I was asked this question over on Facebook – the answer is way too long so I’m posting it here.


Question: I’m considering piecing together a primarily literature/living books approach and supplementing with textbooks as necessary. Any suggestions so I don’t miss information and my kids are up to speed? I’m thinking of sticking with one actual curriculum for Math and possibly for Science and Grammar perhaps by different publishers and having the reading and history with living books.

I personally haven’t followed a particular scope and sequence (what to learn when) but it sounds like that is what you are looking for (and it is a good starting point).  Over the years I have used a few resources to help me decide what topics to cover (and different children have done it differently):

Diana Waring – History Alive! – though we haven’t used the guide in its fullest, it has given us book lists, objectives, and ideas to pursue

Sonlight reading lists not only give me an idea but also provide great books without using the full programme

Ambleside is a great free online resource – you can see what their recommendations for living books are at any grade level.

Simply Charlotte Mason is my favourite Charlotte Mason resource

The State Government Education Department website – ironic I know!! But there are times I dip into that to check out what kids at school are supposed to be learning. (This of course will depend on where you live.)

Internet4classrooms is one of my favourite overview sites.  By digging around this site I find topics to study and the language to use in various subjects.  I also use it for online activities to supplement my lessons. (Especially for math)

Most of these links will give you ideas for more than just history/social studies – you can do living books for science, geography and even math!  (Look at Living Math)  My problem has always been the overwhelming choice that I have to work with – there is so much knowledge and so many books!   I would suggest that you look into Charlotte Mason (above link) and consider her methods for Grammar which will really enhance your literature approach.

I have not been so concerned about gaps in my children’s education – they have them.  I have them and so does every person down the street.  We cannot know it all.  I have focused on general knowledge in the primary and even early highschool years allowing the children to get more specific as they get older.   My focus is on creating a love of learning and learning skills – what they learn on the way is secondary to being able to learn.  This of course will look different if you have to comply to State regulations (in which case they will be your best guide as to what to study) or if you are intending to put your child into school at any stage (once again State regulations will guide you in keeping your child up to speed).  Being up to speed / having no gaps is a comparative concept – and if we are don’t need to compare our children with the State “norm” then I don’t believe we need to be directed by their expectations.

At the moment I am actually laying aside all these scope and sequence ideas, that is, not following anyone’s ideas (not even mine) of what should be studied when, and just read the books I have on my shelf.  My focus is learning or study skills and it doesn’t really matter what topics we cover in doing so.  I’m expecting to jump around a fair bit – from Beethovan to Marco Polo to Australian stories.  My goal is to stir up a love of learning in both myself (yes myself) and my younger two children.  (I’ll write more about this as time goes along).

My only other caution is not to go ahead and buy resources too far ahead of where your children are at right now.  Life changes – interests become clear – needs become obvious and if we have bought too far ahead we are restricting ourselves to deal with future scenarios in the way we see them today.  In order to maximise our opportunity for individualised education we need to allow ourselves some freedom to move as our children grow up.  So plan what is important to you – the scope and even the sequence but resist buying the resources too far ahead of time – just in case things look different next year.

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