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"Answer to Prayer" - Reviews of the New Simply Classical Curriculum

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    "Answer to Prayer" - Reviews of the New Simply Classical Curriculum

    This morning we received a personal request from someone who would like to begin the Simply Classical Curriculum. This homeschooling mother of a child with special needs asked to read actual reviews written by anyone teaching from the new Simply Classical Curriculum.

    I gathered several from posts & emails. We will excerpt some of these to share on the website.

    If you do not see your name here and would be willing to add your thoughts, please submit here or send to me privately: [email protected]. A good collection of reviews would be helpful for other families too.

    Level A

    ...The final, and the most beautiful, piece to the puzzle for Kate’s early preschool education is the new Simply Classical Curriculum from Memoria Press.... Based on her book, Cheryl Swope is designing classical curriculum for special needs children.

    We have begun working through the first level with Kate this summer. We start each day with a prayer from the beautiful Little Golden Book Prayers for Children. When we talk about the baby birds and mama bird on the page, Kate practices her speech and her signing. From there, each day includes basic calendar activities (days of the week and weather), counting and alphabet recitation, as well as beginning memory work from Scripture. We then read the book of the week. Cheryl Swope has chosen wonderful books from authors including Beatrix Potter, Richard Scarry, Eric Carle, and Margaret Wise Brown, among others. Because these are board books, they are perfect for little hands and allow Kate to practice her fine motor skills by turning the pages for me.
    Fine and gross motor, oral language, and other therapies are wrapped into the weekly readings. We practice making a pointing finger to count objects; we jump, squat down, and push strollers to act out parts of a story; we discuss feelings and learn empathy while learning to read emotions on the faces of the characters. Cheryl Swope has taken those skills that need explicit instruction and woven them beautifully into activities springing out of the books we are reading. She has captured special needs preschool and bottled it inside something true, good, and beautiful.

    Early academics is not something I would normally advocate. If I did, it would come in the form of “only if the child shows an interest.” Of my three boys, the younger two did show an interest, but ultimately, it was not the early academics that drove them. It was the desire to emulate their older brother(s) by doing “school” too. We kept it simple – a few Kumon books; a white board and marker to practice “writing;” some paper, scissors, glue, and crayons. If they felt like being at the table with the rest of us, they were welcomed. But it was not planned or forced. We do not have that luxury with Kate. We knew early on that she needed an early start to build a foundation that came easily for her brothers. We knew her development was an uphill climb from the beginning. But we also knew that given the skills, the input, and the time, she would be able to fly. Early academics, beginning much younger for her than her brothers, is the key to helping her fly. For us, that takes the form of early reading instruction, explicit math instruction, and a beautifully written preschool special needs curriculum. And she is thriving.

    Read this review in the original blogpost.


    Michelle's Musings:
    I truly believe Level A has helped his oral skills more than anything else. It gave me exactly what I was looking for, something concrete to do with him to work on oral language skills. He doesn't really say any of the memory work on his own, but he is much more willing to repeat all the words back to me. In the last week or so he has even started "counting" on his own, though he knows the numbers and can say them, his favorite number is 2, so when he counts on his own every other number is 2, but he wouldn't even count on his own until this past week or so. So that is progress! He also is acting more aware of what letters of the alphabet are and has just grown so much in his vocabulary when we work with him on his lessons.

    I have not approached Level A with the intention of him doing everything exactly right, and he hasn't, but he has grown so much, when we started Level A he only had about 10 words or so he said, he has grown so much in vocabulary since then. My hope between Level B next year and preschool he will become more conversational as well.

    He has shown me he understands everything we do and I love watching him run to our Days of the Week wall to tell me what the next day of the week is (and he's even kind of starting to tell me what the day is before I have him repeat it). It's just amazing to see how much he knows and understands, despite his low oral language ability, born 3 months early at 2.5# I am amazed at how big and capable he is physically too!

    The daily activities include the following; a prayer (that changes every few weeks so they can really learn each one), weather chart, days of the week calendar, counting, the alphabet and a memory verse (it's the same one the whole curriculum).

    My son adores doing the weather chart and the days of the week calendar. We heard his first phrases ever with the weather chart ("It's cloudy," and "It's sunny."). Lately he has even been saying weather after I prompt him to go to his chart. This morning the whole walk to his bedroom (we keep the chart by his bedroom window) he was saying weather over and over again while he walked over to it.

    The books that were chosen for the weeks are wonderful. Some of the books we already own because well, they are just typical books that people buy for people who have little kids, like Goodnight Moon, or Brown Bear, Brown Bear. We probably already owned about 5-8 of the books, so between that and getting them at the library we are mostly set! Also when I say it is time to read "fill in the title of the current week's book here" he eagerly grabs it if I don't have it in hand already and plops down in my lap to read it. The lesson plans are great and pulling different aspects out of the pages of the book. Some of the things they pull out are counting, colors, animal names and sounds, emotions and other simple concepts or word groups. There are prompts in the lessons to get your child to respond to things in a particular way to encourage certain vocabulary.

