FAQ


Philosophy
English Lessons Through Literature
Reading Lessons Through Literature
Wayfarers
Quark Chronicles

Are your programs Christian or secular?

Short answer–secular, once I’ve finished updating ELTL. Wayfarers is inclusive. It still includes optional Bible and theology readings; it also includes optional readings from other faiths for all age groups, in the geography literature for elementary and middle school and in the comparative religions course for high school students.

Keep in mind that “secular” does not mean devoid of any mention of religion! In Abington v. Shempp, Justice Clark wrote for the Court: “It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.” RLTL contains the Elson Readers, Primer through Book 3, and one book includes two stories from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian Old Testament. ELTL Level F contains Chinese and Japanese fairy tales and folk tales, and some of these mention the Buddhist religion. Level F also contains three parables, one each from Christian, Buddhist, and Taoist traditions. The stories in Level H will be Christian parables, Jewish stories from the Talmud and Midrash, and Zen stories. So you can see that I’m not merely using the Supreme Court ruling to justify adding Christian Scripture and still calling my programs secular! Instead, I am attempting to follow both the spirit and the letter of the law; stories are included from multiple traditions as literature, rather than as devotional texts, to promote cultural literacy.

Most of our curricula have always been secular in nature. Handwriting Lessons Through Literature, Reading Lessons Through Literature, the American studies books, and the primal nutrition books do not any include religious sources, and I did not add anything of a religious nature to them. It wasn’t a deliberate choice. I have simply never felt that it is necessary to deliberately add religion to every curriculum that we use in our household. I believe that if we are living out our faith–or our values, for those who are not religious–then it’s not necessary to add Bible verses or morality lessons to our math pages.

English Lessons Through Literature and Wayfarers have been the exceptions–ELTL because of the copywork and Wayfarers because of the reading assignments.

ELTL is currently transitioning to a secular program. While it originally had Christian artwork, poetry, and copywork from the Bible included in it, we are removing the Christian content to make the program friendlier to those of all faiths and to make it available to those using state sponsored programs. (Note to Christian customers: You will be able to download a free file with the original Bible copywork when this change is complete. The original art files with the free color copies of the artwork will also still be available. The copywork is from the workbooks, so it is already formatted and ready to print and use. Also, the original workbooks will remain available. Read this FAQ for information about using the original workbooks with the updated textbooks.)

While making this change, we are also taking the opportunity to change the level titles. The original books were titled with numbers (Level 1, Level 2, etc.); these are the books which include Christian poetry, art, and scripture as copywork and/or dictation. The new secular books will be titled with letters and words (A – Aspiring, B – Blossoming, etc.). This will make it immediately obvious which version of the book you are buying.

With Wayfarers, we’ve always sought to accommodate those of all faiths. For our predominantly Christian customer base, Wayfarers includes optional Christian readings: a Bible reading plan for all ages, church history for Rhetoric, and theology reading for Upper Dialectic and Rhetoric stages. But it also includes optional readings from many other religious traditions. For Grammar and Dialectic students, these optional readings are found primarily in the geography literature reading lists. For Rhetoric students, we include a comparative religions course which includes readings from the scriptures of many different world religions.

Wayfarers has many reading lists, and some of the books included are from a Christian perspective. These are clearly marked so that you can choose the books best for your family.

Who won’t like ELTL and Wayfarers?

Not everyone will like the methodologies used for teaching in my programs. Some people don’t like the poetry and the stories in ELTL, and though these are easily skipped, some people don’t like skipping material.

But the larger issue, for both ELTL and Wayfarers, is slow reading. While classical education can include reading a lot of books in a short amount of time, Wayfarers and ELTL are more in line with CM and Latin-Centered philosophy, that it’s best to read books slowly. I’m a big fan of slow reading. Each book is read for weeks, one chapter at a time, just a few times a week. This type of reading takes some people time to get used to, but the benefit is great: You gain time. Great literature is great because it is filled with ideas, many of which are lost through fast reading. Slow reading allows time for the student to think deeply about what he’s read. It allows time for an education to become narrow and deep rather than wide and shallow. If you and your student prefer to zip through one book and get on to the next, and you’re not interested in changing this behavior, then you’re unlikely to enjoy ELTL or Wayfarers.

