Educating the heart, mind, and soul in the Catholic tradition with online classes

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Monday, March 7, 2022

NEW Blog...

 Homeschool Connections Blog has moved to

We are blogging weekly with homeschooling articles of interest, no matter your homeschool style. We hope you'll join us!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Making of the Modern World for 2021/2022 School Year (4-Year Cycle)


ANNOUNCING: Homeschool Connections' four-year cycle for live, interactive courses ...

In response to requests from students and their parents, Homeschool Connections offers a four-year cycle of coordinated courses for students, third through twelfth grade, so your entire family can learn the same era at the same time, making life easier for parents and making school more fun for children. (We also offer alternate courses, not in the cycle.)

The four-year cycle includes:
  • Grade-school unit studies: 3rd through 6th grade (reading list and suggested activities provided for pre-k to 2nd siblings)
  • Middle-school history and literature courses: 6th through 8th grade
  • High-school history, literature, and philosophy courses: 9th through 12th grade
The four eras in the cycle are:
  • Ancient (available both as a recorded course and live in 2021/2022)
  • Medieval (available as a recorded course in 2021/2022)
  • Making of the Modern World (available as a live course in 2021/2022)
  • US History (scheduled for 2022/2023)
For the upcoming 2021/2022 school year, we are offering courses based on 1. Ancient and 2. Making of the Modern World in addition to our regular slate. This post shares everything, LIVE and Recorded, for the Making of the Modern World to help you get started learning together as a family. (For the Ancient Era go HERE.) First are the LIVE courses, followed by the Recorded courses ... 


Grade School. The online grade school unit study program is based on Phillip Campbell's Story of Civilization. The unit study is geared for third through sixth grade and will include religion, history, language arts, and science. Taught by Jackie deLaveaga. Registration is open HERE.

Middle School. Click on the course title to learn more or register:
High School. Click on the course title to learn more or register:


GRADE SCHOOL (Unlimited Access)
Making of the Modern World Unit
  • Available February 2022 (Only available as a LIVE, interactive course Fall 2021.)
MIDDLE SCHOOL (Unlimited Access)
Making of the Modern World Unit
  • History: All Ye Lands, Part Two with Dr. Christopher Martin (14 weeks)
  • History: The French Revolution: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death” with Alison Stanley (10 weeks)
  • History: The Life and Legacy of St. John Paul II with Kevin O'Brien (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Father Damien and the Bells: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 1) (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Padre Pro Mexican Hero: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 2) (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Polly Kent Rides West: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 3) (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Enemy Brothers: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 4) (6 weeks)
  • Literature: Anne of Green Gables, Part One with Emily Henry (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Anne of Green Gables, Part Two with Emily Henry (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Anne of Avonlea with Emily Henry (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Anne of Windy Poplars with Emily Henry (10 weeks)
HIGH SCHOOL (Unlimited Access)
Making of the Modern World Unit
  • Philosophy: Introduction to Early Modern Philosophy with Jean Rioux (12 weeks)
  • Philosophy: Revolution: The Progress of Liberalism with Phillip Campbell (14 weeks)
  • Psychology: Modern Psychology with Julian Ahlquist (12 weeks)
  • History: Early Modern Europe: 1648-1789 with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: Modern European History; 1789-1991 with Phillip Campbell (14 weeks)
  • History: Imperial Russia with Carol Reynolds (12 weeks)
  • History: Understanding the Second Vatican Council with Phillip Campbell (4 weeks)
  • History: The History of Latin America with Phillip Campbell (13 weeks)
  • History: Totalitarianism in the 20th Century: Nazis and Soviets with Christopher Martin (14 weeks)
  • History/Government: A History of Government in Europe and America, Parts One and Two with Christopher Zehnder (11 and 12 weeks)
  • Literature: A wide variety of Shakespeare courses
  • Literature: Dracula by Bram Stoker with Eleanor Nicholson (6 weeks)
  • Literature: The Victorian Detective with Eleanor Nicholson (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Frankenstein: Misunderstood Monster with Joseph Pearce (6 weeks)
  • Literature: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte with Eleanor Nicholson (6 weeks)
  • Literature: The Nineteenth-Century Novel with Eleanor Nicholson (12 weeks)
  • Literature: The Picture of Dorian Gray with Joseph Pearce (6 weeks)
  • Literature: A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations with Anthony Esolen (6 weeks)
  • Literature: The Golden Age of Mystery Fiction with Eleanor Nicholson (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Middlemarch with Eleanor Nicholson (6 weeks)
READING LIST FOR PRE-K TO 2ND GRADE:  We recommend For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects by Maureen Wittmann for age-appropriate reading.

Have your older children read aloud to your little children for a win-win homeschool day (lessons reinforced for older children, little children are included, Mom gets a break).

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Enjoying the Summer: Homeschool Style

Summer Is Suddenly Here!
Jenny Bales 
Mom to Mom 
(click to see all of Jenny's articles)

Spring was spent in quarantine, and all of a sudden, it’s June! We even finished our homeschool year a few weeks early, because we spent so much more time at home than usual!
Did summer sneak up on you, too?
Usually, we are ready for our summer break from homeschool groups and some of our extracurricular activities. But we have had quite a break already.
Summer seems like it will be different this year, and I was feeling a little lost on how to spend our days. Then I remembered three keys that have helped us in the past.
During summer break, focusing on reading, learning, and creating have always brought us joy. These are, admittedly, things we do all year long, but in the summer, we enjoy them in a more relaxed way, often with ice cream!
If you take a summer break of any length, I invite you to join me in resisting the temptation to schedule every hour and instead to find easy ways to add meaningful fun to our days!
Our libraries are still doing summer reading programs, but if your's aren’t, consider creating your own or using one of the free ones available online. And Mom should join in the reading challenge, too! Even if we don’t read as many hours as our children log, they delight in our participation.
Plan a reading time every day, maybe right after breakfast or during nap time. Read aloud to the kids. Put on an audiobook (that totally counts!). Pop a bowl of popcorn and have everyone bring a book to the living room or into a tent in the backyard!
Spending time in the world of books gives us opportunities to go places and experience so many wonderful things. We get to know characters as friends and learn essential life lessons. Good books entertain and inspire us!
Give your kids a booklist and challenge them to read a certain number of books. Discuss with them what types of books they would like to read and help them make a book bucket list for the summer! Here is a fabulous booklist from Homeschool Connections.
Then, share what you are reading with your family. Talk about what’s happening in your book at the dinner table. Ask them about their books. Which character are they most like? What would they have done differently than the lead character? Conversations connect us.
Stop. Please don’t make detailed lesson plans for your children to get through if you’re taking a summer break. Let it be a break from school. Instead ask your children what they would like to learn about, and make a list. Gather resources from your shelves and the library. Look up some websites for them to explore. Bookmark some educational videos or movies to watch.
Then, every Monday set a goal to learn something new. Keep it simple. Just set aside a little time to learn something new, ideally together.
Especially for tweens or teens, summer is the perfect chance to learn something that interests them that doesn’t quite fit into their homeschooling year. Borrow some materials from a friend or sign them up for an online class. Encourage their excitement about learning, even if the content seems pointless to you. These lessons are more about finding the joy in learning and igniting curiosity in young minds!
Summer is the also the perfect time for the entire family to learn more about our Catholic faith. There are a few Catholic at-home Vacation Bible School options available online. Older kids will enjoy watching nationally known Catholic speakers on YouTube. Does your parish have a subscription to Formed? They have videos, studies, and more for all ages. Choose something about our faith that you are interested in learning about, and invite your kids to join you!
This is the easy one. Kids usually cannot stop themselves from creating if they have materials!
If they love Legos, challenge them to build a city. If they love crafts, set up a designated area for that mess to live. If they love dirt, give them shovels and a bag of dirt! Get out the paints and the playdough. Cook together. Tend a garden. Make cards for relatives.
There is so much joy to be found in making something! And we learn a lot about ourselves and the process of creating, too. We learn how to adapt when things don’t turn out the way we expected. We learn pride in making beauty and order, because it echoes the Creator’s creativity!
Cut up some paper and write different creative projects on each slip. Stuff them in a jar and pull one out every few days. Invite your kids to help you with ideas, and include a few zany ones like making a person out of food and dressing up as another family member. Remember that the goal is joy!
Summer Fun
Reading, learning, and creating aren’t new to homeschooling families. We do all these things throughout the school year. But taking the time to do these in a fun and enjoyable way, together as a family, can breathe life into the rest of the year, too! I have found that this approach renews our excitement for schooling and helps me to plan a school year that better fits my kids as I get to know their preferences and interests more.
Don’t forget to make time for water balloon fights and trips to the pool (if yours is open), too! Eat watermelon and popsicles. Build forts and play video games. But try to do many of these things together. Because summer fun is about family and friends as much as it is about the break from schoolwork.
But most importantly, especially in these uncertain times, allow for as many smiles as possible! Have a happy summer!

Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is "whatever works" with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Bare Minimum Book List for High School

A Lamentably Incomplete List
By Eleanor Bourg Nicholson

This article and reading list accompanies Mrs. Nicholson's talk "Raising Virtuous Children in 10 Books" for the Virtual Catholic Homeschool Conference.

Teaching Virtue
Sacred Scripture, particularly the New Testament, is the unspoken presupposition for all of this. Jesus Christ articulated for us the operation of virtue in the moral life, and a living knowledge of His words will far outweigh even the most spectacular of book lists. Beyond this, in establishing a school of virtue, reading the entirety of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas will not go amiss. For those of us (myself included) who cannot adequately digest so much brilliance, I recommend the beautiful and methodical writings of Servais Pinckaers, O.P., especially The Sources of Christian Ethics and The Pursuit of Happiness. For an excellent curriculum studying the virtues, I strongly recommend that produced by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
·       The Bible
·       St. Thomas Aquinas, The Summa, especially the Secunda Pars
·       Servais Pinckaers, O.P., The Sources of Christian Ethics & The Pursuit of Happiness
·       The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Education in Virtue series

The Ancients
A robust education in virtue requires knowledge of the classics. The depictions of virtue in Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey are vivid and intriguing. (The Trojan Prince Hector is the best, and someone should roundly kick Paris. Additionally, the anthropomorphized waywardness of the gods can be highly entertaining.) As noted in my talk, I highly recommend Sophocles’ The Three Theban Plays and Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and also urge reading of Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. These works are not only brilliant and rich, knowledge of these classical works pervades the canon. In fact, knowledge of classical mythology is a critical asset, especially when approaching subsequent movements in poetry. We cannot appreciate the rich Christianization of mythical impulses captured by Petrarch in his exquisite Rime Sparse without having read Ovid. How can we make sense of what that egotistical bounder Percy Bysshe Shelley desires to achieve in his Prometheus Unbound without reading Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound? When considering all of these classical texts, we can ask these questions: What was the classical understanding of virtue? In what is this understanding rooted? In what ways is it lacking? To ground these questions, we must not neglect the writings of Plato and Aristotle, especially as concerns poetry. The final book of Plato’s Republic is worthy of attention, and Aristotle’s On the Art of Poetry even more so.
·       Homer, The Iliad & The Odyssey
·       Sophocles, The Three Theban Plays
·       Aeschylus, Oresteia & Prometheus Bound
·       Virgil, Aeneid
·       Ovid, Metamorphoses
·       Plato, Republic
·       Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics & On the Art of Poetry
·       (Wouldn’t hurt to read Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, too)

The Medieval Period
The heroic tones of works such as Beowulf and The Song of Roland, and, to an extent, various representatives of the Arthurian legends, will inspire some rich comparisons with classical epics and the system of virtues celebrated among ancient heroes. I must confess that I personally dislike the obsessive attention often devoted to things Arthurian, particularly since by the sixteenth century legend became a strong element in Tudor propaganda. It is, however, an interesting moment to see how Christian moral understanding is bent in the devising of chivalric romances. Nevertheless, we can see this lengthy period as a high point in moral understanding, especially shown in the moral clarity of Aquinas and his synthesis of Aristotle. We have gone beyond the classical understanding, setting the endeavor for human perfection and earthly happiness in the context of the only One Who is our source of Beatitude. (You also really ought to read St. Augustine’s Confessions, incidentally.) With this in mind, dive into the richness of Dante and the social complexities of Chaucer! What fascinating conversations will unfold! Read Thomas à Kempis to help us move into the next literary era, shored up by personal growth in virtue.
·       Augustine, Confessions
·       Beowulf
·       Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
·       Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy
·       William Langland, Piers Plowman
·       The Song of Roland
·       Chrétien de Troyes, The Arthurian Romances
·       Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
·       Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur
·       Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ & Imitation of Mary