    Then there are other activities that focus on fine and gross motor skills. One week he got to cut up a banana (with supervision of course) and make his own peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another week we ran around the house like we were different animals, galloping, waddling and such. It just really depends on what the story is what kind of activity is suggested. The last week he got to practice using scissors (and he loves using scissors, not great at it yet, but getting the hang of it) and coloring in the lines. This week it's drumming on an oatmeal container. There is a wonderful variety of activities and he has been pretty motivated to do them so far!

    It is hardly time consuming at all generally! In fact most days we finish everything listed for the day in about a half hour. Sometimes the activities take longer or depending on schedules we don't have time to do everything listed so we either break it up through out the day (in the morning we might just accomplish the weather chart and days of the week calendar, then after lunch read the book and then do something of the other activities after supper in the evening for example) or we just leave something out. If we leave something out it is generally the gross motor activity because though it reinforces the other things assigned for the day it is the easiest thing to leave off without losing something from the curriculum.

    Also as a 4 day curriculum if you are super busy one day, just make it up a different day! I've been really struggling a lot personally with sleep and some other health things so we have just skipped weeks occasionally and then picked up the next week where we left off. I think the most important thing to remember is that you are doing something and that you do not have to race through to the end. With something like this the first to the end does not win a prize, its more about teaching my son and having him enjoy the learning process. If I am so exhausted or sick feeling that I cannot make it a good thing for him (there have been some days when I try to start work and then just don't do the work with him because of my patience level) then it may be better to not do it.

    The curriculum lasts only 34 weeks which means in order to finish it within a year I have 18 weeks breathing room! With a baby on the way that is a great thing for me to remember. Also because of when we originally start it we were going to be reading the Christmas book before the end of November, now we'll read it in the middle of Advent which I personally like a little better.

    Since the beginning of the curriculum what changes have I observed in my son's abilities? Well, he is saying a lot more words, he's started being more spontaneous in his speech (when we started he only spoke when prompted too, now he will say words or 2 word phrases because he decided to as opposed to being told to) andI just get to see his little face light up each time we read a book. We have continued speech therapy, though we have gone down to every other week instead of every week, even his therapist has noticed a great increase in his vocabulary since we started working with him on this curriculum. We have also started doing flashcards (given to us by his therapist and ones that I have created myself) which I have laminated and put on the ring to take with in the diaper bag and that seems to be helpful too. We just started doing that 2 weeks ago, but it's been good so far!

    All in all I am really happy that we purchased the lesson plans, they have been a blessing to all of us. To Ben and myself as we watch our son grow in his abilities and to my son as he is able to be excited about the lessons and learn to say and do more. I know this got lengthy, but I hope the information is helpful. I love education and am excited to learn more as we educate our children, no matter what form of education that may take in the future.

    I have found this curriculum to be the perfect fit for our needs. I think the most heart warming part of it is seeing his joy in books. We were working towards that already, but it has truly blossomed, picking up one of the books at the library one week I handed it to him telling him this is your next book for your lessons and he grabbed it and flipped through it on the way home and didn't want to let it go. If I pull out his lesson book for the week he immediately comes over and plops down in my lap.

    CherryBlossom (CreativeMadnessMama):

    We are having great success with the gentle approach of the Simply Classical Curriculum Level B.

    Last fall I started using Level B with OrangeBlossom and she loves it. In the past month she has started to want more, and now I think I am going to go ahead and order Level C....

    This curriculum is derived from the inspiration of the book Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child by Cheryl Swope which I would recommend to anyone.

    Whether your child is diagnosed, different, or apparently average there is much wisdom in these pages.


    We are working in Level C with our 6-year-old son and things are going GREAT.... His verbal output, processing, temperament, fine motor, organizational thinking, understanding, ability, PEACE and ENTHUSIASM have soared. We have a different child now. He is making actual conversation! (!!!!!)

    For a child who could not speak until his fifth birthday, he is making AMAZING progress. He LOVES recitation, is incredibly good at retention of rote material and loves to "show off" what he knows. Very eager to please, learn and discover.

    We absolutely LOVE IT and are seeing so much excitement, improvement, willingness to learn, and comprehension open up for him. Not enough good things to say. It has been such a blessing to find this curriculum. Total answer to prayer.

    Every homeschooling parent has the overwhelming responsibility to educate their children, whose formation relies primarily upon their guidance, but much more so with a special needs family. These factors raised my stress to a level that was, frankly, beginning to become unmanageable. I needed "school in a box"; guided and developed by someone who had gone before me and knew what it was like to educate a struggling learner and who had developed a curriculum that anticipated their unique challenges. But all the "school in a box" programs I'd researched were not a good fit for the beautiful, rich, quality education my husband and I want for our children.

