The Classical Unschooler – It’s Time!

Wow… would you look at the date! It’s almost May – the month I promised The Classical Unschooler: Education Without School would be out.

It’s almost time!

I’ve been driving myself crazy getting it all done – the writing, the editing, formatting. Since this is my first time going through the Kindle Direct Publishing program, I honestly did not know what to expect. But the good news is it really is relatively easy – after the writing (the hard part!) is done.

I’m very excited about this book and I hope you will enjoy it.

If you added your name to my subscriber list, I have arranged for you to get a free advance copy this weekend in your email. If you have not, don’t worry! It will be available next week on Amazon for purchase for just $2.99.

If you’ve ever wondered what classical unschooling is, how I apply it in our homeschool or my vision for my homeschooling my children with it, this book should be able to answer all your questions.

However, I’ve been careful to say (and I hope it comes across loud and clear in the book) that this is one way of home education. It is NOT for everyone. I do unequivocally believe in homeschooling and am deeply passionate about it but I believe the method and style differs for each family depending on learning styles, temperaments and, simply, the way you manage your time every day.

This is just one way. This is my family’s way. And it works for us. Amazingly well.

Perhaps, it will work for you, too. Give it a look!

The Classical Unschooler: Education Without School will be available for purchase for $2.99 as an e-book on Amazon Kindle next week. I will add a link here when it is available. Check back often!

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I’m Planning Next Year’s Curriculum on Snapchat

Oh look, it happened – we’re out of things to do. Between the motivational chart and the burn out sessions and the readalouds – in the midst of life and whining and being bored, learning happened. We’re done.

We’ve exhausted all our planned, available resources. It’s happened sooner than I imagined. Not that I’m complaining.

So here I am scrambling to find more things to put on the agenda. Okay, okay, not scrambling exactly. While we’re enjoying the easy days of “just one sheet of math” and Minecraft broken in with some reading and writing, I’m beginning to start the search for next year’s (whatever that means!) curriculum. (whatever that means, right?)

In the upcoming weeks, I intend scouring the books/resources I have, checking off what I want them to learn in the upcoming months, gauging where they currently find themselves and working to engage them as much as possible in their education. As someone put it, homeschooling is of course “trying to work yourself out of a job.”

Only this time I’m doing it on Snapchat.

If you haven’t been on Snapchat, you should definitely check it out. The idea is that the content there only lasts for 24 hours. So come find me and watch the videos I put up. They can only be 10 seconds long, so I’ll try to make the most out of each snap.

I’ll provide you with a good idea of how to pull from many places depending on what you and your kids like. And you know I’m cheap, so I’ll do it frugally. If nothing else, you’ll come away from my snaps with your mind bursting full of ideas for your next curriculum planning session.

I’ll show you places I shop and what I buy and don’t buy. And also (to my great sadness) what I have bought in the past that was a complete disaster. And some curricula that looks nothing like curricula but teaches real life skills and even some – sigh – worksheets and flashcards. Because much to my disdain, I have one kid who likes them.

If I’m feeling really brave, I might even let you into the sit down work part of our day. Ten seconds at a time. Eep.

So come find me on Snapchat. Let’s have some real fun planning curriculum! Why should our kids have all the fun?

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Conversations = Education

The kids are fighting about who gets in the van first. Scrambling, pushing and shoving ensues. Someone gets hurt. "What…

Posted by The Classical Unschooler on Wednesday, December 30, 2015

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The Classical Unschooler’s 2016 Reading Challenge for Kids of All Ages


I don’t know what it is about 2016 but it seems like the internet has unanimously decided that we need a reading challenge. I, for one, couldn’t be happier. I have mentioned elsewhere that my personal challenge is 100 books read cover to cover in 2016. But, but, but… wait! In all these challenges, did we forget something?

Um, hello. What about the kids?

What are they doing all year? Don’t they need a challenge, too?

So, dear reader, I did it. I made a reading challenge for kids… well, of all ages.

Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.

The Basics

We start on January 1st, 2016 but feel free to jump in any time throughout 2016!

You can find the challenge here. It’s a simple Google Doc with 12 categories, one for each month if that’s how you choose to do it.

Save the list, print it and stick it up on your fridge – one for each person who is participating. The next time you’re wondering what to read next, pick a category that looks good, find a book that fits and read it!

When you finish, check off the task and write the title of the book and its author in the blank. Finish the 12 tasks and email me the completed list for each person before 10 a.m. (Pacific time) on December 31, 2016.

Endlessly Adaptable

The challenge has intentionally been labeled as “for kid of all ages.” The tasks are endlessly adaptable. Feel free to scale the selections down to the level of 6 and 7 year olds and up to the adult level.

As long as the book fits each individual characteristic, the age of the reader does not matter. And yes, of course you may read the books to your children if they can’t yet read for themselves.

The Prize

Of course there’s a prize. You didn’t think there could be a challenge without a prize, did you?

