Easy Classical

Curriculum Choices

Curriculum Review
The articles on this page describe the various books and curriculum that we use in our schedules, as well as helpful books or programs that we have found useful in our homeschooling journey.

Duke TIP

Many classically homeschooled students score well on standardized tests.  Some score so well their parents suspect they might be academically gifted.  They begin to wonder about the opportunities available to homeschooled students.  Good News! Many of the talent search programs across the nation are very welcoming to homeshooling families.

If your child's 4th or 5th grade standardized tests scores fall in the 95th percentile or higher in any section of  the test he is eligible to participate in Duke TIP (Talent Identification Program). Duke TIP offers a 4th/5th Grade Talent Search and a 7th Grade Talent search. These talent searches help gifted students and their families find out how advanced the students' abilities truly are. Duke TIP offers two talent searches: one for students in fourth and fifth grades and another for students in seventh grade. The 4th/5th Grade Talent Search gives students the opportunity to take the EXPLORE test for eighth graders; while the seventh graders get to experience the ACT or SAT college entrance exam. Taking the SAT or ACT in seventh grade gives students a chance to practice and become familiar with the exams that play a major role in college admissions. Similar programs for students in the other states not covered in the Duke TIP program are: Rocky Mountain Academic Talent Search, Center for Talent Development: Northwestern University, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. These programs also offer the early testing opportunities as well as summer classes and supplemental classes to enhance the child's curriculum during the school year.

If you suspect your child is academically gifted, it might be time to give one of these talent searches a try.  Take the time to look through the websites explaining all the benefits available to you if you join.

Teaching Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

Big Truths for Little KidsTraining Hearts Teaching Minds     Have you ever started to help your kids memorize the catechism only to give up a few weeks later because they are having trouble grasping the concepts they are memorizing and because you are having trouble teaching them at their level?  Well, there is help out there.  Susan Hunt and Starr Meade have taken the time to break down those hard to understand concepts with explanations and examples that make them more easy to understand.          
     Susan Hunt’s book, Big Truths for Little Kids, is geared toward preschool and early elementary aged students.  Each lesson includes 3 or 4 questions from the “Catechism for Young Children.”  Susan Hunt uses engaging stories to explain the difficult concepts of the catechism.   Cassie and Caleb are the main characters who get into all sorts of situations that prove great teaching ground for their parents to explain the truths of Scripture.  After the story is read, and the kids have a better understanding of what the catechism is trying to teach, it is easier for them to memorize the questions and answers.
     Starr Mead’s book Training Hearts, Teaching Minds is an excellent resource for the older elementary and even middle school students.  Each week one question from the "Westminster Shorter Catechism" is explored.  Starr Mead takes the time to break the concepts of the question and answer down into easy to understand chunks.  It is laid out in the format of a daily devotional so each catechism question is explored a little deeper every day during the week.  Our family has had many lively discussions over the truths of scripture using this devotional.  It has brought to light a lot of the heart issues that we all struggle with as growing Christians.   
     I would heartily recommend both of these books!  They both have been a big hit in our family.

Total Money Makeover

Total Money MakeoverA well used quote by Dave Ramsey sums up the American way of life: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”  I bet you can think of at least one thing you bought in the last year that was motivated by a desire to impress someone you aren’t close friends with and truth be told, you don’t really like.  Was it an article of clothing, a piece of furniture, a car, maybe a house.  Why do we do this?  Why are we motivated to impress the people around us with stuff we don’t need?  We take out car loans, equity lines and mortgages to finance our desire to impress the folks around us.  Do they care?  Does it make them like us more?  Or does it make them envy us or even hate us? One result is sure, we get swamped with debt, which increases our anxiety and takes away our peace. One way to avoid this trap is to determine not to buy things using credit.  

If you are in debt or if you want to gain a better perspective on how to save and spend your money, Dave Ramsey’s book Total Money Makeover can help.  Here's a description of his book from his website:

Dave condenses his 17 years of financial teaching and counseling into 7 organized, easy-to-follow steps that will lead you out of debt and into a Total Money Makeover. Plus, you’ll read over 50 real-life stories from people just like you who have followed these principles and are now winning with their money. It is a plan designed for everyone, regardless of income or age.

With The Total Money Makeover, you'll be able to:

-Design a sure-fire plan for paying off ALL debt
-Recognize the 10 most dangerous money myths
-Secure a big, fat nest egg for emergencies and retirement
-Positively change your life and your family tree!