    My son is six and a half, but did not begin speaking until a little after his fifth birthday. He has been examined by four specialists and a world-renowned speech pathologist. The "determination" is a bit of a mystery. He does not have autism, is physically healthy as a horse with no detectable genetic or physical anomalies. Yet his struggle with speech is similar to a child with classic developmental apraxia of speech but his comprehension is about the level of a two year old. He has a photographic memory; is very detail-oriented and quite bright; affectionate; funny; empathetic; great strength and gross motor skills, etc., etc..... But trying to piece together something for his "kindergarten" year had been a BEAR. Memoria seems to have thought of eveything -- SO, SO GRATEFUL.

    W's fine motor has improved greatly with daily, gentle, slow and steady, printing practice and he even likes to use scissors now -- something I could NOT get him to do before. The thing I have found that worked for W in the very beginning was to take the lesson plans for Level C and break them up into two days -- sometimes three -- depending on his mood, energy, strengths and weaknesses. That way we could cover all the material required, but at his pace. He (and I!) needed to get the feel and rhythm of how the curriculum flows (and, with his little brother and sister joining us, I needed to figure out how to teach him with "an audience"!)

    Now that we have been "doing school" for a bit, we are finally able to cover all the ground needed in one "school day" (about two to two-and-a-half hours). But it took us a bit to work up to this as we got the hang of everything.

    Do you know what a MIRACLE this feels like to me and to our family? Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I truly did not think these words would be coming out of my mouth this time last year. I was trying to do homeschool by myself, piecemeal, and we were making progress... But there were so many "holes" I didn't know how to fill in his learning that I was overwhelmed. This curriculum has been a true answer to prayer. Not enough good things to say, truly. Thank you!

    Thanks to all for sharing these. The curriculum is new, so these detailed, early reviews help families tremendously.


    Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child

    More reviews - one from a classical Christian school:

    Level A
    Erika Mildred, headmistress of Messiah Lutheran Classical Academy in Keller, Texas, writes:

    We love the way the Simply Classical Curriculum flows. It's easy for teachers to understand to use in the classroom every day. We used SC Level A in our two-year-old preschool program this year. It works great for preschoolers of all ability levels. We really liked the kinesthetic activities with the reading curriculum.


    Level A
    Homeschooling mother Elaine explains how she incorporates picture cues while teaching her son throughout the day - excerpted to preserve anonymity:

    “Our son is 14. He has low-functioning autism, is non-verbal, has auditory processing disorder, has involuntary muscle spasms, sensory integration disorder, and sleep disorder.

    I was very excited last year to find the book Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child. I read this very excitedly! I have been using Level A of the Simply Classical Curriculum with my son since last September. He loves to look at books, sometimes upside down....

    Two years ago my son had hit puberty. I was so discouraged and ready to put him in public school. Your book and curriculum have been part of an answer to prayer. I talk to my son about Jesus, daily. I take seriously the Deut. 6:4-9 passage about teaching him about our faith. I talk to him about pictures on our walls and wherever I see them, including at church. Music is a major part of our lives. I love to sing!

    To help him understand, I take pictures of things, especially food, which is highly motivational for him. I create albums from which he can make choices. I make other picture albums to prepare him if we are going out somewhere, and we use pictures to explain the activities of school. Although some days end in tears (mine), God comforts me, as I teach my son. I love Psalm 139.*

    Thank you for your book. I loved reading about your two precious children. It encouraged me so much!”

    *Psalm 139:4
    "Before a word is on my tongue
    You, Lord, know it completely."


    Feel free to share more Simply Classical Curriculum reviews here or send to [email protected].

    Thank you to all -



      Does Michelle Know?

      I'm getting all misty-eyed reading these comments. So beautiful. You mentioned in your book that much of this was your daughter's wish, to help other children like her. Does Michelle know what a beautiful seed she has planted for the kingdom of God?
      “If I should fall even a thousand times a day, a thousand times, with peaceful repentance, I will say immediately, Nunc Coepi, ‘Now, I begin.’.”

      ~Venerable Bruno Lanteri
      Wonder Boy 14 ... MP5 + R&S Math 6
      Joy Bubble 12 ... MP5 full core
      Cowboy 10 ... MP5 + R&S Math 4
      Sassafras 6 ... MP1
      All … SSPX Catechesis


        Originally posted by Anita View Post
        I'm getting all misty-eyed reading these comments. So beautiful. You mentioned in your book that much of this was your daughter's wish, to help other children like her. Does Michelle know what a beautiful seed she has planted ... ?
        When I share comments with my daughter Michelle, I cannot tell whether she truly comprehends her influence. (Do any of us?)