Should we supplement?

Supplementing can be the first step to overload and burn-out when it’s not really necessary. In general, for any subject, I recommend supplementing only when there’s a good reason for it. Does the child need extra practice? Does he need multiple explanations to understand the material? Do you just like covering the material in multiple ways? Do you want to teach skills on a different schedule? If not, then I recommend choosing the program which is most aligned with your educational philosophy and then just stick with it.

Didn’t Charlotte Mason say not to teach grammar to young children?

I often see arguments from Charlotte Mason homeschoolers that we should not teach children grammar until they are approximately 10 years old, and they quote Charlotte Mason herself on this topic. She said, “One limitation I did discover in the minds of these little people; my friend insisted that they could not understand English Grammar; I maintained that they could and wrote a little Grammar (still waiting to be prepared for publication!) for the two of seven and eight; but she was right; I was allowed to give the lessons myself with what lucidity and freshness I could command; in vain; the Nominative ‘Case’ baffled them; their minds rejected the abstract conception just as children reject the notion of writing an ‘Essay on Happiness.'”

It is immediately obvious that my idea of teaching grammar to young children is somewhat different than that of Ms. Mason. While she talks about teaching the nominative case, I speak of having them memorize definitions of the parts of speech and to practice finding them in sentences.

This is one of those areas where I find myself more in agreement with Susan Wise Bauer–though I’m not convinced that Charlotte Mason would disagree. Young children memorize quickly and easily, and they even seem to enjoy it. Memorizing definitions is a good brain workout, and young children will find their own things to memorize–including facts about animals, super heroes, or Pokemon–and natter on endlessly about them. When we see children doing something on their own, this shows us conclusively that it is neither an onerous nor a developmentally inappropriate task.

Memorizing definitions and practicing finding the parts of speech in sentences is akin to early math drills. By helping our children recognize the parts of speech early, we make it easier for them to do more advanced analyzing when they’re a bit older. When they do not receive this foundation first, they are left to learn too much information at once, and they often flounder because of this.

But when grammar is treated with the same respect that math receives–when children practice it a bit each year, with the study slowly increasing in complexity–they are able to fully understand it in a way that they otherwise would not be able to do.

Why does ELTL now have letters and words for the levels instead of numbers?

My hope is that having letters instead of numbers will prevent parents and students from identifying the level number with a school grade. We personally do not start the first book–Level A, Aspiring–until second grade, and I’ve known moms who used the fourth or fifth level with students who were in 7th grade–or even higher. And this is fine! It’s important to meet our students where they are rather than choosing a text based solely on the level number on the front of the book. Not having that number on the front allows parents and students to evaluate the books independent of such expectations.

Are the ELTL workbooks interchangeable; i.e. can I use Level A text with Level 1 workbook and vice versa, etc.?

When English Lessons Through Literature was updated and the level titles went from numbers to letters, the main content of each book remained the same. So it is possible to use either workbook with either text–A with 1, B with 2, etc. However, be aware that some of the copywork will be different–the copywork in the text will not necessarily match the copywork in the workbook. The workbooks with number levels will contain Bible verses where the workbooks with letter levels do not.

Some of the literature changed from Level 1 to Level A–Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney was replaced with The Box-Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, The King of the Golden River by John Ruskin, and several additional stories from The Orange Fairy Book. Due to these changes, this would be the most difficult level to use the other workbook because the literature copywork will not match the literature examples in the text. However, the reading assignments are listed on the workbook pages for each lesson as well as in the textbook, so you could choose to read either literature list and simply do the copywork in the workbook you’ve chosen.

When should we begin ELTL Level A?

Which level of ELTL to begin with is a twofold decision. The decision is a matter of your own personal philosophy regarding formal academics as well as the readiness of the individual child. Level A is for 1st or 2nd grade, Level B is for 2nd or 3rd grade, and Level C is for 3rd or 4th grade.

Regarding philosophy, some prefer more advanced work for their children while others have a “better late than early” attitude. I fall into the latter camp, so we do ELTL a year “behind,” starting Level A in 2nd grade.

Regarding readiness, children should not begin Level A until they are comfortable sounding out the copywork; they do not have to be reading fluently. I consider copywork the star of the show in Level A, so I would not recommend skipping that part of the program under most circumstances.

