This is a guest post by Humbly ~ Zee and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.
How to choose the best home school curriculum
There are many reasons for deciding to educate your children at home. While I adore discussing reasons to home school, education philosophies, or different curriculum currently available today, the following is specifically about prepping to educate yourself or someone else after a SHTF scenario. Please feel free to add your comments and suggestions, in the hopes that this can become a repository of info on a subject I don’t see mentioned much. ~ Zee
There is a famous quote by John Adams that perfectly sets the stage for any discussion of post-apocalyptic education:
“I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain.”
While the beginning prepper is obsessed with food, medical, and ammo collection (and rightly so!) there will eventually be a point when you might consider the education needs of you and those around you. If the ‘event’ you are experiencing is short-term, having sufficient materials on hand can help you keep your kids on their educational track. If you are looking at a longer term situation, the means to educate becomes a great way to increase your chances of survival by keeping the mind sharp, building morale by reminding ourselves of the good and beautiful in humanity, and at the very least decreasing boredom. In the worst case scenario it becomes even more important: a way to ensure that we as a people do not lose our history. Even if you don’t have any children, you would do well to consider continuing your own education, or even bartering your ability to teach those around you.
Looking online at home school materials is likely to overwhelm the most seasoned home school veteran! My favorite catalog is the size of the Los Angeles phone book; both in heft and in thinness of paper filled with tiny print (and that is no exaggeration I promise you!). Don’t despair! You really can teach your children and yourself at home with just a few resources. While in today’s world I opt for materials that are fun and match the learning styles of my 3 children, if TSHTF I will need to streamline my bookshelf. After all, I will be counting on them to help with daily survival… while our current plan involves building self-sufficiency skills, there will likely be a shift in our learning priorities.
So, put on your thinking caps, grab a pencil and paper, and let’s go!
A word about books…
Even though my oldest is only in 9th grade, I choose to search out college texts (‘101’ level) to put on the shelf. If I can read the book, then I can teach him what he needs to know. College books are plentiful and, honestly, many of the freshman and non-majors texts are written on a jr. high reading level. Check the trash cans at the university on book buy back days, I find lots of great textbooks that are barely opened sitting on the ground. To stay in business text book manufacturers and schools are in collusion to have the students buy the latest editions, even though sometimes the only difference between editions is the cover art. When the bookstores no longer buy the older editions you can benefit. Thrift shops are great too: I recently picked up a new Norton’s Anthology ($65) for $2. Be sure to check for distracting underlining and highlighting inside. I can tape up a ripped spine, but an annoying doodle can ruin my day.
Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmatic
There is a reason the old rhyme elevates these three subjects. The mastery of hearing ideas and gathering info, using logic to understand and calculate a response, and effectively communicating that response has been the basis of education since the Ancients. If these subjects were taught well today, even at the expense of ‘health’ and ‘social studies’, our country would perhaps be in a different place altogether. Ahem. Anyway, a few basic reference books can help us begin to appropriate these skills for our own.
Reading and Literature
While the novels on my shelf come and go, there are a few literature reference books that I keep on hand to ensure that I can give my children a good taste of the world’s literature. First of all, though I love original unabridged texts, my children aren’t so eager to read Mesopotamian poetry that I need to spend lots of money and waste valuable shelf space storing it. In these situations anthologies are invaluable! Norton’s Anthologies are the classic standby, and you can get them for Western Lit, British Lit, etc.
I also have a few guides that help us get through the books:
- The Well Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
- How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler, or How to Read Slowly by James Sire
- A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
If you have the means to charge electronic devices, you can download thousands of free books to your computer or e-reader. We have more than paid for the price of a Kindle with our free books. Since I prefer to hold a ‘real’ book, I also source most classics at the thrift store for under a $1. We do have a few great novels hanging around too; you are never too old to visit the Secret Garden when you are cross, and there is nothing like traveling with Sam and Frodo when you are feeling small.
I will add here a word about history. I do have a thrift-store sourced History textbook (Spielgovel is the standard beginning college text) but I also really believe in learning history through the works, both fiction and non-fiction, written at the time. The text book gives us the background info, while the literature puts the meat on the bones.
If you can’t think clearly, you can’t communicate clearly. For the Apocalyptic Homeschooler, logic will be learned hands on by daily building and planning. I intend to have the children write in journals every day as well as keep detailed records for the family. A few handbooks will help us keep our skills sharp:
- Dictionary: Please don’t get a modern one! You can find a nice, huge, old one in your thrift store for pennies. (I bought a 3 volume one for $3!) Same goes for a thesaurus.
- The ABC’s and all Their Tricks by Margaret Bishop (an almost too detailed spelling rules book)
- Rod and Staff English Handbook (very, very detailed; for grammar nerds)
- Writing Aids by Marcia Somerville (any basic high school writing hand book will do here)
Any Writing Reference book from a college trash can (I love free!)
Honestly, I want them to communicate well but at the end of the world diagramming gerunds will not be a high priority.
Math is important not only because you might need to measure something (with no app!) but because it helps order the mind. I am not great at math, so I have found wonderful success by using texts written to college aged remedial students. My son with learning disabilities prefers these texts to the public high school ones, as they are not inundated with flashy colors and distracting pc photo shots. The one we use can be found very cheaply on line, if you get an older edition:
Basic College Mathematics by Lial
This book covers basic counting up to introductory algebra. Be sure to use the ISBN to find the matching answer book for your text.
