It is that time of year again where we are wrapping up this school year and contemplating our approach for next year in our homeschooling families. Our family is finishing our third year of homeschooling and we have three children, ages 10, 8 and 6. I feel fortunate and confident we have found the curriculum and homeschool approach for our family for now and even into the future, which is Classically Catholic Memory, published by Ignatius Press. I would like to share with you a Classically Catholic Memory review, a history of our homeschooling choices and how those worked for us, and finally how CCM and our co-op work for us now.
What is Classically Catholic Memory?
CCM is modeled after the successful protestant based classical curriculum, Classical Conversations, but was built from the ground up wholly Catholic. It is marketed with flexibility as primary curriculum or as a supplement. What makes CCM unique is that the curriculum is not grade level based. The information can be scaled down to a first grade level, and can be scaled up to challenge 8th graders or even high schoolers. Thus, this one curriculum can be used for the entire family, no matter the grade level of the individual children.
In CCM, children spend the year memorizing facts or material in the following subjects:
- Religion: Baltimore Catechism and Scripture
- Latin: various Latin prayers and songs (like Ave Maria, Pater Noster, and Adeste Fideles which is Oh Come All Ye Faithful in Latin)
- History: short paragraphs on different historical events sung to familiar tunes
- Science: various science facts (like what are the four stages of the water cycle)
- Math: skip counting times tables to songs and math facts
- History Timeline: a list of important events from Creation through St. John Paul II
- Geography: continents, bodies of water, countries, cities, geographical elements
- Great Words: poetry or famous and important writings (like the Bill of Rights)
Classically Catholic Memory’s content is spread across a four year program, which can be repeated as desired. Each year has 18 weeks of information to memorize per subject (paced at two calendar weeks per each week of information for a 36 week school year). While the Math facts and Timeline are subjects that are repeated each year, other subjects present new information per week per year. Here is an overview of History, Science and Geography covered by year:
- Alpha Year: Creation through the birth of Christ, Life Science – Animal Science, Asia and Australia
- Beta Year: Life of Christ through 1500 A.D., Earth Science, Europe
- Gamma Year: 1500 – 1800 A.D., Chemistry and Physics, North America
- Delta Year: 1800 A.D. – Modern Times, Life Science – Plant Life, Human Anatomy, Physiology, South America and Africa
Not only is CCM a great fit for family style education, it is also very affordable. There is no need to purchase sets of books per child. One set per curriculum year of the material (teacher’s manual, optional student text, maps and audio CDs) is all a family needs. And the materials can all be reused in the future.
Our First Year – Using boxed grade level sets
In my first year of teaching, I chose to go the “boxed set” route, and purchased a complete 2nd grade book set for my then 7 year old 2nd grader, and a complete 1st grade book set for my then 5 year old who needed a greater challenge than kindergarten had to offer. Using the boxed sets gave me reassurance as a new homeschooler that the kids were learning and keeping up with their grade level. However, I found the days long as I needed to teach both of my school age children separately since their materials didn’t line up with one another.
When browsing a teaching manual for my first boxed sets I noticed a message to overwhelmed parents like me schooling several children close in age. The advice suggested putting children into the same grade level as the levels aren’t terribly more advanced than one another, and it will ease the burden on the teacher. My oldest two children were on the same level of language arts by this time as the younger of the two is gifted in that area, so I could see this would be an excellent solution for us.
Our Second Year – Using CCM Alpha year as a supplement to grade level boxed sets
In our second year of homeschooling, my school aged children were ages 8 and 6, working on a 2nd/3rd grade level of language arts and 3rd and 2nd grade level math, respectively. I joined a newly forming co-op which employed the use of Classically Catholic Memory. Naturally, we began with CCM Alpha Year. Since I was still attached to grade level, boxed set education, I chose to use CCM as a supplement to a boxed set that my oldest two children shared. By the end of the year I realized the wisdom of using CCM as our primary curriculum, having seen how rich it can be, if we’d had time to focus primarily on it.
Our Third Year – Using CCM Beta Year as our primary curriculum & our co-op
This past year, our third year, our family committed to CCM Beta Year as our primary curriculum. Many, if not all, of the families in our co-op also committed to CCM as their primary curriculum as well after realizing how powerful it could be for our one room schoolhouses. As it turns out, all of us mamas feel we experienced our best year of homeschooling ever, and some have been at this for many years.
In our co-op class room time, the kids do a history project that corresponds with what the week’s history paragraph teaches about. This year we made shields, tabbards, marshmallow catapults, Viking ships, painted Chinese characters, learned about the Magna Carta in a skit, and made earth mounds out of Playdoh.
Our co-op also provides a science class and art class for the kids. In science this year the kids made hands on projects or experiments based the Earth Science topics we learned, and in art we studied the Renaissance period artists and made art reflecting their styles. All of these sorts of projects us mamas never do at home. The thought of making and cleaning up the messes on our own is overwhelming. However, in the co-op setting these projects are doable, enjoyable, and enhance the children’s education.
As a supplement to CCM at home, many families in our co-op also used Story of the World (Jim and Susan Bauer), which is a complete history curriculum, also divided into four parts, similar to the four year CCM program. It lays out history in story format that is easy to digest for minds young and old alike. We enjoy listening to the CDs in the car on long trips, and doing the corresponding activity book ideas at home.
Also as a supplement to CCM, our co-op chose two pieces of literature to read this year, book club style. We would read at home and have a group discussion in class. For our Beta Year choices, we read Robin Hood and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Lastly, our co-op offered an optional class we called IEW, which stands for Institute in Excellent Writing. It is an intensive writing program which teaches students the art of writing well and writing various styles of papers. IEW’s course offers many different topics to write about in order to learn the principles of excellent writing, thus we chose the topic set of the Middle Ages. Having the children focus on writing papers about Augustine of Canterbury, Charlemagne and other famous men in the time period strongly reinforced their memory of these figures as they learned to be wordsmiths.
Our co-op only meets one day a week (either for class work, review work or field trips). In the remainder of the week at home we complete the required reading for our literature book club, read books on the saints who lived during the time period, work on memorizing all of our weeks’ memory work, complete writing assignments for IEW, listen to Story of the World and do some corresponding worksheets, work in our math workbooks, and do independent fun reading for 40 minutes a day. We also attend daily Mass and play outside every day, and make extra weekly field trips on our own.
Thanks to the Classically Catholic Memory model and our CCM based co-op, our family has found its stride in homeschooling for now and the future. I am looking forward to repeating the entire curriculum with the children and relishing in how much more they learn the second time around four years from now. And hey! I will be done buying school books!
Classically Catholic Memory: http://ccmemory.com/
The Story of the World: http://www.susanwisebauer.com/books/the-story-of-the-world/
Institute for Excellence in Writing: http://www.iew.com/