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Monday, January 10, 2011

An EASY Way to a CLASSICAL Curriculum

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Last summer I drove myself mad cobbling together the resources for our early American history study this year.

I won’t recount the hours spent looking for and previewing books, pre-reading resources, making lists of materials, writing out notes to myself here, there and everywhere…

not to mention the ongoing week-to-week labor of pulling out my resources to create a weekly schedule...and visiting the library looking for little extras to add to the experience.

I just found out that for a measly $30 all of that work could have been done for me. Talk about a Duh! moment.

Easy Classical provides course schedules patterned after the recommendations in A Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. If you’ve ever tried to implement an classical course of study in your homeschool, and have been totally overwhelmed by the process, this might be just the company you’ve been looking for.

Disclosure: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free digital copy of the Early Modern History Schedule from Easy Classical for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation. This post reflects my personal opinions.

Easy Classical truly makes it easy to implement a classical curriculum by providing you a list of recommended books and resources and a well organized, easy-to-read schedule. The history schedules follow the 4-year rotation recommended in A Well-Trained Mind and are designed for grades k-6. Also available are Main schedules by grade, which incorporate language arts, Latin, Bible, Math, science, and more.

Full use of the Early Modern Schedule (covers age of discovery on up to 1815) would require purchasing Geography with History: Early Modern Times and Writing with History: Early Modern Times. Also recommended: Early Modern History Copybook, though you could substitute your own copywork. Like most classical curricula, the emphasis is on a lot of great books. This particular schedule uses no fewer than 9 main history resources (Story of the World Vol. 2&3, 4 volumes of Joy Hakim’s History of US, a couple of books by H.A. Guerber---available for free-download on the web---and Veritas Press history cards), plus oodles of supplementary resources, including several volumes of History Pockets by Evan-Moor, and a whole bunches of literature and free reading selections. You can see a complete listing of the resources recommended in the Early Modern History Schedule here. Books, of course, can be purchased locally, or even borrowed from your local library system. I like how the resource page allows you to check WorldCat to see if any libraries nearby have a book. Pretty neat. I’d like this page even better if it provided free resources for some of these books. The Guerber books, as I already mentioned, are available for download through archive.org., and no doubt others can be located for free. When you see the list, you’ll know why you might want some freebies. Winking smile

What did I think?

I have not actually implemented this program in my homeschool as we are already studying this time period using completely different resources, but I’ll seriously consider purchasing the Modern History Schedule for next year, and here’s why.

The weekly schedule is clearly laid out for me and uses graphic icons to draw my attention to particular activities. It allows me to see at a glance what I’m suppose to accomplish this week. There’s a post-it note graphic at the bottom of each week to remind me of the materials I need to gather up and have on hand for the next week. Discussion questions allow me to check comprehension or even to test retention at the end of the week. Best of all is that everything is already planned out. I suspect that the reading schedule might need to be tweaked from time-to-time (I’ve never had a schedule that didn’t), but having a guide to help me juggle all these different resources would be a load off my mind.

The age spread is good for our family (we have a 5th grader, 1st grader and a kindergartener). Some of these resources will be beyond the younger children, but perfect for the older child. Some will be boring for the older child...you get to pick and choose what you use, which gives me the opportunity to have everybody on the same page...but doing work at their own level.

The Geography, Writing and Copywork books tie these aspects into the history being studied, and that’s a definite plus, but the copywork is a bit limited. At this writing, there are no samples provided of the copywork pages, though the 4-6 grade version claims to be Getty-Dubay Italic. I have no idea what style is used for the other books.

Finally, being able to purchase this product in either print or digital versions is a definite plus: the freedom to doodle all over my schedule and print myself a new copy, yes! Or to save a bit of printer ink and receive it in print. I’d love the option of receiving it in print with the files on a cd-rom.

A couple caveats (you know me, there’s always a caveat or two): I recommend that you preview any resources you plan to use ahead of time. And check the main resources out before purchasing a schedule. Yes, I know, that’s a lot of work. But so worth it. Not only does it give you more familiarity with the material before presenting it to your children, it also allows you to anticipate any questions and to tie in your studies with other parts of life. More importantly, it prepares you in case there is any questionable material in any of the resources. The telling of history can be highly subjective. I actually did preview a couple of the books from Joy Hakim’s History of US series with an eye to using them this year. I elected not to use them simply because the author has a very editorial style that was off-putting to me. The conclusions she drew were not always supported by the facts she presented. Since so much of the Early Modern Schedule comes from these books, it could have been a deal-breaker for me if I were looking to purchase this product. I think the benefits of the schedule out-weigh this and I’d be willing to simply pre-read those selections so I could point out any inconsistencies to my children.

So, how much is it?

Each Easy Classical History Schedule covers 36-weeks for grades K-6 and is available for:

  • $35.95 in a 1” 3-ring binder
  • $29.95 downloadable pdf

The Early Modern Schedule is also available as a money-saving bundle (other eras are coming), which includes the Early Modern History Schedule, Writing with History: Early Modern Times, Geography with History: Early Modern Times, and the Early Modern History Copybook:

  • $135.95 print version
  • $95.95 digital version

For more reviews of this product, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

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