Five Reasons to Read Poetry to Your Kids

Here are the top five reasons to read poetry to, and with, your children.

1. Poems can communicate in ways that prose cannot. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” for instance, teaches children that they should leave their doors and windows shut while reading quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore, so that devil-birds don’t come haunt them forever. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” communicates powerfully the need for bosses to be clear and specific about their instructions, rather than gesturing vaguely in the direction of the enemy and breezily declaring that “Gosh, it would be nice if those Russian fellows were cleared out of that Valley of Death, eh what?”

2. Poetry, especially rhyming poetry, embeds itself in the mind, thus guaranteeing that the child will have a rich mental storehouse to draw upon in later years. At many difficult and soul-wearying points in our lives, we have been deeply comforted when a poem we memorized long ago rises in our minds:

Oh there once was a puffin
Just the shape of a muffin
and he lived on an island
in the bright blue sea.
He ate little fishes
that were most delicious,
And he had them for supper
and he had them for tea.

Inspiring stuff!

3. Poetry helps children to notice the tiny moments of beauty in everyday life. Who will ever look at clouds the same way after hearing Christina Rossetti’s charming poem “Clouds” depict them as sheep? And after reading Carl Sandburg’s lovely poem “Fog,” you can no longer just think of fog as “the condition that delayed my connecting flight and stranded me in Newark Airport for 24 hours and is the reason why I still twitch involuntarily when I pass a Jersey Mike’s Subs.”

4. Reciting poetry in front of an audience of parents or friends is excellent training for public speaking, something your child will need to master if she is to give school presentations, run office meetings, and provide hilarious maid-of-honor toasts at her sister’s wedding. (Sample: How many homeschoolers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  None; we skipped the unit on lightbulb-replacement because we got really into Ancient Egypt that year and spent three months building a pyramid in our backyard and then never finished our history curriculum so I still don’t know how World War II ended.)

and finally,

5. Poetry reminds us who we truly are as a nation, and of who we could be. In this era of partisan bickering, fake news, Twitter trolls, and bitterly contested elections, poems can unite us around the larger truth: that the umpire was blind as a bat, and that the first two pitches that mighty Casey didn’t swing at were balls, not strikes. #JusticeForMudville #CaseyWasRobbed

For these and many other reasons, we created Heroes, Horses, and Harvest Moons Illustrated Reader: A Cornucopia of Best-Loved Poems. Gorgeous illustrations and classic poems will provide hours of enjoyment for you and your children. All the illustrations in this article are from this book and were created by Crystal Cregge.

And for actual serious reasons to introduce your child to poetry, check out this article by master storyteller Jim Weiss.


Is “The Creative Writer” Right for You?

In this video, Susan Wise Bauer introduces you to The Creative Writer curriculum. This series is perfect for middle-school and high-school students who want to improve their creative writing and sharpen their skills at crafting exciting fiction and vivid poetry.


I’m Susan Wise Bauer. I’m the co-author of the book “The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home“. And I’m the author of the “Writing With Skill” expository writing series from Well-Trained Mind Press.

Now, “Writing With Skill” teaches students how to write essays and research papers and persuasive papers, all that great non-fiction stuff they have to know how to do in order to do their freshman composition at college. But you might not know that we also have a series that approaches writing in a completely different way, it’s called “The Creative Writer”, there are four volumes. And it was written by my very good friend, the award-winning novelist, and writing teacher Boris Fishman.

Now, these four books walk students through the basics of creative writing. Each level getting a little bit more difficult as it goes. So the first one is five-finger exercises, and this introduces them to character development and plot and setting in fiction, and also the basics of poetry. Level two leads them into doing longer works, short stories on longer points. Level three really focuses in on craft, on things like complex point of view, word choice, different poetry formats. And then level four really guides students on how to think and live like writers: how to write in different genres, how to plan out writing time, how to really delve deep into the craft.

So, if you’ve got a kid who enjoys creative writing, is interested in fiction and poetry, I’d encourage you to check out the four levels of The Creative Writer at


The Great Books: History as Literature

Copyright 2000 by the author.  Please do not reproduce.  Some of this material is adapted from The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, which contains more detailed information on the topic.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
-Richard Steele, The Tatler
I. Why use the Great Books as the center of a literature and history curriculum?
A. Using the Great Books breaks down the artificial division between history and literature.
B. Instead of memorizing facts about the past, the student is encourage to interact with the ideas of the past.
C. Using the Great Books as the center of a history/literature course also encourages the student to think about how we know what we know about the past.
D. The goal of the study of Great Books is a greater understanding of our own civilization, country, and place in time, stemming from an understanding of what has come before us.