There isn’t just one prize. There are two!

Send me your completed lists (email is on the Google doc) and I will draw two winners to receive a $50 Regal Cinema movie gift pass each! Ta-dah!

So what are you waiting for? Get your kids on board and get them reading this year!

Questions? Comment below.

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Build Confidence in Your First Year of Homeschooling: Five Must-Reads

Handpicked by blog readers, these are the top five most helpful posts you need to read in your first year of homeschooling:

Think you need tons of stuff before you start homeschooling? Think again! Learn how to piece together a curriculum and a working schedule for your first year. Here are 12 Must Haves For Your First Year of Homeschooling.

A good schedule is a wonderful thing, but yours may not look like everyone else’s. Draw inspiration from real life schedules parents use to make it work in this post about real homeschool schedules.

Please read this one before you buy the boxed curriculum and avoid the five most common mistakes new homeschoolers make.

And, yes, you can save money homeschooling. Our children have never been in public school, but I have repeatedly heard that we would be spending much larger amounts of money if they were to be enrolled. Read about some ways you can save money as homeschooler, while still giving your kids a fantastic education.

And finally, my personal favorite. There will be times in your first year when it might not be all wine and roses. There will be times when you might feel isolated from the world, especially if you don’t enjoy being home as much as I do. This is a post for that time: What to do when homeschooling gets lonely.

So there you have it. Five posts for your first year of homeschooling. Is there something I have not addressed yet? Comment below!

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Poetry Memorization in the Homeschool

Having come over to a slightly more classical side of education from the relatively scary (I kid, I kid!) unschooling side of things, we have lately been doing a lot more memorization work in our homeschool. We memorize poetry, Scripture, basic catechism questions and even some historical and scientific facts from the lessons we cover during regular school.

Why Memorize?

I have written in the past about our method of studying history, a subject I hold quite dear. And what I believe about what they should know was lately confirmed to me by reading E. D. Hirsch Jr.’s book The Knowledge Deficit.  There is much (and I do mean much!) I disagree with him on, including Common Core, but I had to admit that his argument for children to have a body of knowledge from which they can draw to increase their reading comprehension made perfect sense.

I began to wonder then if it wasn’t the lack of this background information that was holding my children back from speaking clear, proper English. 2 out of my 3 children are late talkers, so I understand they have some catching up to do when they do start talking, however, I would like to help their grammar along once they do. Poetry, Scripture and basic background facts do an amazing job of this.

The How of Memorizing Poetry

I went to a homeschooling conference a few months ago and made the decision to teach poetry memorization. But the book and CD they were selling gave me serious sticker shock. Wow, I thought, classical education sure costs a pretty penny!

I understood however why it cost so much. It was because the CD had to be recorded. Children – my children and perhaps yours too – like to listen to poetry and imitate the inflections and emphases of the speaker. There is a rhythm to the spoken word they hear and imitate. Poetry then isn’t that different from learning songs where the rhythm carries you along.

The Tools

No. I did not purchase the poetry memorization CD. I am too eclectic of a homeschooler, classical or not, to let someone else direct my curriculum so completely. I mean, picking things from here and there, putting it all together is one of fortes and my greatest joys.

Instead, this is what I did and where we find poetry to memorize.


Okay, so this is quite obvious. Scouring literature anthologies can help with finding great poetry. Begin small, then add another stanza and another and another. We began with Tennyson’s The Eagle, which is six lines long.

Audio CDs

Check your local library. Our local library in Sacramento has books on CD which we may borrow. I’m not certain they have poetry as well, but it’s worth a try.

Online Resources

These are by far my favorite. Pandora, Spotify, YouTube – all these websites have poetry read by poets or voice actors that are just a joy to listen to! The added bonus is that you get to save the ones you like and begin your own collection which you can come back and play over and over.

I have the children listen to the poem while reading the words from an anthology and then repeat. The slowest we learn is a stanza a week. Short poems should take no longer than a month to memorize.

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The Reading Dilemma – Separating the Twaddle from the Great Books

Ah, reading aloud.

Now that I have accepted that I am a Christian classical unschooler, the first thing I had to accept was that reading to the children was imperative. But what to read? Take a walk into any book store or library and they all seem to agree – read, read, read to the children!

Of course we know reading is important, especially since we read about this “expert” claiming that reading to our children gives them an unfair advantage over those children who have not been read to.

So there you have it – no matter which side you look at it from, the read aloud glass is half full.

But read what?

I came face to face with this dilemma last week when I picked up Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Yes, I’d been wanting to read it for a long time to the children. Yes, it’s old. Yes, it was written at a time when refrigeration was new.


We hated it. Okay, I hated it. My seven year old daughter liked it. My five year old son hated it.

Maybe because we had just read The Hobbit with its grand themes and epic adventures. But, you guys, there was nothing for me to hang my hat on.