Next time you are faced with a purchase, take time to think..."Do I really need this, and who am I trying to impress anyway?"  Dave's book can help you go down this path with ease.

The Science of Sound

Science of SoundWe are excited to announce a new division of Easy Classical: Easy Classical Press!  We have opened this division of Easy Classical to provide families with quality, colorful, interesting books geared toward elementary age students.  Our first science book is called The Science of Sound. Click on the link to search inside the book.   Easy Classical Science endeavors to provide families with an easy way to teach science within the Classical framework.  Books with colorful pictures present students with complex science concepts in an easy to understand format. The Science of Sound is one of the books used in the  Easy Classical Physics Schedule, which should be available for purchase late June 2008.  

We have other exciting additions planned for Easy Classical press!  Watch your email box for future newsletters with all the details.

Once a Month Cooking

Once a Month CookingIf you are looking for ways to provide economic, healthy, well balanced meals for your family with only a few minutes time to prepare each day, Once a Month Cooking is the book for you.  Mimi Wilson and Mary-Beth Lagerborg lay out a variety of cooking plans for you to follow.  You can choose to cook for two or four weeks at a time.  They give you a list of ingredients to purchase, and a preparation guide to help you prepare the ingredients prior to making the meals.  For example, you will be instructed to peal and slice 3 onions, grate 2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, cook 4 pounds of chicken, etc.  You may choose to do the shopping and the preparation one day and the meal making the following day or choose to do all the preparations and cooking in one day.  Once you have all the ingredients ready, making each meal is just a matter of combining ingredients.   

I have used this book periodically over the last 8 years.  During this time I have adapted my recipes to fit into their plan.  If my family doesn't like a particular recipe I alter the ingredients somewhat to our family’s liking.  I have also added some of my own freezer friendly recipes. The last several times I have used this book, I have doubled or tripled the recipes.  So, instead of making one lasagna, I make two.  Instead of one batch of spaghetti sauce I actually make four or five (we have spaghetti every Sunday after church).  It doesn't take much more time to put together two recipes and you will end up with double the meals you can put in your freezer.

Once your freezer is stocked with main dishes, meal planning is easy.  Each evening after you clean up your dinner dishes, get into the habit of placing your next night's meal in the refrigerator. At dinner time the next day, heat up the main dish and prepare side dishes for a balanced meal. Since you line each of the dishes with freezer-grade aluminum foil, the clean up is easy too...just remove the aluminum foil and effortlessly clean the pan.

I highly recommend this book to any homeschool family. With all the time we spend educating, doing projects, and running from one activity to the next, it is nice to have all the meal planning done ahead of time.  Happy cooking!

Just 25 Days 'til Christmas

Just 25 Days 'til ChristmasThis book, Just 25 Days 'Til Christmas, isn’t a homeschool curriculum but I wanted to share it with you and your family.  It has been a wonderful addition to our family's advent traditions. Rebecca Bauer packs this book full of all you need to make Christmas memorable for your family.  She includes a count down to Christmas, which makes this book so exciting for the whole family.  Rebecca includes daily advice on Christmas planning.  The heart of this book includes insights and lessons from scripture for each day of the month of December.  I heartily recommend this book to you because of the way it focuses all of the Christmas planning on the love that God showed when he sent his son to come to
this earth to be born a man and to die a Savior.  

This is how our family has incorporated this book into our Christmas traditions over the years:

1. Starting the first day of December we use the book as a guide to our family worship.  Each date in December Rebecca provides a devotional and a Christmas carol.  Each night our family listens as my husband reads the devotional.  Then we sing as our girls lead the Christmas carol on their violins.  Afterwards the kids place the nativity figure on the Advent Calendar and choose a piece of candy to eat.
2. Each Sunday of Advent we light 5 candles.  The Prophecy Candle, The Bethlehem Candle, The Angel's Candle, The Shepherd's Candle, and on Christmas morning the Christ Candle.   Rebecca provides Bible readings to go along with the lighting of the candles and a devotional reading as well.  Our kids take turns lighting the candles, reading the scriptures and my husband reads the devotional.  On Christmas morning we light the last candle and read the Christmas story before they open
presents.  The first couple of times we did this the kids were frustrated by the delay in opening presents, but now they look forward to the tradition of lighting the candle before the gift exchange begins.
3.  I use this book as a general guide to keeping up with what needs to be done during the Christmas season.  This helps me to get the tasks I need to get done in a timely manner, so that I am not rushing my kids or staying up way to late.  This helps to cut down on the grumpies and
encourage great memory making.

