Sunday, October 13, 2013

Classical Education Thoughts

Let me give a bit of background to my homeschool decision and style. When Miss K was little and we were living overseas, I did quite a bit of preschool type activities with her and considered it beginning homeschooling. When we moved to the States, we sent J to the local public school. He went for 4 months. During that time my husband and I made a decision to bring him home partly because we wanted to teach him Christian truth and he was also asking to be homeschooled.

The first year I just bought one of the name homeschool curriculums and got started. We did a number of fun projects building different kinds of houses form around the world, some lapbooks and lots of reading. That is probably the fun that J remembers and wants to repeat.

J in 2nd grade is working on writing his name on a clay tablet (Play-doh).

I stayed with that type of homeschool curriculum for two years. I began to learn about the styles and knew what styles I was not. I was not an unschooler mainly because it just does not fit my personality. I knew Unit studies was not going to work for us though we have done some small studies like our China study before our first trip to China. I knew I didn't want to be a total textbook homeschooler. I still didn't have a box to check on the list of "what type of homeschooler are you." You can still homeschool even if you don't know what type of homeschooler you are. Homeschooling is learning and progressing.

Then two years ago we joined a Classical Conversations group. That fit us. I loved the emphasis on the Trivium and the memory work. My husband is an academic and so teaching Latin and the classics is a value in our homeschooling. We moved to the Classical homeschool style when J was in 4th grade so maybe it was a bit late and maybe we are not as firm as some but we are doing what works for our family.

I enjoy reading and learning though I will confess that at times I might overwhelm my children with what I want to add. I will also confess that I have to guard against discontent and jealousy that I didn't begin this earlier. I have to rest in God's timing for our family.

One of the resources that I enjoy is The Classical Teacher which is Memoria Press' catalog/magazine. Just in case you want to know I am a Memoria Press junkie. J saw a new book that I had ordered and commented, "another book from there."

I am working through my stack of magazines and found some quotes that made me think a big about what is important and what I need to be teaching.

"But classical educational is premised on the idea that, while there are few professions that require technical scientific skills, all professions require a facility with language. This is why modern classical education movement has placed an equal stress on the language arts of the trivium and a familiarity with literature, history, and philosophy."1

The author gave an example of a small tech company of 45 employees while this was a tech company only 5 of the employees were tech the rest were involved in marketing and customer service. This shows the value of needing communication skills which come from language arts, literature and history.

As I work my way through the stack, I read another article about the importance of teaching basic grammar concepts. The author mentions William Lily the first high master of St. Paul's School and wrote a book on grammar. The list of students who were taught Lily's grammar is an impressive list - Edmund Spenser, Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, John Ford, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare.

I remember teaching ESL overseas and my students understood English grammar almost more than I did. I will also admit that I learned quite a bit about English grammar in grad school. I learned quite a bit in my Syntax Class. Understanding grammar will help in learning a foreign language and also improve SAT scores.

For us, teaching and knowing the grammar is viewed as an important part of education. I correct my children's grammar and we work on memorizing grammar and diagramming. I will write about that more later.

We are learning Latin. For J we are using Memoria Press Latina Christiana and for Miss K we are using Song School  Latin. Learning Latin gives a basis for English grammar, English words and also for logic. "The complex system of inflected grammar that Latin teaches provides the most solid basis for the study of the linguistic system of traditional logic."2

We will include logic later in school but for now we are learning Latin and grammar.

As I continued through my stack of magazine, I read an article entitled "Is Learning Fun?" Part of me says "no" and part of me says, "yes." There are things that I enjoy learning and there are times that it is hard work.

I love books and enjoy looking through some of the old textbooks like Ray's Arithmetic, and others. Those textbooks were simple not full of color pictures, comics. Some of the textbooks that we use are color but I also look for textbooks that might confuse the kids with the busyness of the page. Thinking about that this quote gave me something to think about. "There is a rich irony in the fact that the more educational materials we have, the less we learn. The bigger, fancier, more colorful and expensive the textbooks, the less we know. And the more we say learning should be fun, the more our students are bored."3

Some of the fun should come from the accomplishment of learning and doing an excellent job. This is an area that I need to model and also teach my children a bit more. "The fun learning is the feeling of satisfaction, even pleasure, we derive from knowing and understanding."4 The goal should be to motivate and engage the student. If my children were motivated and engaged, how much more would they be learning and enjoying. So I need to figure out how to motivate them and engage them in the learning. As I ponder this a bit in light of the comment that J made about homeschool used to be fun, I think the fun he is remember are some of the hands-on projects. That was learning that engaged him.

