Great Books On Our Own

Great Books

I like the idea of doing “Great Books”, but don’t want to write my own from scratch. I’ve got a kiddo who doesn’t quite fit most programs (and doesn’t like online classes), but I’ve been able to use my co-op classes and tutoring students as guinea pigs for my literature adventures.

I wrote the following “great books” plan for my youngest child, using resources I mostly have already taught or already own (or have available at my local library). I think it needs a little more India, China and Japan, but I can add those if we do a senior year.

By age, my kiddo is in sixth grade, but academically she’s advance, so I decided to plan the history and literature with the knowledge she may graduate after 11th. If she doesn’t, I’m sure she’ll have an opinion about what she wants to cover.

It’s likely most of the “honors” Excellence in Literature books will be covered with audio books. My daughter does quite a bit of independent history reading, so I just need to put a framework into place.

Hope this is useful.




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Updated Library Learning

Just an update here. Donna Young is no longer free, so I replaced or removed her links. I moved a few things around and added a couple of resources. We are actually using quite a bit of this. I should update for literature book lists in Language Arts and plans for high school. (We’re just finishing 6th grade, so a little time yet.)

Updated Library Learning


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Sixth Grade already?!

Oh wow, has it really been a year?
Fifth grade is a memory. What worked? What didn’t?
Dolicini, didn’t. CPO Earth didn’t. We ended up coasting to the end of the year with a mash up of self-study in science. We did finish the year with the first three chapters of Jacobs Algebra. To be honest, we should have stuck with Dolicini.
K12 Human Odyssey worked well all year, although dd tired of the Ancient Geography workbook. It fulfilled its need, though, and we finished it. In place of the History Detective pages, we added narrations from the Old Testament using the DK Children’s Bible.
We finished the first half of Lively Latin 2, and decided to take a pass through Minimus 2 at the end of the year. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
October is a great time to do a “what we are doing this year” post. The chaff, so to speak, has already fallen away.
As I am back in graduate school and working quite a bit, we decided to try some outsourced classes for sixth grade. The outsourced classes are the “shiny” thing I’ve always longed for. Now that we are doing them, it is something of a mixed bag.
What we are doing this year:
Derek Owens Physical Science: We purchased this as a product just before he discontinued it. This is stretching dd in a good way. I would not generally recommend this for a sixth-grader, unless they are math and science strong (and really like those subjects).
PreAlgebra Review: Even though we already started Jacobs, I decided to review PreAlgebra this year because I want dd to go full speed through high school math, rather than spread Algebra out over two years. It’s a good plan, except she’ll likely finish Derek Owens PreAlgebra before Christmas. So I’ll need to figure out what to do with the rest of the year, and for Algebra next year. And I don’t want to even think about Geometry. We might just do Algebra 1 and 2 back to back to buy me a year to think about it. Online classes are not always the answer, and are surprisingly time consuming. Which leads me to;

French: Online G3. Likes: native speaker, deadlines. Dislikes: chat box during class, very little speaking opportunity, and I find I’m still spending a lot of time with dd with French. She has a very full social calendar, and doesn’t seem to need the social component available through G3.
I found Glencoe High School French 1, 2 and 3 teacher’s guides and a workbook and speaking cards for book 1 at a teacher’s thrift. With the accompanying online resources and DuoLingo, we’ll try it at home again in the spring. This will also give us more time for Latin.
Latin: is at a standstill at the moment. I’ve decided to tie our studies to the National Latin Exam, having dd take the Intro level this year. As she’s done two years of elementary Latin, we’ll review with the Memoria Press prep book after Christmas, and begin with a used set of Latin Alive! next year. I’ve accepted foreign language studies must involve me.

Language Arts: We skipped level 4 in Writing & Rhetoric. With level 5, we are not really able to do a lesson a week without skipping things. We’re stretching it out a bit, but the series continues to get the job done painlessly. We participate in a co-op for language arts. Dd read a stunning number of books over the summer, so literature is focused on middle ages, but I’m not requiring too much reading time until the winter weather sets in.
We are also using: Daily Grams Ultimate 8, Spelling Workout G and tried a Memoria Press Study Guide for one book for literature this fall. The study guide has been a good experience, but we’ll move on to something else in the spring. Spelling Workout has been a surprise winner. DD has a strong phonics background, so this is a relatively painless way to round out the last two years of spelling. We do skip editing and writing exercises.
History: We are continuing with Human Odyssey, finishing up book one as part of a Middle Ages history study. I bought Mapping the World with Art, which my daughter has lost. If it doesn’t turn up this week, I have a dreaded geography workbook on the shelf that she will need to use for the remainder of the year. Mapping the World can be done next year.
I did track down a copy of the student and teacher pages for Human Odyssey. I’m selecting writing exercises from the student pages (only one or two per lesson), and we continue bible narrations with the New Testament. We’ll take a break from bible narrations to do narrations to prepare for the National Mythology exam.
Day Planner: Hey, is this a subject? As a sixth grader, dd needed to begin keeping her own planner. We started the year with a bullet journal. Needing more structure, we’ve added in planner pages using scrapbooking adhesive, but this has been a successful addition to the year. We treat is as a planner, reading log, doodle journal and scrapbook, complete with stickers and die-cuts.
For me, I discovered planning when using “public school” textbooks is so much easier with tabbed Post-It Notes. I bought all I could find when my local big box store put them on clearance (meaning they won’t restock them), so I’ll need to find a replacement when I run out. My system is to tab a week at the beginning page and write that week’s assignment on the note. I can transfer those to weekly planners or write them up as a “to-do” list for students. Either way, I don’t need to do anything with them until few days before assigning them, making it quite flexible.
My dd doesn’t use many public school texts, but I use them in outside classes I teach, and she will continue to use more textbook-y things as we move into high school subjects. Frankly this system could work well with a living books style of learning, if you had spine books to tab.