In the ELTL Level A and B workbooks, what are the big, blank boxes for?

I’ve left space for the student to draw pictures in the ELTL workbooks, so many pages have either an empty box or just a large blank space for pictures.

Why isn’t there an answer key for ELTL Level B?

Levels C and up each have an answer key at the end of the book, but Level B does not because it’s really not important that they get every single noun, verb, etc., in the passage, so don’t feel like it’s a big deal if y’all miss one. The thing is, grammar is complex, and at this stage, children will make some perfectly understandable mistakes. They will call verbals verbs and prepositions adverbs, and it’s okay. This is not going to cause confusion later on. However, trying to analyze every single mistake with a second grader probably will lead to confusion because they’re simply not ready for these fine distinctions. What they are learning is to analyze sentences and think about how words function in sentences.

Those fine distinctions are one of the reasons why there’s no answer key. Would I include verbals as verbs, knowing that the average 2nd or 3rd grader will call them verbs? In the preposition lessons, would I skip the words which are common prepositions but happen to be acting as adverbs in the passage? I felt like no matter what I did with an answer key, in the end it would likely make things more confusing for some people, and at the same time, it wouldn’t actually help anyone meet the goal of the exercise. I really do feel like the act of completing the exercises and the discussions that go along with this process are more important than a perfect list of answers at the end.

Should I begin with ELTL Level A, B, or C for my younger child?

Levels A, B, and C all have basic narrations where the student hears or reads a story and then retells it. I recommend one of these levels for students who have no previous grammar background and need practice in narrating or need to transition from oral to written narrations.

Level A is extremely gentle. Students begin copywork and memory work as well as being introduced to punctuation marks and their purposes. The narrations begin with the student drawing a picture from a fable and then telling about the picture.

Level B begins the actual study of grammar. Students learn all eight parts of speech and practice labeling the parts of speech in sentences from the literature. Narrations begin with very short fables. The fables gradually get longer throughout the book.

Level C teaches the parts of speech and how to diagram most of them. For that reason, I don’t recommend Level C before 3rd grade as diagramming is not developmentally appropriate before that age. The narrations are from longer stories, and Level C begins the exercise where students reconstruct, orally, a sentence in multiple ways. The copywork is a little longer, and prepared dictation begins.

Should I begin with ELTL Level D or Level E for my older child?

Levels D and E are both appropriate for older students. Level E is for 4th grade and up, and Level E is for 5th grade and up. The “and up” is an important distinction! I would not hesitate to use either of these levels with older children who need to cover the basics of grammar and writing. Both levels cover grammar and writing, just as the earlier levels do. However, where the early levels cover writing solely through narration, Levels D and up have an emphasis on more progymnasmata style projects as well as descriptive writing through imitation and beginning literary analysis.

Levels D and E have the same types of writing projects, but with new stories for each level. These are condensed, amplified, point of view, and slant narratives, plus scientific and historical narrations. The scientific and historical narrations are intended to be preparation for writing reports. They read the science story, then write about just the science topic discussed, leaving any other elements of the story out. For the historical and scientific narrations, both levels mention the option of checking other sources before writing; I left that up to the student and the teacher. Level D teaches the one-level outline; Level E reviews the one-level outline and also teaches the two-level outline. Level E covers introductions and conclusions.

Regarding grammar, Level E reviews everything from Level D, but the pacing is a little faster. I would personally choose Level D for a child who has had little to no formal grammar instruction and Level E for a child who has the basics down and is ready to move on to more advanced grammar. Level D teaches indirect objects and diagramming prepositional phrases, identifying the parts of the verb, and determining whether a group of words is a phrase or a clause. Level E repeats that and also teaches types of clauses, sentence structures, diagramming complex and compound sentences, and more advanced punctuation.

How is spelling incorporated into ELTL?

Spelling is incorporated into ELTL through prepared dictation beginning in Level C. Instead of a spelling list, students get a passage from one of the books they are reading. Students should study the passage for five to ten minutes, paying special attention to any words that they do not know how to spell. They should choose two to four words to analyze or study. Then, they should write or type the passage with an instructor watching over their shoulders to correct any misspellings immediately. In this way, the student practices spelling in the context of writing, not merely spelling words in isolation.

