Sunday, February 28, 2010

Review: Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Educationby Laura M. Berquist

I've perused this book many times, combing through the kindergarten, first and second grade sections for curriculum ideas, but I hadn't actually read much of the introduction or explanations. I still haven't read the section on the high school years (no reason to get too far ahead of myself). Ms. Berquist gives a very basic explanation of a classical education, a good place to start if you think you may be interested. Though I haven't read it yet, I plan to read Dorothy Sayers' essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning" (available online here), which Ms. Berquist quotes often and recommends.

The real treasure of this book, I think, is the broad range of curricula suggestions. You can easily find a list of the resources at online retailers which sell the materials for the Mother of Divine Grace School created by Ms. Berquist, but this little book gives a small description for using the resource you won't find on the websites unless you purchase the syllabus. I prefer to select a few of her suggestions for our homeschool, so this book is perfect for us.

I did find the Appendix enjoyable. I especially liked how Ms. Berquist gives some sage advice to those of us just starting our homeschooling journey, perhaps a bit too eager.

There is often a temptation, when planning curriculum, to include material that is too difficult. We want to see the students moving on to the next stage of development. We want them to excel, and we do not want them to miss out on the "classics". But when we include difficult material before the students are ready to do it, they will not do it well. They may or may not realize that the material is too hard for them, but the chances are good that they will not enjoy it. They are also apt to make the mistake that I made and think that they have understood something when they have not. This is not necessarily a question of intelligence. It is a question of maturity.

I haven't read enough on a classical education (much more on the style and philosophy of Charlotte Mason), but the more I read the more I think they work well together. We'll probably end up somewhere between the two here on the Range. I think I'll find this book even more useful once we begin third grade.


  1. I look forward to reading that essay by Sayers when I get a chance. (And, by the way, I hope to order an Anti-Coloring Book for Amanda this week. Thanks for the recommendation!)
    Just a couple weeks ago, I came across Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, and I have gotten so much from it. I have read The Well-Trained Mind, of course, and thought it was great, but this book (for adults) really put classical education in a new light for me. I have found it very encouraging (and challenging!), and it is really changing the way I approach reading. It's a very helpful framework to have in mind as one thinks about educating children.

  2. I haven't read The Well-Educated Mind, Tiffany. Thanks for mentioning it. Of course, it doesn't do me much good to knock books like this off my to-read list if you and Hilary keep recommending new ones for me to read!

    Let me know how Amanda likes the Anti-Coloring Book. I bought one for my youngest sister years ago and thought it was wonderful, but she didn't think so much of it. I think, even though she was within the listed age ranges, she was a little too young emotionally to be interesting in something a little challenging.


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