II. Caveats
A. The goal of the classical education is not an exhaustive exploration of great literature, but an introduction to the ideas of the past.
B. If a student tackles a book on the list and, after a good try, finds it incomprehensible, move on.
C. List making is a dangerous occupation.  We’ve left important books off this list.  We’ve put titles on it that you may find trivial.  All lists reflect ideology; add or drop titles to adjust lists to your own purposes.

III. The pattern of study

Ancients    6000 BC-AD 400
Medieval/Early Renaissance  AD 400-1600
Late Renaissance/Early Modern 1600-1850
Modern    1850-Present

(This gives you more or less an equal number of important texts to cover during each period.)


A. Establish the framework of historical facts, using a decent book of world history (the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia).
1. Set a goal for the year (6000 BC through 400 AD) and read through these pages over the course of your year’s study.
2. Steer away from history texts, which provide a predigested interpretation of history.
3. Look for something that progresses chronologically rather than by country. (Explain why.)
B. Keep a time line of important events — birth and death of important people, battles, scientific discoveries, etc.
C. Read through the Booklist chronologically.
1. Mark the birth and death dates of the authors on the time line.  Highlight the life span in a particular color.
2. Read the book.
3. Talk about the book with the child.
a. For a novel/story:
Who is this book about? (central character[s])
What do the central characters want?
What keeps them/him/her from getting it?
How do they/him/her get what they want?
Do they have an enemy or enemies?  Is there a villain?
What does the villain want?
What do you think is the most important event in the story?
What leads up to this event?
How are the characters different after this event?
Pick out the most important event in each chapter.
How many different stories does the writer tell?
b. For evaluation:
What was the most exciting part of the book?
What was the most boring part of the book?
Did you like the character[s]? Why or why not?
Did you hope that he/she would get what he/she wanted?
Did any part of the book seem particularly real?
Did any part of the book seem unlikely to you?
Did you hope it would end in another way?  How?
Would you read this book again?
Which one of your friends would enjoy this book?
4.  Write about the book.
a. Begin with simple narratives — having the student retell the story of the book in his or her own words.  Aim for 1 page. Help him to evaluate each detail by asking questions: “Is that important later on?  Would the story still makes sense if you left that part out?  Does that character show up again at the end of the book?  What does he do?  If you leave him out of your report, will the story end the same way?”  At the end of the narration, ask the child to write a one- or two-sentence evaluation of the book that includes specific reasons why he did or didn’t like the book.
b. Move towards doing an evaluative paper: that is, a short essay (start with 1 page!) answering one of the above questions.  This is beginning socratic dialogue.  Use Reading Strands (National Writing Institute), a step by step guide to beginning Socratic dialogue.
5) Put the compositions in a notebook.


ANCIENTS, 5000 BC-400 AD

Roger Lancelyn Green, The Tale of Troy
The Luck of Troy
Tales of the Greek Heroes
Tales of Ancient Egypt
Padraic Colum, The Children’s Homer (Iliad and Odyssey)
The Golden Fleece (Greek myths)
Rosemary Sutcliffe, Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of THE ILIAD
The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Story of THE ODYSSEY
Myths and Legends series, originally published by Henry Z. Walck, Inc., recently reissued by Oxford University Press.
English Fables and Fairy Stories, James Reeves
Irish Sagas and Folk-Tales, Eileen O’Faolain
Scottish Folk-Tales and Legends, Barbara Ker Wilson
Welsh Legends and Folk-Tales, Gwyn Jones
French Legends, Tales and Fairy Stories, Barbara Leonie     Picard
Scandinavian Legends and Folk-Tales, Gwyn Jones
Russian Tales and Legends, Charles Downing
Yugoslav Folk-Tales, Nada Curcija-Prodanovic
Swiss-Alpine Folk-Tales, Fritz Muller-Guggenbuhl
German Hero-Sagas and Folk Tales, Barbara Leonie Picard
Japanese Tales and Legends, Helen and William McAlpine
Chinese Myths and Fantasies, Cyril Birch
India’s Tales and Legends, J. E. B. Gray
African Myths and Legends, Kathleen Arnott
Olivia Coolidge, Greek Myths (Houghton Mifflin)
The Trojan War (Houghton Mifflin)
Caesar’s Gallic Wars (Shoe String Press) (based on Caesar’s
Commentaries, the story of Caesar’s wars in Gaul, 58-51 BC; the only retelling of Caesar I’ve ever seen!)
Plato, The Last Days of Socrates.  Contains the two dialogues “On Piety” and “The Death
of Socrates”; most fifth-graders can read this if you take one of the parts.  Order from Greenleaf Press (1-800-311-1508).

