Trivium Pursuit

A Self-Taught Curriculum

April 30th, 2016


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a highly respected academic institution. This university goes out of its way to encourage qualified homeschooled students to apply.

When a school with a reputation as good as M.I.T.’s publicly acknowledges that homeschooling is not inherently disadvantageous academically, this sends a message to the other schools, few of which can match M.I.T. in terms of academic reputation.

Universities want self-disciplined students to apply. Self-disciplined students are less likely to flunk out in the freshman year. They know how to study without being nagged. The transition to a university environment is easier for them.

That is why the Ron Paul Curriculum uses a self-taught curriculum. It is better for most students.

Ron Paul


Letters from Prison — More Books Needed

April 18th, 2016

In previous posts we have written about our project of sending books to prisoners in Texas. One of the prisons has a seminary program in which inmates can obtain a degree and then be transferred to another prison to help others start similar programs. Here is a short video which describes the prison seminary program.

A letter I received recently….

Dear Mrs. Bluedorn,

It was great to hear from you. Thank you so much for the Latin grammar by Hale and Buck. I also thank you for the copies of the Latin text of Augustine’s Confessions.

I will be starting my summer teaching jobs at the seminary this week. I’ll be teaching Greek, Latin and a few lessons of Ancient Greek Philosophers. It will be a busy summer. We also have a small reformed community of brothers here. We hold several services spread out over the unit on each Lord’s Day. We just finished the Heidelberg Catechism, thus, we will be going back through another year. The guys in here love to learn about the faith — some of the most unlikely people you would ever think of.

The first class just graduated last week. It was a big deal — the Lt. Governor and Senator came and spoke. You can catch it all at the Heart of Texas web site.

Something happened to me last night that you might enjoy. In prison, the day room is where you go to watch TV, play games, etc. On this unit I’m on, the day rooms are terribly small. They are 30’X25′ and typically hold about 80-90 men at once. Seating only covers 40 people. Thus, it is a mad house. People screaming over one another to talk to some one across the room, two TVs blaring the volume, a fan that sounds like a crop duster hovering overhead. It was this environment that I came home to last night. While waiting to go into my cell, a man who has terminal cancer asked me to pray for him. So I prayed that God would get glory from both of our circumstances — my problem was the chaos around me, his was his sickness. After finishing, he left to get his medicine. Once he left, a man came up and said, “It is good to see you doing the Lord’s work in the midst of all this chaos.” I thanked him and he left. It didn’t hit me until he left that God answered our prayer. God got His glory in the midst of the chaos. Someone noticed that two guys in all that madness were seeking the Lord.

Mrs. Bluedorn, I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but sometimes we have to realize that our trials are for the sake of others as much as they are for us. I will continue to pray for you. Thank you for your help in my trials.

God Bless,

Offenders search for books at a library inside the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary located in the Darrington Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice men's prison in Rosharon, Texas

If you have any books we can send the prisoners, please send them to us and we’ll forward them on (Harvey Bluedorn, 525 120th Ave, New Boston, IL 61272). Our email address is bluedorn @

They need any kind of educational materials (5th grade and up) or devotional/theological materials. The devotional or theological materials need to be from a doctrines of grace/reformed perspective. The materials can be used or new. No CDs or DVDs or anything made of glass or metal. The prison also rejects flash cards.


Delaying Formal Math

April 17th, 2016

I just received your book Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style a couple of days ago. I’ve been reading the article on math because that’s the area of my children’s schooling that seems to be least successful. My 12yod never was mathematically inclined, but my 2nd child, an 8yod has always been mathematically-minded. I expected the older to not be crazy about math and to have to go to great lengths to find a program that fit. However, the one that is a natural at math is starting to dislike math. Left on her own (before kindergarten and 1st grade) she was adding in her head. Once I started her on a program, all self-initiated math ceased. After 2nd grade was over this year, although not right away, she began to do multiplication orally/mentally on her own, even though she was disliking math and struggling somewhat with simpler problems. Now, it may seem obvious what I should do — drop the curriculum. But, leaving her on her own won’t necessarily cover all that she ought to cover (for testing). It won’t be systematic, consistent. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Should I just bite the bullet and put away the curriculum? And what should I do with my 12yod? She still struggles with the four simple operations. She is advanced in every other area, just in case you’re wondering if there is something biologically wrong. Also, about all the quotes concerning how math was not a subject in the grammar school… I might not know history well enough where math is concerned, but math as a science was still being developed, wasn’t it? So it wasn’t even at the point of being teachable, was it? Also, if children can understand an abstract symbol system like alphabets and reading, why can’t they understand an abstract symbol system of numerals and arithmetic? Trying desperately to understand. Thank you for your time. Gail S.

