Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Before homeschooling my children, my educational experience was limited to how I was taught, which I would generally characterize as traditional. I grew up attending a private, Christian school and later graduated from a Bible university with degrees in Social Work and Bible. I had no experience and very little information regarding classical education. When I attended an information meeting for Classical Conversations, I was just beginning my journey into understanding classical education. The first thing I noticed, I did not understand the terminology! Whenever a CC representative tried to explain how the program worked, I found myself lost in translation. Maybe you have found yourself in the same predicament? Today I aim to offer definitions for some terms commonly used in classical education. I hope it helps!
Note: I've chosen to organize the terms in order of topic development rather than alphabetical, like a typical glossary.
Grammar: In classical education, grammar is the vocabulary of all subjects. While we often consign grammar to languages only - English, Latin, Spanish, etc, grammar is actually the language of each subject - Science, Math, Music, and more. Children ages 4-12, more or less kindergarten through fourth grade, learn facts. They memorize and recite information that will serve as "memory pegs" as they continue to move through the stages of learning. Generally children at this age enjoy and are successful learning through observation and memory, because this method of learning meets them in their natural stage of development. They are gatherers of information. You can find examples of this in your own home, right? Children can hear a song once and know all the words or "read" you their favorite book perfectly before they know the letters. It is a delight! Grammar is both a developmental stage and a method of learning.
Dialectic: Also known as the logic stage, dialectic is also both a developmental stage and a method of learning. Generally applied to children in grades fifth through eighth or ages 12-14, it is when children begin to look for connections between facts and subjects. While they might have expressed passing interest in why during the grammar stage, the dialectic stage is consumed by it. In The Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy Sayers suggests disciplining their "natural argumentativeness" to good purpose rather than allowing it to "run away into the sands." I have to say, I remember this stage quite well. I can recall picking many a "fight" with my parents, not necessarily because I disagreed with them, but rather enjoyed the intellectual exercise of a good debate. I'm not quite sure they saw it the same way! The memory pegs of the grammar stage will come in very handy as children use that information to make connections.
Rhetoric: Children typically hit the rhetoric stage in high school (ages 14-18). Because they've been so well prepared in the grammar stage to gather information and in the dialectic stage to make connections between the information, they're able to focus on the beauty of expressing both their written and spoken thoughts well. Students spend time immersed in topics which interest them by applying the techniques of learning they have spent years acquiring. At this point, they are well on their way to lifelong, independent learning. I remember when I first started reading significant books that my parents had not yet read and feeling very grown up to have something to share with them. One such, Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, still sticks with me.
Trivium: The stages of learning: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, are the three stages of the trivium. They are both developmental stages and teaching methods. As you can see in the definitions above, they build on each other. Even as an adult learning something new, you will find yourself progressing through these three stages of learning. Likely progressing more quickly, like days, weeks, or months rather than years, but moving through these stages nonetheless.
Classical education capitalizes on the stages of learning to teach in the method most developmentally appropriate. Since a grammar stage child is free to memorize during the grammar stage, they are not inhibited by also trying to make connections, which they are most likely not prepared to make. During the dialectic stage their energies can be spent on making connections, which they love, rather than memorizing facts which are much less appealing to them now. But, they also benefit from having learned how to memorize when younger so they are prepared to do so more easily when necessary. Compiling their thoughts into strong, concise arguments during the rhetoric stage is more artfully accomplished because of the foundational skills acquired during the grammar and dialectic stage. Each stage builds on the previous one(s).
No conversation about classical education would be complete without discussing the strong emphasis placed on language. This emphasis on language is what leads classical educators to teach Latin. Understanding Latin provides insight into not only the English language, but also technical languages. Rather than characterizing it as a "dead language," I would classify it as a foundational language. This emphasis on language also leads to an emphasis on classic literature, as classical educators seek to expose students to the best the literary world has to offer. Lest you think this is limited to only novels, there is much classic literature to be found on topics of science, math, geography, and more.
I plan to write a second post offering details on how a classical, Christian education distinguishes itself even more than a classical, humanistic education. I will also speak more to how this is applied in Classical Conversations. Please speak up and let me know if you have any questions or concerns about how I've explained these terms! I'm excited daily about what I'm learning about classical education and would love to discuss it more with you!
For more quick reading on classical education…
1. The Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy Sayers
2. What is Classical Education?, Classical Conversations
3. What is Classical Education?, Susan Wise Bauers
Monday, March 3, 2014
I just got mad at my boys for interrupting while I was trying to teach another of my littles something. Their interruption was a distraction to everyone and frustrating to me. I was up against nap time and really wanted to finish quickly.
Several minutes later and two of my littles are reading. Well, one was reading and the other was lingering over his shoulder trying to get a good look at the reading one's book. The reading one was annoyed. His brother was asking questions and distracting him while he was trying to read. What did he do? Got mad at his younger brother and huffed at him in a grumpy, impatient tone. Literally, the same thing I had just done moments prior.