Historical Novels to find at your library…
The Golden Goblet, Eloise Jarvis McGraw (Penguin).
Mara, Daughter of the Nile, Eloise Jarvis McGraw (Penguin).
Cleopatra, by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema.
The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Speare.
Outcast, Rosemary Sutcliff.
The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff.
The Silver Branch, Rosemary Sutcliff.

MEDIEVAL/EARLY RENAISSANCE 400-1600 AD (sixth grade)

Beowulf: A New Telling, by Robert Nye (Laurel Leaf, 1982); a good (and very exciting)
adaptation on about a sixth-grade level.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, verse translation by J.R. R. Tolkein
Canterbury Tales, retold by Geraldine McCaughrean (Oxford University Press, Oxford
Illustrated Classics Series, 1995).
The Chaucer Coloring Book by Bellerophon contains the Prologue to the
Canterbury Tales, in the original Middle English, along with woodcuts from the earliest published editions.
The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer.  The Penguin Classics modern
English version (available at bookstores)
Dante’s Inferno, Cantos I-V.  Trans. Robert Pinsky (Noonday Press, 1996).
Saint George and the Dragon, from Spenser’s The Fairy Queen, retold by Margaret
Hodges, or try your library for Geraldine McCaughrean’s retelling, which is out of print.
A version of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur:
The Boy’s King Arthur : Sir Thomas Malory’s History of King Arthur and His
Knights of the Round Table (Atheneum, 1989).  Edited by Sidney Lanier, original illustrations by N.C. Wyeth.
The Sword and the Circle : King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, by
Rosemary Sutcliff (Puffin, 1994).
The Sword in the Stone, T. H. White’s marvelous reworking of Malory’s Morte
d’Arthur (Philomel Books, 1993) (also The Once and Future King, use your judgment)
The Log of Christopher Columbus’ First Voyage to America in the Year 1492.  Columbus’
actual log, edited by Margaret Wise Brown (Shoe String Press).
Shakespeare Stories, by Leon Garfield (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), or Stories from
Shakespeare.  Marchette Chute.  (Order from The Writing Company’s Shakespeare catalog, 1- 800-421-4246.)
The Oxford School Shakespeare Series.
Henry V
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Children of Odin, by Padric Colum; retellings of the Norse myths.
The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green.

1) Read a summary of the play’s plot .
2) Watch at least one staged production first.
3)  Then read the text.
Historical Novels to find at your library.
The Lantern Bearers, Rosemary Sutcliff.
Augustine Came to Kent by Barbara Willard.
The Door in the Wall, Marguerite deAngeli.
The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow, by Allen French.
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray.
The Trumpeter of Krakow, by Eric P. Kelly .
Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry.
I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borten de Trevino.
Howard Pyle’s classic young-adult novels of medieval times (reprinted by Dover):
Otto of the Silver Hand
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights
The Story of the Champions of the Round Table
The Story of Sir Launcelot and his Champions
The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood


The Reading List
Don Quixote, retold by Michael Harrison.
The Complete Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Charles Perrault et. al.
“A Voyage to Lilliput” and “A Voyage to Brobdingnag” from Gulliver’s Travels,
Jonathan Swift.
Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, or Pilgrim’s Progress : A Retelling by Gary D.
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
William Wordsworth’s Collected Poems (Dover Thrift edition, $1)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving.
Robert Browning: “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”
Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
“The Way to Wealth,” Benjamin Franklin.  In Benjamin Franklin: The
Autobiography and Other Writings
Christina Rossetti: “Goblin Market,” “A Birthday,” “Sister Maude”, “No, Thank
You, John”
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
“The Lady of Shalott” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Alfred Lord
Tennyson; in any Tennyson collection.
“The Raven,” Edgar Allen Poe
East O’ the Sun and West O’ the Moon : Fifty-Nine Norwegian Folk Tales, by
Peter Christen Asbjrnsen
Narrative of the  Life of Frederick Douglass, an American  Slave: Written by
Himself, Frederick Douglass