We get more questions about math than any other, and you will find that the subject of math comes up quite often. When we do our seminars, at one point we ask, “How many of you did not like math in school?” Every time, no matter which state we are in, about half of the people raise their hands. Why is it so many people dislike math?

If you read the article on the history of teaching math you noticed that until the 20th century, math was not taught in a formal way to children before age ten. Before the 20th century, children under age ten learned math (actually arithmetic) informally, and began to study math formally, in schools or at home, around age ten. A man named Pestalozzi changed all that at the turn of the century by introducing some new ideas about education.

Some highly developed concepts of mathematics have been developed in the last few centuries — such as the calculus. But none of that is the subject matter of elementary mathematics.

When you teach a child that the letter “a” stands for the sound aay, you are right to say that it is an abstract concept. But when you teach a child that the digit 2 stands for the number two, you must also go one step further and teach him that the digit 2 and the number two stand for two things. It seems to me that math is somewhat more abstract than the teaching of reading. There is one more step to learn in the study of math.

The symbols of the alphabet are phonetic, linked to the auditory-speech mechanism which the child has been experiencing and practicing with since his goo-goo-gah-gah days. The numerical and operation symbols of arithmetic are further abstracted one or more steps from this. The more complex combinations of abstractions are physically more difficult for the young brain to handle. The child’s brain will store the information where it can best use it AT THE TIME — in a linear file. Unfortunately, at an early age, because of the lack of physical development of the brain to handle such abstractions, that information is stored in a place which is less accessible to the brain after it has become more highly developed. At a later age, the brain will develop multidimensional arrays, and this information is more accessible when so stored.

But, leaving her on her own won’t necessarily cover all that she ought to cover (for testing).

I would avoid testing young children at all costs. There are only a few states where testing young children cannot be avoided, and if you live in one of those states you might have to be satisfied with lower test scores in math during the younger years. Actually, everywhere we have traveled and discussed this topic we have heard plenty of evidence that children DO do well on math tests even though they are following the so-called “delayed formal academics” approach.

I would suggest dropping the study of formal math with your younger child and study math informally with her (see our book for ways to study math informally). When she turns ten she can start a systematic and consistent study of math. You will have plenty of time to work through grades 6 – 12 in math (including calculus, if needed) before she is 18 years old.

With your older child, I would go back and start studying math at the point where she is beginning to get confused. There is nothing wrong in going back a grade or two in math. We’re not out to produce college math professors, are we? The goal is to produce children who understand and enjoy it. What I usually find when mothers talk to us about how their children dislike math is that the mother also disliked math in school. I’m wondering if parents are somehow communicating this fear and dislike to their children. Maybe we did hate math when we were in school, but homeschooling parents don’t have to be afraid anymore. This is our second chance to learn it again and learn it better. Repeat after me, “I love math; it is my favorite subject.”

Some people mistakenly believe that we were the ones who originated the idea of delaying the study of formal math till age ten. Not at all. This idea has been around for a very long time. In addition, it was Raymond and Dorothy Moore who reintroduced this idea to American education in the 1970’s. Some people read what the Moores and we write concerning delaying the formal instruction of math till age 10 and conclude that we are opposed to teaching any math to any child before the age of 10. Not so. When the child asks questions, answer them. If he asks for a math workbook, buy one for him. But this is different from systematically working through a math curriculum with a child every year from age 5 through age 9, doing every page, teaching every concept according to a preset schedule/”scope and sequence”/”typical course of study” developed by World Book or A Beka. There is a more through discussion of this topic in our book.

The mathematician Blaise Pascal was homeschooled by his father after his mother died. His father didn’t think any subject should be taught until the child could easily master it, so he removed all the math books until the children were at least 16 years old. At 12 years old, Pascal studied math (in secret) and figured out that the sum of 3 angles in any triangle is 180. His father was so impressed that he allowed him to study Euclid, and by age 16 the boy was the first to prove some new geometry theorems which he presented to, among others, Descartes. His work has influenced philosophers and scientists including Descartes and Isaac Newton. This is a good example of delaying formal math.