I hope if you chose to add this book to your Christmas celebrations, you will be as blessed and find it to be as memorable as our family has.

Homeschool Family Fitness

Homeschool Family Fitness Homeschool Family Fitness is a wonderful resource for the homeschool family.  It is often hard to fit fitness activities in the already busy homeschool day.  Dr. Bruce Whitney has made this doable and fun.  He states in the preface of his book, “The purpose of this book is to give families the tools and knowledge to help their children develop the desire and skills for a lifetime of physical fitness, with a minimum of equipment and expense.”  According to research over 70% of children do not participate in enough physical activity to promote a healthy cardio-respiratory system.  Most kids do not even come close to meeting the minimum fitness levels.  Test your kids.  We did, and it wasn’t pretty.  None of my kids could do even one sit-up!  After following this plan for almost two years my kids are amazed at the progress they have made.  Seeing the improvement motivates them to set higher goals and become more physically fit.

You can make Dr. Whitney’s plan as simple or complicated as you want.  Here is what we do:
1.  At the start of the year each child sets fitness goals.  They determine what they can do now with the fitness pretest.  Then they determine where they want to be by December and then June.  Then they pick a reward they want (within reason) if they meet the goal.
2.  Every morning about 10:00 we take a break and do muscular strengthening exercises: sit-ups, push-ups, etc.  After they are finished they keep a record of what they have done on the muscular strength record sheet (provided in the book).  After they complete these exercises they get a snack.  If they decide to skip their exercises there is no snack.  Taking this break also helps to clear their minds and get the wiggles out so they can keep going with their school work.
3.  Every Tuesday and Thursday mornings the kids walk 1/2 mile, run a mile, and walk another 1/2 mile.  They time the mile run trying to beat their time. They record their times and their fitness points on aerobic record sheet (also provided in the book).
4.  They also record other exercise they have participated in during the week: soccer practice or game, bike riding, outdoor games with the neighbor kids (basketball, capture the flag, kick ball, etc.).  For each aerobic activity they participate they earn points.  The goal is to increase by 10 fitness points each week.

We don't follow the plan exactly every day, life is too crazy to be able to be that consistent. But I do try to make an effort to remind the kids of their goals and make a priority of exercise in order to build strong healthy habits in them while they are young.  When we first started this plan, there was a lot of grumbling and complaining, but now they look forward to taking time out of our busy schedule to exercise.  It is well worth the effort, and Dr. Whitney's plan is an excellent place to start.

Tracking Your Walk

Tracking Your Walk Tracking Your Walk is an excellent journal for kids ages 8 and up.  The introduction gives kids great reasons for journaling, developing a relationship with God, memorizing scripture, having a quiet time and praying.  The main part of the journal includes a calendar and journaling pages.  Each month a new country is introduced with the specific prayer needs of that country.  A map of the country and a blank calendar is provided.  The child can fill in the month and days on the calendar.  Following the calendar are lined pages for journaling.  Included at the end of the journal is an alphabetical list of the countries with “Facts and Prayer Points”, “Definitions”, a “Bible Reading Plan”, “Family and Friends” (an address list), and  “Notes” (which would be great for taking notes on sermons). This is a great kid friendly way to introduce your child to developing a close relationship with our awesome God.

Our family has used this journal for the past 3 or 4 years with great success.  Depending on age, each child is given a Bible reading plan.  They read the Bible passage and then write down two or three sentences explaining what the passage is about.  They write down two or three sentences describing how this passage applies to their life.  Then they write down any prayer requests they might have.  They read through the information about the country for the month and think of specific prayer requests for those people.  Then I help them to remember requests from our church body and from our family and friends.  They think about specific issues they are dealing with in their lives.  As they get older, I encourage them to write more and think of ways that God is working in their lives.  As they develop their prayer lives they are encouraged to pray through the ACTS (A-adoration, C-confession, T-Thanksgiving, S-supplication).  This helps them to get their prayer life less focused on themselves and more focused on the One True Living God.

This journal has become a special place for my kids to write out their thoughts, feelings and prayers.  It is an invaluable tool for any family seeking to encourage their kids to develop their walk with Jesus.

