Our approach to homeschooling
Great Books Homeschool draws inspiration from the Charlotte Mason, classical, project-based and interest-led approaches to education. Our curriculum rests on three pillars: a strong verbal and math foundation, substantial student autonomy, and a focus on great books.
A strong foundation
Comfort with reading, writing and math facilitates the exploration of other professional and educational fields throughout a student's life. History, science, foreign language and other subjects may be acquired at any time, but a lack of verbal and math proficiency will handicap a student throughout his or her educational career and beyond.
While we advocate a high degree of student autonomy in most aspects of education, we feel that it is the responsibility of parents to ensure that reading, writing and math skills are well developed during the elementary and middle grades. Proficiency in these requires years of consistent practice, and our curriculum provides the structure to ensure that this happens.
Reading and writing
Reading and writing skills are of primary importance in our curriculum. Fortunately, the best way to develop strong verbal skills is also enjoyable: spend a lot of time reading great books!
Our verbal curriculum does not make use of drills or busywork. Instead, students at every grade level spend at least one to two hours per day reading and being read to. In our experience, the intuitive sense of language mechanics that is developed through extensive exposure to quality books is far superior to that which can be learned through rote memorization of spelling and grammar rules.
We teach formal writing using the Writing with Ease and Writing with Skill series, an enjoyable literature-based writing curriculum for elementary through high school. These books provide a thorough grounding in academic and professional writing via short daily lessons designed for homeschoolers.
Print and cursive handwriting are taught during the elementary grades, and typing is introduced in middle school.
Our math curriculum uses the excellent set of textbooks, workbooks and videos produced by Art of Problem Solving. This choice offers several advantages over other math curricula we have tested.
First, the curriculum focuses on understanding the foundational concepts of math, rather than rote memorization of mechanics. Once concepts are understood, the student retains them far better than methods which are memorized without understanding the reasons behind them.
Second, the curriculum is enjoyable for young children. Elementary grade textbooks are produced in a comic and storybook-type format called Beast Academy (about a school for monsters), and the curriculum includes games and puzzles as well as regular math problems. The higher grade curriculum includes explanatory videos presented in a clear and engaging style.
Finally, whereas most other programs specialize in either elementary or high school grades, Art of Problem Solving allows the student to start with their elementary program and continue through high school calculus. This makes more efficient use of students' time by avoiding missed or repeated material.
Autonomy is a strong motivator at any age. Students who are given the freedom to choose their own areas of focus are more likely to put their heart into their studies, producing far better work and knowledge retention.
We feel that traditional education does too little to foster the joy of building and creative work. Whether they choose to join a company or to become entrepreneurs, students who have been used from an early age to pursuing their own projects have an advantage at a time when technological change and automation puts a premium on human initiative.
Our core curriculum ensures exposure to living books about science, history, world cultures, philosophy and art throughout the student's educational journey. Beyond that, we recommend allowing the student to explore books and other information sources about the subjects that most interest him or her. Our optional books selection offers a good place to start.
The curriculum is rigorous but not overly time-consuming, and the earlier grades in particular leave children with plenty of unstructured time. Starting in fifth grade, Project Time becomes a scheduled part of the curriculum. This is a period of at least an hour in which the student can pursue self-directed projects in his or her areas of interest. Examples include:
- Drawing or painting
- Learning the Greek alphabet
- Taking an online programming course
- Learning how to service a bicycle
- Cooking dinner
- Starting a business
- Producing a YouTube video
A major goal of our curriculum is to produce lifelong readers. Beyond its practical benefits, reading immeasurably enriches life, opening up ideas and experiences that would otherwise be beyond the reach of any individual.
By "great books" we do not mean only the traditional classics. A great book is any quality work of literature that has withstood the test of time and has an expanding and uplifting influence on the mind and spirit. Our students become familiar with classic Western and world literature, as well as the latest advances in science and technology.
To be included in our curriculum, a book must be enjoyable to read for most children at the grade level in which it is assigned. We put a premium on books that are fun to read, especially in the elementary grades. Students who have repeated positive experiences of reading works of quality literature during childhood are most likely to maintain the habit of reading and seek out great books throughout their lifetimes.
The literature in our curriculum is classified into ten levels of difficulty, starting with picture books and easy readers in kindergarten and culminating with unabridged classic literature, philosophy and adult nonfiction in high school. This facilitates a gradual progression that leaves students well prepared to read the best of humanity's written works with enjoyment and profit throughout life.