How Does This Secular Curriculum Address Religion Throughout History?

As a secular curriculum our goal is to keep the study of religion academic. We will study its influences, myths, and practices where it applies to a culture. To exclude the study of religion from history would be disingenuous at best and at worst leave a learner with an incomplete education. We will never posit religion or religious myths as fact.

Religion and passive religious comments are woven throughout literature and therefore hard to fully exclude. We work hard to look for the finest quality books without any religious influence, but there will be an odd time when the benefit of a book outweighs a small implication of religion, for example a mention of church or God in passing. Instead of passing up this great work, we will do our best to add a small note (indicated by the speak bubble in the Legend) that a mention of religion is contained in the days reading. This will allow you as the Learning Partner to make the choice to address the mention, breeze right through it if it does not concern you, or change the wording to your liking.

At Torchlight we hold that each family should decide what is right for them. In practice we personally prefer to start any reading containing mentions of religion with a disclaimer of, “Many people in the past and in our present, choose to believe stories to explain the unexplainable.People throughout time have been uncomfortable not having answers to difficult questions. We call these stories this religion. When they mention ________ this is an example of one of those stories.” Then we proceed to discuss our personal thoughts and instill that we respect each person’s right to hold their own belief system as long as those beliefs do not impose harm upon others. By given you the heads-up we hope to provide the opportunity to address these instances in a way that fits your family’s choices.

What if My Learner Simply Dislikes Reading?

This happens! Not to fret, Torchlight has many truly engaging audiobooks in our ranks. We recommend letting children do a “mindless task”, a.k.a. something that does not occupy much concentration. Examples of this are playing with a chunk of clay (a personal favorite). They can even be asked to mold a figure of something they hear about in the story. another option is doodling, which tends to work better for older kids that are accomplished doodlers. Other options include playing with a rubber band, knitting (or crocheting), or simply walking around the kitchen island as you read or both listen. We also have a list of alternatives and we make a concerted effort to include variety, like engaging and educational comic-books. If Torchlight ends up just not being the right choice for you, we understand and our feelings won’t be hurt. We still wish you the best of luck finding your best fit!

How Do I Integrate Physical Activity?

Teaching healthful movement is personal to each family, but studies suggest that small bursts of time outside can reinvigorate learning, absorption, and attention. If things are starting to go sideways and become stress-inducing we encourage a break with a little physical activity. We have included curriculum for science (Be Naturally Curious) and our recommended Reading (Logic of English) that include lots of full-body activities and games purposely, but we also encourage daily movement during learning. This is the driving force behind our Pantomime Poetry. Some Cosmic Kids Yoga is great any time of day, even as a break between subjects. A quick outside game of “What Animal Am I?” or “Can You be a________?” on the lawn as they run from side to side acting out their given or chosen animal can be a lot of fun and just what is needed to break-up the day. Conducting lessons outside is also a well-loved option and greatly encouraged. We support coming up with (or using these) options to pull from when the need arises.

Why don’t you include cultural crafts in Level K?

The main benefit of crafts is to hone fine motor skills and work on process. We have included cross-curricular art that involves shapes, cutting skills, and solid process skills practice. We also include drawing, which is of the utmost importance to fine-motor development and imagination. Many scheduled and extension projects are also included. We prefer to stay away from crafts that attempt to reproduce cultural artifacts because we find far more value in children being introduced to the real artifacts and learning to respect the customs and beauty behind how and why they are made. There are a handful of extension projects that do illustrate a skill through reproduction, but without treading on the cultural significance. We do include a lot of fun exposure to works of art, both paintings and music, in this level. We hope this bring forth many wonderful questions followed by deep discussions and lead to aspirations of creating their own art. Future levels will include art activities based on technique and historic significance. We also hope our families will consider adopting the frequent practice of allowing learners to mold clay, draw, paint, or color during read aloud. This allows some kids to process better while giving them opportunities to explore art mediums with no expectations, just their own creativity.

What is your philosophy regarding handling questions?

One small note on how questions were intended to be handled with this curriculum. This will address both literature comprehension questions and general inquiry questions, so bear with us. Each family has their own style, but it might help to know our ideas when formulating this curriculum. We honor the phrase, “I don’t know, but let’s look it up!” The intention is two-fold; We want children to understand that age and position does not equal infallible or all-knowing and we want them to inherit the habit of inquiry and research. We believe it is more than alright not to have all the answers at the tip of your tongue, but develop the habit of allowing a question to drive them to educate themselves. We live in an information age and what we feel is most valuable is competence and drive to find what you need and problem solve. We feel this comes from practice that develops a healthy habit.

Comprehension questions are a standard part of most curriculums with a literature component. Torchlight is a bit different. While we might include some questions as a guide, we prefer to provide notes to the learning partner that help set-up any reading for success. These notes will address learning opportunities in the form of deep discussions regarding philosophy, psychology, logic, morals/character, and exploration of ideas.

The reason for this approach is to allow for a more organic flow of reading, discussion and inquiry. To assist in this Torchlight has provided our signature Questioning Trees coupled with notations when applicable, which will increase as the levels progress. Standard discussion questions have a tendency to stifle organic thought and inquiry. They also have a reputation for simply testing whether the reader completed the assigned reading as opposed to really thought about what they were reading. We hope this approach will change that with open-ended Socratic questioning that asks the reader to ponder what they are curious about and develop a healthy habit of wondering as they read.