Friday, July 12, 2013

So, What IS a Classical Education? A Resource Guide.

There are some AMAZING resources for those of us new to a classical model of educating our children. I just finished the three day Classical Conversations Practicum here in Kailua, Hawaii and am so excited to start the new school year. I dream about the number songs, time-line hand motions, and history facts. I think I might have even pinched my husband in the middle of the night using the "Minoans" hand sign. When he jumped I claimed to know nothing. "Huh? What? You were bit by something? Go back to sleep."

The very first thing I would suggest to anyone interested in a different form of education other than the assembly line educational system we have today would be to read Dorothy Sayers' essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning." It really isn't an essay. It was a speech she gave at Oxford University in 1947. 1947, you say? Why, yes, we were warned 66 years ago that we were losing the tools of our learning trade. Dorothy Sayers was one of the Inklings and friends with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. She often joined Lewis at meeting of the Socratic Club. I just find that fascinating. Any who, back to the point, this essay is an easy, conversational read. I mean, really, if you can't hear her speaking while reading it I don't know what to tell you. At 20 pages, it isn't too long to be overwhelming and it isn't too short to be a brief overview of the classical model. You can buy it for 99¢ on Amazon or find it on many different websites with an easy Google search. Here, let me find it for you. . . I'll be right back. . .

Here is it. PDF and free! Yay me!

Before I move on, I want to share one of the many quotes from this speech that struck a cord with me,
Is it not the great defect of our education today (- a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble that I have mentioned-) that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils "subjects," we fail lamentable on the whole in teaching them how to think?
How do we teach our children to think? In a day and age where we are bombarded by radio, television, internet, etc. we are constantly told what to think, and often times we fail to ask, "Why?" As products of the assembly line system, we were told what we needed to know to pass the test, to move up a grade level, to graduate, and then to make money. Education has become all about the money. We give our kids multiple choice tests and when they recognize a term and pick that we say they know the subject. I would wager, if you asked that student who recognized a term to explain their answer you'd find they really didn't know much about it at all.

A classical model of education isn't only about setting up our children for financial success later in life. The main focus of  classical education is to discover the way our universe works. In the book written by Leigh A. Bortins, The Core, it is written,
Understanding the physical universe requires a foundational knowledge of math and science. Understanding human nature requires a foundational knowledge of language, history, economics, and literature. To learn foundational information from any field of knowldege, students need to be trained in reading, writing, communication, and analysis of qualitative information. At their highest level, the humanities are studied because they embody the ideas that make us human. 
So, where do we start? The first stage in the Trivium of a classical education is Grammar. We cannot do anything in life without knowing the Grammar of the things around us. My children are learning the Grammar of my kitchen, so when I ask for something they  know what I'm talking about. Children in the Grammar stage of learning don't often ask, "Why?" They are happy to learn songs, dances, rhymes, etc. Very young children, most often between the ages of 4 and 10 have brains like sponges. It's amazing how much they can memorize and retain. This stage is simply about memorizing as much as they can, so when they enter the next stage they have the vocabulary and are ready to ask the all important question, "Why?"

Sometime around puberty is when children enter the second stage of learning. This stage is called the Dialectic stage. It is the stage of understanding. In the subject of math, Grammar would be numbers in all their kinds and forms. The second stage of math would be a firm understanding of mathematical laws and operations. Logic is introduced in this stage. The third, and last stage, of the Trivium is the Rhetoric stage. A mathematician would use numbers and their laws and operations to compose their own work.

A second example of all three stages of the Trivium would be learning to play music. In the first stage a student would learn the grammar of musical notes, rests, treble and bass clefs, beats, measures, etc. In the Dialectic stage a student would apply the grammar and actually start to play music they read. In the Rhetorical stage a student is expected to compose their own works.

There are some amazing resources for people not only interested in a classical education, but who have already made the leap and need guidance.

  • Half-A-Hundred-Acre-Wood - what an amazing blog! This mom has And, while she has WAY more space than my 1,000 sq. ft. I am constantly trying to find ways to adjust her awesomeness to my shoebox. 
  • Classical Conversations- this just happens to be the program we have decided to use for our kids. It has CC Connected if you aren't interested in joining a community but still want to teach using a classical model. It's packed full of ideas, videos, songs, print outs, etc. 
  • The Core Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins is a must read book for ALL who have decided to teach in a classical model. 
  • Leigh's List is a place where homeschoolers can buy and sell materials and share recommendations. 
  • On YouTube search for ANYTHING with Andre Kern. 
I hope this has helped you in at least a small way. We are all in this together. I'm going to try my best to sleep tonight without pinching my husband. Maybe I should just listen to the Presidents Song.