I currently have thrift-store sourced texts for Algebra 1 and 2 and Geometry, but I will pick up others as each book explains things a little differently. Remember, grab that solutions book by searching online via the ISBN. It really helps!
*There are also great DVDs available for math instruction; again, the older editions can be found online relatively cheaply. If internet is available the Khan academy site is amazing (and free). Anticipating internet will not be available, I chose to have DVDs on the shelf that take us through Algebra 2 (we use the DVDs from Houghton Mifflin for the Aufmann, Barker, Lockwood math books, as the teacher Dana Mosely is very gifted. His ‘Chalkdust’ curriculum is very expensive, but the HM DVD’s are the same at under $50 a pop when found used online. A person who is reasonably good at math would not need these; my daughter does not use them, but I do.)
Science, Geography, History… My kids jokingly refer to these as ‘after lunch’ subjects. Ideally one learns about these things first hand; Geography when the kids ask about something in the news, science when planting or butchering, etc. A few basic items make this possible:
A globe or atlas
World History by Spielgovel (addressed above under Reading)
Visual Timeline book (DK and National Geographic put out great ones).
We also enjoy a narrative history series called A History of… by Susan Wise Bauer. She has also written a child’s series, The Story of the World.
If you like filling in blank maps, you might like a book like Uncle Josh’s Outline Map Book.
For Science, your choice of texts would include books you probably already have in your prepper library. Plant ID books, Medical guides, books on trapping, gardening, star and constellation guides and animal husbandry all fall under the natural sciences.
For higher education I chose to stock 3 basic books for reference;
Conceptual Physical Science, Conceptual Chemistry, and Conceptual Physics.
These books are written for the non-major, so difficult concepts are presented in easy-to-understand language. Older editions can be found in the $10 range. Really, any college text will be fun to read through, as long as you remember to get those ‘101’ type texts.
Modern biology books focus a great deal on molecular biology. I chose to hold for a non-major’s type book to have on my shelf for that reason. I’m still on the hunt!
If you don’t have great reference books, get them now and throw them on your coffee table. You will be surprised how much they add to your life right now! You can find these cheaply at thrift stores, often in perfect condition. We love the Story of Architecture by Glancy, the Story of Philosophy by Magee, and the Story of Painting by Sister Wendy. We also have a guitar and a few songbooks on hand, as well as a fun book on making instruments from odds and ends.
Last but not least! Whatever your religion, you are teaching that to your children and those around you by example. My example is not always what I want it to be, so I like to augment with great books about the virtues I want my family to acquire (Bennett’s Book of Virtues is wonderful for a nightly read-aloud for any age). If your faith is expressed through music, art, candles, or whatever, make sure you have the supplies for that on hand. We are Orthodox Christians, so I have a Bible, some commentaries and a Bible Atlas, writings from the church fathers, lives of the Saints for inspiration, and so on. I also have the materials to hold a service in my home (service books, supplies for communion bread (we call it prosfora) and etc. Those aren’t necessary, of course, but since we practice our faith every day with tangible routines and etc., being able to maintain that routine will be an extra anchor in tough times.
Odds and Ends
Come September, watch those back to school sales and stock up! Don’t forget lots of lined paper, printer paper for drawing, and pens /pencils. Do buy the World’s Quietest Pencil Sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies. You will write me back and thank me, I promise! (We have 4!). Get more lined paper. Grab colored pencils, too, and paper clips. A metal ruler, good scissors, and extra erasers will come in handy. We also use quite a few index cards, but that is an extra. Did I say grab more lined notebook paper? Now double that amount! Folders or binders are cheap in September as well.
Interestingly enough, I have found great supplies at the thrift store. Boxes of outdated printer paper (great for art!), cartons of paper clips, drafting tools, and even a giant industrial paper cutter were all added to my stash for pennies on the dollar. I have been gifted with an old set of encyclopedias, and I am carefully considering wether they are worth the storage space. When I was young I loved looking though them, and much of the information in them is still valid. The out of date material may be of interest to remember a world that once was.
I truly believe that it is possible to pursue higher education at home. It takes a great perseverance and patience, but the reward is so great that I consider it the best return on an investment that I have ever received. In a post-apocalyptic world home schooling will be a difficult necessity. I believe with a little preparation it can be done not only inexpensively, but thoroughly and well.
I am sure there are a few things that I have forgotten, and a few things that I might have downplayed that you think are important. I welcome your thoughts and anticipate a great discussion.
This is an entry in our nonfiction writing contest – This contest will end on June 29 2013 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive – A $250 dollar gift certificate courtesy of LPC Survival that is good for $250 off anything on their site, A WonderMill Electric Grain Mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads, and a $150 gift card for Winchester Ammo from LuckyGunner.
- Second Place winner will receive – Two Emergency Seed Banks (stored in military ammo cans) with over 33 varieties of non-hybrid garden seed courtesy of The Survivalist Blog.net from M.D. Creekmore’s personal seed stash. A $260 value.
- Third Place winner will receive – a one year subscription to Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and a copy of my book 31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness.