On this page, you can read about the general characteristics of the “Peppermint Stick” approach to learning!
“PSLC” is the short form of our long name – Peppermint Stick Learning Company. 😊 Sometimes we just call it “Peppermint Stick”!
- Scroll towards the bottom of this page for the links about comparisons with other educational approaches or answers to specific questions you may have. We share many characteristics of what is more commonly known as a “minimalist homeschool” style.
- Important to know – The products we sell tend to be able to be adapted easily for use in almost any of the common educational styles/approaches that you may have heard of as you understand the various choices available for home schooling. While our “Peppermint Stick” style is unique in a sense and sometimes has some different characteristics compared to typical curriculum, it is also very flexible in how it can be used to meet the needs of today’s families!
While many of our resources deal with the academic subject areas applied towards real life, we believe that a successful education includes many learning experiences which simply cannot (and should not) be articulated best in a book. We encourage lifelong learners to grasp important concepts and explore beyond in their own individual interests outside of a book too!
Please Note: On this website, home learning, homeschooling, and home education are synonyms. These terms are used to describe the involvement of parents (or guardians) in taking the responsibility of guiding their child(ren)’s education. Most of our audience provide academic education in a home environment but classroom teachers or others in the general public are also very welcome to pick up tips or resources here.
Our educational approach or style is one that combines various parts of some styles and sprinkles in our own flavour to savour! As you read through parts of our website, we hope you will take a “lick” at what we have to offer. ♥
School-time should be sweet, not boring, nor simply endured until a break!
Do YOUR kids love their education at home? Mine do!
My definition of “fun” = simple delights with a good purpose!
- Considerate of Childhood: We like cute visuals, fun activities which can be (hopefully) set up and cleaned up by children, and freedom for many assignments (keep-it-simple or be extra creative). Children naturally love simplicity and flexibility to explore many things to learn! We like having the opportunities of taking some learning outdoors, perhaps making a few learning/play centers (rather than just desk work), and absorbing more than just “the basic 3R’s” for subjects. We sprinkle some pep into learning to keep students eager to learn!
- The “Surprise Factor”: Not every lesson has to be predictable in layout/structure or the method of learning. We all like surprises! You really don’t want to see a bored student in mid-winter who is soooooo used to a routine – “Do this page the same way you have the previous pages of this book for the past few months, subject after subject – Um, OK, I’ll reward you by saying finish your schoolwork and then you can have extra free-time.” When I (Joy, author of PSLC curriculum) was a student, I was a “square peg in a round hole” who did well with my studies – partly because my teachers allowed me to be unpredictable! I want to my resources not just to “cover the content” but instead, be thoughtfully designed to be refreshing to the families!
- Learn in chunks, bite-size pieces of the stuff in the same category; focused learning. Our unit chunks do not last all year; instead think of a few days, a week, a month, depending on the topic. Nor are they units that keep the same topic all subjects all month. You can have a different topic for each subject!
- Make it clear and straightforward while exploring some challenges – with age-appropriate instructions, less distracting layouts with good font-sizing and simple pictures.
- Incorporate different methods of learning – variety works! We love a balance of hands-on, visual, written, and oral activities! More details about why we do this are within our books or throughout our website but here are a few reasons:
- Spice – Sure, some children can manage OK without the variety but it is much more effective if you add in the spice of “variety”! Lessons have the likelihood of really sticking or being reinforced if the skills and knowledge are presented or expressed in more than just a traditional written method. This is how my favourite teachers (including my mom) taught me!
- More Wide-Reaching – Having variety is beneficial for all kinds of learners (and teachers), regardless of individual strengths/weaknesses. This variety means that the “Peppermint Stick” approach works well with a wider audience and might be enjoyed by the whole family, not just one child who has a particular learning style. Older siblings can share memories and stories about the lessons and projects if they have enjoyed the same type of schooling. Plus, if you can reuse curriculum, it should be easier (and overall, less expensive) for the mom/teacher to plan!