Complete instructions for this process are included in every level of RLTL and in Levels C and up of ELTL, which have two dictation exercises scheduled each week.

With which level of RLTL should we begin?

You can begin RLTL in any level. All of the instructional material is in each book.

Because RLTL Level 1 has the most hand-holding, it is best for those new to the O-G method. I generally recommend starting here for most people new to O-G.

If you already have experience with analyzing and marking words–you understand the process and do not feel the need for hand-holding–then it would be fine to start with Level 2 or 3. Be aware, however, that Level 1 teaches all 75 phonograms, so any phonogram can appear in the lists in Levels 2 and up.

Many of the words in Levels 1 and 2 would be considered “easy” words for fluent readers. However, the purpose of the program is to learn to analyze words, not merely learn to spell them. The easier words are, not surprisingly, also easier to analyze. Also, the spelling rules are taught through practice and repetition as they apply to spelling words in the lists, so students get the most repetition by beginning with an earlier level.

RLTL does not include busywork exercises or spelling tests, so any level can be easily accelerated for older students if desired.

How do I use the Spelling Journal and RLTL?

The Spelling Journal is NOT intended to go with RLTL. We use the Spelling Journal along with prepared dictation; that process is explained in an appendix in RLTL as well as ELTL Levels C and up. In prepared dictation, as part of the preparation, the student chooses a couple of words to analyze from the dictation passage. Those words can be analyzed in the Spelling Journal; I actually consider determining WHERE to place the word as part of the process since they have to consider which phonograms and rules apply to the word in question.

For RLTL, you can use a standard composition book, spiral notebook, or just plain paper–whatever is convenient for you, though bound books tend to be handy for reading through the spelling lists. This process is explained in Section 2: The Spelling Lists.

Can I start Wayfarers in the middle of the school year?

Each Wayfarers sample has the complete book list at the beginning, and each book is marked according to which term it appears in, so that can be helpful if you want to start Wayfarers in the middle of the year, starting with Term 2 or Term 3. Simply decide which books are closest to where you are in your studies. Keep in mind that most books will be in progress at the beginning of those terms, so Term 2 may begin with Chapter 5 in a science book and Chapter 11 of 12 in a history book. For this reason, I recommend taking a few days, maybe even a week or more, to “catch up” on the reading that happened in the previous term. So, in the hypothetical case above, you might choose to skip the in-progress history book and just wait for the next book to appear on the schedule. But for the science book, you might want to take a few days and read those first few chapters, then begin using Wayfarers. You may decide to just jump into other books whatever chapter they’re on in the schedule. The amount of prep time you’d spend before starting Wayfarers would depend on the decisions you made for the various books.

My student needs high school English credit. How does Wayfarers provide that?

Remember that high school English is mostly literature and writing. That means when you’re doing science and history THROUGH LITERATURE, you’re doing English at the same time. When your student writes narrations for science and history, you’re doing English at the same time. When you look at the history reading lists, you’ll see that in addition to books simply ABOUT the time period, there are also classic works of literature FROM the time period: Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc. The literature selections are combined with the history reading because they are part of history, too.

In addition to the reading, Wayfarers schedules a research paper for both the junior and senior years, and Wayfarers also schedules reading and writing from Essential Literary Terms.

What Wayfarers DOES NOT explicitly schedule for the last two years of high school is writing literary analysis and persuasive papers other than the research paper. Sharon Watson’s The Power in Your Hands is scheduled for lower rhetoric, and it teaches students to write persuasively. Then they’ll need to CONTINUE writing persuasively throughout high school, and this is simple to do with narrations and with the strategies in Susan Wise Bauer’s lecture, A Plan for Teaching Writing: Focus on the High School Years. I highly recommend this lecture for learning how to cover persuasive writing from the books that your student is already reading.

In addition, you can look at study guides such as CliffsNotes, SparkNotes, or PinkMonkey for some of the literature. These study guides contain questions that your student can use to develop a literary analysis paper.

