It sounds like a misnomer, doesn’t it? I mean, homeschooling is kind of radical and newfangled, right? It wasn’t so long ago that those who wanted to do it had to fight the state and everyone thought their kids were, well, weird. I wanted to homeschool Emily but everyone discouraged me because it was such a strange notion in 1996!
I’m not getting ready to say that it’s old-fashioned because in the olden days people were taught at home, even though that’s true. What’s old-fashioned about my method is the books I am using.
After about fourteen years of having kids in school, not to mention my own schooling and the reading I have done on the subject, I know one thing: educational fads come and go. [21 years and counting now and still as true as ever] Some time I will write a post on some of the stupider ones I’ve seen–thankfully–go. And even though last year I was a radical unschooler, when I choose to TEACH school, I prefer the tried and true.
Because of my brutal new schedule (really, it feels that way) I can’t write long blog posts at the moment, so I will just talk about what William and I are using for reading class right now. It’s Roads to Follow, the third grade book from The New Cathedral Basic Readers series. (William is in fourth grade, but doesn’t read aloud as well as he should. We are reading much more each day than he would in school, and thus will finish the third and fourth grade readers at least this year.)
Roads to Follow was published in 1964. I got my copy at St. Joseph School when I was a pupil there. We may have read from it occasionally, and from some of the other books I have, when we ran out of stories in the Keys to Reading series which were used the entire time I was there (more on those excellent books later–nowadays they seem to switch series every time you turn around). But the reason I have the book is that it was discarded. I remember a big cart full of books sitting in the hallway at school, free for the taking. While it’s sad–a tragedy, really–that these Catholic classics are no longer being used in our Catholic schools, I am so glad I got them and have kept them all these years.
You see, Catholic schools no longer use specifically Catholic textbooks. Some of these classics have been reprinted specifically for use by Catholic homeschoolers, but apparently they fell out of use in parochial schools because the schools could not use the government money they accepted to purchase them. When I was a child, I recall our English books having specifically Catholic references as well.
The stories in these books are engaging and William enjoys them. Some of them were written especially for the series; some are excerpted from children’s novels (like Carolyn Hayward’s Betsy series). There are poems–even one of my favorites by J.R.R. Tolkien! While the stories reflect a certain fifties sensibility–boys playing baseball in vacant lots, mothers baking in the kitchens, little girls shopping, fathers working in the city–they are surprisingly multi-cultural in an unselfconscious way–there are Asian, African-American, and Hispanic families; children living with a grandparent or only a mother; families formed by adoption.
But the best thing about the book is it is overtly Catholic. Most of the teachers are sisters.
One of today’s stories was about a baptism; another was about a little boy who longed to serve at Mass despite his young age. I love that William can learn about his faith at the same time he is practicing his reading.