Why another 'classical curriculum'?
Humanities Program Structure
Actually, we produced it long ago. The high school version of our Humanities Program (a great books style curriculum based loosely on that used by Scripps College from the 1920s through the early 1970s) was originally developed by Jon and Mary Hodge between 1992 and 1996 -- at which point, to our knowledge, there existed no similar programs for homeschoolers. Our program continued to be revised through 2002 when the last Hodge child graduated high school. (In subsequent years, we three children occasionally suggested that "you guys really should write up the Humanities Program someday," but our parents never got around to converting their curriculum notes into a more accessible format.)
Another, equally important, answer is: because we are convinced that there should many different great books/classical education programs out there. By their very nature, homeschoolers are diverse individuals. While there are those who prefer a packaged curriculum with day by day instructions, many of us would rather muddle along mixing, matching and adapting from a wide variety of resources and suggestions to suit our family's individual needs and interests. In that sense, having many resources available on how to design a classical or great books-based curriculum can only be a good thing.
Finally, we wanted to attempt a different approach in making the Humanities Program available to others. There are already several books for homeschoolers about classical education including The Well Trained Mind and Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum. There are also some outstanding virtual schools offering classes for homeschoolers such as Scholars Online. And, of course, there are the ubiquitous homeschooling groups, forums, email lists and newsletters through which people can swap tips, share "what we did," and seek advice.
But with the Humanities Program our goal is to follow a sort of media res between either handing down (as from on high) a prescriptive program for how to conduct a classical education or simply providing a open marketplace for exchanging suggestions. By publishing the program online bit by bit with open comments and forums, we hope to provide the wide reach of a wiki or forum while still retaining the focus of having a limited number of final authors/editors.
There are two essentially independent programs being developed on this site.
The high school program is the original Humanities Program developed by the senior Hodges, with additional notes and revisions ongoing. It is a four year chronological course in Western history, literature and culture, using a textbook as a 'spine text' in conjunction with selections of primary and secondary sources. You can read more about it on the high school program page, and the individual pages which outline the reading list for each year.
The elementary program seeks to fill a somewhat different niche. Designed for early to mid-elementary school-aged students (depending on whether it is read aloud or read by the student), it too is a four year (or at least four volume) chronological approach to Western history and literature. But here the program itself is meant to serve as a sort of spine text. Each volume will include aproximately 100 short (1-2 page) stories about famous events, people and places as well as myths and stories from the various time periods. (These will include selections of primary sources where possible and appropriate.) Each section will then list possible sources of further reading. For more information, see the elementary program page.
The Humanities Program (in both its high school and elementary incarnations) is specifically designed to be a course in Western history and culture. As such it deals with the pre-history and early civilizations around the Mediterranean and in later periods deals with those cultures that are directly or peripherally their successors. India, the Far East, the Pacific Islands and Australia/New Zealand, pre-colonization Americas, and sub-Saharan Africa are dealt with only as they come into contact with the West. Our reasons for this are firstly, that it seems important to know the history of your own culture before trying to understand other, less familiar ones, and secondly because (given limited time, space and expertise) it seemed best to concentrate on those areas best known to us, rather than providing what must necessarily have been a very cursory attempt at including non-Western cultures.
The program also makes no attempt to separate the studies of history and literature. Part of our reason for developing the unified approach was a belief that a culture is often at least as well understood by its literature as by reading accounts of their kings, wars and other major events.
Finally, it goes without saying that neither program is intended to be anything like a full curriculum. After our first few years of homeschooling, we generally did not use packaged curricula, and it's not our ambition to generate one. The elementary program is meant to make up perhaps 1/5 of a courseload in the early elementary school years, and while the high school program probably took up roughly 1/3 of our study time.
I have yet to run across a homeschooling family that does not like to read about education. Homeschooling books are thus legion.
However, writing a book is usually a pretty isolated process. The author writes, and seeks help from whatever friends and family seem useful and obliging. The the publisher publishes, and gradually feedback trickles (or pours) back in. Criticisms and suggestions are either accumulated or ignored, and after a while another edition comes out -- if demand exists.
Generally this is a pretty good way of doing things. It has, after all, worked for several hundred years. But with the Humanities Program we want to try something different. By publishing as we go along, via the web, we hope to be able to incorporate suggestions and criticisms quickly and to produce a more helpful work than if we wrote everything based on what we thought might be useful to people and then waited to see if we were right.
We've turned on comments on all major pages. Please do feel free to provide feedback of all kinds. Also feel free to use these materials online or to print them off for your own personal use. When sections reach their final form, we'll make a print version available for those who would find an actual book easier to use in a homeschooling situation than print-outs.
Although we're developing the programs in a very open environment, we do retain copyright to our work. You are free to print copies for your own use, but please do not reprint or sell copies of the humanities program without our permission. If you quote or otherwise share excerpts from our work, please cite us and the website as the source.
Other Topics of Interest:
How the humanities program deals with religion.
The Humanities Program was first developed by Jon and Mary Hodge when their eldest son, Brendan, was entering high school. From the beginning, it was envisioned as a four year survey of Western history, literature and culture modeled on the humanities program which Mary had experienced as an undergraduate at Scripps College. (Sadly, the Scripps humanities program, which had been one of the college's main attractions since its founding in 1926, has been radically changed -- one might almost say dismantled -- in the years since her graduation.)
Our program was under constant revision throughout Brendan's high school years and also during those of Timothy and Rosamund, the two younger Hodge children. In their curriculum development our parents tried to balance their desire to cover all of the best works while attempting to keep the workload manageable, not to mention tweaking the reading list around the particular interests of each student. In writing up the program here, we've tried to bring together the best out of the many revisions and also to give pointers on to how best to customize the program to fit the interests and time constraints of your own family.
Brendan took a Classics degree and went on to work in marketing. He married Cat, another homeschool graduate, and they are now beginning to homeschool their three daughters. The elementary program is the result of Brendan and Cat's search for a good story-centered set of books about Western Culture for their children.
Timothy has become a freelance illustrator, and will be providing illustrations for the stories in the elementary program.
Rosamund is finishing her masters degree in Medieval Studies at University College, Oxford. She will be contributing some of the stories for the elementary program, as well as helping to revise the high school program.