Heavenly Help for Homeschool

School books

Some moms who are thinking of homeschooling their children are stymied by a lack of confidence and question their ability to succeed, maybe forgetting that, for the Christian, there is infinite heavenly help available for all righteous desires. Certainly my uneducated self (at least on paper) has benefited on a daily basis from divine inspiration in my task, to the point that it’s become fun to watch for all the miracles. Even my boys have learned to often recognize God’s help in our homeschool.

When Taylor was younger, he wasn’t very good at writing. He answered questions on paper with as few words as possible, and he was better at expressing himself through drawing pictures than writing words. In some subjects I saved his papers, where he answered end-of-chapter questions, as answer keys for his younger brother Tristan, but Tristan usually writes more detailed answers where Taylor was very brief and/or illustrated his answers, for instance, drawing a chart of the water cycle instead of describing it. But Taylor has since turned out to be quite a good writer. David and I saw a couple of his college papers from his first semester and were amazed. “You really wrote this yourself? You didn’t plagiarize this?” we asked him. (Great confidence builders, aren’t we?)

Only in hindsight was I able to see that God’s inspiration to me during Taylor’s high school years had produced an effect I hadn’t expected. It started before his eleventh grade year when I shopped online for high school literature textbooks. I wanted to do American lit first, then English lit for twelfth grade. Everything I found was much more expensive than I was willing to pay, or just didn’t suit me. Then God showed up. “Shelly, you numbskull,” he said (yes, God talks to me that way), “use what you have.” You see, for years I’d shopped the thrift stores and secondhand bookstores for paperback copies of the classics for fifty cents or a buck, then tossed them into boxes in the basement. “Those books are meant to be read, not just bought,” the inspiration continued.

Well, hot diggity dog! This got exciting! I dug into my boxes and picked out several books by American authors and more by English authors. As he read each book I assigned papers for each one. First he researched and wrote author biographies, learned and wrote about the context of the story (its background, how it related to the time period, its impact on society). When he finished reading, he wrote a synopsis of the story and then a critique in which he addressed thematic elements, pace and flow, prose, what made it a classic. We didn’t have time to read all the books I might have liked, so in some cases, we did a “quick study”, where he learned about the author and the plot and read excerpts from it. I also assigned him two other books, The Train-of-Thought Writing Method and Wordsmith Craftsman, which taught story structure and essay writing respectively. By the time he’d graduated he’d written so many bios, synopses, analyses, critiques, and essays, it made an impressive collection.

I was elated when he scored a 35 (out of 36) on the English portion of the ACT test. He was just accepted to his university’s theater and media arts department. He isn’t sure what he wants to do in the field of filmmaking, but he’s mentioned screenplay writing as a possibility he might want to try. At one time I wouldn’t have thought that possible. That’s what homeschool (and for that matter lifelong learning) is all about, not being great at everything, but uncovering what you are great at, what you’re interested in, and running with it. And a big thank you to God and the heavenly homeschool angels.

And if you’d like to know some of the books we read or studied excerpts from, here are a few:

Of Plymouth Plantation:  Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement 1608-1650

The Scarlet Letter

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Huck Finn

To Kill a Mockingbird

The 5,000-Year Leap

Pilgrim’s Progress

Hamlet

Oliver Twist

Emma

Silas Marner

The Screwtape Letters

Animal Farm

Frankenstein

Sherlock Holmes

Around the World in 80 Days

 

Note to Self About Reading

Book and candle

I don’t have a lot of time currently for pleasure reading, and I was thinking that during that rare time I get, I’d like to stick with classics, because I’ve never read most of them and want to become familiar with them firsthand and have them guide my own style a little bit. But it’s also important for a writer to keep up with new and well-written things on the market, especially in their genre. I wondered how I could balance that and decided that I could alternate reading a classic with a newer book. Bingo, I’ll keep up with the market, plus feed my mind from the classic writing of the ages…or something like that.

Our Family’s Required Reading List

Old library chair

In the last few months I regaled you with recommended read-aloud lists categorized by age. I said that those titles were only a few of the many excellent ones out there. I’d like to add to them now by posting our “required reading” list. These are all books either required by the language arts curriculum that we used, or were required by me because I felt they were important to read.

Because there are so many worthy books and not enough time, we only studied excerpts from some of the high school books and read some others straight through. But here they are, labeled by the grade in which they were read.

3rd Grade:

The White Stallion by Elizabeth Shub

Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans

Meet George Washington by Joan Heilbroner

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh

4th Grade:

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Wilbur and Orville Wright:  Young Fliers by Augusta Stevenson

Benjamin Franklin:  Young Printer by Augusta Stevenson

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris

5th Grade:

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

Meet Addy by Connie Porter

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

6th Grade:

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

7th Grade:

The Star of Light by Patricia St. John

Adam and His Kin by Ruth Beechick

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

8th Grade:

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Eric Liddell by Catherine Swift

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew

When the Banks Closed, We Opened Our Hearts by Mike Beno

We Pulled Together…And Won by Deb Mulvey

Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh

9th Grade:

Holt Anthology of Science Fiction

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

10th Grade:

The Epic of Gilgamesh

11th Grade:

The Train-of-Thought Writing Method:  Practical, User-Friendly Help for Beginning

Writers by Kathi Macias

Of Plymouth Plantation:  Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement 1608-1650 by

William Bradford

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Stephen Crane

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

12th Grade:

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Emma by Jane Austen

Silas Marner by George Eliot

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The 5,000-Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen

The Making of America by W. Cleon Skousen

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury

The Jackrabbit Factor by Leslie Householder