I have been working on this matrix since I was pregnant with John, so almost three years now. Today, I have reached a point of satisfaction. I have found good curriculum options, beautiful book lists, and online resources. This spreadsheet lays out what I would like to my son to accomplish from year to year, birth to 18 years old. I wanted to share.
Using the Matrix
To use the matrix, download a copy:
Change the name. Perhaps use your child’s name, i.e. Suzy Homeschool Curriculum Outline. Put the file in your homeschool folder. Now open the file. In the first row, put the years that your child will be the given ages. For instance, the Baby Year might be 2016-2017. Now look at the categories and divisions down the first column. There are a lot, so take the time to absorb the system before making changes. I have listed the amount of time to spend each day or week studying for each broad category. These times are based partially on Charlotte Mason’s PNEU Programmes, partially on what I think will be sufficient to make our way through the material, and partially on overall limits for direct instruction at a given age. Sabbath Mood Homeschool has a very helpful series on scheduling that I relied on intensively in developing my ideas.
Each subject row has the curriculum I have chosen listed under the appropriate ages. You can find descriptions online by searching for the title. These are my very favorite options, based on some broad criteria and my own personal situation. Your selections may differ, and that is good. Just put your own choices into the matrix. That is what I made it for!
My selection criteria included financial, implementation, and aesthetic considerations. I am not a wealthy person, so I looked to free and inexpensive resources as much as was reasonable. Some things, such as phonics and spelling, I felt were worth purchasing as a thorough, book-based curriculum, instead of making do with a hodgepodge of library and internet materials. For other things, such as computer science, I was able to find free resources that matched or exceeded the quality of expensive curriculum packages. Many of the college level books I included simply because I already own them. While most do represent my favorite texts, there is nothing sacred about them. Use what you have, or what you find that is inexpensive. I did find a few really awesome curricula in my searching that are a bit more expensive, but I felt they were worth the money. If you know of a less expensive alternative that is of similar quality, please let me know.
In my searching, I also was looking at ease of implementation. Is the program self-explanatory? Can my child work through the material alone? If not, are there clear instructions on what I need to do? My expertise in some areas will show; for instance, I was less concerned about the math and science selections since I will be able to navigate through the material as needed. For the humanities, however, I was much more interested in programs that are already well-prepared.
Finally, I made my selections to conform reasonably well with the pedagogy Charlotte Mason used in her schools. The methods of verbatim copying and narration are applicable to any area of study. (I have been using narration in math tutoring with decent results.) I was attracted to materials with beautiful images and high-quality language. The details are what make a book a pleasure to read, instead of a drudgery.
Keeping in mind the ways that my personal situation and tastes influenced my choices, you can go through and make appropriate changes. If you are not a math person, you may greatly prefer Teaching Textbooks. If you know Latin, you may have a library of material to use. (And please share titles if you do!)
Some Notes on Scheduling
When arranging the curriculum, keep in mind the concept of streams. While I have put a given book in a set year, this is not the way that I look at the information. Each row is a stream. We will begin the stream when the student is ready, which will likely be at the indicated times. If he is ready early, then we will start early, and perhaps more slowly. If he is not ready at the age I have indicated for the stream, then we will wait until he is. It is more important to thoroughly absorb the material than to get to the next item on the agenda.
Once started in a stream, schedule a weekly time to work on the material. Whatever method you use for scheduling, make sure to incorporate time for the new stream. Use and adjust the time guidelines given by category. While it is helpful to have time blocked for a general subject, such as English or math, you must schedule each specific stream within that structure. A lower elementary English session may consist of 10 minutes copywork and 10 minutes of phonics, with time for reading poems and recitation during circle time. The reason for this approach is two-fold. One, things that you do not schedule you will not do consistently. If you do not put Spanish in your schedule, then you will be prone to skip it or put it off until you have forgotten so much you have to start over. Two, the schedule provides a guide for how quickly you move through the stream. If your child can only write two letters during the 10 minute handwriting slot, then that is what they do. You must be patient, and you must stick to it.
Decide before starting how far down a stream the child must go to graduate from high school. I have indicated typical high school levels of achievement by using a brown color for advanced studies. The pace I have set is very fast, but this pace is not appropriate for every child, and definitely nor for every subject for a given child. Pay attention to the person in front of you to make sure that you are not rushing them, and that they are not dragging their feet.
References and Licenses
Please note that this matrix would not exist if I had not found Ambleside Online very early in my homeschool quest. Their work is wonderful, and I have used their curriculum abundantly in designing and filling out my own matrix. I very much recommend reading through their website, and using the parts that resonate with you. I have found so many treasures in their reading lists, books that I would have been unlikely to find otherwise. Even so, I found that their curriculum was very much by white people for white people, and so I was not satisfied in following their reading lists verbatim. There are also some areas glaringly missing from their suggestions, such as computer science. It is my sincere hope that my work will complement theirs, and I have done my very best to adhere to their license. I would ask that you extend the same respect both to them and to me. This material is free, but it had a cost. Use it for your own purposes, and send other people the link to download their own copy. You may not sell or share this spreadsheet. If you would like to use this or a similar matrix for an institution, please contact me.
Please, enjoy, and happy planning!