- Learn often with project-based learning assignments, real life experiences, and notebooks, in contrast to a lot of testing. These are often more meaningful and more memorable. (Yes, knowing how to write tests well is an important skill but, for homeschooled students, we don’t feel it is necessary to constantly test and drill to prove one’s understanding because you live and eat with your students and likely know quite well already whether or not they have grasped their lessons. Some provinces and states require reporting and some parents want to keep more than just a portfolio of student work. If you need some help in this, we do offer some tips for how you can evaluate student work here with our planning guides.)
- Scope and Sequence:
- We encourage you to repeat units of topics a few times (e.g. 3) over the years of schooling, beginning at a foundational level (e.g. primary level), building on that during a later year (e.g. junior-intermediate level), and then building on that further (senior level studies). To see an example of what this can look like, we show a “Four-Year Rotational Planning Guide” (free to download) that is available at this link. In other words, to understand some topics sufficiently, it often takes years of learning something at different stages/ages of development.
- We aim for something to be taught/caught well (within a few minutes to a few days), it sticking in the long-term memory, and then just a brief review in the next level before building on it with more details then. Having distinct sub-units helps children focus on the main ideas of one thing at a time. (The “Peppermint Stick” approach is not all-spiral and it’s not all-mastery.)
- Flexibility – We recognize each family and each school classroom has individual needs, interests, and abilities. Much of our curriculum can be rearranged as desired without difficulty and is self-paced.
- We don’t hold students “inside a box” of sequences and developmental expectations, for example, our “Let Me Read” curriculum allows for early literacy, even being allowed to read sentences with complex words before memorizing the whole alphabet if that is what a child ends up doing. We want to inspire children to explore and soar and not hold them back. We aren’t typical traditional and we aren’t classical. We desire to see children grow in knowledge, skills, and wisdom at any age and believe they have the potential of learning so much and loving it!
- We do arrange (organize) our curriculum into general levels and units which we think are a reasonable “scope and sequence”. We are Canadian-focused and as such, did consider our ministry of education’s general scope and sequence for many topics or skills, although some of those would be what was taught decades ago. Our undated curriculum enables our customers to make choices and retain their flexibility as to “what” is studied in their homes “when”. We have helpful free planning guides with ideas and suggestions.
- Most of our curriculum is reusable or reproducible! We also try to cut down on the amount of paper and ink used (and stored in basements). We want you to have the opportunity to keep a meaningful record of learning, rather than a wad of scattered printouts from “wherever” or stacks of consumable workbooks in a portfolio box.
- Encourage independent learning and teaching back – From young onwards, guided lessons encourage students not only to learn the material but also to express themselves in being able to “teach it back” some of the time. You know a lesson “sticks” when they can do this and take a measure of responsibility to explore topics of interest further. Independent learning is not just about being able to “read and retell” on your own; it goes beyond that to understand enough to be able to apply what was learned to a different or new situation or related topic. This includes following a pattern of modelled writing, making summary notes, organizing thoughts and plans, knowing how to use reference materials and so on. If students can grasp independent learning skills early, they will gain confidence in their knowledge and in being equipped to help younger siblings, delight in deeper studies of interest, and thrive on both “together-groupwork” time and “on-own” time because they have a freedom to accomplish a significant amount of stuff at their own pace. We begin with modelling what can be done with examples and suggestions and applaud the growth of student efforts towards personal learning. Training students, little by little, the skills involved for independent learning is a major feature of what our curriculum helps to do. Do you also desire your children to grow strong as eager lifelong learners? Spoon-feeding them, entertaining them with mainly flashy and fluffy trivia, or keeping everyone together at the same pace for everything isn’t going to help much, in my opinion. Independent learning needs some guidance along the way and it is a very important part of education that is often overlooked. (If this skill is not encouraged in the home gradually, it is more challenging at older levels or if other family responsibilities increase (e.g. new baby, etc.) to expect a student to suddenly manage well with their education. So PSLC seeks to begin that skill early and at a child-level of interest, in contrast to what many other homeschool companies do.)
