Are you considering classical homeschooling? Take a peek behind the scenes with a busy mom of three who has built her homeschool on the philosophies of The Well Trained Mind.
This special guest post is part of our homeschooling methods series of interviews.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Surya Chronister, a “classically relaxed” homeschooler who is making the Well Trained Mind method work for her family.
I’ve always found the classical method of homeschooling fascinating. From the outside, it appears to be a rigorous, structured, and scheduled approach.
However, most classical homeschoolers are not strictly by-the-book. The vast majority are using the classical philosophy as a frame work, putting their own spin on The Well Trained Mind and customizing the method for their kids.
In the following interview, Surya shares her thoughts and advice on creating a classically relaxed homeschool.
What is your take on classical homeschooling?
I consider our style to be classically relaxed. I consider it to be partly classical because we follow several of the resources and the suggested sequence of The Well-Trained Mind.
We do use online resources, but the majority of our learning tends to come from books, literature, and other offline resources such as workbooks, etc.
What does classically relaxed homeschooling look like in action?
For example, our science sequence has been that last year (first grade) we did life science. We split the year into three sections, learning first about lots of different animals, then the human body, and finally plants.
The library is our best friend and we checked out lots of different books on animals that my girls picked out. We even made a couple of lapbooks to reinforce the learning and mix up our routine.
The human body was fun because we created life sized outlines of the kids and colored, cut, and pasted life sized organs onto the outlines. Then, botany was all about books and gardening.
Second grade is Earth science and we are using The Good and the Beautiful’s science units for that. So far, they are awesome!
The Good and the Beautiful is a Christian homeschool curriculum. If you are looking for secular options, check out our guide to choosing science curriculum.
There’s a lot of buzz around the history portion of classical homeschooling. How do you teach history?
We also follow the classical progression for history. For first grade, we did ancient history and have recently started medieval history for second grade.
I consider this portion of school to be building background, so we simply listen to an audio CD in the car (The Story of the World), do some crafts and read some books if we are particularly interested in the topic. That’s why I consider our schooling more of a relaxed classical method.
How do you teach math and reading?
For math, we use Horizons and really enjoy it. It’s simple, customizable, and flexible.
I try to get math in most days, but it doesn’t always work. My second grader is currently working on memorizing her math facts, so does about ten minutes a day on Reflex Math, which is an online math game site.
Reading in our house doesn’t have a set curriculum, we just read books. And lots of them.
What does an average day look like in a relaxed classical homeschool?
With three young children, every day definitely looks different! Our oldest is just starting second grade material, so we primarily focus on math, reading, language arts. I try to have math in there most days, preferably in the morning and she generally reads every day without being asked. We do use a language arts workbook, but a lot of days we will cover that by talking about something we see in a book or writing a letter to a relative.
So, we wake up and eat breakfast (or play and then eat breakfast). Some days we do a worksheet or two in the morning at breakfast or right after. If the girls ask for more, then we’ll do more. I might ask them if they want to do a science unit (they always say yes) or read some books. When we read books, I let them pick 2 and I pick 2, so we get a mix of “just for fun” and educational.
Then, there’s more playing, maybe some errand running or cleaning. Then, lunch and playing.
I try not to plan to do any official learning in the afternoon because our girls are still at the age where they can easily be tired and grumpy in the afternoon. But, if they ask to do something, then we do it. We do do a lot of arts and crafts in the afternoons.
Then, we get dinner ready and have family time once Daddy gets home and that’s it!
How do you plan and organize your days?
No planner, just follow the sequences in our books and have a daily schedule of what topics we’d like to cover on what days. But, it’s more of a guideline than a hard and fast schedule.
I try to have 2 or 3 goals per child for the year and then focus on those mostly. If we fit in other things, great, but I don’t stress about it. We are still in the very young stages where play is important.
If you are using a mix of curriculum and frequently use the do-the-next-page style of planning, copying your lessons into a weekly planner might feel like overkill. Take a look at our simple solution for homeschool record keeping: The Homeschool Portfolio. Time-saving checklists, attendance, and journaling for your homeschool records.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with homeschoolers interested in the classical method?
Yes, I would say don’t over schedule yourself. Start with a few important topics, maybe math and reading, depending on the age of your child(ren) and then add more as you feel you and your children are able.
I know so many moms (myself included), who started out with grandiose plans and were disappointed when they realized that they weren’t going to do 6 hours of school a day with their elementary kids. And then they (we?) would wonder if we were doing a bad job when we had to back off.
My advice is just to start small and add on as your child’s age allows.
If you can, let your schedule be flexible and bend as your child’s needs bend. If they need to play and just do 5 minutes of school one day, let them. Play is so important for young children. I think a love of learning comes from good experiences around learning and giving them flexibility to just be kids is a big part of that.
Don’t miss Surya’s article Helpful Hints for Your Homeschool Year!
Find out more…
Read more about Surya’s approach to homeschool, parenting tips, and life as a busy mom on her website The Busy Mom Club.
Are you a new homeschooler? Find answers, advice, and support here.