Historical novels and biographies to find at your library
America’s Paul Revere, Esther Forbes
Amos Fortune, Free Man, Elizabeth Yates

Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink
Calico Captive, Elizabeth George Speare
The Courage of Sarah Noble, by Alice Dalgliesh
Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, Rachel Field
Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes
My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
Toliver’s Secret, by Esther Wood Brady
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
Reformation Biographies from Greenleaf Press
The Beggar’s Bible by  Louis Vernon (story of John Wyclffe)
The Man Who Laid the Egg, by Louis Vernon (story of Erasmus)
Queen of the Reformation, Charles Ludwig (story of Katie Luther)

MODERN 1850-Present

Kidnapped or Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
“Man Without a Country,” Edward E. Hale
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Any of the Sherlock Holmes stories or The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan
The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling
The Time Machine or The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells
The Call of the Wild, Jack London
Any of the Father Brown stories, G. K. Chesterton
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baronness Orczy
Any short stories of O. Henry
Ann of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
“The Song of Hiawatha,” Longfellow
“The Road Not Taken” and other poems of Robert Frost
Collected poems of e. e. cummings
Poems 1919-1934, any selections, Walter de la Mare
The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (Knopf, 1994) or The Block: Poems (Viking
Childrens Books, 1995) by Langston Hughes
“The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde
“Pygmalion,” George Bernard Shaw
“The Crucible,” Arthur Miller
“A Man for All Seasons,” Robert Bolt

Historical Novels to find at your library…
Sing Down the Moon, by Scott O’Dell
Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith
Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt
Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom

A. Preparation:
Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book
Os Guiness and Louise Cowan, Introduction to the Classics
National Writing Institute, Reading Strands

B. Set the framework of historical facts and then read.
1. Resources:
A Short History of Western Civilization (Harrison)
The Timetables of History (Simon & Schuster)
Dorling Kindersley History of the World.
2. Divide study into four years:
Ancients (BC 5000-400 AD), ninth grade
Medieval/Early Renaissance (400-1600), tenth grade
Late Renaissance/Early Modern (1600-1850), eleventh grade
Modern (1850-present), twelfth grade.
3. Keep a three-ringed notebook labelled Great Books:
a)  Context
b) Book Notes
c) Compositions.
4) For each book on the list, the student should follow this pattern:
a) Create a context page.  Glance at the appropriate pages in the Timetables of History and the History of the World.  Read the corresponding section in the Short History of Western Civilization.  Then, write a one-page summary setting the book in historical perspective.  Give basic information about the author, his times, his country, and his purposes in writing; summarize great events going on in the rest of the world.  File this page under Context.
b) Read through the text, pencil in hand, using the techniques suggested in Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book.  File all the notes you take on the book in the Book Notes section of the Great Books notebook.
c) Discuss the text.  Talk about its purposes, its strengths and weaknesses.  Have a conversation about the ideas.
d) Write about the text: an evaluation, an argumentative essay proving some point about the book, or an analysis of the book’s ideas.  Put the finished composition (at least two pages) in the Compositions section of the notebook.
C. BOOKLIST (read chronologically, pick and choose titles)

Ninth grade, BC 5000-400 AD
The Bible: Genesis, Job
Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2500 BC)
The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer (c. 850 BC)
A Day in Old Athens by William S. Davis
History of the Persian Wars by Herodotus (485-424 BC)
The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
(Livingston abridged edition) (460-395 BC)
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex (c. 440 BC)
Medea, Euripides (c. 431 BC)
The Frogs, Aristophanes (405 BC)
Republic, Symposium, Plato (c. 387 BC)
On Poetics, Ethics, Aristotle (384-322 BC)
A Day in Old Rome by William S. Davis
The Bible: The Book of Daniel (c. 165 BC)
On the Nature of Things, Lucretius (c. 60 BC)
De republic, Cicero (54 BC)
The Aeneid by Virgil (c. 30 BC)
Metamorphoses by Ovid (c. 5)
The Bible: Paul, 1 & 2 Letters to the Corinthians (c. 58 AD)
The Wars of the Jews by Josephus (c. 68)
The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Roman, Plutarch (c.100)
The Annals of Tacitus (c. 117)
On the Incarnation by Athanasius (c. 300)