- Relevant and Practical: “Twist” together what you learn with your daily life! We like lessons presented in a manner that is relevant to a child’s world and understandable in a child’s language – practical for a child’s life either now and/or in the future. Being practical is very important to us!
- Materials: Our style easily wraps around everyday homey life and is very flexible to use. It uses commonly-found “around-the-home” materials. (Example: “Pinch clothespins around a hand towel before today’s printing lesson. This exercise warms-up finger muscles.”)
- Real Life: We’re right in the midst of a home environment with children when this curriculum is designed. I’m not on an adult team in an office in a big city company and I’m not retired from homeschooling. Nor do other people write for me. I, as a real homeschooling mom living in this season of my life, design it while my children are near me, and almost always test it out in my family first before it gets published for sale. Yes, we DO use much of what we sell! And our children critique it and make suggestions – they are a very important part of “my team”! ♥ As of this point in time, most of our homeschool days have always included a baby or toddler as well. Of course, our resources can be helpful in a classroom setting. But they have been originally developed to work well at the homes of families, like us, who want something that can wrap around our real lives!
Our style has received many questions since we began in 2008, with people wanting further details on our thoughts and methodologies. Part of the reason why moms were asking those questions was perhaps because “minimalist homeschooling” (MH) wasn’t as trendy back then nor well-established in the homeschool language. (Plus how my mom had taught me (and others) included some old-fashioned creative tips that she had had in her teaching experiences and of mine from past children’s ministry work, which were not specific to MH.) More recently, I posted a couple of blog posts to explain my take on minimalist homeschooling in detail since we tend to share a number of characteristics with that approach. Those links are:
Minimalist Homeschooling – what it is in general plus how to go towards the direction of that style by pruning out some things in the goals or stuff that others might still keep in homeschooling. These principles have helped to keep simplicity, priorities straight, and fun in our homeschool journey!
Examples of Minimalistic Homeschooling – what our family personally has done/does for our homeschool style, as a specific example.
Below are the links which describe our twist for teaching about each subject area:
And finally, here are a few other links for specific points relating to our approach to education at PSLC:
(The blog post Minimalist Homeschooling was written a few years after the comparison chart and section.)
INTEGRATION: There are different ways that people choose to organize their thoughts. One is like a casserole, everything integrated together so that a bite consists of a little of this and a little of that, followed by a bowl of trifle. It can be very delicious and nutritious. Another way is like a divided plate of salad on one part, hamburg or steak on another part with a bit of gravy perhaps, then mashed potatoes, then carrots. Our “Peppermint Stick” style is more like that second plate (and why not add a peppermint after dessert of course!) in the sense that, based on our experience, study, and opinion, lessons just seem to stick much better for longer term if things are studied in chunks of the same thing to chew through. It is simply our preference, is super-effective, and fits the relaxed style of a home very well! ♥ And having said this, we can also provide you tips for how you could use our printable e-book curriculum to actually make your days into an integrated unit study approach, if that style appeals to you.
ABOUT INTEGRATING THE BIBLE: Some books that we publish have very little or no Biblical content. Our academic curriculum can easily be used in a variety of home school, private school, or even public school settings. For the academics, we do not tend to integrate Bible verses or a Christian discussion on every page like some Christian curriculum companies do unless it is indicated in the product description. However, we do not compromise our Statement of Faith and Philosophy of Education and do write from such a Christian perspective when issues arise. If you want to read about this further, you can click here.
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION STANDARDS AND OUR CURRICULUM DESIGN PROCESS: We tend to follow the Canadian educational standards for topics and skills (except in a few areas such as literacy, where we aim above the current standards and revert back to levels of the mid-1900’s when young children with various natural abilities generally learned to read well). Our curriculum resources however, are not like the kind you’d often find being used in schools today.
Home education should be definitely flexible in pace and sequence of topics. And Canadians should learn Canadian content! Click here to continue reading about this.