The Renaissance
This period gives us many beautiful works, including the lyric poetry of Petrarch, but it also brings many troubles. Now the enduring tussle with humanism really commences. At its heart is the problem of divorcing theology once again from the question of moral action, re-elevating social and governmental powers as the authority for such questions. Inner turmoil is the result, and we can see this in some of the tortuous struggles of Dr. Faustus or the characters of William Shakespeare. Everyone should strive to watch (and participate in) as many adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays as possible. Neglect neither the comedies nor the tragedies and make special study of the histories while you’re at it! In teaching Shakespeare, I recommend several additional resources: Ken Ludwig’s How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, the writings of Joseph Pearce on the Bard, and the Playing Shakespeare series produced by the Royal Shakespeare Society in the 1980s. For the Tudor propaganda machine mentioned above in the discussion of Arthurian romance, see Spencer. If you want critically to pursue the path of non-virtue in this moment, read Machiavelli’s The Prince and Josephine Tey’s detective novel The Daughter of Time so you can judge the perfidy of the Tudors in true style. The heroism of the English martyrs during this period has special resonance for me, and I recommend both the historical novels of Msgr. Hugh Benson and, if you can find them, of Josephine Ward.
·       The poetry of Petrarch
·       Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus
·       William Shakespeare, *EVERYTHING* (with additional resources mentioned above)
·       The poetry of Sir Philip Sidney
·       Edmund Spencer, The Faerie Queene (with Machiavelli & Josephine Tey)
·       Msgr. Hugh Benson, Come Rack!  Come Rope!
·       Josephine Ward (often published as Mrs. Wilfrid Ward), Tudor Sunset.

The Seventeenth & Eighteenth Century
We will leave most of the English Civil War to historians and the myriad complications posed by the so-called Enlightenment to philosophers, but we must take time to read John Milton. There are innumerable theological challenges to be found within John Milton’s Paradise Lost, but there is a great deal of brilliance contained therein too. Further, this English epic had the most extraordinary impact upon the subsequent canon. Consider particularly the depiction of God and the depiction of Satan. Milton’s theology informs these personalities (or, in the case of God, the lack of personality!). The Romantics, however, would stubbornly misread this (see below). Some consideration should also be paid to the emergence of the novel, and we can pick up various cautionary pieces, such as Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders (which is so much more entertaining than Robinson Crusoe, which also demands attention, not least because it seems to beg the question what virtues are necessary to survival when marooned on an island), and consider the place of satire via the writings of Jonathan Swift. Attention must be paid to the poetry of John Dryden, John Donne, and Alexander Pope as well. What is the relationship between virtue and social expectations regarding manners?
·       John Milton, Paradise Lost & Paradise Regained
·       John Dryden, Collected Poetry
·       John Donne, Collected Poetry
·       Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders (& Robinson Crusoe)
·       Alexander Pope, Collected Poetry

The Napoleonic & Regency Periods
It is a truth universally acknowledged that we should READ EVERYTHING written by Jane Austen!!!! Her heroines are wonderful, her heroes are among the best ever concocted, her sentences are exquisite, and her moral understanding is breathtaking. Chesterton would support me when I say: Real men read Jane Austen. Young men, take note! The only question remaining must be: Where to begin? You can commence with the delights of her most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice, but there is a great deal to be said for chronological progress, beginning with her first published novel (Sense and Sensibility). Juvenilia is also exquisite, and even the unfinished novels are worthy of attention. Additionally, for the sake of our young men in particular, I recommend reading of the historical novels of both C.S. Forester (the Horatio Hornblower series) and Patrick O’Brian (the Aubrey-Maturin novels) (the latter is a superior historian and writer, methinks). Lest the young ladies feel thus deprived of historical novels recommendations, the works of Georgette Heyer are delightful and rich in historically accurate details (don’t be put off by the overly pink, girlie covers).
·       Jane Austen, *EVERYTHING*
·       C.S. Forester, Horatio Hornblower series
·       Patrick O’Brian, Aubrey-Maturin novels
·       Georgette Heyer, Regency novels