Tenth grade, 400-1600
Augustine, Confessions and City of God, Book 8 (c. 411)
The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius (524)
The Koran (selections) (c. 650)
Beowulf (c. 1000)
The Mabinogion (c. 1050)
1066: The Year of Conquest, Howartz Dand
Cur Deus Homo by Anselm (c. 1090)
Life in a Medieval Barony, William Stearns Davis
The Magna Carta, James Daugherty
Aquinas: Selected Writings (ed. Robert Goodwin) (c. 1273)
The Inferno, Dante (1320)
Gawain and the Green Knight (c. 1400)
Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (selections)(c. 1400)
Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur (selections)(c. 1470)
Education of a Christian Prince (selections)(1510)
The Prince by Machiavelli (1513)
Utopia by Thomas More (1516)
Commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther (c. 1520)
Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin (selections)   (1536)
Aztecs and Spaniards, Albert Marrin
Empires Lost and Won: The Spanish Heritage in the Southwest,
Albert Marrin
Novum Organum, Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Faustus, Marlowe (1588)
The Faerie Queene, Spenser (1590)
Julius Caesar (1599), Hamlet (1600), or other plays,
Life in Elizabethan Days, William Stearns Davis

Eleventh grade, 1600-1850
Cervantes, Don Quixote (abridged)(1605)
Divine Meditations, John Donne (c. 1635)
Principles of philosophy, Rene Descartes (1644)
Paradise Lost (selections), Milton (1664)
Pensees, Pascal (1670)
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1678)
“An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” John Locke (1690)
Gulliver’s Travels, Swift (1726)
“On American Taxation,” Burke (1774)
The War for Independence, Albert Marrin
“The Social Contract,” Rousseau (1762)
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1771)
The Declaration of Independence (1776)
“Critique of Pure Reason,” Kant (1781)
The Federalist Papers, Hamilton
The Constitution of the United States (ratified 1788)
Songs of Innocence and Experience, Blake (1789)
“The Rights of Man,” Paine (1792)
Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth and Coleridge (1798)
Pride and Prejudice, Austen (1813)
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1818)
“Ode to a Nightingale” and other poems of Keats (1820s)
The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper (1826)
“The Lady of Shalott” and other poems of Tennyson (1832)
“The Fall of the House of Usher” and other stories of Poe   (1839)
“Self-Reliance,” Emerson (1844)
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1847)
Moby Dick, Melville (1851)

Twelfth grade, 1850-present day
Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engles (1848)
de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1805-1860)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe (1852)
Walden, Thoreau (1854)
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman (1855)
Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky (1856)
On the Origin of Species, Darwin (1859)
Great Expectations, Dickens (1861)
Unconditional Surrender: U.S. Grant and the Civil War,
Albert Marrin
Virginia’s General: Robert E. Lee, Albert Marrin
“Gettysburg Address,” Lincoln (1863)
Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, Sandburg (Pulitzer
biography, 1940)
War and Peace, Tolstoy (1864)
The Return of the Native, Hardy (1878)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche (1883)
Huckleberry Finn, Twain (1884)
Selected Poems, W. B. Yeats (1895)
The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud (1900)
“The Innocence of Father Brown,” Chesterton (1911)
Selected Poems, Wilfrid Owen (1918)
“A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes,” Frost (Pulitzer, 1924)
“The Trial,” Kafka (1925)
“Murder in the Cathedral,” T. S. Eliot (1935)
“Our Town,” Thornton Wilder (1938)
The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck (1939)
Mein Kampf, Hitler (1939)
Animal Farm, Orwell (1945)
The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank (1947)
Invisible Man, Ellison (1952)
Mere Christianity, Lewis (1952)
“The Crucible,” Miller (1953)
“A Man for All Seasons, Bolt (1962)
“Why We Can’t Wait,” Martin Luther King Jr. (1964)
“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” Stoppard (1967)
“The Gulag Archipelago,” Solezhenitsyn (1974)
Night, Elie Wiesel (1982)

