Wayfarers is a series of four courses, each of which stretches from pre-kindergarten through high school covering just about all of your subject areas. Each course is presented in three books, Term 1, Term 2, and Term 3. All Wayfarers courses present lesson material on the same general topics in the same sequence, but it is broken down into assignments for grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric levels. You can teach children at different levels simultaneously with one guide, covering the same topical area with age-appropriate material. As you cycle through the four courses up to three times, the content shifts up to a higher level each time around.
The four courses are:
Wayfarers: Ancient History
Wayfarers: Medieval History
Wayfarers: Revolution History
Wayfarers: Modern History
The Wayfarers guides borrow from Susan Wise Bauer’s neo-classical approach as well as Charlotte Mason. The 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 of 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 that do all of the scheduling for you to use a combination of real books and textbooks. 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. (The author, Kathy Jo DeVore, has included a number of resources that are among my Top Picks.)
All of your children can work together on some topics, sometimes through family read-aloud books and often through the independent reading of 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 strict and that parents should choose whatever seems most suitable for their situation and for each child.
Books Used for Subject Areas
Core books are used for history, geography, and science, and traditional texts are sometimes suggested as options. For history coverage in Wayfarers: Ancient History at the grammar level, students use Story of the World Volume 1 as the core book. Dialectic students use three core books: Guerber’s Story of the Ancient World, Story of the Greeks, and Story of the Romans. And 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 the three other Wayfarers courses. Parents also select historical fiction and non-fiction books from the lists for each level. Timeline activities 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 that are based in countries around the world. You will also use one or more of the following 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 the grammar and dialectic levels uses a 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, Quark Chronicles: Zoology, and Quark Chronicles: Anatomy are available thus far. Botany and Zoology are used with Wayfarers: Ancient History, and Anatomy is used with Wayfarers: Medieval History. Future Quark Chronicles will be Astronomy, Geology, Weather, Chemistry, and Physics. (They will eventually be used two books per year with the other Wayfarers courses, but other science resources are used in the meantime.) 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). While she has recommendations for the lab portion of biology, she doesn’t consider lab work essential and puts it under the optional activities section of her schedules. (See her rationale on pages 16 and 17 of each Wayfarers book.) Those trying to stick with traditional lab science courses for high school might want to use different resources.
Like history and geography, science has 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 Wayfarers: Ancient History and Wayfarers: Revolution History.
Language Arts recommendations include DeVore’s own programs English Lessons Through Literature and Reading & Spelling Through Literature or else Rod and Staff’s English series supplemented with copywork, literature, and writing in a “commonplace” book. Reading Lessons Through Literature courses teach reading skills for kindergarten through third grade. Other resources are used at the rhetoric level for language arts. Wayfarers should 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.
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 majority of the 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. This same mindset is evident in other places. For example, in the Medieval History course, students can study comparative religions with optional resources, including reading from proponents of those religions who accurately convey their beliefs rather than from Christian interpretations of their beliefs. In that same course, De Vore includes Bible stories and Pilgrim's Progress for the first two levels, but challenges students at the rhetoric level with resources such as The Best Things in Life: A Contemporary Socrates Looks at Power, Pleasure, Truth & the Good Life by Peter Kreeft, Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola, and Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers.
Each course has lesson plans for five days per week and 36 weeks per year, which provides for 180 days of schooling. The courses are divided into three terms of 12 weeks each, but splitting work into two semesters for record-keeping purposes should not pose a significant problem.
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 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 some books for young children 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.
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.)
Appendices at the back of each guide include Literature Lists from English Lessons Through Literature, 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.
Don't miss the online extras for each course. Using the password at the back of each volume you can access materials such as those for Medieval History: "History Through Art Color Images," color and blackline maps, and a pattern block spinner.
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.
Charlotte Mason fans should find Wayfarers an excellent way to implement that approach to education. 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. On top of that, I very much appreciate the quality of DeVore's reading and resource options as well as the opportunities to make choices to suit both parental preferences and each student's needs.