You can also use your student’s interests and allow him to write persuasive essays based on those while sticking to basic narrations for history and science. As I’ve said before, Jared wrote papers on how the Star Wars films are pro-Jedi propaganda, how the Pokemon franchise over-simplified the original Japanese lore, and how one of the Anti-Federalist writers was a time traveler. Obviously, his topics were very geek-centric. The point is the PERSUASIVE aspect of the paper, so you can do this on any topic your student is passionate about. Some students might prefer this route, while others might prefer to keep their personal interests out of their school work. With Jared, the key was that he was developing these arguments anyway, so I got him to write them down and fully flesh them out.

Will it meet state requirements? That depends on your state, but it SHOULD. If state requirements were that precise, everyone would have to use the same text. If you are concerned, I suggest that you research what the actual requirements are in your state as well as what the requirements are for any colleges that y’all may be considering. Anything I tell you will be very general, and in my state, as long as I can argue equivalency, I can please myself.

How should we determine high school credit with Wayfarers?

First, check the graduation requirements for your state. The following is my opinion, and it may or may not be valid where you live.

Some people calculate the number of hours spent on work, but in my opinion, that is often unfair to the homeschooled student since those numbers include a great deal of sitting in class time, during which instruction is only taking place part of the time, not to mention that different students may complete the exact same work in extremely different amounts of time. In addition, no matter what we do, we will never be *accredited* schools. We teach in completely different ways, so trying to determine credit based on how the schools do things is not really accurate. Because of these reasons, I’ve never bothered with numbers of hours at all. Legally, we still have to deal with issues of “equivalency,” but by the time our students read a spine and all the additional literature, they’ve done far more than even honor students in the public school. In my HS honors classes, we read only four books for government and economics, and we never did any history reading except from the text.

So, provided that students did all the reading from at least one reading list for each subject (including one of the spines) and did some written and oral narrations through the year, including some persuasive writing, I’d have no problem giving 1 credit for English, history, and science for each year of Wayfarers. Year 3 will also cover government (1/2 credit) and economics (1/2 credit). I’d offer 1/2 credit for health and 1/2 to 1 credit in logic, depending on how much the student did. I’d also give 1 credit for geography. I think 1/2 a credit per year for theology is appropriate if you do the Wayfarers theology books or a comparable amount from other sources. Formalize some of the narrations by having the student make notes and talk for a minimum of 3-5 minutes, and you could award 1/2 credit for public speaking, too, with very little additional work.

That’s roughly 17-18 credits, and then there would be another 3-4 credits of math, depending on what your state requires. There’s also an art program scheduled as well as art appreciation as an option in year 3 and music appreciation as an option in year 4. And, of course, you could add or substitute other electives based on your state’s requirements as well as the interest of the student.

For what age range is Quark Chronicles intended?

Generally speaking, I recommend Quark Chronicles for 2nd or 3rd grade on up to 7th or 8th grade. Younger children might enjoy listening along with older siblings, though they may not understand much of the science. And at the upper end of that age range, students would definitely need some more advanced books to go along with it.

You say Quark Chronicles is neutral, but what do YOU believe, and does QC have a hidden agenda?

This concern keeps coming up, so I want to be abundantly clear about this particular topic.

We honestly do not care what you believe. I mean this in the kind and loving “it’s not our business” kind of way! I do not care whether you believe in a literal seven day creation, intelligent design, evolution, or seeding of life on earth by advanced alien civilizations. We have no desire to usurp the parents’ authority to pass along their own beliefs to their own children.

We’ve seen comments from creationists who say that QC uses language that indicates evolution, and we’ve seen comments from those who accept evolution who say the opposite. But here’s the reality–there aren’t any magic words which subtly indicate a belief in either. Merriam-Webster defines design, in one of its definitions, as “an underlying scheme that governs functioning, developing, or unfolding.” And it defines adaptation as “a change in a plant or animal that makes it better able to live in a particular place or situation.” Neither of these words implies belief or acceptance of either creationism or evolution.

Quark Chronicles is neutral in that it does not teach creationism, intelligent design, or evolution. We really just wanted to create a fun book that most anyone can use. It’s a spine, so we don’t intend for it to be used alone except for perhaps really young children. It is up to the families to add in the other topics, the ones disputed between some religious people and secular scientists. So in the Zoology book, for example, children will learn about the differences between species, their defining characteristics, and taxonomy, among other topics. Evolution from a common ancestor would be left for evolutionists to add when and how they want while creationists can add in the creation story in Genesis.