D. Resources for parents

Seaver College, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California
The Great Books Colloquium is a four-course sequence offered by the Humanities/Teacher Education Division
Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, California
The entire curriculum is centered on Great Books (18% of the student body is home educated)

Escondida Tutorial Services (, a classical tutoring service with a Reformed Protestant emphasis.
The American Classical League web site (
Western Canon University ( sponsers discussions, open forums, and online lectures centered on the Great Books of the western tradition. boasts 20,000 participants from 50 nations.
Kill Devil Hill ( hosts Great Books chats and bulletin boards.
For discussions on Socratic dialogue, see

David Hicks, Norms & Nobility.  The aim of the classical schoolmaster…
…was to form an adult, not to develop a child, and his method was to teach the knowledge of a mature mind, not to offer relevant learning experiences at the level of his student’s stage of psychological development…..[He] perceived childhood as a period of becoming rather than a state of being.  Children, he recognized, want to be brought up; they do not want to remain 12- year-olds.  The healthy child wants to become an adult, just as the mature adult wants to be an adult.  For this reason, Isokrates taught his students what in fact they wanted to know: how to think and act like a mature person.  This….helps account for the extraordinarily high standards of achievement he expected of his young pupils, demanding of them an unusual command of language and knowledge of myth, always believing that the mastery of these subjects would shape in them a mature and sensitive style and conscience….The activity of learning takes place in a no- man’s land between what the student can accomplish and what he may not be able to accomplish.  This fact sets up a creative tension in education, to which both student and teacher must become accustomed and responsive.  The teacher who refrains from assigning Silas Marner to his 12- year-old students because George Eliot’s syntax is too complicated and her periodic sentences too long may be avoiding this creative tensions….His students may never know the joy of reading George Eliot because he shirks a calling in which the daily work is accomplished through the virtues of adversity.



Coding for Kids

A list of links, guides, apps, and resources from around the web to help kids learn to code and help parents/educators do the teaching.

Subject: Coding

Grade level: Grades 3-8


Description: A list of links, guides, apps, and resources from around the web to help kids learn to code and help parents/educators do the teaching.


Where Do I Start With Grammar?

When beginning a homeschooling grammar program, you probably wonder what curriculum would be best for you. Let us help you figure out where to begin, if you’re using one of our great options: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind and Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind.

First Language Lessons is an easy-to-use four-year grammar curriculum for the early elementary years. With it, you can give your child a strong foundation in clear communication and skills necessary for good writing. Topics covered include: punctuation, parts of speech, capitalization, contractions, dictionary usage, letter-writing, and sentence diagramming.

Generally, first and second graders should begin with First Language Lessons Level One. (Levels one and two used to be combined in the same book. We broke them up for consistency and ease of use with our other materials. So, Level two assumes the student has already gone through Level one.) Following Level Two, Level Three assumes the student has had no previous grammar instruction and thoroughly reviews everything found in levels One and Two (at a third grade pace) before introducing sentence diagramming. A fourth grader should begin with Level Four.

First Language Lessons provides students with the perfect introduction to language to begin Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind.

Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind takes middle-grade students (roughly 5th-8th grade, though some students start in 6th or 7th) from basic definitions through advanced sentence structure and analysis—all the grammar skills needed to write and speak with eloquence and confidence and be prepared for high school and college work. The curriculum is best suited for students who have a grasp of diagramming and a strong foundation in grammar and the English language. Because Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind is aimed towards older students, the curriculum moves faster and uses more complex sentences as examples. For a guide to make Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind work for your student, check out our Teaching Tips.

The primary difference between Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind and First Language Lessons, aside from their age level difference, is that First Language Lessons is sequential while Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind is cyclical. Remember that when using Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind, there are no “years” or “levels” as such. Any level of Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind is a good place to start with any student 5th grade and up.

The most important rule when using either grammar curriculum is patience. The goal is proficiency, not a rapid progress through workbooks. Build your students’ understanding and mastery of grammar rules; a lifetime of clear communication awaits.


Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind: New Titles, Same Great Curriculum

Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind is a four-year grammar program designed for students fifth grade and above. New students may take more than one year to get through their first Workbook. Once a student has completed all four workbooks in our program, they will have all of the grammar knowledge that they need to go on to the study of rhetoric, the application of grammar to written and spoken words.

How Does it Work?

Each year, you will use the same Core Instructor Text, which has all of the lessons you will be teaching the student.



Each year, you will use a different Workbook (containing student exercises) and Key (containing answers and explanations). There will be four Workbooks, along with their corresponding Keys, each named after the color of the cover. The Purple Workbook, for instance, used to be titled Student Workbook Year 1. The Key to Purple Workbook used to be titled Key to Student Workbook 1.


We recently changed the names of our Workbooks and Keys because the original names implied that these Workbooks must be gone through sequentially. In reality, it does not matter what Workbook you start your instruction with, since each workbook covers the exact same rules and examples. The exercises change in each workbook – but only in content, not in intensity. The Student Workbooks do not build on each other. Each one can be used independently, at any time during the course of your study.

You can begin this grammar program with any Workbook and corresponding Key because our program is based on the three essential things that have to happen in order for students’ minds to really comprehend grammar: repetition, memorization, and practice.

Why Do it This Way?

We use the same Core Instructor Text every year so you can use the same words to explain the grammar concepts to the student each year. The same rules, the same examples, every single year. That repetition will help build the information and solidify it in the student’s mind. So the first thing is just memorizing the rules.

Second, whenever you memorize a grammar rule, because grammar is something that governs the way real language works, you need an actual example. So every year the student repeats the same examples that illustrate the rules. That way they always have a concrete example of how the rule works to link to the actual memorized rule in their brain.

The third thing the student needs after this repetition of rules and examples is practice. So although each Workbook has the same rules and the same examples for every year, each one also has a full new set of exercises for the student to practice on. Again, because these exercises only differ in content, not in intensity, you and your student can start the program with any Workbook and corresponding Key combination.

We hope this explanation helps you and your student as you explore Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind!


Apprenticeship Opportunities: High School and Post-High School

Apprenticeship Opportunities: High School and Post-High School

(as referenced on page 216 of Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education, by Susan Wise Bauer)

            The United States lags far behind Europe and our neighbors to the north in providing apprenticeship opportunities. Organized apprenticeship programs are primarily local; national programs are mostly sponsored by the military, and serve the same students who excel at traditional academics.

The links below are merely a starting point. Your best strategy for finding an meaningful apprenticeship is twofold:

  1. Visit your state’s Department of Labor website and check for any documents governing the conditions of apprentices within your locality.
  2. Contact the CEO or managing director of a local company directly, and ask to arrange for an unpaid apprenticeship. Specify the time frame (six months? one year?) and conditions (that’s where the DoL documents might come in handy. Many companies don’t have apprenticeships simply because no one’s asked. But your student could get free job training plus a fantastic reference opportunity—if you inquire.

The U. S. Department of Labor guidelines to “registered apprenticeship” positions, just for your reference, are found here.



The After-School Apprenticeship Program: “The After School Apprenticeship Program (ASAP) is a promising after-school strategy that engages teens in experiences that excite them, connects them with career experts, and builds real world skills that prepare them for college and careers.” Check the website for local programs.

HSAP, sponsored by the U. S. Army: “The High School Apprenticeship Program (HSAP) provides current high school juniors and seniors with an authentic science and engineering research experience alongside university researchers sponsored by the Army Research Office. Though this commuter program students will develop skills in Army critical science and engineering research areas in a university lab setting to prepare them for the next steps of their educational and professional career.”

SEAP, sponsored by the U. S. Navy: “The Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP) provides an opportunity for students to participate in research at a Department of Navy (DoN) laboratory during the summer.”

STEM programs sponsored by the Department of Defense “allow high school and college students the opportunity to engage in hands-on research, solving real-world problems at DoD laboratories and facilities.” []


State and Local:

Arkansas: “The National Apprenticeship Training Foundation (NATF) is a training corporation that specializes in customizing training programs for employers and individuals throughout the United States.” Adult and youth apprenticeships available.

Boston: The Tech Apprentice program

Chicago: After School Matters

Colorado: “CareerWise created a statewide youth apprenticeship model that coordinates the existing systems of industry and education that creates real, tangible benefit for both the employer and the apprentice. The net result is a workforce with the skills Colorado’s industry needs, and students have illuminated pathways to higher education and career.”

