Classical Curriculum for a Flexible Lifestyle (2011 Curriculum Fair)

Written by Tsh Oxenreider of Simple Mom

Children’s ages: 6, 3, and 1
Educational Philosophy Influences: Classical, Charlotte Mason, and Leadership Education

I‘m a newbie when it comes to homeschooling. This can’t be overstated enough — those of you who feel completely green at homeschooling, count me among your throngs.

While we have a very nomadic lifestyle, I actually thrive quite a bit on structure, so my homeschool plans reflect this. Part of this is preemptive: I also have two other little ones, a business to run, a book to start, speaking engagements, and travel plans. If I don’t somewhat structure our school, I’m afraid it’ll never happen.

So. Here are our plans for first grade this next year.

Classical Conversations

We will most likely sign up for Classical Conversations this next year. I like its emphasis on memory work, even though this next year’s subject matters won’t exactly align with what we’ll learn at home. I value the basic act of memorization, and the content will eventually come in handy at some point.

The other main reason for our involvement will be to socialize — we’ll be in a brand new city, and it’ll be a helpful way to meet people.

Learning words: Grammar, Writing, Handwriting, Spelling, and Reading

I really love Peace Hill Press. I love their philosophy of education, their materials, and the people behind the scenes. So ultimately, most of my resources come from them.

I plan to use Writing With Ease and First Language Lessons for grammar and writing. I admittedly haven’t used them yet, but many of my friends have, and in flipping through these texts, I think they’ll serve us well. We’re going to ease into this gently.

Tate learned cursive in kindergarten this past year, so I’m going to just keep going with it. I use StartWrite software to create our own handwriting practice pages. We mostly do Bible verses, poems, and quotes to aid our memorization.

We’ve used Spelling Workout this past year, as part of our after-schooling activities. It’s nothing fancy, but it works. We’ll start with workbook B next year. We may veer into All About Spelling, after reading Heidi’s glowing post.

For reading, we’ll do lots of quality read-alouds and provide plenty of solo free reading time. Hooray for library cards!

Learning the world: Geography, History, Foreign Language

Understanding the world is a high priority in my educational philosophy. It is vital to me that my children understand geography and cultures, not only because we travel a lot, but also because the world is shrinking. One of my favorite reasons for us living overseas is that it gives our kids a unique, global perspective on life.

For history, we’ll use Peace Hill Press’ Story of the World, volume 1. I love the emphasis on learning history chronologically, so we’ll study Ancient Times. We have the audio version, so we’ll listen to them in the car, check out books at the library, and create a master timeline.

For geography, we’ll copy maps repeatedly, improving cartography skills slowly over time. We’ll make this our major focus on geography, but we’ll also include Operation World as a text, exploring a new country every couple weeks or so. This is something we’ll do as a family, since we all love exploring the world and its myriad cultures.

I asked Simple Mom readers what foreign language Tate should study this next year, and I agree with the consensus — whatever she wants. She’s currently interested in all things French — the food, the language, the wine making process (no idea why!), Madeline, you name it. So we’ll be doing French 1 on Rosetta Stone as a family — not only because she wants to, but also because French is a genuinely useful language worldwide. It’s one of the mostly widely-spoken second languages, and we could live anywhere in the world, literally, in the next few years.

I used Rosetta Stone when we lived overseas and had great results with it. I also used it to help teach English to Albanian students in Kosovo about ten years ago. It’s expensive, but I’m a fan nonetheless.

Learning how things work: Math and Science

Because Kyle and I both work from home, often working on projects together, he has agreed to take on primarily teaching math and science this year. Otherwise, I simply won’t have time to write.

Jamie gave me an unopened copy of the alpha level of Math U See, so we’re going to try that out as our primary math resource. We may also supplement this with Singapore Math.

We’re going to explore plants, animals, and the human body (life science) using mostly the library and creation. But our main texts at home will be DK First Animal Encyclopedia, Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia, and Green Thumbs. We’ll keep this pretty low-key and interest-led, which shouldn’t be a problem, since both Kyle and Tate enjoy learning these things. We also have the Planet Earth series, so we’ll use that, too, just for fun. And nothing can beat walking outside, collecting bugs, and seeing what happens.

