Wayfarers History is a series of four guides for complete programs, each of which will stretch from pre-kindergarten through high school covering just about all of your subject areas. Each Wayfarers guide presents lesson material on similar topics at grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric levels, so the idea is that you will cycle through the guides up to three times, shifting your children up to the next level every fourth year.
Thus far only the first guide, Wayfarers Ancient History, and the first term of Medieval History are available. The last two terms of Medieval History plus Revolution History and Modern History should be available by 2016.
Wayfarers guides borrow from Susan Wise Bauer’s neo-classical approach as well as Charlotte Mason. Division into the three levels of the trivium and the repeated cycles of history are the most prominent hallmarks of Bauer’s influence while the use of real books, narration, picture studies, and topical exploration reflect Mason’s influence. The Wayfarers approach isn’t unit study since all subject areas are not tied to common themes, but a unit study approach is used within subject areas such as geography, history, and science. This blending of methodologies coupled with some traditional textbooks makes Wayfarers a very eclectic approach for homeschooling.
While the Wayfarers guides include a little bit of actual teaching information, they are essentially guides for using a combination of real books and textbooks that does all of the scheduling for you. You will need to obtain quite a few other resources to use along with each guide. The value of Wayfarers is that it incorporates real books into a curriculum that uses carefully selected resources that work together to provide an interesting and effective approach to learning. (DeVore has included a number of resources that are among my Top Picks.)
Each course has lesson plans for five days per week and 36 weeks per year, which provides for 180 days of schooling. Additionally, for the purpose of choosing many of the resources, the courses are divided into three terms of 12 weeks each. (Splitting work into two semesters for record keeping purposes should not pose a significant problem.)
All of your children can be working together on some topics, sometimes through family read alouds, but often by reading books on the same topic that are written at an appropriate level for each student. DeVore stresses that the division of books for use at the various levels is not hard and fast, and that parents should choose whatever seems most suitable for their situation and for each child.
Spine books are used for some subjects, and traditional texts are sometimes suggested as options.
For history coverage in Wayfarers Ancient History, grammar level students use Story of the World Volume 1 and dialectic students use Guerber’s Story of the Ancient World, Story of the Greeks, and Story of the Romans, while rhetoric students choose from Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World or Diana Waring’s Ancient Civilizations and the Bible. Books from these same series are used with Wayfarers Medieval History. Parents also select historical fiction and non-fiction books from lists for each level. Timeline or Book of Centuries activities that are included in the lesson plans help students relate events they learn about through the various resources to the larger narrative of history.
Geography ties in with history to some extent. In Wayfarers Ancient History, students read fictional books set in ancient times and especially in Asian settings. You will also use one or more “core” books throughout the year to build broader, foundational knowledge of geography: Expedition Earth, A Child’s Introduction to the World, Geography Through Art, and Eat Your Way Around the World.
Science for grammar and dialectic levels uses a new series called the Quark Chronicles. These are fictional stories of children traveling through space on a sentient spaceship and learning science through their adventures. Quark Chronicles: Botany is available now with Quark Chronicles: Zoology coming next. These two books will be used with Wayfarers Ancient History. Future Quark Chronicles will be Anatomy, Astronomy, Geology, Weather, Chemistry, and Physics. (They will be used two books per year in the given order with the other Wayfarers courses.) The dialectic level for science is buttressed with additional core books such as Botany in 8 Lessons and Exploring the World of Biology. DeVore recommends optional experiment and activity books such as those from the Great Science Adventures series. She recommends more challenging resources for the rhetoric level, but even those recommendations reflect her Charlotte Mason proclivities (e.g., High School Biology in Your Home by Bridget Ardoin that uses a guided research approach and the For Dummies series). While she has recommendations for the lab portion of Biology, she doesn’t consider lab work essential and puts it under the optional “Activities.” (See her rationale on page 17 of her book.) Those trying to stick with traditional lab science courses for high school might want to use different resources.