The Romantics
After the innumerable challenges of the co-called Enlightenment, with its championing of reason, empirical science, and deist principles, the pendulum swings the other way and we have a movement toward intense feeling, emotion, and things beyond our five senses. Consider William Blake, especially in his monumental and deliberate misreading of Paradise Lost. There is a great deal of beauty here, especially with the “Light Romantics”, Coleridge & Wordsworth. There is also a great deal that is problematic (including atheism and amorality) in the “Dark Romantics”, Byron and Shelley. To see how the philosophy of the latter looks lived out, consider the novel Frankenstein, one of the most famous of all Gothic works. Shelley’s young mistress, Mary, began this book while the couple (and Mary’s sister, with whom Shelley was also having an affair) visited Lake Geneva as guests of Lord Byron. The novel evokes many questions, from the obvious (e.g. What are the consequences when man endeavors to take upon himself the role of the Creator) to the more subtle (e.g. What is the Romantic attitude toward the true Creator, and what are the consequences for morality?) First-time readers will find the novel surprising, especially when the monster pauses, learns to read, and reads Paradise Lost! Also: read John Keats.
·       William Blake, Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, Marriage of Heaven and Hell
·       Samuel Taylor Coleridge & William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads
·       Lord Byron, Collected Poems
·       Percy Bysshe Shelley, Collected Poems, including Prometheus Unbound
·       Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
·       John Keats, Collected Poems

The Gothic
In addition to providing a necessary context for Austen’s Northanger Abbey and some of the more tormented impulses from the Romantic movement, this genre opens the door to spectacular cautionary works later in the nineteenth century. To support your reading of Austen, begin with The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, then read selections from Mrs. Radcliffe (she’s really a bit tedious), the infamous The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewes, and John Polidori’s The Vampyre. Polidori began his tale while on a visit to Lake Geneva with his then-employer, Lord Byron, and fellow Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley—the self-same visit on which Mary began Frankenstein. The nineteenth century produced top notch Gothic works, including James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. This last almost made it to my “List of 10”, but was retired because of the complicating biographical factors and the fact that I’m still scared of the 1945 film. This is a fascinating, complex novel, rich in its dark condemnation of Paterian ideas pushed to the breaking point. It should be guided by Joseph Pearce’s incomparable biography of Wilde and counterbalanced by in-home performances of The Importance of Being Earnest. Reading more deeply into the High Decadents can be very enriching, but should only be approached by very mature readers. A startling number of High Decadents converted (or reverted) to Catholicism before death, but in each case exhibited a great deal of appalling behavior and ideas before that point. If the Gothic genre is an hysterical offshoot of the Romantics, the Decadents are the Romantics with a heavy dose of nihilism. Finally, everyone should read Dracula, even though its moral understanding is pretty basic and it has unresolved threads of Manichaeism. This genre may prove challenging to young Catholic readers, since a twisted form of anti-Catholicism often appears in its pages.
·       Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto
·       Mrs. Radcliffe, Selections (because, really, she’s rather tedious)
·       Matthew Gregory Lewis, The Monk
·       John Polidori, The Vampyre
·       James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
·       Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
·       Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
·       Bram Stoker, Dracula

