How one conversation led to peace, rest, and the right curriculum.

Remember when I mentioned my conversation with Sarah McKenzie?

Well, she doesn’t know this yet, but her advice to me personally changed the course of our decision entirely (for the better*). Let me explain…

I went to the Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) with 4 companies in mind as possible curricula for the next year. I was openly leaning toward Classical Conversations and away from Memoria Press with Tapestry of Grace and Veritas Press nestled in the middle. I didn’t even take the time to research Classical Academic Press because I was under the misconception that they didn’t put together a “whole grade” package. (And remember what I said I needed? Hand holding.)

Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)

So, here’s my process of research and decision.

Veritas Press: First Impression – confusing lesson plans without a clear instructor’s guide (each subject has it’s own lesson plan without a clear agenda and without a checklist). I would have to read separate plans for every subject. Very expensive. For one of my children I calculated an “at least” total of $1,300.

Tapestry of Grace: First Impression – too much work. As much as I appreciate the value of their history and Bible program – the 4 year cycle, the cool map, the whole family integration – I just felt like I would have to do so much more work to pull together all the other subjects to create a whole plan for my children’s year. At this point, I didn’t know what Latin, Language Arts, etc. to use, and by choosing Tapestry I would have to find all of those for myself. And it is also very expensive: $300+ for just the Instructor’s Guide. I would have to find and purchase all of the other resources in addition, along with finding and buying all of the other subjects we want for a whole year.

Classical Conversations: I have already experienced this curriculum, and I wanted badly to like their co-op. But the week of the GHC, I finally felt peace that the co-op would not fit our family. So, I wanted to use this program as just the “spine” for all our subjects. The Foundations Instructor’s Guide (IG) would be our hub for what to learn in all the subjects. We would use the history cards and memory songs, but all the additional resources I would have to find on my own. 

Memoria Press: First Impression – Great packaging. The resources were grouped by grade on one side of their booth and by subject on the other. It was easy to find and become familiar with what would be expected for a year using their products. They use a lot of workbooks (it’s kind of what they are known for) and they put a high emphasis on Latin. Talking with their representatives made me feel confident that we would be able to utilize their tools and teach our children in the classical model with their products. The cost for two students in the same “grade” was just over $700. This includes all subjects, even science and math.

By the second day of the convention, I felt convinced that Memoria Press would have to be the company for us. They offered everything I wanted most: convenience (hand-holding), confidence (full-curriculum IG with checklist), and relatively lower cost.

If left to myself, I would have grabbed the cute basket of goodies labeled with the appropriate grade, headed to the checkout, and breathed a sigh of relief that I would be all set for next year. Even though I wasn’t quite convinced that my kids would love all the workbooks, and even though the read alouds for the year were books we had already read.

Thankfully, I’m not left to myself. My husband was so supportive of my preference and even asked good questions of the representatives while we together looked over their products.

As a caution, he said: “I just want you to pick a company that we can stick with for the long haul. I don’t want to jump from company to company each year. Like Memoria this year, and Veritas the next. Whichever company we pick, I want to stick with them for the duration so that our kids don’t have gaps in their subjects.”

For example, if Memoria teaches biology for 3rd grade and Veritas teaches biology for 4th grade, then switching like this would mean 2 years of the same subject and we would miss other subjects.

I took his caution as a healthy burden. One that was wise and helpful in slowing down my desire to just pick and be done.

But the burden created conflict within me. I wanted to pick Memoria, but I had no peace about committing to use it for the long haul. I kept going back to their booth between sessions. I looked and looked at all their resources while praying. I did the math between Veritas and Memoria, which made me feel even more pressure to pick Memoria. Even so, I still didn’t have peace. I told my husband that maybe we should just wait and not buy our curriculum like we always do.

Used with permission from CAP.

Used with permission from CAP.

Finally, feeling at a loss for what to do with my urge to buy and my burden to wait, I saw Sarah McKenzie at the Classical Academic Press booth (which I still {wrongly} viewed as more of a classical model resource booth and not a “curriculum booth” – they have great curriculum!). I mustered the nerve and went over to talk to her.

I felt silly, but I laid out my situation for her and asked for her opinion.

She wisely gave me her advice to carefully listen and apply my husband’s advice, and she used her own experience of listening to her husband and how much of a blessing it was to her. I know she really listened to me, and even positively commended Memoria Press, citing a friend who uses and loves them. She joked that their packaged baskets are so cute, it just makes you want to go get your grade and take it home all nice and neat.

I had a red flag here, and thought “oh no, I don’t just want their product for the cute baskets!”

I thanked her for her advice, noticed she had more women lining up to speak with her, hugged her and thanked her for sharing herself and her work with all of us. I picked up a Classical Academic Press catalog just for reference and left the booth.

The next morning, I still had no peace. I realized that the red flag was really a stop sign. I did just want a cute basket to take home. 

So, I sat down and prayed. I had my bag with all the catalogs, so I opened up the Classical Academic Press catalog just hoping for some direction.

What I saw surprised meA chart of their products across all grades. A map for a “whole grade” curriculum. (You can view Classical Academic Press’ whole catalog for yourself by clicking here.)

I was hooked. I read every word in the catalog that applied to my children’s ages and grades. I liked everything I saw. I was able to connect the dots between the program and our life. I felt like their program was both full of integrity and academic excellence, yet their approach was gentle and restful. (Scholé, right?)