Sit By Me, Mom

April 6th, 2016


Is it necessary for my child to do all his schoolwork on his own? I sit on the couch with my 10-year-old son and help him with the introduction to his assignments. For example, with his math lessons, I go through the lesson with him (takes us five minutes), and then I’m off and he continues totally on his own. We do basically the same thing for all of his subjects. Today, I told him that at some time he must begin to do his own “intro” work. Just after I mentioned it to him — he didn’t say anything — big teardrops fell one by one on his papers. How does one do the weaning? Sonja

Your child apparently likes having you help him begin. Let him know you love doing the introductory work with him, and continue doing it. He does not want to be left totally on his own, and these minutes of introductory work may be providing a measure of accountability which he feels he needs. Don’t “baby” him, but don’t abandon him either. Tell him that it is to his best interests to learn to do his own introductory work. Help him through the transition. Soon this will all change, and he won’t need your help — indeed, he may even resent it if you tried. By the time he’s twelve or thirteen, he probably won’t need you any more. I would give my right arm to have my boys want me to sit next to them for my help. Enjoy it while you can.

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Should Students be Taught to Spot Logical Fallacies?

March 24th, 2016

Should Students be Taught to Spot Logical Fallacies?
It would certainly come in handy during the political season…

by Annie Holmquist


As the particularly contentious and wild 2016 election marches toward November, an increasing number of articles have posed the question: “How do you talk to your kids about Donald Trump?”

The question revolves around Trump because of his sometimes controversial speech in debates and on the campaign trail. For many parents, Trump’s approach to politics is difficult to explain to their children.

But instead of trying to figure out how to explain Trump, parents might be better off training their children to evaluate the speech of all political candidates. A simple way of doing this recently came across my desk in the form of a book called The Fallacy Detective.

Read the rest of the article here.



Read these 100-year-old books

February 27th, 2016


Books by John Buchan (1875-1940) are the kind that if you read one, you WILL read them all. We started with The 39 Steps which is the first book in the Richard Hannay series. Next comes Greenmantle, Mr. Standfast, Three Hostages, and The Island of the Sheep.

One would classify these books as “spy stories,” but they will also appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction. They are packed with W.W.I history. Written with lots of English and Scottish dialog (for those who like to ham it up while reading to the kids), Buchan’s style is lively and not for those whose diet consists mostly of Janette Oake.

After you’ve read the Hannay series, try Witchwood. Set in 17th century Scotland, this novel reveals some history you’ll never read about in your average social studies text book.

You will have a hard time finding the Buchan books at your local library. They were all written around the time of W.W.I and are mostly out of print.


Essential Oils for a Wonderful Smelling Home

February 27th, 2016


If you have ever considered learning more about essential oils, you might want to take advantage of this special offer available from me for the next 24 hours.

For the next 24 hours, you can buy the Young Living Premium Starter Kit for $144 (original cost is $160 plus shipping — the special is a 10% discount plus your shipping cost will be refunded to you).

The Premium Starter Kit includes:

–Oil Diffuser
–Lavender Oil 5ml
–Peppermint Oil 5ml
–Lemon Oil 5ml
–Copiaba Oil 5ml
–Frankincense Oil 5ml
–Thieves Oil 5ml
–Purification Oil 5ml
–R.C. Oil 5ml
–DiGize Oil 5ml
–PanAway Oil 5ml
–Stress Away Oil 5ml
–Several sample packets of other oils and products
–24% wholesale discount on all the other products you wish to buy

Also, buying this Premium Starter Kit gets you started on a possible work-from-home opportunity.

Visit the Young Living web site for more information on the oils. Contact me if you’d like to take advantage of this offer or sign up here (call or email me so we can refund your shipping cost — 515-249-3611; bluedorn @



Archer & Zowie — a small, but feisty, story about two kids on an adventure

February 18th, 2016

Archer & Zowie by Hans Bluedorn

Chapter 1: The Teleportee

Somewhere on this Earth, there is a pile of hills. They are covered in grass and sprinkled with trees. Ambling through them is a road. At the end of the road is a subdivision. At the end of the subdivision is a house. And, in a room at the back of the house — just past the babysitter on the left — are two friends: Archer and Zowie.

Archer is ten years old, blonde, and wears aviator’s goggles over his eyes. He usually walks around in circles with his head down and his hands behind his back — probably thinking deep thoughts about the nature of reality.

Zowie is small, but has a big smile and a mess of curly black hair. Zowie wears a nicely fitting cardboard box — it is painted silver, has silver tubes of ductwork on the sides for arms, red checker pieces like buttons on the front, and her short little legs shoot out from the bottom.


ARCHER: There, your cardboard-box-suit makes you an advanced humanoid robot.
ZOWIE: This is uncomfortable!
ARCHER: You have to wear it. It’s your imagination stimulant.
ZOWIE: What’s that? What if I have an itch? Where’s your “imagination stipulant?”
ARCHER: It’s “stimulant.”

Archer likes to plan, explore, and find something new over the hill. But Zowie likes to look around, feel life, and find fun right where she is at. Archer and Zowie get along with each other pretty well . . . most of the time.

