In this post I’m sharing how we focus on essentials with Memoria Press: what we do and don’t use, how we use the materials, and how we’re able to classically homeschool in around 4 hours per day with ages 9-15!
Isn’t Everything Essential with Memoria Press?
MP will be the first to tell you that you do not have to do everything. In fact, they say it right here:
There’s even an archived version of MP’s website where you can see the original packages and the old lesson plans.
It’s really eye-opening to see how much has been added over the years!
Many of these additions were because of requests from brick and mortar teachers as well as home schoolers. As MP responded to those requests, the curriculum packages grew.
Why Focus on Essentials with Memoria Press?
So why do I feel it’s so important to streamline MP? Why don’t we just push through and do it all? Or at least try to do it all?
We’ve been homeschooling for 13 years and it’s a very important part of our family’s life. But in order for our family’s life to be balanced, each part of our life has to be in proportion to the whole.
And that includes this part we call homeschooling.
That means I have to use the curriculum in a way that is best for our family.
It can be scary to streamline a rich program like MP and I’ve wondered if I’m cheapening my children’s education. But I’ve come to realize that, no, I’m not cheapening their education.
I’m stewarding it.
We’re called to be good stewards. We’re called to help our children flourish. And part of that flourishing is having a balanced life: time to go outside, time to work on hobbies and projects, time to “just be”.
This balance becomes possible when we’re good stewards of our family’s time, making sure that homeschooling fits our family and what we’re realistically able to do in our current season.
That word “realistically” is really important. I’ve mentioned before that our family has 4 hours to devote to school each day. So I cannot try to fit 6 hours worth of work into it!
Will We Miss Something if We Focus on Essentials?
Streamlining is really important, but it can be difficult to figure out how to do it!
A lot of moms ask, “How do I decide what to use and what to let go of? How do I make this fit my family without my kids missing out on something that they’re going to need in the future?”
So what is really being asked is, “How do I know what is essential?”
To answer that question, I ask myself another question: “What is essential for being a well-formed person?”
For example, being able to find major countries and cities on a map is essential. Memorizing every capital and country for Europe, Asia and Africa is not.
Being able to appreciate and categorize nature in a basic way is essential. Memorizing all the orders of insects, and example members of each, is not essential.
But then a mom asked recently, “What do you leave out when it seems like everything is essential preparation if you want your child to study Dante in high school?”
So let’s break this down a little bit.
What does Dante assume of his readers? He assumes they have a knowledge of theology, mythology, classical history, and medieval history.
So your faith studies the Greek myths, the Famous Men series, Homer, Virgil, and medieval history would all be keepers if you want your child to study Dante in high school.
But even among these “keepers,” you have some flexibility. My current college student didn’t have the opportunity to study Virgil before he studied Dante in high school; but he still thoroughly enjoyed the Dante study and he did really well in it.
The Other Side of Essentials with Memoria Press
So this question, “What is essential for being a well-formed person?” helps me decide what things we’re going to study in a formal way and what things we’re not.
It also helps me decide how we’re going to study.
Two of my children are studying Greek myths this year. Memoria’s goal for that course is to help children become familiar with these characters, events, and stories that have influenced 2000 years of history and literature.
But that goal can be fully accomplished by listening to those stories on audiobook, reciting the drill questions from the back of the teacher’s manual, and talking about some of the overarching themes.
That’s all that’s needed for that course to do what it’s meant to do.
Two of my older children are studying the Odyssey right now:
- Instead of memorizing huge sections of the text, we simply memorized the opening line.
- We use the tests’ huge quotation sections as optional bonus points.
- We don’t do the suggested essays, but continually review the people, places, and events we’ve read about so far.
- Then the kids revisit the overarching themes when they watched MP’s Odyssey DVDs.
So they’re truly learning this work and they’re building long term retention, even though we’re not following MP’s layout for that course.
What We Use From Memoria Press for K-6
- In kindergarten through second grade, we do phonics/reading, math, cursive, and Enrichment (just the read aloud, poem, and art cards). We also do our group faith studies.
- In third through sixth grades, we do Latin, math, literature, and history. Sometimes composition starts here, depending on the child.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re using the 4th grade classical studies in 4th grade. I start the various sequences when the child is ready, and we go through them at the pace that child needs.
You’ll also notice we don’t do copybook, timeline, formal science, or formal geography in K through sixth grade. Instead, we address geography and important dates as we come to them in our classical studies.
The one geography that I do try to study formally is States and Capitals. It’s our country so I think it’s essential for the kids to know that information.
For science, I keep Memoria’s nature studies books available for free reading. We also get the Peterson Field guides that come with a lot of those sets, and the kids read those in their free time, look up things they find outside, etc.
Memoria starts composition a little in 3rd grade and then jumps into it in 4th. I’ve had some students start that young and I’ve had others start later.
Don’t worry about waiting on composition, even if it’s just because you don’t have the bandwidth to teach it right now. We waited on the full composition program for my middle crew because I wasn’t in a place to teach it well. My sixth, eighth, and ninth graders started the sequence this year and all of them are doing excellent in the class.
So don’t worry if you have to wait. Just keep exposing them to good writing and vocabulary through their literature studies, have lots of good books available for free reading, and focus on writing well in the student guides.
What We Use From Memoria Press for High School
I’ve graduated two students so far, and this year I have another senior and a freshman. So I can tell you from experience: high school has to be customized for each child’s unique goals and needs.
With this in mind, we use Memoria Press for high school literature, classical studies, history, and composition.
But I don’t necessarily use them in the recommended grades.
For example, my ninth grader is studying Book of the Ancient Greeks and Book of the Ancient Romans, one semester each, as a classical history course. Then he’s doing The Odyssey and the Aeneid, one semester each, as his literature for the year.
His sister is doing these as well but she’s in eighth grade; so her ninth grade year is going to look different than his. And that’s totally fine.
Obviously, math is essential in all grades and formal science becomes essential in high school. But this is where we veer off from Memoria’s offerings.
Two of my older kids use Memoria’s Video Text program, but it’s not the right fit for my current crew. So we’re using Denison Algebra instead. We’re in the pre-algebra program right now and it’s really phenomenal.
For science, I have used Novare in the past. It’s an excellent program, but I feel like it expects high schoolers to attain a college level understanding of the concepts. Unless your child is headed into a STEM field, that level of knowledge isn’t essential for being a well-formed person.
So we’re using a program called Friendly Biology and I’m absolutely loving it. They also offer a chemistry program and a physics program but we haven’t used those yet.
History is another thing we customize in high school and it really depends on my student. We’ve used Memoria’s medieval history, and Light to the Nations Part I from Catholic Textbook Project. We’ve also used some classes from Homeschool Connections.
For my current crew we’ll likely continue with the Dorothy Mills books from MP, using one book per semester. I still have to decide how we’ll address modern Europe and America.
The Benefits of Focusing on Essentials with Memoria Press
Focusing on essentials with Memoria Press allows us to do things well. And even with doing things well, we finish school in about 4 hours a day. My ninth grader goes a little over that if he has an extra-heavy day, but it’s not a frequent thing for him.
And then we have time to live life.
The kids can go outside, play, work on projects, hobbies, and handwork. And I can take care of the kitchen and get other work done.
It’s just a really good balance.
This also allows us to model balanced living for our children. That’s something they’ll be able to carry with them into adulthood.
So I hope this explains how we approach MP. Please ask any questions or share
further ideas down in the comments. I’d love to hear from you on that!