I am almost finished with my stack of magazines. Just one more issue here to read.

This issue features an article from Cheryl Swope's book Simple Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child. This is interesting to me because I have a special needs child and have a classical education approach. Can I do both? Yes. The author begins with sharing a bit about Helen Keller's education, she was taught based on the classical approach. "Regardless of his challenges, any child is called to do more than receive services: He is called to love and serve his neighbor. Even if he is never able to hold a full-time paying 'job,' classical education can help instill in the special-needs child a desire to bring assistance, love, or comfort to others. He is a student with lessons to learn, teacher to respect and parents to honor."5

This affirmed to me that I can and should continue giving my daughter a classical education. She does continue to amaze me with the things she is learning and remembering. I need to give her every advantage that I can and not hold her back.

The last article that I read was entitled "The Nature of Science." The author shares about a walk with her husband and the fact that her husband was able to identify trees, plants and birds. She states, "The problem with my science educations was that it was very weak on the observation, naming, and classification stage."6 She suggests that for K-6 the focus should be on nature studies. That was a challenge to me to talk more nature walks. Yeah! We did one this past week. We did look at the leaves and even bring some home. We need to observe nature using read-aloud picture books and nature walks. The recommendation is just 1 hour a week. I think we can do that.

This post probably wins as my longest post. It even has footnotes.  I wrote some of this just to keep these notes for my own reference and to share with others. I hope whatever your education choice - homeschool, private or public and your educational style that you will continue to do what God has called you to do in educating your children.

1. Cothran, Martin. "Letter to the Editor." The Classical Teacher Summer 2013: 2. Print
2. Cothran, Martin. "The Grammar of Logic." The Classical Teacher Spring 2013: 30. Print
3. Lowe, Cheryl. "Is Learning Fun?"  The Classical Teacher Summer 2013: 40. Print
4. Lowe, Cheryl. "Is Learning Fun?"  The Classical Teacher Summer 2013: 41. Print
5. Swope, Cheryl. "Classical Education for the Special Need Child." The Classical Teacher Winter 2012: 23. Print
6. Lowe, Cheryl. "The Nature of Science." The Classical Teacher Winter 2012: 29. Print

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  1. Hello there! I'm so excited to find another CC family! I look forward to reading more of your posts. We didn't start the classic education thing for my oldest until she was in fourth grade either...but she was in traditional school before that. It is such a life change for my daughter to switch to this style of learning. I've had to rewire my own brain too. Hopefully by the end of the year we will be reprogramed with the classic model as instinct. I too am excited about the grammar aspect. Grammar is not my strong point so I am learning just as much as the kids right now!

  2. Beth, you probably already have grammar resources, but it sounds like you would like First Language Lessons (a grammar curriculum) by Susan Wise Bauer's mother, Jesse Wise. The upper grade books include a lot of diagramming, something you don't see much in the public schools anymore. I had just a smidgen of diagramming in my own education.

    It sounds like you would like Charlotte Mason too, and Ambleside Online, which provides free curriculum for Charlotte Mason classical homeschoolers. Though I don't know if serious Classical Education families would consider Charlotte Mason entirely classical. The books Ambleside lists are very hard to find sometimes, but many are available online. I peruse their lists occasionally to make sure I'm not leaving out the best of the classics.

    I enjoyed reading about your journey!

    1. I do like Charlotte Mason and some of those ideas. I should probably look at Ambleside. I will write a bit about grammar and why diagramming is important in our learning.

  3. Always enjoy hearing what works for others, and about their homeschool journey...I have never purchased anything from Memoria Press, so perhaps I will check out their stuff; I know many hmschoolers love them
    Blessings, Joanna

    1. I really enjoy their books. I want one of everything (chuckle) but my budget won't allow that and I think this is value in variety at times.

  4. What a great collection of thoughts. I haven't ever really looked into Memoria either. Probably because I looked once and saw that it had boxed sets for grades and I wasn't looking for that. I'm sure they are worth another look! So you are not a part of CC anymore, right? I think about joining all the time, but something always holds me back.

    1. You are correct, we are not a part of CC at this time. We did it two years ago and loved it. Last year we were on the west coast in the fall back on the east coast and then back to the west coast in the spring. Too many moves to do it. Since we were going to be on the west coast this fall, I looked into it but the local classes were full.



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