Sigh. The accidental lessons I teach them while trying to teach them. Oh, when my brokenness is reflected back to me in their actions, it is painful to behold. I'm disappointed in myself and yet, I have hope! I believe this sanctifying work to be so much of the reason God has called our family to homeschool. The Lord is redeeming my heart and theirs. The Lord is creating beauty out of ugly spots that could have otherwise gone untouched. This area of weakness has revealed itself more than one time and I have felt powerless against it so often. But, I know His strength is made perfect in weakness. I must submit at each turn, each step, each choice to follow Him and surrender myself. And boy, how I want to, because His way is so much better than mine! I know it to be true and I trust Him.
I am meditating on the following scriptures:
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up again the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5
"Into your hand, I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth." Psalm 31:5
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." Ephesians 5:1-2
"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." 2 Corinthians 12:9
I trust that God is using homeschooling in your home for more than education too. What ways have you seen Him? I know He's there in the beautiful moments. Have you seen Him in the ugly ones too? If you're comfortable sharing, I'd love to hear what He's teaching you.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
You'd think with all the time I'm spending at home with my littles, it wouldn't be hard to find quality one-on-one time with each of them. But, it is! The group dynamic of family shows them in a different light then them alone. The quiet one isn't as easily heard, the oldest too often needs to be the mature, responsible one, the youngest rarely gets first choice in play, and the little girl is often listening to stories of vikings when she'd rather hear about bunnies. Not that they're complaining, but wow, can we see a difference when we make special effort to carve out time for each of them to spend with us.
We want to know each of their uniquely created personalities and to nurture their individuality. We want to provide a dependable, comfortable space for them to talk with us. Along the parenting way, we've picked up two simple ways to spend individual time with our littles easily and regularly:
1. Run an errand, bring a little. As often as possible, when one of us runs an errand, we bring one little with us. We can talk and teach while traveling together. If I'm picking out fabric, I teach them about types of material, measuring, and patterns. If my husband is running to Home Depot, he names tools, parts, and details processes. When time and money allows, we stop for a quick treat. But, more often than not we're simply listening. Some of our best conversations have been in the car running from store to store. Added bonus, have you noticed how easy errands are with only one little??
2. Ten Minute Stay Up. Once a week, each little gets a turn to stay up ten minutes after bedtime to spend with mom and dad. They pick a book of their choice and we snuggle in our bed to read it. I tend to read rhythmically; my husband uses all types of funny voices. My littles love this! After reading, we chat, laugh a little, and pray over this child. My husband kinda smirks at us calling it "ten minute stay up," because it usually turns into more like twenty minutes. But, it's just precious, sweet time. With my pregnancy sickness, we got out of the habit. We've recently reinstated it and I can tell how much we all missed it!
We also throw in the occasional special dates with our littles, but we find the above two ideas easier to maintain all the time. I believe I read one of these ideas in a book and one in a blog post. But, I read them years ago now and cannot honestly remember the source of either idea. If you know, please share in the comments and I'll edit the post!
How about y'all? Do you find yourself making special arrangements to spend individual time with your littles or does it occur more naturally for you? I'd love to hear what works in your family!
Thursday, February 27, 2014
English - The CC app uses the question, "Do you like my singing?" as a gerund example. I'd like to play with my littles to see if they can swap out the gerund with other active examples…like jumping, eating, talking, running, etc. I'll go first to get them started. Then I'll quiz them to see if they can recite the memory work while acting out their gerund.
Latin - Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood's Latin story prompts seem to work really well for my guys, so we'll be using these again!
Science - Please tell me I'm not the only one who needs to read science explained for kids to understand it myself! Or maybe I am? Well, I did that! As they say, redeeming my own education in the process of educating my children! I plan to show my littles the first law of thermodynamics through lunch preparation! We'll boil some water, cook up some noodles (probably for this salad!), and discuss the transfer of energy.
Math - This week seems to call for a lot of food examples! Or again, maybe that's just me? We're going to make a pie or cheesecake. Something circular that we can slice up and talk radius while we enjoy it!
Geography - We'll definitely get our maps out again and do some chocolate chip review. If you haven't tried it, place a pile of chocolate chips in front of your littles and have them mark the locations you name with the chips. Snacking permitted throughout!
As you can probably tell, we set aside time for specific memory work review. But, I also look for opportunities to include our memory work among our daily conversations and activities. The ideas I've suggested for science and math this week don't need to be specifically included in the school day. Especially in the foundational years my littles are currently occupying, I don't want to spend a lot of time in expanding the memory work, but I do want to introduce learning through conversation. I'll ask them questions, they'll ask me questions, and we'll see that learning isn't limited to the times we're sitting down with a book.
How about you? I'd love to hear how you're learning in your home when you're not "schooling"?