ZOWIE: Archer, what are you doing?

Archer is at the dining room table, staring at two piles of play-dough with deep concentration.

ARCHER: Imagining all the possible shapes I could build with this play dough.
ZOWIE: That pile looks like a cupcake. That pile looks like dog-doo.
ARCHER: Hmmm. But what could they BECOME?
ZOWIE: If you mix them together you could make a birthday cake?

Archer heads off to the kitchen. There, he looks up at the microwave. The microwave is high up, just out of reach. It is an average looking microwave -— white, with a glass window in the front. It has a bunch of buttons for choosing how long you want to cook your food and a big shiny handle underneath for opening the door when you want to eat your food. Just an average microwave.

Archer grabs the microwave’s power chord and wrestles with it, pulling it. The microwave teeters over the edge and . . . “BAM!”

Archer carries the microwave into the dining room. Zowie trails behind carrying its power chord. Then, he puts the microwave on the dining room table and stares at it for a long time.

ZOWIE: Why are you staring at a microwave?

Archer takes a clothes hanger, untwists it into a long wire and then bends it again into a big V. He tapes the big V to the top of the microwave, like the antennae on a old TV. He writes “TELEPORTEE” on the front of the microwave in permanent marker. Then, he stands back, puts his hands on his hips, and looks satisfied.


Read the rest of Archer & Zowie, Chapter 1 here. Go here to subscribe to Archer & Zowie and receive updates on future chapters.


Ancient History Sale This Week

February 7th, 2016


Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn — on sale this week for $16 (normally $28)

PicMonkey Collage

In addition, if you purchase Ancient History from Primary Sources, you will receive free, upon request, Ancient Literature — Significant Excerpts From the Books of Classical Authors Which You Can Use to Supplement Your History Curriculum — All 6 Ebooks (a $25 value)

Be sure to request the free offer during check-out on our shopping cart or email us at bluedorn @ This sale ends Friday.


How can children be self-taught in art?

February 5th, 2016

Question: How can children be self-taught in art?

Answer: It’s in the area of art that homeschooling can show itself to be especially valuable. Here are some of the things we have learned.

Provide children, especially those below age ten, with the space, the tools, and the time for their art work. Don’t load up their schedule with too much academic work and outside activities. They need plenty of time to develop their creativity by experimenting with art and crafts. In the main room of your home where you read to your children and spend the most time, reserve a space where your children can work on their projects. Dedicate a low shelf for your children where they can easily reach their art materials. Keep the shelf well stocked with whatever materials interest your children — good quality colored pencils, crayons, markers, paints, paper, scissors, glue, clay, wallpaper sample books, fabric sample books, matting board scraps, or sewing, knitting, and crocheting supplies. Next to this shelf, maintain a small table with chairs where your children can quietly work on their projects while you read to them. While you’re helping older children with math or science, your younger children can be working on their crafts. Some children could spend one or two hours a day on arts and crafts, while other children won’t be able to give it more than a few minutes of attention, but if you sit down and work beside them, they’ll spend more time.

Provide them with plenty of good examples. Our children primarily learned to draw by copying. They copied famous drawings and paintings, pictures out of old art-literature readers, or the McGuffey Readers, books from Dover Publications, or just anything we had around the house.

One of the most useful things we ever purchased for our girls was a bag of fabric scraps from a lady who did sewing and alterations. The bag cost only five dollars and was filled with scraps of silks, satins, velvets, and wools. The girls were very young at the time, and they had only elementary skills at sewing, but those first few efforts at turning the scraps into doll clothes fed their desire to learn more. They quickly passed mother’s abilities, and eventually taught themselves tailoring and pattern making, such that now they make vintage clothing reproductions, give sewing lessons, and sew for others. This all came out of a bag of scraps. We made sure that they had all of the time and the materials which they needed for their projects, and we provided the place for them to work. The sewing machine, the art shelf, and the tables were always handy and accessible for all of our children. Their projects could be left setting out until finished. Creativity can be easily discouraged by the prospect of having to put away a half finished project, then pulling everything back out and arranging it all over again. Which do you want: your house featured in Better Homes and Gardens, or your children developing skills in arts and crafts? Sure, they should tidy things up now and then — you determine how frequently — but don’t burden them with putting their projects away every day.

Homeschooling allows us the freedom to use our resources to best accommodate the natural development of our children. When we provide them with the right tools, space, time, and structure, they will develop artistic skill and creativity. They may not be another Thomas Cole or Rembrandt — but then again, they might!

Here’s a video our family made long, long ago — it shows daughter Johannah painting.