The Victorians
We have attained perhaps the most glorious era of the novel and the field is ripe for a virtuous harvest! Given the fact that we have been dealing with the Romantics, it is appropriate to begin with the Brontës. I personally prefer Charlotte and Anne to Emily, but recommend the reading of all three. Jane Eyre is probably the most approachable. Villette has many delights as well, but also has earned its reputation as the most anti-Catholic novel of the mid-Victorian period. Approach with caution (and with a sense of humor). Agnes Gray and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall both demonstrate a beautiful sanity especially regarding the heroine’s attitude toward men. Reading Wuthering Heights is a rite of passage. Encourage and sustain your children through it and ensure they don’t come away with the absurd notion (popular in places of higher education) that Catherine and Heathcliff are anything more than vicious and thoroughly dislikable.
As to Charles Dickens, this besotted reader of Boz recommends that even my satirical husband read Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Bleak House, and Our Mutual Friend. Those who fall deeply in love with what they read, should continue on to read The Pickwick Papers, Dombey and Son, Little Dorrit, and Great Expectations. Your most devout Dickens disciples can go on to read everything else for the sake of completion. Do not neglect the journalism or the less famous Christmas stories! The Chimes is both fascinating and unnerving.
Absolutely embrace the fullness of Anthony Trollope’s six Chronicles of Barsetshire: The Warden, Bachester Towers, Dr. Thorne, Framley Parsonage, The Small House at Allington (for which I harbor some resentment) and The Last Chronicle of Barset. I enjoy many aspects of his other series, the Palliser novels, but frequently find myself tripping up due to insufficient knowledge of the finer points of politics. Of the individual novels, I dearly love He Knew He Was Right, primarily for its secondary characters.
It is necessary to read William Makepeace Thackaray. The History of Henry Esmond is much more delightful than Vanity Fair, but both ought to be read and the latter is an eloquent condemnation of vice (though without really doing much on behalf of real virtue).
Some knowledge of John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites will be aesthetically enriching here, especially as the ideals of that moment informed religious movements of the period. Knowledge of St. John Henry Newman will also be of value.
George Eliot, though there is a great deal to admire in her writing, is a bit challenging owing to her humanism and attendant lifestyle. She lost her faith through translation of German writers concerned in historical critiques of the Bible, she believed evil was merely ignorance and required a social solution, and she lived most of her life in a frankly adulterous relationship (which was decided not open to children). There is, nevertheless, some beautiful food for thought, especially in Silas Marner, Adam Bede, and Middlemarch. Mill on the Floss is as excruciating a read as you could hope to find, comparable to the writing of the irretrievably maudlin Thomas Hardy (whom G.K. Chesterton called “a sort of village atheist brooding and blaspheming over the village idiot”).
Read Wilkie Collins, continuing Gothic preoccupations and opening the door to sensation fiction and detective fiction too. Morality by this era has been largely divorced from the coherent theological context for virtue; how does this impact the understanding of virtue itself? Elizabeth Gaskell and (for fun!) Mary Elizabeth Braddon are also worthy contributors.
This is an excellent moment to glance toward the French and Russian authors. Read Victor Hugo and read Gustave Flaubert. Note that the latter was outraged and appalled when he realized readers were taking Madame Bovary as a celebration of vice, instead of, as he had intended, the contrary! There is value in reading Tolstoy, but I strongly prefer Dostoyevsky. Tolstoy is too prone to pause his book to preach about his bizarre religious notions.
For heroic virtues, read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island & Kidnapped, Rudyard Kipling’s Kim & The Jungle Book. You can also glean a lot from historical novels such as R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur, Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis, or by going back to the father of the historical novel: Sir Walter Scott. Don’t neglect Fabiola or, the Church of the Catacombs, by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, or Callista by Newman.
For poetry, read Alfred Lord Tennyson, Christina Rossetti, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Francis Thompson.
Finally, if you are so fortunate as to come across a copy of Josephine (Mrs. Wilfrid) Ward’s One Poor Scruple, snatch it up and read away! In fact, her books, which are tragically difficult to find, are superb and worthy of reading and republication!
·       Sir Walter Scott, Rob Roy & Ivanhoe
·       The Brontës, Jane Eyre, maybe Villette, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Gray, & The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
·       Charles Dickens, READ *ALMOST EVERYTHING*
·       Anthony Trollope, The Chronicle of Barsetshire & He Knew He Was Right
·       William Makepeace Thackaray, The History of Henry Esmond & Vanity Fair
·       George Eliot, Silas Marner, Adam Bede, & Middlemarch
·       Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone and The Woman in White.
·       Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford, North and South, & Wives and Daughters
·       Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret & The Trail of the Serpent
·       Victor Hugo, Les Miserables & The Hunchback of Notre Dame
·       Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
·       Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
·       Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island & Kidnapped
·       Rudyard Kipling, Kim & The Jungle Book
·       R.D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone
·       Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur
·       Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis,
·       Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, Fabiola or, the Church of the Catacombs
·       John Henry Newman, Callista
·       Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam & Collected Poetry
·       Christina Rossetti, Collected Poetry
·       Gerald Manley Hopkins, Collected Poetry
·       Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Collected Poetry
·       Francis Thompson, Collected Poetry
·       Josephine (Mrs. Wilfrid) Ward, One Poor Scruple or anything else you can find!