Learning other stuff: Bible, Art, Music, Home Ec, and getting out the wiggles

Peace Hill Press sent me their new Bible curriculum, Telling God’s Story, and we’ve already used it a little bit. I love it! I really appreciate how the curriculum starts with Jesus, His life, and His teachings. It keeps Him as the center and foundation, and the lessons provide lots of opportunities for discussion throughout the week. It’s also flexible — we can study the same passage every day for a week, or we can just do the lesson for a few days. There’s plenty of activity ideas to pick and choose. We’ll keep using it in the fall.

Tate enjoys drawing, so I’ll do my best to kindle this interest of hers with Drawing With Children. We’ll also study an artist each semester or so. None of us in the family are musically inclined, but we do love listening to it, so we’ll also study a different composer each semester.

I want our kids to leave the house knowing how to bake bread, balance a checkbook, and sew the basics, so home ec is important to me. Tate has chosen cooking for her first course — so this year, I’m looking forward to Spaghetti, Scrambled Eggs, and Smoothies 101. (This mostly involves her helping me cook dinner.)

We’ll probably join Bend’s Park and Recreation and enjoy living in a beautiful location! We love being outside, so Tate may join a hiking group or some other sport. Or we may just spend lots of time together, running around.

Finally, Tate is traveling with me to the Middle East this fall, which will undoubtedly provide myriad learning opportunities, as well as good mother-daughter bonding time. I genuinely look forward to our next year together, exploring the world.

Alright, more experienced homeschoolers — what are some good chapter books for a six-year-old, for both reading aloud and solo reading? I need ideas.

About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of The Art of Simple and is currently traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and she believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.


  1. Tsh, I grew up in Bend and we were planning to move back there recently until we had a medical emergency in our family. It is beautiful there and you’ll love all the outdoor opportunities. Floating the river (right down the center of town!), camping up at Cultus Lake, skiing Mt. B, hiking Three Sisters. Oh, I’m jealous you’ll be living there! If you have any questions about Bend, let me know!

  2. we’re enjoying reading through the chronicles of narnia together. my daughter’s only 5 and she’s enjoying them, so i’m sure tate would, too. i’m also looking forward to getting into little house on the prairie and the boxcar children… all the books i remember really liking in elementary school. :)
    andie’s latest post: just checking in!

  3. Stephanie Dustin says:

    My Father’s Dragon (trilogy)
    Betsy and Tacey
    Laura Ingalls Wilder series
    House at Pooh Corner
    5 Children and It
    Magic Treehouse series
    Sounds like you have a great year planned. I encourage you to check out any local kinderconcert series or plays available in your area too.

  4. Can you tell me more about your experiences with Rosetta Stone. Did you do all five levels? How well were you able to communicate with native speakers afterwards? I’m using Rosetta Stone Italian now. We’re going to Italy next year and I’d like to be able to understand the language somewhat.

    As for chapter books, my daughter is five but loved reading Nate the Great Series last year. My son’s not reading yet, but we read the Magic Treehouse books together during lunch and then I find resources based on the book’s subject (Ancient China, Vikings, Dinosaurs) and we play with what interests us.

    • My family and I travel to a new country every year, and are preparing to make our move to Japan (in 3 weeks!). I recently started using and am pretty pleased with its easy navigation, helpful tools, and mostly….the fact that it is FREE! It is not Rosetta Stone, but is a GREAT free alternative : ) You might want to have a look and see how you like it before spending the big bucks…
      Shannon Hughes’s latest post: etsyglam1