Take away: I would love to see a Memoria Press style package or Ambleside Online type schedule that doesn’t espouse a creationist worldview for science, embraces classical writing, Latin and well- written literature following the National Exams for some of those subjects, and incorporates-but isn’t a slave to- the Well Trained Mind sequential study of history.

Anybody up for a Homeschool Curriculum Wiki?

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New Form

This has been handy for us, I thought I would share: Weekly CM Log.

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Low Cost Library Learning

I’m playing with a loosely classical- based schedule of free and low cost resources for families who are “college bound”.

There are several other good, useful programs/ schedules for those who want to use only texts that are free, such as Ambleside and Freely Educate.

However, I haven’t found anything for those who want low cost items but find out-of-date texts or a particular religious point of view to be unacceptable.

I like to surf through different free resource pages, but often don’t use what I find. I thought I would schedule some of my best finds into a coherent whole.

Here’s the link for my work in progress. Let me know if I’ve missed anything I should include, or if anything is unclear. I would love to make this a Wiki for others can contribute- Any ideas how to go about it?

Low Cost K-12 College Bound

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New School Year

What are we doing differently this year?

I took on a lot of tutoring last year, so open and go became much more important, although glancing through the free resources I’ve linked, I’m surprised how many of them we used. This year we are doing fifth grade. We did American History last year- probably too quickly, but some of my tutoring students hadn’t had States and Capitals, or really any American History yet.

This year, we’re starting over with Ancient History. We’re using an Ancient History Geography book I found at a teacher’s store for around $5, the K12 Human Odyssey book, bought on a “black Friday” sale for $20 from Better World Books and free pages from  World History Detective Supplemental Pages. Additionally, we’re writing and outlining WTM-style, using my schedule sheets. Another good resource for ancients is: Classical House. We’re not using this one, though.

We’re done with elementary math, and using an old copy of Dolciani’s PreAlgebra, An Accelerated Course. Ours is really beat up (a $10 Better World Books) copy, so I’ve cut the answer pages out and stuck them in my teacher binder. So far, so good, although choosing it was agonizing. It’s a good, solid book, but it was my PreAlgebra text. I think I was having Middle School math teacher bad-tie flashbacks.

Science is CPO Earth Science. There are lots of good, inexpensive resources out there for science. We take advantage of many of them. I did buy a used teacher/ student/ lab set of the CPO Focus On Earth Science. A resourceful person could put most of it together with google search. I’m not linking anything because school districts do post whole e-books, and they tend to disappear and change links. CPO’s site does have lots of free resources (including lab sheets) for the regular edition: CPO Earth Science. We decided to use the Focus On series, only because I suspect we’ll be using Derek Owens for Physical Science, and his is based on the same standards as the Focus On books (mostly that Astronomy is in Physical Science instead of Earth Science).

Language Arts is largely what I’ve outlined in my Language Arts Resources I Like post. We are using an inexpensive spelling book this year (SpellWell). Our big purchase is CAP’s Writing and Rhetoric, which I just plain like. I could certainly spend less money, but this is my open-and-go time saver.

Scholastic’s Dollar Days come around regularly, and if using a writing-heavy history program (like the free one linked above), these writing books from Scholastic would do nicely: Tara McCarthy Writing Books. I’ve not used the novel studies that show up in the same search. I have seen the writing books, and they are useful. Another fun, useful (buy it when it’s on Dollar Days) series is the No Boring Practice Please books for mechanics.

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Language Arts Resources I Like

Literature and Literary Analysis

Susan Wise Bauer’s words of wisdom:

Literary Analysis from Well Trained Mind

Printable pages (below) I made to facilitate Bauer’s ideas. All of these reference Well-Trained-Mind methods. They are most effective if you have read the book.

Literature Conversation Prompts

Weekly Language Arts Scheduling Sheet

Weekly Classical Schedule All Subjects

Vertical Weekly Classical Schedule


This grading rubric is a helpful tool for grading student essays:

Essay Rubric from Read Write Think

Below is a link to Mensa’s Excellence in Reading list. You don’t need to have a gifted student to use this list. It is especially useful for an advanced reader who requires advanced books, but not mature themes.

I like this list because the books at the lower levels introduce complexity missing from much children’s literature and historical fiction. A student who has read (and enjoyed) the Wind in the Willows in elementary will be better prepared to read and analyze Don Quixote in high school.

It also is a handy back up for when your child has read all of the books you planned for the school year. And it’s still September.

Excellence in Reading


Reading literature and learning Latin (and possibly Greek) are fantastic vocabulary builders. I particularly like The Big Book of Lively Latin during middle grades for it’s ease of use, flexibility, vocabulary building, and grammar integration.

Using a list like the one linked below is a great vocabulary jump start to accompany the study of Latin and Greek roots:

MCT’s 100 Classic Words

I like the four-square method of systematically learning vocabulary words from a list. Below is a link to a graphic organizer and a description for using it:

Four Square Vocabulary Sheet

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