The Americans
Regarding the American school, I recommend (without enthusiasm) reading this extensively as well, though personally I find it dry, depressing, and dourly Calvinistic. If I must read the Americans, my personal favorites are Edgar Allan Poe (Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque and his three C. Auguste Dupin detective stories) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables). Read Herman Melville and congratulate yourself for heroic persistence when you make it to the end. Introducing the detective fiction tradition opens up a grand opportunity to explore in depth questions of justice and mercy—and of course you ought to go back to the British and read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories in full. I don’t like Henry James, so I won’t recommend his novels. For the rest of them, alas, I recommend you find someone passionate in their defense to produce an enthusiastic book list.
·       Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque & detective stories
·       (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Sherlock Holmes stories, which really belong with the British authors above)
·       Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter & The House of the Seven Gables
·       Herman Melville, Moby Dick & Billy Budd
The Twentieth Century
Having attained an age of maturity and suffered through graduate courses on the High Modernists, and with my clear Anglophilic tendencies, I really do have to work to persuade myself to read most books from the twentieth century (excepting Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis, Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, various mystery novelists, and a few other exceptions). This is a personal issue, perhaps, but one I am not yet motivated to overcome. Basic knowledge of the High Modernists is pretty critical to survival of twentieth century literature, so take a dose of James Joyce and get it over with as quickly as possible. Then go read the Inklings (or some murder mysteries) and you will feel much better.
·       Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
·       George Orwell, 1984
·       T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland, Collected Poetry
·       James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
·       J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings
·       G.K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross (& his writings on Dickens & his little book on the Victorians & pretty much everything else)
·       C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia & Space Trilogy
·       Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
·       (Oh, and P.G. Wodehouse too)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Homeschooling Grade School with Unlimited Access

Grade School Unit Study Program
3rd Through 6th GradeCourse of Study Description
Recorded, Independent-Learning with Unlimited Access
2020-2021 School Year


Welcome to the Grade School Unit Study Program for 3rd through 6th grade students -- designed to simplify and streamline your home education experience. Through an integrated literature-based curriculum, your family receives clearly laid out directions for the parent(s), hands-on project-based activities for students, and a once-a-week recorded class to watch together.

How it Works
The full year course is segmented into three parts (Course 1, 2, and 3), hours usually taken in the fall, winter, and spring -- incorporating History, Science, Language Arts, Art, and Religion -- to learn all subjects together in a unit that coordinates and dovetails into one harmonized year of learning.

Your Program DescriptionThe Four-Year Sequence
The entire program, currently under development, will span a four-year sequence based on the four volumes of
TAN Books’ History series, The Story of Civilization. The four years of study are...

            Ancient History (TSoC, Volume 1, Year One), Currently Available in Unlimited Access
            Medieval History (TSoC, Volume 2, Year Two), Available starting Mid-February 2021
            The Modern World (TSoC, Volume 3, Year Three), Available starting Mid-February 2022
            US History (TSoC, Volume 4, Year Four), Available starting Mid-February 2023

Your Learning and Course Formats

Your Yearlong, Three-Part Ancient History Program:
The yearlong grade school unit study program is taught in three parts: Part One (13 weeks); Part Two (12 weeks); and a short Part Three (4 weeks). Take all three parts, to create a complete year of learning.

Lesson Plans for Daily Activities
Families are provided with daily lessons, checklists, and other resources and learning materials.

The Grade School Unit Study Program uses a four-day-week course of study: families work together on interactive lessons (guided materials and instruction) and watch a weekly class together. The fifth day can be a free day for museum visits, nature walks, co-op classes, play dates, etc.

Your List of Subjects Scheduled for the Four School Days (Per Week) 

* History (30-60 minutes per day) 
* Literature Read-Aloud (30-60 minutes per day) 
* Greek & Latin Roots (10-15 minutes per day) 
* Poetry Memorization (10-15 minutes per day) 
* Creative Writing (Odd weeks, 60-90 minutes per week)
* Science (Even weeks, 60-90 minutes per week)
* Solo Reading (time varies per family choice; suggested 30-60 minutes per day) 
* Project Work (time varies per family choice; suggested 60-90 minutes per week)

Core Texts
Getting Your Texts/Books
The same texts are used for all three parts of the series.

      New or used copies of the texts will work for use in this course. See for the best prices.
      Choosing Prices: The price range after each title reflects the lowest price (Kindle edition or used edition) to the highest price range (new and/or hardback edition).

