, to argue for positions and to influence others. This includes both the oral and written word. To harness the skills learned and use them well. This is an excellent article from Memoria Press on the topic.
Learning higher math is sort of in line with learning grammar and logic, but with numbers. Math is the language of science and it helps to understand why the bridges you drive on don’t fall. If your child has any interest in becoming an engineer, architect or scientist, they will need math. Math is an objective way to show that one is capable of learning and implementing higher ideas. It is highly valued in our modern tech savvy world. The ACT tests through Algebra 2 with a little Trigonometry, it is hard, it trains the brain and it is definitely a good thing to study and know. If you can do higher math, you can do anything- figure out all sorts of problems. Here is a link to our curriculum choices for math.
Having a basic understanding of science and why things work the way they do is very useful in life. I never really understood physics even though I could work out the physics problems, but having taught it to my kids now- it makes so much sense. It is really fun to understand why things do the things they do, such knowledge empowers us to find solutions to problems and to know there is a reason and that we can do something about it if we want. I like both Singapore’s Science program- My Pals are Here and Super Charged Science. We do a little from each. We also enjoy The Great Courses lectures and going to science museums and watching the skies, like following the eclipse. It is really fun to watch science in action. The world makes sense once we understand how electricity and magnetism work, for example, the lights in our houses turn on and off because we either close or open the electrical circuit. There are so many fields of study in science, and so many opportunities to go deeper, but at least try to cover the basics of science. I you child wants to go deeper– awesome!!
The famous saying that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it is enough for anyone to acknowledge that learning history is an important part of education. Too many modern schools are focused on either how bad we have been in history or how amazing we have been, that they miss the idea of just learning what happened without judgement. We can and should try to figure out why things happened the way they did, but first we need to know what exactly it was that did actually happen. What event led to which other event. Of course the winners get to write all the history, but that is kind of the point. They won and that’s why we study the victors, to understand how we got to where we are now. I love Edna May Burnham’s books (sorry I’ll have to find the link later) and Yesterdays Classics for the elementary years and beyond. A Little History of the World is a great book for middle schoolers. The Great Courses has many interesting lectures for older students. History comes alive when you can visit important historical sites. And there are many great historical fiction novels out there as well. Biographies are another great way to learn about it.
Money/ Economics/ Business
This one is harder to know what to do because most of us probably didn’t learn a lot of this. I probably need to go find some more books and resources on this topic, but for now, I have been spending a lot of time learning it myself.
Economics 101 was one of my favorite college classes. It opened a whole new world for me and made the terms used in the news make sense. I understood the world so much better. I had my kids watch a Great Courses lecture on Economics- it was OK, not spectacular, but we were able to talk about it and it did help a little. But an actual class where we make graphs of supply and demand and talk about comparative advantage would have been better, but I think they may have to wait for college for that. Maybe there is a coursera course- I will have to check.
Understanding the banking system, how stocks work, interest, bonds, the stock market, investing, real estate, mutual funds, etc. is very important. Tony Robbins has recently come out with a great book, Money Master the Game, explaining a lot of this. He just came out with another that is supposed to be shorter and easier to read, Unshakeable – haven’t read it yet, ut plan to. I have learned a ton from it myself.
Personal finance is also important- being able to keep up with your bank accounts etc, learning self discipline to not spend more than you have, to keep a savings account, etc. The reality though is that most of us don’t have good habits nor do we really know what we are doing with our money. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind is another great book that I think gives us a healthy mindset towards money and helps us learn how to allocate it well. One of the things I really liked in there was how you should divide your money up into buckets– give some away for charitable causes, put some into a special savings account for fun things, another savings account for business investments, another savings account for specific long term goals, and other good info. If we don’t allocate our money, it will go somewhere and usually not where we want it to go!
Business– in the modern world, it behooves us to understand business. We all know that graduating college doesn’t guarantee a successful, steady well paying job these days. So it behooves us to be able to read the markets– see what is in demand and then get the skills to fill those demands- that is how we get a good paying job or build a successful business– find out what jobs pay the most and get those skills- then it will be easy to find a job. Or look around and see what items or services people are willing to pay for. I have read several articles on how there is a shortage of plumbers and electricians– I know how much these people can charge- wouldn’t it be great to learn those skills, get clients, hire people to work for you and build your own business. And in the age of the internet, even kids can find things to sell online. It just takes some awareness and some willingness to get out of our comfort zone and try different things. I think online courses for this are the best. Learn from people who are actually doing what you want to do. Be open-minded and encourage your kids to be open-minded too. Tai Lopez’s 67 Steps is awesome for understanding a lot of this kind of thing. Not only does it help in understanding business and finances better, but also character development and the important traits of perseverance, diligence, humility, and living a good happy life with Health, Wealth, Love and Happiness. Failure is just another small step towards success!
Freedom isn’t free. It behooves us to understand how governments work, the tendency for any person or group of people in power to want to keep the power and gain more power — and that is why the US constitution created the 3 branches of government to be checks and balances on each other. It isn’t perfect, but it is pretty good. The 5,000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen is a great book for explaining that part of it. Also, it is important to understand taxes, why we pay them and what it means to be a good citizen. And the importance of voting and making your voice heard, working together with others. The Making of America also by Cleon Skousen is great for this also.
We all need to be able to get along with others. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a must read in our homeschool. Understanding our personality types and other personality types is also very helpful in dealing with other people. A great test is here http://16 personalities.com . There are many other great books out there that are very helpful. A lot of time when we are frustrated with how things are going, it is because we don’t understand it. There are a lot of things we as humans do automatically. compelling People is another good book on what sorts of characteristics we as humans generally admire in others.
And finally, of course, we have life skills. Cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, caring for cars, caring for a yard, caring for babies and young children, basic first aid, paying taxes, driving, sewing, shopping, managing household finances, learning how to write a resume, how to interview well, how to find and keep a job– these are all basic life skills that we all really need to live successful happy lives. For some people it comes naturally and easily- for others of us, we have to consciously make an effort to learn these skills. For me, calculus is easy eompared to running a household and cleaning up after myself!! That took me a lot of effort to learn and figure out! There are plenty of books and courses and helps for this as well- new things coming out all the time. Pass on what you know to your kids, spend time with them, practice!
Well there you go, these are my favorite books and curriculums in our homeschool. There are other books and other good courses out there. There are specialized courses, classes and books that have helped our kids with different interests, but these are the foundations, the main ideas and skills to learn as they move forward with their education and their lives. I hope it helps you! Your list may be very different than mine, but maybe mine will give you some ideas. Have fun with it– there are so many interesting things to learn out there!!