  5. Chapter books! My all time favorite time of the day is at the end when my kids (10 and 7) are snuggled in their bed and I read another few chapters of our current story.
    Right now we’re on the 5th Little House on the Prairie book (2nd time through for my 10 year old daughter). My kids are enthralled. There is so much to discuss. Such great character lessons they absorb. Which brings me to the unabridged version of Little Women. I think my daughter was 8 when we did that. Something to look forward to. We read Little Men after that too. She loved Anne of Green Gables. They both loved The Borrowers and the Indian in the Cupboard series. An unexpected favorite was the story of the Wright brothers from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. Excellent. Narnia series for sure. We’re planning on The Black Stallion next.
    There are so many for kids a little older like: Julie of the Wolves and Julie’s Wolfpack, My Side of the Mountain, the Redwall Series (my all time fave, especially on audio with the author narrating)…could go on & on but I should stop. Have fun!
    Oh, and welcome to the west coast! We’re your northern neighbors up on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

  6. M Bohler says:

    Love your plan for your 6 year old! We are finishing our homeschool journey with my youngest now 16 but I have a young granddaughter with a homeschooling future ahead so I still love to see what people are doing. You may want to check out for art/music selections by term. They also have wonderful literature and history selections. Thanks for sharing.

  7. H. Deaton says:

    Hi Tsh!!

    Wow this is inspiring! It sounds like you have a lot planned for your year and that is great! I am a homeschool graduate and we are just begining a family of our own- so I am speaking from the student/self learning perspective. My advice would be to figure out which things are of most importance and focus on those when it comes to class room learning. My best learning memories were made outside involving animals, gardens, forests, hiking, camping, and generally being involved with science hands on (kind of sounds like your plan for science as well 😉 The other things I remember as a little homeschooler were when my mom would allow me to use chocolate chips at the table for math, then letting me eat them! lol Feel free to do things the way you want to do them and let the books simply guide you. You asked for book suggestions and I know you have probably heard it before, but still I will highly reccomend Little House on the Prairie (the whole series). I also loved reading American girl (unabridged) ages 7- 10. They are exciting and easy reading so she can go it on her own. Anyway, I really love reading about what you are doing/using and pray you the best as you begin your homeschool journey! <3

  8. For read-alouds, my 6-year-old son and I loved the Dr. Doolittle books, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and The Chronicles of Narnia (which also segued into some fabulous discussions about the nature of God).

    I am also a big fan of The Story of the World books. They read like a fascinating adventure story, and my son and I both learned so much. As a side bonus, my troublesome 3-year-old enjoyed it as well.
    Sarah b.b.’s latest post: Ode to a Dress

  9. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is a great book that I remember fondly from my childhood. I’m betting your little girl would love the American Girl series too.

  10. Just to add to all your planning :) I have posted two lists of our favorite read-alouds, one that is geared more toward the younger crowd (your 6yo?) and one that leans more toward boys:

    Read-Alouds for Boys

    Read-Alouds for Beginners

    And a smattering of other posts that might be helpful:

    Classical Education Links for FREE Resources:

    Our Favorite School Supplies

    I also have an MP3 of a workshop I give called “Practical Classical”, or how to actually do this thing when there are more than one child in the home. You can find that and a few others on choosing curriculum, homeschool organization, and of course preschoolers here:


  11. My 6 year old also LOVES the Little House series. And of course Charlottes Web.

  12. Hah! Very funny on the French comment. Noah picked up French VERY well this year so far – if Tate would want a Skype Friend to chat with, we’d be obliged to help further her education!

  13. As far as languages, I would suggest Arabic because it is so different from English it will give her a wonderful new perspective for examining English and as long as we use fossil fuels it could bring many occupational opportunities.
    A few cool things about Arabic, it is widely studied in India, Indonesia, all over the continent of Africa, and of course in Gulf countries. Arabic is written in script form, like cursive. There are 39 Arabic letters, it is read from right to left and many English words come from Arabic. Algebra, and alcohol are 2 that immediately comes to mind. Learning Modern Standard Arabic will alway her to learn Urdu (Pakistan) and Farsi (Iran) easier. Just as learning English enables German based languages. Plus Urdu, Arabic, and Farsi are all written in basically the same manner. (English, French, and Romanian are basically written the same.) Arabic calligraphy is displayed as art.

  14. I’m late in the game to add my two cents but thought that the list I just shared might be helpful for you too. Best wishes for a great first grade year!

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