Friday, February 21, 2014
The first stop on our recent three week trip (besides In-N-Out Burger!) was San Antonio, Texas. We knew we wanted to visit The Alamo, so we started our day by viewing the movie The Alamo - The Price of Freedom at the Alamo IMAX at the Rivercenter. It's a forty-two minute docudrama recreating this important battle in Texas' fight for freedom from Mexico. It showcased many of the famous characters from the battle, including Davey Crockett and James Bowie. This brief introduction gave my littles (and me) a great visual history to take with us when we walked the grounds of The Alamo.
After walking The Alamo grounds, we jumped on a trolley tour of San Antonio. We were hoping for some history and an overview of the city. Unfortunately it didn't quite work out that way. The trolley was packed and the windows were down, so it was hard to hear the driver giving the tour. We also realized a little late in the game that if you exited at a stop you were there for an hour waiting for the next trolley pick-up. We decided to stay on until one of the last stops, the art village La Villita. Best part of the ride? Our littlest man fell asleep leaning on his little sister. : ) We ended up at the River Walk for dinner and a boat tour. Perfect!
This dinner was extra special, because we were celebrating my oldest's birthday. 8! Traveling is one of his favorite things and he was loving our day. He's the one who greets me each morning by asking, "Where are we going today?" :) For him, being in Texas for his birthday was the best! So, we enjoyed some Texas cuisine (some of the best guacamole ever!) and watched the playful ducks nearby.
After dinner, we took a thirty-five minute boat tour of the River Walk. Our tour guide shared lots of historical tidbits and was entertaining and fun. We capped off our day in San Antonio eating ice cream on a shop balcony while a live band played below us. Simply a great day!
Have you visited San Antonio? Perhaps you're from the area? I don't know if or when we'll make it back there, but I know my little crew would love to! Please leave any recommendations or questions in the comments!
Like to travel? Check out the other stops on our journey to visit All 50 States Before They Graduate.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
A few months back a friend posted a picture of skip counting boards handmade by her husband. I had never seen anything like them! I thought they looked so cool & started asking for details.
My friend and her husband based their design off these online tutorials (1 and 2). They made two versions: one with wooden pegs (pictured) and one with nails in place of the pegs. The nail version was much simpler to make and saved them the time of cutting, drilling, and gluing the wooden pegs. The only practical difference between the two is the appearance. If you decide to make one, choose what appeals to you!
Now to explain how it works. Essentially, each peg is assigned a number from 0-9. The top peg (0), has one end of a length of yarn tied to it. Choose a number to skip count with and guide the yarn around the first peg. As you progress to using two digit numbers, you'll guide the yarn around the peg that the number ends in. For example for skip counting by 2s: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24, you'd circle around the pegs as follows: 2, 4, 6, 8, 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 0, 2, 4. Make sense?
We reviewed skip counting with these boards recently and my boys loved seeing the different patterns show up. It was so fun and so great for them to see the beautiful visual of math! I imagine that seeing math this way will produce connections they might've otherwise missed.
I should warn you, that while the boards are great for skip counting practice and fine motor skills practice, it can be overwhelming for some to combine the two at once. When I found that happening for my guys, I would team them up with me or another of my littles to work on it together. With the cubes and squares, I raced my oldest guy to see who could complete the board faster from memory. He beat me every time! :)
Since we review skip counting with each Classical Conversations cycle, I suspect these boards will get plenty of use, even more so as my littles get older and more independent with their review.
What do you think? Would you use these in your homeschool?
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
English - I love how the CC app demonstrated the five kinds of nouns with the same sentence to highlight each of the usages. This would be great to recreate with your own sentences at home. Mine are a little young for this, so we'll be sticking to a more basic review. Namely, we'll copy the kinds onto index cards and put them in order while reciting.
Latin - We'll start making flashcards to put in order and match up with the right heading. I find the hardest part for my littles is differentiating between the different tenses, so I'm hoping writing, reading, and sorting them will help. We are starting this step after weeks of practicing with the story prompts.
Science - This experiment to demonstrate Newton's third law of motion sounds great, but I'm wondering if there's something I can substitute for the film canisters. ?? I don't have any of those anymore.
Math - Just as we did for the area of a square, we'll draw triangles on graph paper to "see" how the area of a triangle equation works.
Geography - We're going to have fun completing this European geography puzzle. My littles love it and I love that each country has its own correctly shaped piece.
Fine Arts - Use watercolors to paint this outline tracing (image above) of Woman Sewing in Her Garden by Morisot. Want more? This blog has some great resources, including a printable notebook page to complete on Morisot.
How's everyone hanging in there? If you're at week 18, you're three-quarters of the way there! Allow me to encourage you to stay the course with as much commitment as you can muster. The end of cycle two is in sight and you'll be so grateful for hammering these memory pegs firmly into place. Have fun with it, but stay steady! You can do it! (I'm giving myself this pep talk too - ha!)