Your Book List
Purchase or borrow the following books for the school year (required):
1.     The Story of Civilization (TSoC), Volume 1: The Ancient World by Phillip Campbell, (ISBN- 10: 1505105668; ISBN-13: 978-1505105667) (*New $20; pre-owned $12) (Used All Year) Note: Supplementary TSoC Student and Teacher texts and Audio/Video products are optional. Depending upon your budget, we recommend adding supplementary texts as tools for further engagement.
2.     Archimedes and the Door of Science, by Jeanne Bendick. (ISBN- 10: 9781883937126; ISBN-13: 978-1883937126) (*New $13; pre-owned $5) (Used Part One)
3.     D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, by Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire (ISBN- 10: 9780440406945; ISBN-13: 978-0440406945 (*New $14; pre-owned $5) (Used All Year)
4.     Around the Year Once Upon a Time Saints, by Ethel Pochocki (ISBN- 10: 1932350268; ISBN-13: 978-1932350265) (*New $15; pre-owned $14) (Used All Year)
5.     Detectives in Togas, by Henry Winterfeld, (ISBN-10: 0152162801; ISBN- 13: 978-0152162801) (Fall 2019) (*New $7; pre-owned $3.50) (Used Part One)
6.     St. Paul the Apostle, by Mary Fabyan Windeatt (ISBN: 9780895554260) (*New $16; Pre-owned $8.50 BF) (Used Used Part Two and Three)
7.     Galen and the Gateway to Medicine, by Jeanne Bendick (ISBN: 9781883937751; ISBN-10: 1883937752) (*New $15; pre-owned $9.50) (Used Part Two and Three)

Frequently Asked Questions
What role does the parent play?
In this unit study program, the parent’s role is to…
1. Schedule and implement the course material into your daily school and home life.
2. Schedule and engage in read-aloud time. 
3. Guide students with art and science projects.
3. Grade some student work (approximately 30-60 minutes per week, depending on family choice of enrichment activities).
4. Watch recorded class sessions with your student(s) each week. 

What’s included in the course?
Enrolled families will receive…
1. A weekly checklist of activities and assignments and a timeline template.
2. Computer-graded quizzes, project work instructions (science, art, history), and creative writing assignments.
3. A suggested daily schedule for the four-day school week. 
4. A list of optional supplementary books for solo reading for multiple grade levels.
5. A recorded class each week with the instructor.

Is Instructor Access offered for this course?
Yes! Mrs. Jackie de Laveaga is available for grading assistance. The course plan for each semester includes eight to ten assignments that are designed to be submitted for instructor grading. These assignments are in addition to the auto-graded quizzes and parent-graded assignments which are in the course. These instructor-graded assignments include science and history assignments, and art projects as well as creative writing assignments. Instructor Access is an optional service for parents who would like additional help for a fee.

Can I sign up for this course with Single Access?
Since the Grade School Unit Study Program is made up of multiple subjects, it is not eligible for the single-course price. It is available through Unlimited Access and can be used with multiple children.

Can my preschool to 2nd grade children join in this course with older siblings?
Yes! Younger children can participate in read aloud time and activities with older brothers and sisters. Parents can adjust projects to a younger child’s ability. We recommend For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann (Homeschool Connections Co-Founder) for picture books from the era. (

Can I coordinate the grade school program with your middle and high school courses?
Yes! Your older students can also get both LIVE, interactive courses and/or recorded, independent-learning courses here at Homeschool Connections -- courses that cover the same historical era as this program, so your elementary through high school students can study the same four-year historical sequence together.

When you give your middle and high school students courses in the same areas of History, Literature, Science, and more, you create a full, multi-grade study of the same era in your homeschool. Visit “The Four Year Cycle” article for more information on matching courses here:

Your Instructor
Jackie de Laveaga, M.Ed.
Your instructor for the Grade School Unit Study program is Mrs. Jackie de Laveaga.
Mrs. de Laveaga holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in English and Secondary Education and a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree with an emphasis in Language Arts Instruction. Her career and her experience include teaching online middle school and high school courses in writing, journalism, and humanities – as well as teaching live courses in literature, history, composition, and drama to students in grades 1 through college. Mrs. de Laveaga loves homeschooling and learning alongside her five children; two have graduated from college and married, one is in college, and two of her children are at home. You can reach Mrs. de Laveaga by email at

Questions?We’re happy to help!
Simply email, or call Toll Free, 1-888-372-4757, and we’ll get right back to you with answers!