I was beginning to feel passion for this company, excitement that this could be truly what I was looking for. I started to pray. Then I started to do the math.

It’s true that they don’t have “bundles” for each “grade.” You can’t just drop into their booth, say I want 4th grade, and walk away with your cute basket. So, I used their map and the catalog to piece together what I would need for two students. The total calculated to approximately $400 for everything minus science and math. (They do not offer a science nor math programs.)

I sent a feverishly excited text to my husband proclaiming that I was changing my mind about Memoria, including what I had just found out about Classical Academic Press, and asking him to pray!

There are more pieces to this story: attending Dr. Christopher Perrin’s session (with my husband) titled “Classical Christian Education 101,” talking with (asking questions of) representatives at the Classical Academic Press (CAP) booth, and lots more praying. One of the fun things that felt like a treat to me was that CAP uses Veritas Press’ history program, and I loved this program. I wanted to use it, but I didn’t feel confident to pull that program out of the whole of Veritas. CAP did that work for me.

So, we picked CAP and I was so very blessed in the process. They told me at check out that they were offering a special 20% off discount because of an anniversary they were celebrating as a company, and we were going to get free shipping on anything not available right then.

Ready to see what we bought?

(Pictures, links, and product descriptions used from the Classical Academic Press website with permission. To find CAP products that would best fit your child’s age, go to ClassicalAcademicPress.com, at the top there are 2 navigation bars – the purple bar contains their “Products” and you can research their offerings by grade, subject, series, or online course offerings.)

SSL2-Program

Song School Latin 2: Student workbooks, flashcards, teacher’s manual, and DVD Weekly lessons include songs, chants, new and review vocabulary, an introduction to grammar, and derivatives, all without leaving behind fun illustrations, stories, games, and activities. Song School Latin Book 2 will more than prepare students for their journey on to Latin for Children Primer A. They will surely continue their love of learning Latin with Song School Latin Book 2!

W and R Fable

Writing and Rhetoric: Fable including the MP3 files of the stories being read. The Writing & Rhetoric series method employs fluent reading, careful listening, models for imitation, and progressive steps. It assumes that students learn best by reading excellent, whole-story examples of literature and by growing their skills through imitation. Each exercise is intended to impart a skill (or tool) that can be employed in all kinds of writing and speaking. The exercises are arranged from simple to more complex. What’s more, the exercises are cumulative, meaning that later exercises incorporate the skills acquired in preceding exercises. This series is a step-by-step apprenticeship in the art of writing and rhetoric. Fable is the first in a series of twelve books that will train students over six years, starting in grades three or four and up.

Well Ordered Lang Lev 1

Well-Ordered Language Level 1A & 1B student books, teacher’s manual, and MP3 files of the songs & chants. What if the study of grammar could harness a child’s natural curiosity? What if it could be a source of delight to children? The Well-Ordered Language curriculum presents the study of language in a way that appeals to a child’s inborn curiosity and desire to collect, gather, and order.

VP OT History Cards

Veritas Press’ History program for Old Testament: Ancient Egypt with teacher’s manual, flashcards, enhanced CD for homeschool, and the memory song CD. Thirty-two major events chronologically from Creation to the fall of Egypt to Rome.

Gods Great Covenant OT

God’s Great Covenant, Old Testament 1 student workbooks, teacher’s manual, audio files, timeline, and map.  A Bible Course for Children teaches the biblical narrative from Genesis to Ruth, including the book of Job, at a third- to sixth-grade level. The overarching Old Testament themes of the promises and power of God are presented in simple weekly stories. Students will follow along with God’s people, see how He leads them and keeps His promises, and learn how the stories of God’s people begin to point us to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ.

Reasoning and reading

Beginning Reasoning and Reading student workbooks and teacher’s guide. The Reading & Reasoning workbooks develop basic language and thinking skills that build the foundation for reading comprehension. Exercises reinforce reading as a critical reasoning activity. Many exercises encourage students to come up with their own response in instances in which there is no single correct answer. In other cases, exercises lend themselves to students working collaboratively to see how many different answers satisfy a question.

Student Guide to CE

A Student’s Guide to Classical Education (K-12): this is a guide to which classics are appropriate reading for each grade. (Find it on CAP’s site: Our Products>By Subject>Educational Resources)

For Science and Math: We chose Apologia Astronomy and we stuck with Horizons math workbooks.

So, there you have it. The whole process of choosing curriculum for next year with our 3rd and 4th graders. I hope this encourages you to pray through the process of decision making for your family, to ask for advice (you never know how God will use others to help and guide you), and to trust His leadership when it comes (and to wait if it doesn’t).

I will be continuing to get us all set up for next fall now before our little one arrives (5-7 more weeks!). 

To read more about how I prepare check out these links:

Thank you for reading this lengthy post! I would be more than happy to start a conversation with you regarding what curriculum you are interested in trying for your family. I don't claim to be an expert on your needs, but I would love to listen and pray with you over your decision. Homeschooling is best in community! Also, if you're a Holland Local, let me know if you would be interested in joining a Scholé group. Contact me or leave a comment. Thanks again, and may your homeschool path be full of rest and peace!

For your personal education, I recommend the course I’m currently taking: Make Over Your Evenings by Crystal Paine. (Afflink)

Prepare to be productive like never before!

*I highly recommend Memoria Press – the company and their products. I just know that my children wouldn’t be served best by their products at this time. To learn more about their products for yourself – visit their website!

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