        I do know that Michelle always enjoys hearing where the message originated. As you may remember from Simply Classical, this is the girl who once insisted on sorting our laundry by country of origin! (Sri Lanka, Thailand, .... )

        When we heard from Uganda, and then from Singapore, she eagerly found the locations on the globe. But even "Michigan" or "Colorado" is very exciting in our rural Missouri home. Everyone's words, no matter the location, encourage her tremendously.

        Most often, after I share someone's comments, Michelle just embraces me in silence. There truly are no words for either of us.

        A new review -

        Level A
        Kim, homeschooling mother for over 20 years - about the family's newly adopted child with special needs

        I stumbled upon the Simply Classical Curriculum last fall and purchased the teacher's manual for level A for our little Nathaniel. He was placed with us through foster care in 2013. With his adoption finalized, he is 28 months now.

        Nathaniel has a tracheostomy and is g-tube dependent. He has only a pinhead opening between his upper airway and lungs (congenital), heart defects, deformed hand, global delays, sensory issues... I could on and on. He came to us with a very poor prognosis. At 8 months he could hold his head up. Many days the focus was just on staying alive. His care is demanding enough that we still get 16 hours a day of private duty nursing.

        When we got involved with foster care, I was very firm that I wasn't going to homeschool. With our last one at home, a sophomore, 20+ years of homeschooling is ... a lot, as you know. Starting over with a baby was enough of a leap of faith!

        But Nathaniel has done amazing. As his second birthday approached last November, I decided to take a peek at what is out there for preschool. That was when I found your material. I just wanted to thank you for the product.

        Nathaniel's future is still very unknown. He has a lot ahead of him yet. Whether I homeschool or not is also uncertain.

        But the curriculum is the gentle approach to early learning we need right now. It compliments my own educational preferences developed over the years (I already had so many of the books!), fits well with Nathaniel's therapies, and offers an easy weekly layout for his day nurse and I to share. Thank you.


          Originally posted by cherylswope View Post
          When I share comments with my daughter Michelle, I cannot tell whether she truly comprehends her influence. (Do any of us?)

          I do know that Michelle always enjoys hearing where the message originated. (As you may remember from Simply Classical, this is the girl who once insisted on sorting our laundry by country of origin!)

          When we heard from Africa, and then from Singapore, she eagerly found the locations on the globe. But even "Michigan" or "Colorado" is very exciting in our rural Missouri home.

          Most often, after I share someone's comments with her, Michelle just embraces me in silence. There truly are no words for either of us.
          Happy tears. And I understand -- one of the beauties of having children with special needs are those wordless moments; so, so dear to my heart, and the Heart of Christ.

          And that new review just humbled me so much. A joy to read.

          Coincidentally, this thread comes as we just got word that our application to homeschool has been approved by our school board. Over a year of work has finally been rubber stamped. (Heh) A dear friend remarked how ironic it is that we have to jump through complicated hoops to prove ourselves good parents while poor parenting requires none. I think, in the end, the proof is our children.
          “If I should fall even a thousand times a day, a thousand times, with peaceful repentance, I will say immediately, Nunc Coepi, ‘Now, I begin.’.”

          ~Venerable Bruno Lanteri
          Wonder Boy 14 ... MP5 + R&S Math 6
          Joy Bubble 12 ... MP5 full core
          Cowboy 10 ... MP5 + R&S Math 4
          Sassafras 6 ... MP1
          All … SSPX Catechesis


            Cathy Duffy Reviews the Simply Classical Curriculum May 2015

            Thank you to all who shared responses.

            Today the respected homeschooler curriculum reviewer, Cathy Duffy, added these thoughts in a formal review:

            "Memoria Press has begun creating the Simply Classical program, complete year-long packages for teaching children with special needs beginning as young as ages two or three. 'The rich beautiful content of a classical Christian education designed to promote wisdom, virtue, and eloquence within the Christian context of forgiveness, mercy, and salvation'— reflects Memoria Press’s dedication to both classical and Christian education. While they still use grammar level techniques (based on the trivium approach) with oral repetition and recitation, they do so through stories, songs, and activities in a playful manner.... The heart of each year’s program is the Simply Classical Curriculum Manual with its step-by-step instructions for teaching all subject areas. Each package has core resources for teaching in a gentle manner that is appropriate for children with special needs. Each level also provides more tactile, sensory, and movement-based learning than is common to most other Memoria Press programs....

            It might work well with children who have minimal developmental delays, but is also well suited for children with more significant intellectual disability, language disorders, autism, or learning disabilities. Some parents might like to use it with their children with normal learning abilities just because of the combination of learning methods that are used. Be sure to use the Readiness Checklists to determine which level of Simply Classical will be suitable for your child. More levels are planned to cover ages 2 through 21." Cathy Duffy, 2015. Read Cathy's full review.

            Learn more, take the free online assessments, or purchase the Simply Classical Curriculum here.