As with history and geography, for science there are recommendations for real books to use alongside the “core” books. For Wayfarers Ancient History, these books include many titles relating to botany. At the rhetoric level, she also includes Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as well as “biology worldview books” under three headings: Creationist, Intelligent Design, and Evolution. Thus, you can pick your own preference of viewpoint to present. Health and Sex Ed are also covered in both Ancient and Revolution Wayfarers courses.
Language Arts recommendations include DeVore’s own programs English Lessons Through Literature and Reading Lessons Through Literature or else Rod and Staff’s English series supplemented with copywork, literature, and writing in a “commonplace” book. Reading Lessons Through Literature teaches reading skills for kindergarten through third grade. Other resources are used at the rhetoric level for language arts.
While Devore recommends Math-U-See, Miquon Math (for young children), or Singapore Math, her math lesson plans have minimal details. You could easily use other math or language arts programs with Wayfarers.
Bible reading is scheduled into the lesson plans with the option of Bible stories for younger children. Other Bible study books are recommended as well, with additional resources that get into theology and philosophy for older students.
The top right row of each lesson plan labeled “Activities” is where you find art, music, geography, and science lab activities, all of which DeVore describes as being optional. Another lesson plan category labeled “Other” lists assignments for the dialectic level from Joy Hakims Story of Science series and Uncle Eric books while the rhetoric level dives into logic and critical thinking with books from Classical Academic Press.
Preschool activities are included in the daily lessons, and an appendix lays out a program of literature to read that includes books on history and science topics. (Most of the books are available in the public domain.) This is a gentle, book-and-activity based approach to learning for the early years.
Each day’s lesson plan is presented in a chart that spreads over two-facing pages. At a glance you can see specific pages or chapters in books to use as well as supplemental activities for each level. Each week’s lesson plans are prefaced with a “Signposts” page listing any additional supplies that will be needed. Each week ends with “Milestones,” a few pages that include a short “History Through Art” lesson and commentary on a few books that will have been read as literature for geography.
The majority of books used in Wayfarers are secular, but there are still a significant number of books with a Christian point of view, generally Protestant. DeVore includes “Notes About Books” in each guide, a few pages with comments about specific books, generally mentioning peculiarities or special issues that might arise. (This is where she explains that her goal with Wayfarers isn’t to change minds on the origins debate, which is why she offers options for various points of view.)
Appendices at the back of each book includes “English Lessons Through Literature Literature Lists,” “Literature Suggestions by Grade Level,” the “Pathways Schedule” for preschoolers, “Prepared Dictation Instructions,” a description of the “Montessori Three-Period Lesson” to be used with young children, and schedules for optional high school spine books that you might choose to use.
The layout of Wayfarers’ daily lesson plans makes them easy to decipher very quickly. Because Wayfarers combines all grade levels within the lesson plans, it provides minimal details in those lesson plans. Planning ahead is essential. Parents need to sort through their options and choose in advance at least the core books that they plan to use. DeVore deliberately includes parallel options so that there will be “fresh” resources to use when families cycle through the curriculum four years later. So you definitely will not use all of the listed resources. (Once you’ve selected core resources, I recommend highlighting those assignments in the lesson plans in advance so that you can spot assignments even more quickly each day.)
Wayfarers might work especially well for families who also use Reading Lessons Through Literature and/or English Lessons Through Literature because those courses flesh out the methodology that DeVore favors more thoroughly than do the Wayfarers courses by themselves. Those already familiar with Charlotte Mason methods from other resources are likely to be comfortable with that part of the methodology right away. Even those new to the use of real books as a significant part of the curriculum should find that Wayfarers makes the shift away from reliance on traditional textbooks an easy one.
Note: While you can purchase guides in either PDF or printed formats, you will almost certainly want to print out PDFs so that you can make notes on your lesson plans, so keep this in mind as you decide which format to buy.