Traci Lee Simmons says somewhere in his book, Climbing Parnassus, that any school that has more than 4 or 5 subjects doesn't know what it is about. I completely agree with him. Proliferating academic subjects should be swatted down like flies in summer.
So here is my minimalist (but highly rigorous) K-8 school curriculum:
- Reading & Writing
The primary purpose of K-8 education is to teach students how to think, and give them a basic familiarity with Western civilization. A systematic study of Latin, math, and music will train your brain like nothing else. Latin will teach you all the qualitative thinking skills you will ever need, and math all the quantitative ones. Music transcends both, since it is both quantitative and qualitative. It is the capstone to training in the mental arts.
But where is science? Where is history? Where are the social sciences? For purposes of K-8, fuggetaboutem. But how can we do that? Won't we be distorting them for life?
I don't think so.
In regard to science, a solid grounding in mathematics will be the best thing you can bestow on a child. Why do kids crash and burn in, say, chemistry? It is largely because they can't handle the math. If they handle the math, they are ready for high school chemistry and physics.
In regard to history and the social sciences (and, to a certain extent, earth science and physical sciences), the reading list essentially covers these. If your student is reading and writing about narrative histories, novels, historical fiction, nature books, the Bible, short stories, essays, and biographies of great scientists, writers, inventors, politicians, artists, and philosophers, then what, precisely will he miss out on?
If, by 8th grade, you have a student who knows Latin well enough to translate basic Latin passages into competent English (and therefore knows grammar very well), who is on grade level in math, who has taken basic strides toward the mastery of a musical instrument, and who is widely read, is there a parent out there who is not only not satisfied, but not ecstatically happy?
Something to ponder.