On Learning Goals + Writing Your Own Syllabus

We go back to school today.

My girls will be in fifth and sixth grade,
my boy is starting preschool,
and I am beginning another year of learning, too. 

I want to read all the books!
I want to know all the things!

The sheer number of books that exist overwhelms me, but I think I've landed on a way to structure my reading a bit. A syllabus! I have some definite reading goals this year, and I'm hoping a focused book list will help me meet those goals.
Here's my process in creating a syllabus:

1. Choose a Topic

You could choose a place, a time period, a certain genre...
anything you're thinking a lot about.

This year I want to answer some specific questions and really dive deep into one time period. I'm so curious about history and feel such a hole in my education of it, so I've decided to start at the very beginning and study earliest history and the Creation.
I can't get this topic out of my head.
For some reason, it's really important for me to go deep into this.

2. Identify Questions You Want to Answer

I started reading Sapiens this summer, and it brought up so many questions. Are these theories or facts? Can science and religion work together? How? What do I believe about the beginning of the world? What do other people believe? What do scientists say?

I created my book list to hopefully answer questions like this.

3. Decide How You Want to Learn

I love the idea of thoroughly studying a topic by coming at it from different angles. In education they call this a unit study or interest-led learning. Ambleside Online, Little Women Farmhouse, and the Peaceful Press give great examples of how to structure an education like this, and I've looked to them for help on creating my plan for the year. 

My syllabus will include the following subjects: 

Natural History
History Tales

4. Find Your Books

This is my favorite part.
Over the years, I've discovered a handful of really great book finders.
They are all homeschool moms.
I take time to check through their book lists, think of books I know about, and ask friends and family for recommendations on my subject. I'm looking for at least one book to fit every subject listed above. It's nice to have a balance of fiction, non-fiction, and lighter books that you can pick up for a few minutes at a time.

Here are my favorite sites for finding books. They are truly treasures of the internet:

The Peaceful Press
Beautiful Feet Books
Heritage Mom
Stories of Color
Simply Charlotte Mason 
Ambleside Online

5. Set Your Terms and Get Reading!

I hope to complete my list by the end of this school year.
Or, I should say, I will be done studying this topic by the end of this school year.
I may not read all these books, and I may add other books along the way, but at least I have a solid base to go from.
And remember: You set the terms.
No need to stress about reading your whole list quickly or finishing it at all. Even if you read one book from your list, you'll know more about that topic than you did before. 

And now,
if you're still with me,

Here is my syllabus for the 2023-24 school year:

Disclosure: As a bookshop.org affiliate, I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Study references to the Creation

Temple and Cosmos, by Hugh Nibley
Science and Religion, by David M. Barker

Natural History
On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari

History Tales
In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World, by Virginia Hamilton
Gilgamesh the Hero, by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World, by Shelley Emling
Mary Leakey: A Scientist Who Really Dug Her Work, by Mike Venezia

Rudyard Kipling

Material World: A Global Family Portrait, by Peter Menzel
*Map of Ancient Mesopotamia

The Golden Bull, by Marjorie Cowley
Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
The Magician's Nephew
, by C.S. Lewis

The Ultimate Visual History of the World, by Jean-Pierre Isbouts

Hunt, Gather, Parent, by Michaeleen Doucleff
Nom Nom Paleo, by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong


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