Say Goodbye to Whinning and Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids

Say Goodbye to WhinningThis book, Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids, is a wonderful resource for any household, but especially for the homeschool family.  The authors, Scott Turnasky and Joanne Miller, give practical suggestions for dealing with whining and complaining, but they go much deeper.  We as parents often try to control our child’s behavior by yelling, giving warnings, or by taking away privileges.  Turansky and Miller suggest a more effective way of dealing with bad behavior, they encourage parents to deal with heart issues.  Instead of yelling or giving warnings after bad behavior, they suggest taking time to help your child understand the heart issue that is causing the behavior.  For example if two children are fighting over a toy instead of taking the toy away and sending the kids to their rooms, you take time to talk to the child about selfishness and how their actions show the selfishness that is bound up in their hearts.
The focus of the book is honor and how that plays out in a family.  One neat illustration the authors use in their seminars is found on page 11.  I used this illustration with my children with great results.  The authors suggest that honor is a gift that you give each member of your family.  I have four children so I made up four gift bags.  In each bag was a gift for each of my children.  First, I gave two of the bags to two of my children.  They opened them and to their horror they found a ziplock bag filled with dirt.  I explained to them, when you are mean or unkind to your sibling it is like giving them a bag of dirt.  I gave the two remaining gift bags to the other children.  They opened their bags and found two candy bars in each bag.  I went on to explain that these are the types of gifts you give to your siblings when you show them honor.  When you prefer them in love, when you put the cap on the toothpaste, when you flush the toilet, and when you share your new toy with them.  It is like giving them a gift bag with candy. They got the point in a big way, and they immediately shared their candy with their more unfortunate siblings.  Now when one of us does something that shows dishonor all we have to say is "bag of dirt" we get the point.

I heartily recommend this book for your family.  It may not take the whining and complaining completely away, but it will help you and your child to show respect and honor for each other.

Shurley English

Shurley English Shurley English is an innovative grammar program that is well suited to the homeschool environment.  It utilizes the classical approach by encouraging the child to do a lot of memory work in the early years, so when they begin writing in the logic and rhetoric stage they are well equipped with the building blocks of grammar which enables them to write well.  

The homeschool kit includes a Teacher’s Manual, a Student Workbook and a Memory CD.  The Teacher’s Manual begins with a planning box, which contains lesson objectives.  Each lesson is scripted.  You are provide with the exact words for the Question & Answer Flows, questioning strategies, and teaching techniques.  The Question & Answer Flow is particularly helpful to the homeschool mother who wants an easy way to teach the often elusive concept of grammar to her child.  The Teacher’s Manual is set up in chapters. There are five lessons in each chapter, and each chapter can be finished in one week. Each lesson takes approximately twenty to forty-five minutes to complete.

Student Workbook: Most student workbooks contain a Jingle Section, a Reference Section, a Practice Section, and a Test Section. The Jingle Section contains all the jingles. The Reference Section includes vocabulary words, guided practices, samples, guidelines, and charts. The Practice Section provides extra practice on the various skills taught before the skills are tested. The Test Section contains the tests for each chapter. Each test is divided into four basic areas: grammar, vocabulary, language skills, and a summary of things learned for the week.

Memory CD: The CD includes jingles and the Question & Answer Flows for the Introductory Sentences. It may be used to demonstrate jingles and Question & Answer Flows to children, or it may be used as a resource for the parents.

Using and Teaching Shurley English has enabled this grammar-challenged homeschool mother to effectively teach grammar to my children.

Nature Journaling

Keeping a Nature JournalWe have often times found ourselves trudging through science facts, just trying to get them crammed in.  “When are we going to be finished?” seems to be our mantra.  Nature Journaling revamps the way we look at science.  When we leave our textbooks and dry facts behind and take a trip to the local pond we find we discover memories that last a life time.  One such adventure led to the discovery of frog eggs at the stagnant edge of the water, and not too far away tadpoles darting to and fro.   In a couple of weeks our trip back to the pond might lead to the discovery of the water inundated with hopping creatures.  The dry fact that amphibians reproduce by laying eggs comes to life.  The idea that frogs go through metamorphosis is experienced and not just studied.

Nature journaling does more than help you understand facts.  It enables you to interact with the facts studied out on the field through writing and drawing.   Keeping a Nature Journal is a wonderful book that explains the process of scientifically writing down the details of the subject you are studying.  It gives specific items to include on each page.  The authors aid the journal writer to descriptively detail the object being observed.  The authors include a variety helpful insights into how to successfully draw the subject under observation.  From warm up exercises to specific step-by-step explanations of how to draw a subject, this book will enable you to be successful in your attempt to draw your observations in your journal.  All you need, now, is the world to discover.




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