Mr. Popper was a house painter who dreamed of far away places and travel. Mr. Popper was also concerned about the coming winter and having enough to feed his family, then he got a penguin sent to him – which grew into twelve penguins, then he turned his refrigerator into a penguin home, then he had to renovate the rest of his home, then he thought, Well, I could train these penguins to do shows and pay off my debts, and on and on and on. Eventually… well, okay, I guess I won’t give away the end for those of you who are clearly glued to your seats.


I hate twaddle. And I’m beginning to think the reason most parents don’t like to reading to their children is because many children’s books are twaddle. I know I certainly did not.

Thank God I am finding out that children are very capable indeed of handling big themes, big issues. They do not need twaddle.

And I would contend that fairytales, if you think about them, are not twaddle.

What do you think? What do you read to your kids? Do I need to lighten up?

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The Wisdom of Crowds in Homeschooling

The wisdom of crowds can be a real thing.

I’ve been finding that out all this summer. There is wisdom in finding people who have gone before you, learning from them and adapting what they have to say to apply it in your individual life.

What Homeschoolers Need

The biggest need of all homeschooling moms is support.

Homeschooling can feel incredibly lonely. This is because usually it is done by a stay at home mom. Typically, the family is stretching every dollar and living on one income.

And while it sounds like when I speak of support, I am referring to financial support, I am not.

The kind of support homeschoolers need goes far beyond someone plunking down cash at their feet. Unless seriously financially strapped, giving a homeschool family money doesn’t help. I especially do not like the idea of a charter school, which is not technically homeschool but parent-directed public education. But we will save that discussion for another post.

Homeschooling moms need a real homeschool community around them.

What Is A Real Homeschool Community?

Let me just say this – it is not a homeschool co-op.

While co-ops are great places to learn skills by both children and parents alike, I have often heard of people refer to co-ops as a place to send their children so that they can get some free time while the children get educated. This makes me bristle – it sounds too much like public school.

When I refer to a homeschooling community, I do not mean glorified babysitting of any sort.

A real homeschool community supports the parents in their roles as home educators without seeking to remove the children from under their care or otherwise insert itself as an alternate or equal authority figure.

Here I am referring to our friends, our relatives, other homeschool moms who have graduated after decades of homeschooling their own children, the Church, Facebook groups, online homeschool groups, blogs, librarians, consultants, other homeschooling moms in the trenches with us, even good books that guide us toward getting better at doing what we have been called to do.

Who or Where is Your Homeschool Community?

If you do not have one, it is imperative to find one. For starters, ask around in your church. Look on Facebook.

Talk to older moms who have homeschooled. Yes, you may not agree with all of them – find one or two who can mentor you.

Another great place to find support is in homeschool conventions. If you have one in your city, find out what organization supports them and sign up. And then use it!

Surround yourself with people who will encourage, challenge and teach you. Remember, you’re learning, too! 

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How Discipline Can Help You Predict the Future

Name one thing you can do today – for your self or your children that can predict the future. No? Okay, how about you name one thing that will make you happier tomorrow or a week from today?

The answer might surprise you – it’s discipline.

Discipline can help you predict the future happiness of your children as well as your self.

Whoever wrote discipline is freedom was definitely on to something.

I have written in the past about the necessity of a time budget and how to begin one. There are various articles online about how to do the same with money, but curiously not many talk about how these restrictions and rules instead of making us feel constrained and miserable as we think they will, actually make us happier. (Clearly, I have to write one.)

Mea Culpa

Remember when our family was flirting with the idea of unlimited screen time not too long ago? Yeah, well.

Let me put it this way. It didn’t work.

While I still am fairly liberal with our use of technology for school, I have come to the conclusion that I do have to limit its use in the morning to create a distraction-free environment in which the children learn.

In big ways and small, I have come to realize that Charlotte Mason was right. The habits of the child do produce the character of the man.

“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.” – Charlotte Mason.

It’s a sobering, sobering thought.

 Not Just For the Kids

Parents sometimes tend to make the mistake of thinking that discipline is only for the children. And as such, if they haven’t cultivated it in themselves (or have had a hard time doing so) they assume they will never be able to teach it to the children.

However, if you’re even remotely introspective, the very act of teaching it to the children will make you start to apply it yourself.

And if you think discipline is about being miserable all day, read this.

Discipline Can Predict Future Happiness

I had wrongly assumed that having a routine that we stuck with no matter what and having definite boundaries that even I wouldn’t cross (for example, no snacking until two hours after a meal, no more than one soda a day, no screens until 2 pm) were arbitrary rules we didn’t need, but I was wrong.

Just like a money budget gives you the freedom to spend on the things you have planned for, and a time budget helps you get through the day feeling accomplished but not constantly rushed, discipline predicts the amount of satisfaction you will experience with your given task. 

Without a plan, it is easy to get sidetracked, feel hurried or worse, waste time on trivialities. Learn to cultivate discipline, add some necessary, clear-cut guidelines and bring lasting freedom to your homeschool days.

Now, go make some rules.

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