Connecticut: Office of Apprenticeship Training

Florida: Department of Education apprenticeship links

Georgia: Youth Apprenticeship Program: “The program enables a student to receive a high school diploma, a post-secondary certificate or degree, and certification of industry-recognized competencies applicable to employment in a high-skilled occupation.”

Iowa: ABC of Iowa Apprenticeships

Kentucky: The KY Apprenticeship program

Maryland: The Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program (MATP)

Missouri: Registered Youth Apprenticeships

New Bedford, Massachusetts: The New Bedford Whaling Museum High School Apprenticeship Program

New York: Department of Labor Apprenticeship Program

North Carolina: The NC Works Apprenticeship program

Ohio: The School-To-Work Apprenticeship Program

San Antonio: The Alamo Academies program

South Carolina: Apprenticeship Carolina (administered through the South Carolina Technical College system)

Wisconsin: Department of Workforce Development Apprenticeship Program



Differences, Disorders, and Disabilities

Differences, Disorders, and Disabilities    

(as referenced on page 37 of Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education, by Susan Wise Bauer)


Throughout this website, we offer resources for parents whose children have learning differences, learning disorders, and learning disabilities. These include:


Consider these additional helps as well:


Aptitude Tests, Personality Quizzes, and Guides to Self-Knowledge

Aptitude Tests, Personality Quizzes, and Guides to Self-Knowledge

(as referenced on page 159 of Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education, by Susan Wise Bauer)

            Self-awareness is difficult—and essential for every maturing adult.

Taking personality quizzes and aptitude tests won’t automatically grant you self-knowledge, but it will put you in an objective, self-evaluative mode that isn’t necessarily natural. And if you do enough of them, you’ll start to see patterns.

Here are some starting places. Do these for fun. If the results ring true, you’ve gained useful knowledge. If not, shrug and forget about them.




What Color Is Your Parachute? 2018: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers, by Richard N. Bolles.

What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens. Third Edition: Discover Yourself, Design Your Future, and Plan for Your Dream Job, by Carol Christen and Richard N. Bolles.

Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, by Paul D. Tieger, Kelly Tieger, and Barbara Barron.

Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type, by Isabel Briggs-Myers and Peter B. Myers.

The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide, by David Daniels and Virginia Price, rev.  and updated edition.

Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills, by Marianne Cantwell.


Personality Tests

You can take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test online here. Although you can find free knock-off versions of the test, it’s worth paying the $49.95 for the full version, which includes feedback on strengths and weaknesses, coping skills, and more. Or, take the test with a licensed assessor. Details here.

The RHETI (Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator) test can be taken at the Enneagram Institute website.

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter test (KTS-II) is available at the Keirsey website. A basic report is free; more detailed reports can be purchased for $8-$20.

The Princeton Review hosts a Career Quiz.

Psychology Today has a whole range of “self tests” that you can view here.

The MAPP test, best for older students, matches personality and aptitude with possible career options.

A selection of fun, open-source personality tests can be found at the Open Source Psychometrics Project.

The Balance provides links to a variety of career and aptitude tests.


For more on finding out how you and your children learn best, and adjusting your educational approach accordingly, check out Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education.


State Requirements for High School Graduation

State Requirements for High School Graduation         

(as referenced on page 16 of Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education, by Susan Wise Bauer)

As you plan out your child’s high school curriculum, remember four things:

  1.  High school graduation requirements are state-mandated. There are no national high school graduation requirements.
  2. They’re constantly changing.
  3. They don’t actually apply to home educators.  Or private schools, unless those schools are pursuing state accreditation, which many don’t bother to do. (For more on this, see Chapter Two of my book Rethinking School.)
  4. It’s far more important to design high school around the child’s interests, abilities, and eventual college application than to follow state standards.

Nevertheless, state standards can provide you with a useful template—as long as you’re willing to adjust the template to fit your kid. Links are provided below.








Arkansas (Arkansas Makes it very hard
to find the standards. Go to page 9 of the linked document.)






District of Columbia








































Standards set by districts,
not the state.


New Hampshire


New Jersey


New Mexico


New York


North Carolina


North Dakota










Rhode Island


South Carolina


South Dakota














West Virginia